Big Island: Incredible things to see and do

posted in: USA | 23

This was our first time on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and by god didn’t we enjoy it. Hawaii’s Big Island, as well as the usual thing to do like stay at the Hilton resort in Waikoloa or Sheraton resort in Kona, swimming in the sea, checking out the beautiful beaches and seeing a cultural show, we did get the chance to explore the island. We were quite fortunate as we visited the island in late June 2018, a few weeks after the Kilauea exploded, ok, not quite fortunate for the locals who lost their homes but this is nature at its best. This is where we going to start with the blog by telling you what you can do when exploring this amazing island.

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Flying along the coastline on the northwestern side of the island.

Take a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian

We couldn’t stress this more, doing a helicopter tour on Big Island of Hawaii was on the best highlights of our visit and we did this with Blue Hawaiian. What we saw on the two hour tour was incredible and we will treasure the memories for a lifetime. Starting from the headquarters near Waikoloa Beach Resorts, our pilot took us and two other couples to the south east of the island taking in the amazing views of Mauna Kea, one of the highest mountains in Hawaii. The reason we went to the south-east was to see the Kilauea Volcano erupting and we were one of the first tours to fly in this region. Words couldn’t describe what we were seeing. There was lava boiling at the top, fast flowing lava going down the mountainside and lots of steam coming up from the ocean as the lava hits the water. We were seeing land being created but at the same time, land being destroyed, trees being destroyed and home burnt to the ground and swept away by the lava. History and the future was being made at a rapid speed.

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Kilauea Volcano
Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
The lava hitting the ocean producing the steam.

The tour then went northwards along the eastern coast over the city of Hilo before we arrived at valleys which cars etc couldn’t not reach. We were flying through valleys and checking out the amazing landscape and waterfalls. The pilot was even kind enough to do a quick stop at the bottom of a waterfall to which the only other way of seeing this was to hike there. This was truly amazing and we really did felt like being a tropical paradise. No other people, no sound apart from the ocean and the gushing of the waterfall and a few birds from above.

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Blue Hawaiian helicopter at that amazing stop off point besides a waterfall.

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

South Point

The southern point of the Big Island is called South Point or Ka Lae to the locals. The only reason we visited this is because we are into our geography and love visiting places of interest. Not only this is the southernmost point in Hawaii but of all 50 states of the USA and its overseas territories (so don’t confuse that with Key West in Florida, we talking about the WHOLE of the USA not the mainland. USA does have Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico etc – the debate on this by Americans is getting boring now whilst we were on the road so, you got it guys, ALL of the USA and not the mainland. Sigh).

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
South Point – there you go guys. The southern end of all of USA and it’s oversea’s lands and states.

Papakōlea Beach

This green sand beach is located near South Point (another reason for making the long drive south to this area) and is one of only four green sand beaches in the world, the others being located in Guam, Galapagos Islands and Norway. To get here, drive towards South Point but there is a left turn in the road. Take that and this will take you to a car park. Drop the car here and you should either walk to the beach which is about five miles away in the open, with hot blazing sun on your head with no shelter, no shops for water and food (so take lots of that!) or you could do what we did and jumped into a local pickup truck where locals are earning money cash-free and not paying tax (but do we care about that?) and drove all the way down the dirt track which was like sitting on a raft going down some rapids in the amazon. On arriving and getting our composure back (and for some of the people with us, the vomit out of their system), we took the walk down the cliffside to the beach (wear good shoes for this, not flip flops!). The beach is amazing, beautiful and a great place to go into the sea. However on windy days especially on the beach and on top of the cliffs overlooking, dust gets everywhere so good sunglasses are needed. God help ya if you wore contact lenses like I (Danik) did.

Papakōlea Beach, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Papakōlea Beach
Papakōlea Beach, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Papakōlea Beach

Kealakekua Bay

Being explorers, we wanted to see the spot where Britain’s Captain Cook, famous sailor and explorer of the British Empire, died. This is located at Kealakekua Bay near Kona and after taking the drive to the beach, we found out the only way to get there was to either kayak, scuba dive or snorkel our way across the bay. With no other way of getting to the memorial (which we could barely see from where we were standing), we decided to give this a miss as time was not on our hands (it was a fair distance to get across the bay). If you wanted to know why Captain Cook died here, he got stabbed in the heart by a local whilst trying to leave the island. There is a lot more than this in the story but you guys should hit the history books (otherwise this blog post will become a novel!).

Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Kealakekua Bay

Seeing the sun set and watching the stars on Mauna Kea

This is worth it. Make the trip to Mauna Kea in the middle of the island (takes about 60-90 minutes from the west coast or east coast to drive there) and take supplies, a jacket and a good camera to treasure the memories. If renting a car (like we did), and not having a big old jeep which is capable of doing off-roading up dirt tracks at the mountain summit, the furthest point anyone can go is to the visitor centre halfway up the mountain (which is still above the clouds at 2804m/9199ft).

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
The road to Mauna Kea

Some fun facts about Mauna Kea, it’s the highest mountain on an island on Earth at 4207m (13,802 ft) but interesting fact is that most of this mountain is under the ocean so when it’s measured from the ocean base, the mountain is over 10,000m (33,000ft) making this the tallest mountain on Earth! Thought we chuck this in there guys.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Mauna Kea

When arriving at the car park about an hour before sunset (allow a lot of time to get here and get here early for a parking space), we quickly went into the shop and grabbed a hot drink before making our way up to a good viewing point nearby. Here we got amazing views of the landscape from down below, all the volcano cones which are now defunct and we could see the ocean from all sides of the island, well, to be honest, not to the south as there is another mountain in the way.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Mauna Kea

The sun came down in the west and was a beautiful surreal moment to see. The stars came out afterwards and we spent a while looking at them. Another moment which we will treasure forever. When it was time to head back to our resort, we could see the glow of the redness from the top of Kilauea Volcano in the distance. With the clouds it did look like a disaster scene in the making (it looked better and scary in real life than the photo we captured of it).

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Can you see the red glow from the volcano in the distance?

Statue of King Kamehameha

This is located near the northern point of Big Island in a village called Kapaau near Hawi (which is a great town to visit for healthy food restaurants and drinks). This is the original statue which was meant to be placed in Honolulu but was lost at sea when being delivered from Europe to Hawaii. The boat carrying the statue was shipwrecked off the coast of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Another one was made and was placed outside government buildings in Honolulu. However some locals in the Falkland Islands discovered the boat, found the statue and somehow sold it to the folk in Hawaii. The locals decided that the original statue should be placed in this village, as it was the king’s birthplace.

King Kamehameha, Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
King Kamehameha statue

Doing a Big Island marathon located in a desert

I (Danik) managed to do a marathon in the Waikoloa Beach resorts area of the island to which some of the 26.2 mile (42km) course went through the beautiful resorts but most of the course went out into the Big Island’s desert climate conditions. The race started at sunrise at 05.30 but ninety minutes into the race, the temperatures were just rising and rising and I struggled to cope with this. I managed to finish the course in around five hours but like others doing the event, we felt like dying afterwards. This was one of the hardest challenges I have ever come across and would not one to experience again in my life. Give me mountain races or just a ‘normal’ marathon any day of the week.

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA
Marathon in the desert!
Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA, marathon
Had this view for most of the time. Scenic but bloody hot!

That was our experience of Big Island. We relaxed, we were happy, we got to see amazing landscapes and did exciting tours and will treasure these moments for the rest of our lives. Have you been to Big Hawaii? What would you recommend? What do you like most about the island? We would love to hear your views.

Hawaii, Big Hawaii, Big Island, USA

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23 Responses

  1. That coastline flight sounds like one of the most stunning travel experiences ever Claire. From the pictures I see above and a descent into Honolulu during a swift layover, Hawaii is one of the few spots on earth rivaling New Zealand for stunning beauty. What an awesome post guys.

  2. You don’t hear much about the big island but oh my those views from the helicopter ride are amazing. Congrats Danik on completing a marathon! I bet the views were epic but I imagine the heat would be killer.

  3. Oh my goodness, I’m amazed that you did a marathon on your vacation! I get worn out just walking everywhere when I’m traveling. (Ha, I guess that just goes to show who’s in better shape.) The photos of the sunset are stunning and seeing the burning volcano in the darkness after is quite sobering. I haven’t been to the Big Island yet, but it certainly looks majestic.

  4. We canceled our trip to Kona this December at the height of the eruption. Seeing your helicopter tour and those amazing shots now makes me regret that decision!

  5. Wow, those aerial views from the heli tour are utterly incredible. The contrast between the lush green and the fresh black volcanic areas is so stark. Don’t laugh but I’ve been wanting to visit Hawaii because of the scenery showcased in Hawaii 5 0! Really appreciate your guide to some great and beautiful places to visit, not just coastal but getting inland as well.

  6. That helicopter tour looks truly incredible. The first thing I thought of with the photo of the waterfall was “this looks exactly like Jurassic Park!” It’s horrible what the local folks on the island have been going through with the eruption, but it still looks like a beautiful place to visit.

  7. Hawaii is high on our travel wish list. But we really want to see all of the islands. Thanks for the view of the Big Island. Thanks for the suggestion to do a helicopter tour. Seeing the volcano erupting must have been the view of a lifetime. Sad but fascinating. I love the view of the volcanic beaches. And that water colour! But I might not want the 5 mile walk to the beach. The sunset over Mauna Kea looks worth the drive. It looks like you had such a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I really like how much quieter the big island is versus Oahu and even Maui. Plus, you have those active volcanos. I would love to see it from the air like you did with a helicopter tour, and get a totally different perspective of the beauty of the island. What an amazing trip and congrats on completing a marathon while on holiday!

  9. I’ve been to the islands several times but would never attempt a marathon! I so admire the Iron Man competitors. Love hearing of your experiences as my first trip was when I was barely a teen. There is so much beauty in the islands.

  10. Wow, you got to fly on a helicopter near Kilauea while it erupted? That’s crazy amazing. Yes, awful how it has destroyed so many homes, but to witness that power must’ve been incredible. Hawaii is on my list, and a visit to the Big Island is now a must – I really want to go up Mauna Kea to watch the sunset – it looks so tranquil up there!

  11. I have wanted to go to the Big Island forever! Loved seeing all your photo and social posts of your trip, and love reading this! I had no idea there was a green sand beach, how cool is that?! The photos for the helicopter ride are amazing. That would be so much fun! I had no idea that Captain Cook died in Hawaii, and what a way to go. Ouch!

  12. Big Island seems to epitomize the beauty of Hawaii. The helicopter ride looks and sounds really spectacular in those picturesque environs. The stop by the side of the waterfalls seems straight out of a dream. Nice to see you completing the marathon in the beautiful but hot environs.

  13. Wow, guys, it looks amazing here! I have always wanted to visit Hawaii but this has pushed it up the list quite a few places!! I just love how incredible the landscape it over there, it is so lush and green but also varied too with the volcanos and beaches. Seems like the perfect destination!

  14. It’s hard to believe with all the places I have traveled in the world and being from the US that I have never been to Hawaii. When we go, I, too, would like to see Mauna Kea, one of the highest mountains in Hawaii, and the Kilauea Volcano erupting. I can just imagine how spectacular that was from the sky. We have done 3 heli-tours in our travels, and like you say, you see places that you can’t otherwise get to. You visited some lesser seen or traveled sights, and that is always something that interests me. I bookmarked and pinned your post for reference for a time when we go to Hawaii. Thanks!

  15. I absolutely love the Big Island and need to revisit. I haven’t been back in ages it seems. I still have yet to experience the helicopter ride. It looks like so much fun and the views are incredible!

  16. Congrats on the marathon – I train for my first half-marathon right now and find it very hard sometimes…The beaches look amazing and a helicopter ride seems to be the perfect thing to get the picture of everything!

  17. The Big Island has been on my bucket list forever and now I want to visit more than ever. I’m really interested in one of those helicopter rides as the coast is stunning and I’d love a bird’s eye view of the volcanoes. And I know I’d have to visit Papakōlea Beach- green sand is just too fun to pass up.

  18. I visited The Big Island about 4-5 years ago and it was truly heavenly! You did well by taking a helicopter tour, I can only imagine what an amazing experience it would’ve been for you, the views from above seem spectacular. The island is so lush green and the colour of the ocean is mesmerising! I remember taking a boat trip to the volcano and watching the red-hot lava flow into the ocean, instantly forming rocks because of the hot lava hitting the cold water. It was such an intriguing sight!

  19. What a stunning island tour. Starting with the beautiful volcano viewing to the lovely beaches. And those valley views with the waterfalls – just mindblowing. I really hope that someday I can visit this place and see it for myself. Especially the lava turning to solid.

  20. I’d love to visit Big Island – but I won’t be doing a marathon there ha ha! Wow good on you Danik. Must have been a struggle in the heat. A beautiful island – that green sand is something else though! I’d love to fly in a chopper overhead though and soak in all those impressive views, that impressive coastline and also the beautiful greenery too. Gorgeous!

  21. You have taken stunning shots of Big Island. Chopper with a backdrop of stunning waterfalls looks like a movie scene. I am adding this place right now in my list and I would surely go for Helicopter ride for aerial view of this beautiful island.

  22. Have to say I got a good chuckle from your explanation and mild indignation about explaining the southern most point. Putting on my British hat (born to Brit parents) with my USA background, and like you a love for geography, I would explain it like this: The concrete monument in Key West is the southernmost place in the contiguous 48 states. Ka Lae is the southernmost point in the 50 states. Now to correct a common misconception, Guam and Puerto Rico are NOT states. They are territories. So if you want to include them in this discussion, then you have to note that Rose Atoll in American Samoa is the southernmost point in all U.S.-controlled territory. 😉 Geography buffs unite!

  23. Your photos are just incredible. The colours and the greens are just so vibrant. Looks stunning. I really hope that i will get to go once.. And the helicopter ride looked great, i mean, like you said, totally a once in a lifetime experience! And i am veeeery impressed you managed to do a marathon in that heat too!! That’s really impressive.

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