Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Big Island - Hawaii

When most people think of Hawaii, they think of Oahu, with Waikiki beach, Pearl Harbor and The Polynesian Center. We decided to go off the beaten path and visit The Big Island, the island furthest south, and the youngest of the Hawaiian islands. I will give you a quick synopsis of our favorite spots from our 8 day excursion in case you are thinking about going yourself.

I find the best way to find the most awesome hot spots in an area is by talking to someone who has been there.  Aaron and I tend to shy away from all the touristy areas and go for the road less traveled. We do a lot of research before we leave, watch for where the locals are hanging out and ask a lot of questions while talking to people who live there or who have at least visited there.

Here are our highlights of The Big Island... there is a lot of island there and so we didn't have time to get to everything, but if you are only going once fore a handful of days, here are a few things you will have to be sure not to miss.

First, I would recommend the book "Hawaii The Big Island Revealed". These guys know their stuff! It was an invaluable tool while we were out driving and got us into some amazing places and eating at the best restaurants. Very much worth the money!

Waipi'o Valley

Even if all you do is drive up to the view point, this is worth your time. It is one of the most breathtaking views you will ever see (pictured at the top). This is one of the first settled areas on the island, and life is still lived quite simply in the valley. But, don't be expecting a warm, fuzzy welcome from the locals down there. The entire time we were driving around we felt like we were intruding and didn't spend a bunch of time there. It is absolutely beautiful though, and worth the 20 minutes of driving around we did.

If you want to drive down in the valley you MUST have 4-wheel drive! It is a 25% grade and you feel like you are taking a nose dive getting down there. There are tours that will take you down as well, if you don't feel like springing for the 4-wheel. When you get down to the bottom, if you turn left it takes you to some pretty waterfalls and through the local "neighborhood": right takes you to a great black sands beach. We were unable to get to the beach the day we were there because the road was closed. Most people just park at the top and hoof it to the beach, and we could have made it if we did that, but since we had mom with us it was out of our deal this time.

Punalu'u Black Sands Beach

As a beach itself we weren't super impressed - and this is where all the tour buses stop, so we weren't that excited about the crowd here. There is one gem, however, that makes this beach worth the stop: Turtles. This is the only beach that we actually saw this magnificent creatures beached, and it sounds like it is pretty common here. PLEASE keep in mind though that it is law to keep at least 20 feet from these gentle giants!!! While we were there a Japanese tour bus pulled in and they were practically climbing on the shells of these two. (if you look close you can see their foot prints all over the sand surrounding the turtles). I was getting so frustrated and angry I had to just walk away. Be respectful of the rules and the wild life! Okay, climbing off the soap box now ;o)

Green Sands Beach

Yes, the sand is really green: the only green sands beach in the world. There is a bed of peridot just off this little alcove that the waves break up and wash to shore - so really this is a peridot beach. Getting here is a little more tricky though, and there is only two ways to do it. Putting on the pack and hoofing it for 2 1/2 miles, or 4-wheeling. Because we had my mother with us, so hiking was not an option, and we had the 4-wheel..... I can tell you however, that this was some of the most tricky driving we have ever done! I had to get out many times, in front of the car, and direct Aaron on the best path to take to not bottom out or get stuck in a rut.

It is SO worth going in if you can stomach the drive, or are in shape enough to make the hike!! We had some of the best body surfing we have EVER done here! It was so much fun, that if mom wasn't waiting for us (you have to climb down into the "bowl" to get to the beach and she just couldn't make it) Aaron and I would have stayed for hours.

One special note: Aaron and I collect sand from every beach we ever go to and have these really cool little glass vile tubes that we display it in: however, it is illegal to take sand off the beaches of Hawaii "except sand that is inadvertently taken on shoes and clothing". Well, if Pele (the Hawaiian god) is going to molest me in the way she did, then I'm keeping her sand! I kid you not, we really tried to leave all sand behind, and thought we did, until we went to change our clothes..... ya, we had sand in so many places it would be un-lady-like of me to elaborate ;o) So, yes, we got our little vile of green sand.

Kealakekua Bay - Captain Cooks Monument

Because the Big Island is such a young island, in geological terms, it does not have the abundance of sandy beaches that the other islands have: but, what it does have is amazing snorkeling because of all the rocky shore lines. This was one of our favorite snorkeling spots! If you look super close at the far end of this bay, you will see a little white speck - that is Captain Cooks Monument. There are only three ways to get there: hike, boat or swim. We swam. If you hug the shore all of the way there and back you will some of the most amazing fish ever, and lots of them! The best part? Dolphin are known to frequent this bay, and sure enough, they were there the day we were! One of the most amazing experiences ever, swimming with the wild dolphin on a daily morning swim. Even if you are not a strong swimmer, and can't make it all the way across the bay, snorkeling is amazing just within a few feet of getting into the water. You never have to go far to see a lot of fish on these rocky shores.

There were many other things that we did while on The Big Island of course, we were there for 8 entire days. Most of the things we did were on the beaten path, and were the regular tourist things: City of Refuge, Mauna Kea Beach, Kilauea Volcano, Akaka Falls and the Hawaiian Tropical  Botanical Gardens. All of those were great and worth the time! They are all pretty standard stops however, and things you could easily find on your own, because those are the places everyone goes. I mostly highlighted some of the more unknown spots that we discovered, because a lot of them are harder to get to so most people don't risk it. There were some of our most favorite experiences and the ones I wanted to share with you.
I got to spend Mother's Day in Hawaii with my mom, and it was an amazing time. I have the philosophy that life is short and you have to live it to the fullest! In the end it's just your experiences that you will get to keep - not the house, the car, the cable, the cell phones, clothes or trinkets. Just your life experiences, so get out there and experience!

No comments:

Post a Comment