A March 2003 trip
to Hawaii (Big Island) by lcampbell
Quote: Hiking and playing in the water are two of my favorite things to do. On a recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I wanted to combine these activites as often as possible, and do them whenever I could!
A short hike in Waipio Valley left me wishing I had time to hike farther into the valley, and even up and over the north side to Waimanu Valley. I was amazed by my six mile hike through Kilauea Iki crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But there are miles and miles of trails to explore at the park! And I never made it to any of the remaining sections of the King’s trail, an ancient footpath that encircled the island.
I did get to swim with dolphins, a real highlight of the trip. And I saw turtles!
By far my favorite memories will be of two new friends that I met on the Big Island. I met Sheridan (from Canada) and Mirja (from Germany) my first night camping, and we ended up traveling together for four days, then they convinced me to extend my trip another three days.
Even though I was frugal, I feel that I saw the best that the island had to offer. The Big Island has something for everyone. Kona has the typical tourist scene – the Hawaiian kitsch and pressure timeshare and activity sales that are normally associated with Hawaii. But the Kona coast has reliably warm and sunny weather. Hilo, on the other hand, is very rainy but is low-key in its tourism. I personally liked Hilo better, but to each his own. Make sure to explore what the smaller towns have to offer. I particularily liked Na’alehu, Captain Cook, and Honoka'a.
There are a variety of rental car companies with competative prices to choose from in both Kona and Hilo. There are all the big name standards: Budget, Dollar, National, Hertz, etc.
There is a limited public transportation system on Big Island called Hele On. See their website for the schedule and rates.
Also, it is legal to hitchhike on Big Island. I think most would find it easy to get rides, unless you are especially scary looking or seem intimidating. I gave plenty of people rides, and it was always interesting, educational, and entertaining!
The view from the lookout is beautiful but limited. The valley is so wide (almost a mile) and deep (five miles), it is impossible to see it all while perched like an ant on the edge. The beach, blue sea, and high cliffs are too tempting to resist. I just had to get down into the valley and have a look around!
To get to the bottom, walkers must share an extremely steep paved road with the four-wheel drive vehicles with strong brakes that can make it to the bottom (and back up to the top!) Stay out of their way for a short 15 minutes and you will be rewarded with an entire historic rainforest valley to explore!
At the bottom of the hill, the road splits. To the right is the beach. The beach is long and beautiful, but the waters are treacherous. The currents are strong and pulled me three different directions. It was the only time while swimming in Hawaii that I was really worried. I got out as fast as I could.
From the beach, I could see a trail switchbacking up the north side of the valley. The trail goes 9 miles to Waimanu Valley-–a narrower steeper version of Waipio. Waimanu Valley is administered by the State of Hawaii. Back-country camping permits are available from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife at (808)974-4221. You can reserve a permit by phone, but you must pick up the permit in person, so plan accordingly.
There are some unofficial campsites near the beach under some ironwood trees. Local legend says that if you camp near the Waipio beach, however, to beware of the "night marchers" or ghosts who patrol the valley. Also, there is supposed to be a portal to the next world at a secret location on the beach.
The left fork of the road heads upvalley. I only went a mile up, but I was rewarded with flowers and fruits, a friendly grazing horse, a nice chat with a local landowner, and two amazing waterfalls tumbling down vertical walls. From what I read, there is more of the same farther up the valley, along with taro fields and ponds of lotus flowers.
In his book "Hawaii - Off the Beaten Path," Sean Pager writes:
"Known as the Valley of Kings, Waipio is the largest and most important valley in Hawaiian history. As many as 30,000 people once farmed this fertile haven, perhaps a quarter of the island’s population." Pager goes on to explain that Waipio was home to Umi, who united all of the Big Island under his rule. Umi’s descendant, Kamehameha was the first to control all of the Hawaiian islands.
Most of the valley population left after a devastating tsunami in 1946.
I think that Waipio Valley is worth spending longer than the measly few hours that I did.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 9, 2003
Off of Highway 240
Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii
Attraction | "Kilauea Iki Trail - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park"
When I visitied Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I had wanted to spend a lot of time hiking. Unfortunately, my time was running short, so I only had time for one short hike. But it sure was a good one!
I hiked the Kilauea Iki Trail which goes down into Kilauea Iki Crater, separated from Kilauea Caldera by Byron Ledge. I saw very few people on this hike, and despite the fact that I was just below the Crater Rim Drive, I found it to be quiet and peaceful. The loop trail is 4 miles long if done from the Kilauea Iki Overlook, or 6 miles if done from the Kilauea Visitor Center. I started my hike from the Visitor Center.
At first I found myself hiking on an old paved road. The road was actually an old section of the Crater Rim Drive which they are using as trail because sections of the road fell into the crater during earthquakes in 1975 and 1983. Where the road ends, an actual dirt trail begins. All along this way, I was overwhelmed by the amazing vegetation. My friend from Germany who was hiking with me called it "a fairyland." There were plants growing on plants growing on plants. The ferns and vines were my favorite.
Before dropping into the crater, there are numerous views down into Kilauea Iki. It looks barren but inviting at the same time. After some pretty short and painless switchbacks, I found myself looking across the crater floor. Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959, shooting lava fountains 1,900 feet into the air. Today, the floor of the crater is solid. I tried not to think about the pool of lava that is still underneath the hardened surface, but was reminded of it every time I passed a steam vent and felt the rock get hotter under my feet!
Contrary to my original impression, the crater floor is not totally barren. Small plants, obviously strong survivors, grow in various places on the crater floor. There were actually a few decent-sized ohi’a bushes, and larger trees grew higher up the crater walls. I did not see any animals at all. I really loved seeing the areas where the rock layer had cracked, revealing layers of colors--purples, pinks, browns, oranges, and white.
After crossing the hot crater, we sweated up the switchbacks and looked back where we had just been. It was nice to cool down in the shade and stare in amazement. I wondered if the fire godess, Pele, lived in this beautiful place. Finally, I reluctantly returned to the car to continue my Big Island journey.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hilo, Hawaii 96718
My Big Island trip was a bargain trip filled with camping and other free adventures. I had met some new friends at a campground the night before and we decided to travel together. We collectively decided to camp at Ho’okena Beach even though we heard that permits are sometimes checked at this location (we didn’t have one due to bad permit office hours). When we arrived, it was already getting dark. After we set up tents, we asked a nearby group if we could use their campfire to cook when they were done. Well, they were a cool group called Wild Women of the Wilderness, and the group leader offered us their remaining food. Yummy fish tacos, fresh fruit, and chips and salsa. I liked this place already!
The Wild Womwn were the ones who told us about the dolphins. They said that dolphins often swim at Ho’okena and other nearby bays. They are curious animals and often check out the swimmers. We had planned on hanging out at this beach the next day anyway, so I guessed we’d just cross our fingers and hope to see dolphins. We had picked up some super cheap snorkle gear and fins at a thrift store earlier in the day, so we were ready.
In the morning we waited around until 9am without any luck. We left for a while to see some nearby sights, then returned to the beach at about 1pm. We still didn’t see any dolphins . . . oh wait! There they are!
When it was previously explained to me about the dolphins, I had this horrible vision in my head of a huge group of people waiting anxiously on shore with their fins, then all rushing into the water at the first sight of dolphins, and literally chasing them around and invading the animals' space. I envisioned harassment of the wildlife at its worst. But what I actually saw, at least the day I was there, was only about five people (us plus one other couple) swimming further out into the bay. When we got out, we just basically floated in one spot and waited for the dolphins to come to us. And they did! At first we were just able to see them underneath us. But, after a bit, they started coming up to the surface all around us. So close, and just making circles around us before heading out to sea for a while. We would wait and they would eventually come back again and again. When they surfaced near us, we could hear their blowholes. It was so amazing! It didn’t feel real!
Swimming with Dolphins at Ho'okena Beach
Ho'okena Beach - south of Kona on Hwy 11
Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii
Attraction | "Green Sands Beach"
To reach Green Sand Beach, turn off of Highway 11 between mile markers 69 and 70. There is a sign that says South Point (or Ka Lae). The drive is green and rural, with cattle grazing and a scenic farm along the way. After about 10 miles, the road forks. To the right is South Point, or Ka Lae, the southernmost point in the United States.
To see South Point, park near the fishing platforms on the side of the cliffs. The cliffs are breathtaking here. Next to the fishing platforms is a long ladder coming back up to the clifftop. A friend who was with me said that when she was there a few months earlier, her son jumped off the fishing platforms about 30 feet down into the ocean! I was SOOOOOOO tempted, as it was a pretty calm day. This is something you definitely do not want to attempt in rough conditions.
The actual South Point is located at the Coast Guard beacon about ¼ mile away. Near South Point is Kalalea Heiau, a sacred spot. It is said that the first Polynesians to "the Sandwich Islands" landed here. There are ancient canoe moorings "drilled" into the rocks below. It is a special spot.
Back at the road fork, continue left for another mile or so. To go to Green Sand Beach, park before the road gets too rutted and walk toward the ocean. Near the boat dock, follow the dirt four-wheel drive road east. The total hike to Green Sand is about 3 miles. There are numerous intertwining dirt roads. It doesn’t matter too much which one you take, as long as you stay relatively near the coast, they all lead to Green Sands.
After about an hour, you will see a dramatic rock formation angling down to a sheltered bay with the most startling aqua blue water. Even though you will want to get down to the beach ASAP, make sure that you go to the far east side of the bay before descending. The short scramble down is not as bad as it looks, there are sort of natural steps to go down.
Once at the bottom, my friends and I had a blast. The water was perfect, not too rough, and it felt great after the hot, dry hike! We swam and splashed, met some nice people and their cool dog. I guess sometimes the swimming can be dangerous, so be forewarned. The olive green sand was captivating, and I couldn’t stop gazing at it. It actually looked like gold, shimmering in the sun. We left after way-too-short of a time for the toasty hike back to the car. If you are up for the hike, Green Sand Beach is a MUST-see.
Mahana Beach/Green Sands Beach
Papakolea Beach Near South Point
Kaʻū District, Hawaii 96737
Port Angeles, Washington