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Bigger IS Better!

January 4, 2011

The Big Island of Hawai’i, that is!  There’s no better time than the present to visit this most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands.  It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.  The youngest island in the Hawaiian chain (and still forming, I might add) is breathtakingly beautiful.  From the lush rainforests to volcanic deserts and everything in-between, you can experience several climatic zones in one trip around the island. 

On a recent trip, I was lured to stay in the lovely and historic area of Keauhou.  Just south of Kailua-Kona, Keauhou is quiet and close to the lush Kona Coffee growing area of Holualoa on the slopes of Mt. Hualalai.  The Sheraton Keauhou is the perfect place to stay for moderate accommodations and friendly Aloha spirit. The hotel is built on lava rock and there’s no beach here, but don’t let that deter you…there is a great black sand snorkel beach just up the road.  Nightly at the hotel, you can view the huge and mysterious manta rays feeding on microscopic plankton in the bay…it’s a wonderful sight!    

Sheraton Keauhou

If you are staying a while on the Big Island, you’ll want to see as much of the island as you can. A trip to Volcanoes National Park is a must-do, so be sure to allow a full day to see everything and do a bit of hiking in the park while there. There are several hiking trails through lava fields and craters that are easy and fun…check with the Park Visitor Center for expert advice from the Park Rangers. Daily educational talks are scheduled, and there are also guided walks available. We hiked the moderate “Pu’u Huluhulu” trail, traversing over the 1969-1974 Mauna Ulu lava flows, viewing desolate landscape, a frozen lava lake and steam vents nearby. Right now, the Chain of Craters Road is closed from the Jagger Museum, but at the museum viewing area you can see the steaming Halema’uma’u Crater. Make sure to visit the Museum at dusk, and you’ll get to see the glow of lava in the crater…it’s quite exciting!

Halema’uma’u Crater at dusk

Head out on another day in the other direction, driving from Kona up to North Kohala. This is the oldest part of the island, and the land is very green and lush. Along the way you’ll drive by desolate ancient lava flows, with views of magnificent Mauna Kea down to the sea. At the end of the road just a few miles past the quaint town of Hawi, you’ll find the spectacular Pololu Valley.  The incredible pali’s (cliffs) in the distance are magnificent, and foaming surf greets the black sand beach below with roaring thunder.  You can hike down to the beach below on the marked trail, but there’s no swimming here…dangerous rip currents are rampant.

From North Kohala, be sure to head over to the fun “paniolo” (cowboy) town of Waimea. Lush, green, and with cool temperatures, this area is the home to famous Parker Ranch.  With acres and acres of rolling pastures, it’s a great place to explore via horseback or ATV tour.  Also in town you’ll find some of the best cuisine on the island, featuring grass-fed local beef and organic vegetables and fruits. Be sure to dine at Merriman’s for dinner if your pocketbook allows…one of the best chefs on the Big Island serves up Hawai’I regional cuisine. 

Kailua-Kona town has the best tourist shopping on the island, so don’t miss some of the great little shops on Ali’I Drive, along with restaurants galore.  To top off your trip, have dinner at the famous Kona Inn at sunset, and don’t forget to order the Mud Pie.  It’s monstrous, so be sure to share.  Aloha, and happy travels to The Big Island of Hawai’i!

Barbi Partlow, CTC has been a Travel Consultant for 19 years, and specializes in leisure vacation planning. Her passions include the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, and Fiji.  In her spare time, Barbi enjoys acting in community theatre in her home town of Richmond, VA.
Photos by Barbi Partlow – all rights reserved
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