A March 2003 trip
to Hawaii (Big Island) by lcampbell
Quote: The Big Island is getting bigger all the time. See the beginnings of life flowing from an active volcano, hike until your heart’s content, then cool off with a swim at one of the many amazing beaches.
On my first night camping at the Laupahoehoe Park, I met two women (one from Canada and one from Germany) who were travelling together on foot. They had met while volunteering at a WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) farm near Hilo, and had some days off and were hitchhiking around. We hit it off right away, and had all planned to visit the same place the next day, so I offered them a ride with me. We ended up spending the next day together, which eventually led to spending four days together, which then led to me extending my trip for another three days! Now I have friends for life!
Together the three of us continued on to meet more kind, generous, and fascinating people where ever we went. We met the Wild Women of the Wilderness, a Hawaiian wise man and healer named Able and his equally kind friends, and many other colorful characters.
My three favorite things to do on the Big Island were:
1. Seeing lava flowing after dark at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
2. Swimming with dolphins at Ho’okena Beach Park
3. Meeting my new friends Sheridan and Mirja!
If I had more time, I would have hiked farther into Waipio Valley than I did, and backpacked to Waimanu Valley. Also, I would have liked to hike more at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Finally, it would have been great to drive up Mauna Kea to the Onizuka Visitor Center, where they give summit tours (you need your own four-wheel drive vehicle to get to summit, or arrange a ride with someone who has one) where you can visit one of the scientific telescopes.
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, but use common sense and beware.
Laupahoehoe Beach Park (restrooms, showers, water, picnic pavilions, grills) is located midway between Honoka’a and Hilo. I camped here my first night on Big Island. Shortly after arriving, I met two other women travellers, and ended up hanging out with them for the whole week! When I woke up in the morning, I discovered a beautiful rocky coast, with water splashing up and spraying in the morning sun. There was a whale not too far off shore. Laupahoehoe’s history is not as serene. It was once the location of a school, which was hit by a tsunami in 1946, killing 20 children and 4 adults.
Ho’okena Beach Park (restrooms, hot showers, water, beach) is a crowded camping spot, which also is checked often for permits. So if you don’t have one, you might find yourself homeless at 2am (not fun!) But other than the crowds, and the fact that one woman who lives at the park in her car says that local people often purposely clog the restrooms in an effort to get rid of "the hippies", it is a nice place. This is where I met the "Wild Wilderness Women" who shared their dinner with us. Ho’okena is also where I swam with dolphins (see entry in my "Big Island: Fun on Foot and Sensational Swimming" journal).
Punalu’u Beach Park (restrooms, showers, water, picnic pavilions, cook grill) is a great county park near the quaint town of Na’alehu. This was by far my favorite place to camp. We met Able at Punalu’u. He is an older Hawaiian man who lives nearby but often sleeps at the park. He talked to us at length about Hawaii, the land, the people, and about spirituality. He had some friends with us who were also interesting characters with good spirits and kind souls. Punalu’u has a beautiful black sand beach and tidepools. I saw two sea turtles! Also, there is a scenic coconut-lined freshwater pond with ducks.
I absolutely recommend that you DO NOT camp at Miloli’i Park, located north of Ocean View on Highway 11 between mile markers 89 and 90. Unless you enjoy having psychotic people shouting and threatening to kill each other in the middle of the night, forcing you to abandon camp and sleep in the car as fas away as possible because you are so scared.
Permits are required at these county beach parks and are available in person at Department of Park and Recreation, 808-961-8311, 25 Aupuni St, Hilo HI 96720. 8-4:30 Monday to Friday. The Kona office is located at Hale Halawai Park, 808-327-3560. There are also offices with extremely limited hours in Captain Cook, Waimea, and Na’alehu. Camping costs $3 per person per night.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2003
Camping at County Beach Parks
Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii
Attraction | "State and Federal Camping Spots"
Kalopa State Recreation Area is a couple miles south of Honoka’a on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway. It is cooler and wetter than the coast at 2000 feet in elevation. Kalopa is a gem, with 100 acreas of native rain forest, a short nature trail, and longer trails around the perimeter. I did not see any other cars when I went up to Kalopa, which gave me the impression that it is normally not a very crowded place. There are also two cabins for rent. Contact the state park office (number listed below) for more information.
MacKenzie State Recreation Area, south of Hilo in Puna, is a beautiful ironwood-shaded section of coast. There coastal cliffs here are dramatic, and good for fishing. There is a section of the ancient King’s Trail that starts at MacKenzie. But because of this, there have been stories about people seeing "Night Watchers" or ghosts of ancient people patrolling the area at night. One bummer was the very icky toilets…. I think I’d rather go in the woods.
Reservations for these two campgrounds can be made at state park offices on any island, or else the Big Island office can be reached at 808-974-6200, PO Box 936, Hilo HI 96721. I believe the cost is $5 per person per night.
During my travels, I spent one night at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There are two campgrounds.
Namakani Paio Campground, off Hwy 11, has restrooms, water, and pavilions. I did not get a chance to look at this campground.
I did stay at Kulanaokuaiki Campground, which is located farther into park, on Hilina Pali Road for a night. It was remote and quiet. I had not found such peacefulness and solitude anywhere else I had camped on the island. The campsites are widely spaced, the air was cold and fresh, and the stargazing was incredible. The whole area was surrounding by a wild shrubby ecosystem, with plenty of birds. I think we heard a Nene, or Hawaiian goose, honking near out campsite in the morning. There is a pit toilet but no water, so bring plenty of water. There are a few fire grates, but no wood, so bring that too.
Both of the campgrounds at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are FREE and first-come, first-serve.
After paying the $10 entrance fee (per vehicle, good for 7 days), start your visit at Kilauea Visitor Center. Rangers will have the latest information on the current lava flow, free ranger programs, suggested hikes, and can answer questions. You can also see a short video about the Park, get backcountry camping permits, and purchase books and postcards. The Visitor Center is open 8am-5pm daily.
Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Mauna Loa is actually the largest mountain on Earth – 56,000 feet from it’s base on the ocean floor (13,677 feet above sea level). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park includes seacoast to alpine tundra and everything in between, with 140 miles of trails to explore the varying landscape. There are numerous backcountry campsites, and two roadside campgrounds (see my "State and Federal Camping Spots" entry).
If you prefer a driving tour, there is a great one that starts at the Visitor Center called the Crater Rim Drive, an 11-mile loop around the rim of Kilauea Caldera, where lava boils just below the surface. There are many stops and overlooks, but be sure to stop at Jaggar Museum and Halemaumau Overlook. Devastation Trail (allow 30 minutes) will take you through Kilauea Iki’s 1959 eruption. Thurston Lava Tube is a nice 20-minute walk. For a longer hike, you may want to try the Kilauea Iki Trail (see my "Kilauea Iki Trail" entry in my "Big Island Fun on Foot and Sensational Swimming" journal).
Of course, the main reason that people come to Hawaii Volcanoes is to see the flowing lava. I suggest that you see the lava both during the day and also after dark. During the day it is not as dramatic, but the surface of the lava shines black irradescent. At night, it is more evident that you are looking at molten rock at 2100 degrees F. It glows red and can mesmerize for hours. To see lava, drive to the end of the Chain of Craters Road, hike east until you see hardened lava crossing the road, then follow the yellow markers. Rangers are posted along the way to answer questions.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hilo, Hawaii 96718
Attraction | "Place of Refuge: Pu’uhonua O Honaunau"
Picture the attendants and servants of the ali’i pounding taro, gathering traditional plants for food and medicine, or taking fish from the fish ponds. Women might be making dye or evaporating salt using "bowls" carved into the rock. Traditional structures, called hale, were made of ohi’a wood tied with coconut fibers, and thatched with ti leaves. In them, women might be cooking. Or men might be building a new canoe for the king. When work was done, folks might relax with a game of konane, played with pebbles on a stone playing surface. Suddenly, a boy runs through, and announces that the royal canoes are landing in the cove!
Some of the traditional structures have been rebuilt at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau. At Hale O Keawe, ki’i (wooden images) guard the reconstructed temple. Originally the temple also contained a masoleum with the bones of 23 ali’i. Fishponds have been rebuilt and have some tiny fish in them, and there are traditional plants all around the grounds. You will see the "bowls" in the rock, the konane gameboard, and a wooden canoe. As I was walking through the grounds, I had a very powerful feeling come over me when I was near the fishponds. I could feel the presence of those who had lived there before, and I swear I could almost see them. My friend who was with me felt it at the same time, and asked me if I could feel the energy. I could. I had felt it before she mentioned it.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the grounds is the Place of Refuge. This is an area that was set apart by a massive stone wall which was built in 1550. At one time, Hawaii was governed by a set a sacred laws, or kapu. If a commoner were to break a kapu, such as allowing his shadow to fall across the path of royalty, or a woman eating the wrong food, the penalty was death. The people felt that breaking a kapu would anger the gods. So in order to avoid punishment from the gods in the form of tidal wave, or volcanic eruption, the kapu breaker had to die. But if the kapu breaker could make it to the Place of Refuge (usually reached by an extremely dangerous ocean crossing), then a priest could perform a ceremony to absolve the person and they could then live. The Place of Refuge was also a destination for defeated warriors.
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau should definitely be on your "must-see" list.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Off Highway 160
I looked around me. It was! I could picture them fluttering their wings as they flitted from tree to flower to moss-covered log. Most people go to Akaka Falls State Park to see Akaka Falls (strangly enough!), but my favorite part was definitely the plants. The philodenron leaves were larger than me. There were vines growing off of banyan trees, vines and ferns growing off of everything, and lush green on all sides. The ginger, orchids, heliconia, hibiscus, and bamboo provided texture and color in the green. There were literally tunnels of vegetation.
All this vegetation, and two great waterfalls, can be seen on a ½ mile ranforest loop trail. We went to the right first and came to 100 foot Kahuna Falls first. It was a bit hard to see because it was pretty far off the trail, but it was nice anyway. The star of the show was next. Akaka Falls is 442 feet tall and falls as a sheer drop. It is close to the trail so it is front-row-center for viewing. The vertical walls around Akaka Falls are covered in moss, hanging flowers, and ferns.
Akaka Falls State Park is a great spot to stop for a short hike if you are in the Hilo area. It is located north of Hilo on Hwy 220, off of Hwy 19, between mile marker 13 and 14. Turn west and follow the signs for about 4 miles.
A visit to Akaka Falls State Park can be combined with other stops in the nearby area like Kolekole Beach Park, Pepe,ekeo Scenic Drive, the World Botanical Garden, and the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden. Or, have a waterfall day and also visit Rainbow Falls, Pe’epe’e Falls, and Boiling Pots near Hilo along with Akaka Falls.
Akaka Falls State Park
End of 'Akaka Falls Road (Highway 220)
Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii
Port Angeles, Washington