Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hawaii: Activities

So what do people do on the big island?  There are some beach resorts, but it doesn't feel like as much of a paradise island lie on the beach type of vacation destination.  But we didn't fly halfway around the world to lie on the beach, that is what the Caribbean is for.  So what is so great about Hawaii?
-Diving (see tomorrow's post) and Snorkeling!  If you don't dive, you have to go snorkeling.  Firstly, you have to do the manta night snorkel (we'll discuss this later), but also you should go snorkeling at either City of Refuge/Two Step or at Captain Cook (Kaileakea Bay).
(Reef squid!)
-Captain Cook - this bay is just kind of cool.  Apparently at some point in history, a big chunk of the island just kind of fell off, and then the bay was there.  So you show up, you rent a kayak (it was $50 for us, the guy in the mustang that pulled up right after had to pay $60...), you paddle yourself over to the monument, you eat a picnic (see "eating" post), and then you snorkel.  The bay is really calm, the visibility is excellent, the fish life is incredibly diverse here, and it's probably one of the best spots to snorkel that we went to.  Then you kayak back and drive home past the fruit farm / honey stand / coffee tasting place that gave us free samples of everything and had macadamia nut ice cream.
- Volcano Park - excellent hiking. Bring lots of water.  I highly recommend the Kailuea Iki crater trail.  They say if you only have a day, you should drive the crater rim, but I was pretty happy with just hitting the overlooks and then hiking the Iki trail, the Thurston lava tube, the sulfer trail, the museum, and the final trail that I'll just call the Land Before Time trail and not really recommend it.  (I think it was the "hairy hill" trail, or part of it.)  Your mileage may vary, but we were pretty happy to just spend a day in Volcano park.

- Volcanically heated swimming pools.  We went to Ahalanui Park, which wasn't terribly crowded (but go early or you will not be able to park) and it was pretty cool.  The water is ocean water, but it's heated by lava so it's kind of like taking a salty bath where fish try to bite your legs.  I'm not selling it well but it was neat.
- Ziplining - We went with UmaUma Experience and it was definitely a splurge, but it was pretty cool.  You zipline over waterfalls, the guides are all really fantastic and have a lot of fun, and it felt extremely safe.
(That's me.  Right before this, I was flying upside down. It's awesome.)

- Beaches.  I don't mean to undersell the beaches on The Big Island, because the beaches are gorgeous and awesome and you should go to them, but clearly there is other cool stuff too.  There are several great beach parks along Alii drive where they offer surf and SUP lessons - the weather was bad for SUP on the one day we decided to go, so we passed on that.  We also spent several hours at the Old Airport beach park, which has good diving if you don't step on an urchin.  There is also a nice beach close to Mile Marker 4, which is a dive site, and a lovely little protected beach at the harbor dive site, which is really nice as long as you don't mind hiking over lava.
- Black sand beach.  When you drive around to volcano, check it out, it's pretty cool and there are turtles.
- Running.  Running along Alii Drive south out of Kona is awesome.  I wish we could have run all the way down to "the end of the world" where people jump off cliffs, but we just ran two miles from our hotel and two miles back.  There are beach parks with water fountains, there are amazing views of the waves crashing, you can see locals out for their morning surf, and it's fabulous.
- Driving.  I highly highly recommend you drive the island.  We went south to north because we were staying in Volcano.  Guidebooks recommend you rent a four wheel drive, and maybe if you get free upgrades or something, it's worth it.  We cheaped out, saved $200, and rented a Crown Vic (don't let them give you a crown vic), and there wasn't that much that we couldn't do because we didn't have a four wheel drive.
- Hiking waterfalls.  We didn't make it to Rainbow Falls or any of the other awesome waterfalls, but that area of the island is all just beautiful jungle and I really wish we had managed to put in some time there.
-Wine Tasting.  Volcano winery is located near the park and it was a fun diversion.  For $5, we got a decent amount of delicious wine and had a lovely conversation with the salesgirl about tropical plants and winemaking.


Anyone else have activity recommendations?

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