Written by MilwVon on 17 Sep, 2009
We have always enjoyed snorkeling and when the water's calm, it is nice to snorkel right off the shoreline . . . assuming you can get to the water. The Big Island has a lot of coastal area with very rough entry due to…Read More
We have always enjoyed snorkeling and when the water's calm, it is nice to snorkel right off the shoreline . . . assuming you can get to the water. The Big Island has a lot of coastal area with very rough entry due to the relatively recent lava flow activity there.If you want to snorkel on your own time and schedule, we would suggest buying the books "Snorkel Hawaii" and "Hawaii The Big Island Revealed'. Both are outstanding resources and can probably be picked up at your local Half Priced book store. If you really want to only deal with one book while on vacation, the Revealed book has more general information and greater utility.When had always heard about the Puna tidal pools but didn't really venture too far off the beaten path (i.e., into the neighborhoods) to find a nice swimming area. Some of the tidal pool areas are very shallow, too shallow for even the smallest adult. Since David and I displace quite a bit of water, we need to be sure to have some depth or else we will scratch ourselves up on lava rocks and coral.At our B&B we asked Petra for directions to the Kapoho "beach". I use the quotes because there really is no beach in this area. It is a row of waterfront houses on a street that dead ends into a rather new parking lot, that immediately places you on the lava rocks. As you can see from the photos attached to this review, they are very jagged and unless you fall on them, you have no idea just how sharp they are too! I tore up my left hand pretty good just getting out of the water after our snorkel swim.Here at the Kapoho pools, you will need to walk out about 10 or 15 yards out from the shore to get to a place to launch into the water. Prior planning will be your friend here, as you will want to walk out on the big lava rocks in protective reef shoes. If you snorkel like we do with the less expensive fins, you will need to have a place to take off and leave your reef shoes when you put on your flippers. Many people don't care much for that hassle so they have the fins that go over the reef shoes and strap around your ankle. In either event, do not attempt to walk on these rocks barefoot or in flimsy flip-flops.Once you are geared up and ready to go, you will be pleased with the wonderful marine life here. With the area a designated conservation area, there is no fishing which allows for added development of the underwater world beneath you. A young reef, there are some very interesting coral here including large scallop coral which I had only seen previously in photos. The fish were also very unique in this area - fish we'd never seen before in Hawaii. I especially like this rather large porpoise faced blue fish (photo attached). We also saw a couple of unicorn looking fish, with what appeared to be a horn type protrusion right out of their forehead.With the shallow areas throughout, there were also some pockets of schools of small nursery fish. It was cool to see tangs and some of the other Hawaii favorites that were no larger than a dime or nickel.If you do not own your own gear, you can rent the full set up (mark, snorkel and fins) for around $10/week from either Snorkel Bob's or Boss Frog. During our time in Hawaii, they both were offering rent one set; get a second for the same rental period for free. You can't beat that, although we prefer to own our own since sucking on plastic that was in someone else's mouth yesterday is squicky to me. I'm sure they use industrial strength disinfectant; I just don't want to provide an opportunity to suck the germs from a perfect (or not so perfect) stranger. The local snorkel shops in Kauilu-Kona will also give you good tips and advice on places to go if you want to do a do-it-yourself type snorkel day. They are also more than happy to book you on a tour which will set you back around $100 for the morning and $75 for the afternoon. NOTE: It is more in the morning because the waters are typically calmer and clearer making them the more desirable trips out. Afternoons can have windy, choppy conditions that churn so much junk up your visibility will be hampered and your photos cloudy. Close
Written by MilwVon on 16 Sep, 2009
The road between Kailua-Kona and the Puna Region of The Big Island of Hawaii has a lot of opportunities to see and experience much of what this unique Hawaiian island has to offer visitors. It is what keeps us coming back, time and again!As…Read More
The road between Kailua-Kona and the Puna Region of The Big Island of Hawaii has a lot of opportunities to see and experience much of what this unique Hawaiian island has to offer visitors. It is what keeps us coming back, time and again!As you head out south on Hwy 11 you will be elevated high above the beautiful ocean views. If the fog is heavy from Volcanoes Nat'l Park approximately 95 miles away, the water and shoreline will look shrouded in fog and not so wonderful. We've seen it pristine and perfect, and on this trip, not so much due to the elevated activity of Pele'. Still, it is worth the trip and should not be avoided just because of a little cloudiness.Traveling through Kona's world renowned coffee region, you will see several local farms, some that offer tours and sampling. Our personal favorite is Greenwell Farms, due to the quality of their coffee and the free tours provided to those interested in coffee production. A purchase approaching $200 is not unusual for us. With 100% pure Kona coffee at approximately $25/lb. this is a great value for a wonderful, high quality product.From Kona, traveling on to the south the next major point of interest is South Point, which is the furthest southern point in all of the United States. The 12 mile drive from Hwy 11 is worth the hour investment to see the high cliffs. In the past, I have been here when there have been fisherman and cliff divers enjoying this secluded area. It is from here, that you can also make the additional trek to the "green sand beach". Be prepared to hike approximately 2 1/2 miles to get there. Of course it won't be the walk DOWN that will get you! You may be able to rent a 4WD vehicle from a company that will permit you do make the drive on this unpaved road, but check out their policies before you make the trip.Next along the way is one of our favorite stops when driving in either direction, a bakery with bragging rights as the most southern bakery in the USA - Punalu'u Bakery. Nice clean restrooms, sandwiches and soft drinks along with their famous Hawaiian sweet breads make this a must do stop!Not far from here (less than 15 minutes) is the black sand beach of Punalu'u. This is one of your best chances to see sea turtles. I have made this stop four or five times over the course of the past ten years and have only been disappointed by a no-show of turtles once (sorry Cathy). On this trip, there were several resting on the beach, ignoring the tourists. NOTE: This is a standard stop on all of the Circle Island Tours and at times can be very crowded. I suggest making this stop early in the morning or late in the afternoon in hopes of avoiding that aggravation.After leaving the beach and continuing on towards Hilo, the next real sight will be Volcanoes National Park. Before you get there, however, you will have the opportunity to make note of the various lava flows that have occurred over the course of the last century. Each flow is unique and can generally be distinguished from others. If you pick up a good travel book on this island you will be able to follow along your journey with flow maps that include the dates of the eruptions that resulted in the flows you are traveling over.Depending on the activities at the Kilauea Volcano which is the centerpiece of the park, you may or may not be able to do much inside the park. During our visit, much of the park was closed due to the dangerously high sulfur levels. We made a stop at the National Park's visitors’ center and enjoyed a short 20 minute video. Unless you have an annual pass for the US Parks system, you may or may not feel like spending the money for such a short visit inside the park. For us, it was another nice stop along the way . . . and good for a restroom break.The Puna Region is just about five to ten miles from Hilo and on this trip was our final destination. If you read "Hawaii The Big Island Revealed" don't take too seriously the authors' sense of humor and warning about the fugitives and outlaws who live in this area. While this is one of the remotest areas of this island, its beauty should not be missed. The current volcanic activity creates some especially wonderful opportunities to explore such natural phenomenon as lava tidal pools and naturally heated ponds. It was also here that we picked up our obligatory fallen coconut, which was especially fresh and sloshy. We got over 8 ounces of fresh coconut milk out if it, along with a good amount of "meat" which tasted wonderful chilled.I have been told you can make this trek from Kailua-Kona to Puna in about two hours . . . buy why would you want to? We took a leisurely trip of nearly five hours to make our way from our timeshare resort to the B&B that would be home for the evening. Enjoy your ride through paradise!! Close
Written by MilwVon on 30 Dec, 2006
There are a lot of nice state parks throughout the Big Island. There are two that bear mentioning, due to their unique natural features created by lava (Lava Tree State Park) and water (Akaka Falls State Park). They are on opposite sides of Hilo, one…Read More
There are a lot of nice state parks throughout the Big Island. There are two that bear mentioning, due to their unique natural features created by lava (Lava Tree State Park) and water (Akaka Falls State Park). They are on opposite sides of Hilo, one about 30 minutes north and the other about 45 minutes south, but they are well worth the excursion if you are out enjoying a leisurely day trip around Hilo. Lava Tree State ParkHighway 132, South of HiloNear Pahoa, Puna RegionAs with most of the region around Hilo, this is a very dense forest with a lot of thick brush and large trees. Lava Tree State Park is a preserved area that shows you what happens to the trees after lava runs through a forest. The lava coats the trees, and when the tree dies from within, the hollow "lava tree" is formed. This area had a lot of very fragile ground and huge gashes in the ground where the lava erupted. This volcanic activity took place in 1790. If you get out and walk around, be sure to stay on the path, and don't venture into the unmarked breaks in the earth. There are warning signs throughout the park to be careful walking due to the deep crevices in the ground.There are limited restroom facilities here, but they were frankly too scuzzy for me to consider using. There really isn’t a lot to do or see here, allow yourself about 40-45 minutes to fully explore the area here.To get to Lava Tree Park you will need to take Hwy. 11 south of Hilo (or heading towards Hilo if you are coming from Kona). Turn right on Hwy. 130 and proceed on to Hwy. 132. Akaka Falls State Parks10 miles North of HiloNear HonomuThe bamboo forest is thick and wet, almost like a continual mist upon you. (Take bug repellent!) There wasn't much wildlife and only a few birds but the plants and flowers were beautiful. I saw my first Bird of Paradise flower in the wild here! I also saw bamboo stalks that had to have been at least three or even four inches thick.For those who are unable to walk long distances or over steep grades, take the shorter path (to the left) towards the Akaka Falls. The hike is about 15 minutes each way and provides for a good view of the tallest of the falls in this park. That will lead you to the taller of the waterfalls here in Akaka Falls State Park. You can't get very close to it, but the view point gives you a wonderful photo op of the spectacular 400+ foot waterfall. The other path is a bit longer and more rugged a hike. It leads to the Kuhuna Falls via the circle route. The full loop path is about one-half mile.This was a very well maintained state park, which had very nice restrooms, drinking water fountains and a picnic area. For us this was an hour stop on our road trip to Hilo. The detour was well worth the trip! Close
Written by MilwVon on 11 Aug, 2006
Just south of Hilo on the easternmost area of the Big Island is Puna. No area has been affected more by the volcanic activity of recent years. Entire towns have been buried by flowing lava, lives lost and property forever taken away. Plan on this…Read More
Just south of Hilo on the easternmost area of the Big Island is Puna. No area has been affected more by the volcanic activity of recent years. Entire towns have been buried by flowing lava, lives lost and property forever taken away. Plan on this being a long day if you are staying over in the Kailua-Kona area.For us, we made it a fuller day by starting with the Saddle Road ride from Kona to Hilo! (We do not suggest that.) Going south from Hilo, take Highway 130 to 132 and then on to 137. This will put you right along the ocean, driving through lush forest and some rather amazing homes. You will also see some of the poorest areas of the Big Island. Be careful, as there are a lot of throwback hippie types living off the land, hitchhiking to get to wherever they need to be. Quoting from "Hawaii The Big Island Revealed" about the town of Pahoa: "Known as the Big Island's outlaw town, this is where guerrilla gardeners (pakololo farmers), dreadlock enthusiasts, FBI fugitives and the never-bathe crowd coexist . . ." With that being said, the road trip is not to be missed!!!! If you drive down 137 along the ocean, you'll see beautiful black-sand beaches that are accessible if you can find a place to park the car, small lava tidal pools that are warmer than bath water, and some huge coconuts that are free for the picking up along the roadside.At the very end of the 137 road, you will literally dead-end into where a lava flow took out the town and road. There are a couple of small vendors set up there with gift shops. You can park your car and hike up on the lava flows. It is safe so long as you don't go too far. There are signs warning hikers of where the land maybe too fragile to walk. From this point, we were able to see the steam plume rising from the current flow into the ocean. Even during the daylight this is an amazing thing to witness. Close
This was a very special trip for us. My mother-in-law is getting older (aren't we all) and lives pretty far from us. We had a great time. As you can see from these photos, they are both very happy!! There is another reason for my…Read More
This was a very special trip for us. My mother-in-law is getting older (aren't we all) and lives pretty far from us. We had a great time. As you can see from these photos, they are both very happy!! There is another reason for my posting this particular journal. As you can see from the variety of activities we did here, Hawaii is a place where families can vacation together. In spite of the nearly 30 years difference in ages, we were able to do a lot. Of course, everyone must pace themselves and not do more than physically they feel comfortable with. For instance, she didn't hike the Volcano NP with us after dark, but she enjoyed the trip and was able to stop at the end of the Chain of Craters Road and await our return on a comfy picnic table bench. She loved the beaches and watched as we snorkeled. Being an active senior, she enjoying the walking tours of the coffee plantations and other historical sites, like those found at Nu'uanu Pali State Wayside and Lava Tree SP. While we do not have children, I'm very confident that three generations can vacation in Hawaii and have a wonderful time experiencing ALOHA! Close
The drive along this stretch of Highway 19 can be very long and boring. Don't let that frustrate you or cause you to lull yourself into missing what sights there are along your journey. Going north away from Hilo, there are several places to pull…Read More
The drive along this stretch of Highway 19 can be very long and boring. Don't let that frustrate you or cause you to lull yourself into missing what sights there are along your journey. Going north away from Hilo, there are several places to pull off to see beautiful waterfalls. Be sure to take the side-road trip up to Akaka Falls. The turnoff is between mile markers 13 and 14.This state park is beautiful and offers two hikes that are fairly easy. The large waterfall here plummets a whopping 420 feet. The walk is very beautiful, through a very thick forest of bamboo and other rainforest-type vegetation. Be sure to take advantage of the decent restrooms here (not porta-potties), as you won't see another public restroom for what will seem like an eternity!After you leave this park, continue north on Highway 19. At about the 16 mile marker, you will cross over a large gorge that has two nice waterfalls. You will be able to pull off safely to park your car and get out. The water from Akaka Falls flow down here and empties into the Hakalau Bay beneath you. The views are spectacular! Close
Written by wegian on 28 May, 2005
Richardson’s Beach can be found near the end of Kalanianaole Street, which begins at the intersection of Routes 19 and 11. It is a secluded black-sand beach that has a spectacular view of snow-capped Mauna Kea from across Hilo Bay. The waters are…Read More
Richardson’s Beach can be found near the end of Kalanianaole Street, which begins at the intersection of Routes 19 and 11. It is a secluded black-sand beach that has a spectacular view of snow-capped Mauna Kea from across Hilo Bay. The waters are calm, making it a great spot for snorkeling, and it is not uncommon to see green sea turtles feeding near the shore. The beach has showers, restrooms, and an abundance of lava rock tidal pools to explore. This is the rainy side of the island, so you will find plenty of trees to provide protection from the hot afternoon sun.
This morning, we watched the younger students from a nearby school winding through ironwood and palm trees and over old lava flows as they played follow-the-leader with their teacher. Older keiki participated in relay races, where they each took turns running down the beach into the calm waters to swim out to their instructors and back again. After the races, the children formed a line before each of the sizeable instructors, and one by one, they were tossed high into the air screaming and laughing as they splashed down into the bay. I don’t remember ever seeing a group of kids having so much fun at school.
About a mile from the beach on our way back to Hilo, we stopped at Kai Trans for some ice cream, then went next door to the Hilo Tropical Mart, where we purchased a couple of locally made remembrances. The next thing we knew, we had spent a couple of hours at the store "talking story" with the most warm-hearted people.
Written by TheAllens on 27 Dec, 2003
About an hour east of Sea Mountain is the town of Hilo. The road is relatively straight, compared to the route to Kona, going up the mountain to the Volcano and then down the other side into town.
Hilo has a variety of attractions, including Banyan…Read More
About an hour east of Sea Mountain is the town of Hilo. The road is relatively straight, compared to the route to Kona, going up the mountain to the Volcano and then down the other side into town.
Hilo has a variety of attractions, including Banyan Drive, where celebrities and dignitaries from around the world, including Babe Ruth, President Franklin Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, and Richard Nixon, have planted numerous large banyan trees. These trees date back to the 1930s. You can stroll under their canopy of leaves and root system and enjoy their beauty.
Just off Banyan Drive is Lili’uokalani Gardens, a park with formal Japanese-style gardens. Along the paths are pagodas and bridges crossing a series of ponds.
This area is home to the Hawaii Naniloa Resort. This is the central location for the annual Merri Monarch Hula Festival. The Naniloa also has a nine-hole Naniloa Country Club, which is situated just across Banyan drive from the hotel.
Pick up a walking-tour map at the visitors' bureau office downtown and get out on foot to explore some of the older parts of downtown Hilo. Hilo was destroyed twice by tsunamis, but has been rebuilt in much the old style.
To help get a feel for the times of old in Hilo, visit the Lyman Mission House and Museum. The Mission House was home to Davis and Sarah Lyman, who built the house in 1839, when they came as missionaries to the island. Next door to the house is the museum, which has the Earth Heritage Gallery on the main floor, with collections of rocks and minerals from the area. Upstairs is the Island Heritage Gallery, where a reproduction of a grass house is constructed. Also here you will find a fine collection of early Hawaiian tools. There is also a collection of China Art located on this floor.
For a meal break, try the Royal Siam Thai Restaurant located at 70 Mamo Street. It is a nice, friendly place with a good menu of Thai dishes prepared to your taste, from mild to hot curry. Entrees range from Fried Rice (the shrimp fried rice is excellent) to meat and seafood dishes. The Green Curried Chicken was also a favorite.
We also tried Nori’s Saimin and Snacks at 688 Kino’ole Street. The Teri Beef sandwich was good, but the Saimin had more salt than I have had in Saimin at other locations.
After lunch, drive up Waianuenue Avenue, and stop at Rainbow Fall. At this location you can look down onto a pool in the Wailuku River that is about 100 feet in diameter with a waterfall going into it. Continue on Waianuenue Avenue and look for the turn-off to Boiling Pots, along the Wailuku River. Pe’epe’e Falls can also be seen from this park.
Hilo also has a nice zoo, which is free of charge to visit. It is the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo. As you are heading out of town, toward the Volcano, on Highway 11, about 4 miles out of town, turn at the sign directing you to the zoo and Stainback Highway. The zoo has many animals that are native to Hawaii, some of them endangered, which can be seen here.
A nice, scenic drive is found in a day trip to Kailua Kona. The drive is about 65 miles and takes about 90 minutes. You will pass through Na’alehu, just about 8 miles west, where a good place to stop is the Punaluu Bakery. On…Read More
A nice, scenic drive is found in a day trip to Kailua Kona. The drive is about 65 miles and takes about 90 minutes. You will pass through Na’alehu, just about 8 miles west, where a good place to stop is the Punaluu Bakery. On the Saturday we were there they were having their grand re-opening. The shop and grounds have been remodeled and now have a very nice outdoor eating area behind the bakery shop. The bake shop is known for its sweet bread.
Stop by the old theatre in town and take a quick tour inside. There are some very good exhibits depicting early theatre operations in Hawaii. A new Mexican restaurant is located at the entrance to the theatre. Adriana’s serves good Mexican food for a very reasonable price. There are free movies Friday and Saturday evenings at the theatre and Adriana runs the place.
Six miles further down the road is the turnoff for Ka Lae or South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. Once off the highway, the trip is 11 miles to the end of the road. On the road to South Point you will pass through the Kamoa Wind Farm, a field of huge mechanical windmills. This is a testament to how well the wind blows in this area.
Back on the highway and further on you will come to Ocean View, a community built literally on top of a recent lava flow. It is made up of four subdivisions contained in an area roughly 6 miles up the mountain and 3 miles down, toward the ocean. Along the highway are a few services, but for the most part, the people who live in this area prefer to be left alone.
A nice place to stop and take a hike is at Manuka State Wayside. It is located about 12 miles from South Point. There are restrooms located here and a place to picnic. There is a 2-mile trail through a native forest
Just past this point, the highway begins to get more curves and the speed limit slows to 35 mph. Many times we have encountered rain in this area, so heed the speed limit and enjoy the forested area.
Soon you will come upon many small communities and eventually come to Captain Cook. Captain Cook is the first of the big towns you will encounter south of Kona. This area is fun and easy to explore.
Kailua Kona is situated on Kailua Bay and stretches for miles along the coast. Alii Drive is the main street that runs along the waterfront. Find a free parking spot off of Alii Drive and get out on foot to enjoy this town's waterfront area. Sights include the King Kamehameha Hotel and the Kailua Pier, where fishing boats and sightseeing boats dock. Take time to visit Hulihe’e Palace, located directly on the water's edge. This is a two-story structure of Victorian style that dates back to about 1838. It was used until 1914 as a summer palace for the Hawaiian monarchy.
For a good meal with a view, stop by Pancho and Lefty’s Cantina and Restaurant. It is located at 75-5719 Alii Drive, upstairs. They have many tables along the rail overlooking the bay and Huluhe’e Palace. This restaurant has all your favorite dishes and large portions at a price that won’t leave you looking for a loan to get out of the place.
Written by rubylu on 28 Dec, 2006
We headed north out of Hilo after breakfast at Ken's. The drive to Kona takes just a couple of hours, but there are plenty of places worth a stop, so we took the whole afternoon.Just a few miles north of Hilo, there's a four-mile scenic…Read More
We headed north out of Hilo after breakfast at Ken's. The drive to Kona takes just a couple of hours, but there are plenty of places worth a stop, so we took the whole afternoon.Just a few miles north of Hilo, there's a four-mile scenic loop off the makai (ocean) side of the road. It's such a pretty drive that I took it three times this trip. The road winds around curves where you can see small waterfalls, the coast, and lush tropical greenery and flowers. One time, we pulled over where five or six cars were parked by the side of the road. There was a path down to the ocean, so we walked down it. It leads to a beautiful series of ocean coves. The path goes through a pay-to-enter botanical gardens, and a rather surly guard was posted to make sure nobody strayed off the path and into the gardens. We walked down to one beach and then on a path over a small ridge to the next one. The views were stunning. We met a woman who had an apron full of pieces of ocean glass she was gathering for her artwork. Sure enough, once I looked, I saw a lot of small pieces of glass and pottery, smoothed by the waves and rocks. Back on the main road, we drove up the coast. The road is easy to drive and has some gorgeous views of the ocean and jungle. We took the turnoff to Akaka Falls (see separate review). On the way back to the main road from the falls, we stopped at the small town of Honomu. It has a couple of short blocks of small shops and eateries. We browsed a couple of galleries and cfaft stores and an import store with inexpensive gifts. Ar Mr. Ed's Bakery, I picked up some scrumptious brownies and cookies to snack on.We drove right across the north end on the island, with just a brief rest stop in Waimea. Once back on the west coast, we pulled over at Hapuna Beach. This is a mile-long white sandy beach that is very popular. People were picnicking and boogie boarding. It looked like a pleasant place to spend an afternoon, but a bit crowded for my taste. So after a brief stop, we drove the rest of the way to Kona, and stopped again at Old Airport beach, which was much mellower. Close