Snowcapped mountains meet black sand beaches. Lush rainforest terrain collides with lava fields. Hawaii’s Big Island is a place the imagination can’t even compose. You must see the island’s natural gifts to believe in their reality. And yet, the snow, black sand, dripping rainforests and buckling dry lava landscapes are not the makeup of fiction. I found everything about the island of Hawaii to be true, even if I didn’t believe in its natural capabilities before I left. If you are searching to satisfy a big imagination, look no further than a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island.
Akaka Falls State Park: I don’t like to work too hard to reach my waterfalls. Luckily, Akaka Falls in the Akaka Falls State Park is only a 0.4 mile hike to reach the plummeting glory. A short hike through lush scenery speckled with wild orchids and lazy hanging ferns is well worth the small effort to see this 442-foot drop into a stream eroded gorge. Set on the northwestern Hamakua Coast, the state park is also home to Akaka Falls’ less impressive sister waterfall, Kahuna Falls. The 100-foot drop seems like a mere stair-step after seeing Akaka Falls.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: The roads through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have been paved endlessly with lava. The park boasts the world’s longest continually erupting volcano. Kilaueu volcano is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Just 30 miles south of Hilo, Volcanoes National Park could keep you busy for days. Comprised of 330,000 acres of land and 150 miles of hiking trails through a plethora of landscapes from volcanic craters to rainforests, it remains one of the United States’ most unusual national parks. If you are under time constraints as I was, you can easily drive through and stop at some of the major sites in the park in a day, including the 500-year-old lava cave, the Thurston Lava Tube.
Mauna Kea: If you are from any sort of city the brightness of the stars tends to fade, leaving very little for the imagination to look and wonder about on summer nights. However on the Big Island of Hawaii, travelers can make the trek up to Mauna Kea for those twinkling stars. At 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest peak on the Hawaiian Island and the tallest sea mountain in the world. Snowballs in hell might be a long shot, but snow in Hawaii is no myth on Mauna Kea in the wintertime. If you are equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle, you can proceed up Mauna Kea but tours are offered for those who might be a little spooked by that rental car agreement they signed. At the top, you will find 13 telescopes representing 11 countries, all watching the skies from this vantage point. Sunsets aren’t bad up here either, lending viewers a look at the closing out of the sun’s day above the clouds.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach: A black sand beach is not necessarily a good idea in theory. Walking across one in bare feet during the heat of the day looks more like a skit from I Love Lucy than some romantic stroll. Due to the constant volcanic activity on the island, there are a number of black sand beaches on the Big Island. One of the most accessible is Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, on the southeastern Kau Coast. Its jet-black sands, coconut palms and sapphire blue Pacific makes for a dramatic and unique setting. However, a word from the not so wise, be sure to keep your shoes on while strolling Hawaii’s black sand beaches or find you will be running for the water for some foot relief.
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