Posts Tagged 'Big Island of Hawaii'

Hawaii Five Adventures – Fins and Paddles on the Kona Coast

Look carefully for the kayakers between the palm trees

Leaving the rainforest and volcanoes behind, we traded our backpacks for fins, goggles and paddles on the Kona Coast. There is a world of difference between the east and the west coasts of the Big Island. One side is wet and verdant; the other side is dry and volcanic.

We moved our base to the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort on the Kona Coast, a two-hour drive from Volcanoes National Park. The Sheraton is situated on an ancient lava flow at the entrance to Keahou Bay, and is perched dramatically on black lava cliffs amid 22 green acres of oceanfront gardens.

Paddle Power Makes a Splash with the Dolphins

At the Napo’opo’o Pier we met our guides from Hawai’i Pack and Paddle who outfitted us with everything we needed to kayak and snorkel in the bay where Captain Cook is said to have landed in 1779. We paddled past steep cliffs dotted with ancient burial caves of the Hawaiian royalty and then glided onto the hard lava rock shore to explore the Captain Cook Monument. The Cook monument, which sits on land owned by the British Government, is a small square encompassing about 400 square feet and accessible on land by a long, rugged trail, or by boat. The bay is touted as one of the best snorkel spots on the coast. We spent hours, face planted in the clear water of the lagoon, snorkeling in the kaleidoscopic world of the marine sanctuary.

On the return trip across the bay we caught a momentary glimpse of dolphin fins between our kayaks and the shore. Moments later the dolphins surfaced close to us and then as furtively as they arrived, they disappeared into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Hawai’I Pack and Paddle 808-328-8911

Hawaii five Adventures – Bike the Rim of the Volcano

Bike the Rim of the Volcano

“Bike Volcano” excursion.

Views into the crater

The forty-five minute drive from Hilo to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park leads you to one of the twenty World Heritage sites in North America and the only one in Hawaii.

The Visitors Center was a good place to get our bearings and hear the ranger’s talk before we joined an easy, three-hour, nine-mile “Bike Volcano” excursion. We pedaled along Crater Rim Drive, stopping to see various craters and steam vents and left our eco-friendly two-wheel vehicles to hike through Thurston Lava Tube. A few miles further we rested our bikes along the guard rail and watched volcanic emissions of ash and gas spewing from the Halema’umal’u Crater. We cruised through thick forests, along roads closed to traffic (sections had sunk into the crater) and amid volcanic rock fields. After a cool downhill ride the van met us with snacks, guva and passionfruit drinks and then zipped us back uphill to our cars.

An easy ten-minute drive from the park, Volcano Village offers a variety of lunch spots. We stopped to browse the art and gardens at Volcano Garden Art Center. After placing our order at the Café Ono for a locally-grown green salad, homemade tomato-vegetable soup and a crust-less cheese and spinach quiche, we wandered through the galleries and garden. Over 70 local contemporary artists display and sell their unique pieces of jewelry, pottery, photography, floral designs and fabric art.

Bike Company

Bike 808-934-9199

Volcano Garden Arts & Café Ono 808-985-8979

Hawaii Five Adventures – Hilo’s Open-Air Market

Hawaii's heart shaped tropical flowers for sale in the Hilo Market

Among the Best Open-Air Markets in the West

Open-Air Markets Hilo

Hilo blossomed from a village centered around the mission church to a boom town when sugar production flourished. Businesses came and went – whaling, coffee farms, sugar plantations, the occasional cruise ship and a budding tourist industry. Modern Hilo has a current population of forty-thousand-plus but the economy has been on a downward slide since the demise of sugar plantations. It’s a town that has made and remade itself after booms, busts, earthquakes and tsunamis. Many locals believe that their quality of life isn’t so much what you do to make a living as what you do for fun. Surfing and family time are celebrated recreations.

The attitude of “living life to its fullest today” may come from living next to an active volcano. The pace on this side of the island is slower than in the more populated tourist destinations.

Among the Best Open-Air Markets in the West

Plan your trip to Hilo to coincide with the Wednesday or Friday Farmer’s Market. Consistently touted as one of the best open-air markets in the country and possibly the world’s best for spectacular exotic flowers and ultra-fresh produce, the 22-year-old market features more than 200 island farmers, chefs, honey-makers, local goat and feta cheese producers, floral artists, and crafters who display their good in a space covering two blocks. It’s open “from dawn ‘til it’s gone.”

Vivid scarlet, pink and white anthuriums erupt from green plastic buckets. Vendors of hand-made beeswax candles chat with the growers of fiddle-head ferns. I can’t resist the tropical flowers so I buy a $6 dazzling floral arrangement in a coffee can wrapped with folded Ti leaves. Pink ginger, burgundy and crimson anthuriums and heliconia are tucked into moist, green foam in the bottom of the can.

Handmade jewelry for sale at the farmers' market

Gourmet products from the Hilo Farmers' Market

Hawaii Five O. Plantation-style inn.

Palm Cliff House, Luxury Inn set in a stunning tropical garden

Finding the Old Hawaiian experience

Exotic birds soar from palm to palm as we wind our way down the drive to the Palm Cliff House, a luxury inn located 14 miles from Hilo. Perched on the cliff’s edge 100’ above crashing surf, the plantation-style house is nestled within verdant acres of its own tranquil estate. Every room has views of the ocean below, where humpback whales and spinner dolphins frolic in the waters of Pokakumanu Bay. Waves crash on the cliffs and birdsong fills our spacious suite as I eye the two-person sunken Jacuzzi with views to the ocean, the four-poster bed and the comfy chairs on our private porch. This is the perfect way to start a vacation.

The gorgeous gardens at the Palm Cliff House

Warm Hawaiian Hospitality from the owners. Cocktails, fresh salsa and fabulous breakfast on the verdanda.

About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.