Visiting Volcanos National Park was worth the whole trip. The Drive from Kona was about 2 1/2 hours, so get started early and plan on a long day. Better yet, if your going to visit VNP stay in Hilo or at the Volcano House, which is perched on the edge of the caluldera. The sights here will take your breath away. the most memorable part of this trip was walking on rocks only 6 weeks old. The lava had crossed the chain of craters road on 31Mar/1Apr. and we visited on the 15May.
KONA, the ancient playground of Hawaiian roylaty is predictably sunny and always full of playtime activities. The main community is Kailua-Kona, reached by leaving Keahole Airport and turning south for a 15-minute drive on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. For access to Kailua's waterfront, go seaward on Palani Road to Ali'i Drive, which features wooden buildings, a coral church and a stone tower reminiscent of the whaling days in the 1800s.
Kamakahonu is the restored compound where King Kamehameha spent his last years. This National Historic Landmark is at the north end of Ali'i Drive, adjacent to Kailua Pier. Two other monuments are just south on Ali'i Drive: Hulihe'e Palace, built in 1838 and Moku'aikaua Church, the oldest church in Hawaii, constructed in the 1830s. With its two-foot thich coral walls, the church is a great place to rest when walking along Ali'i Drive. On the south end of Kailua is the oldest Chatolic church in the outher Hawaiian Islands, St. Michael's, built in 1848. Among Kona's excellent swimming areas is Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area, which can be reached by driving towared the ocean at the north end of Kailua-Kona. Public tennis courts are located nearby.
There are numerous places to swim and snorkel all along Ali'i Drive beginning with Kealakekua Bay, snorkeling, SCUBA, SNUBA, kayaking, fishing, submarine rides, semi-submersible rides, and even an ocean-going Polynesian show. For wave-lovers, White Sands Beach Park (my favourite), just south, provides great waves for the island's annual bodysurfing contest. At the south end of Ali'i Drive, north of Keauhou Bay, lies Kahalu'u Beach Park, with its long white, sandy beach.
When you are out of water, you may want to check out the minuscule St. Peter's Chatolic Church and an old heiau, Hu'emanu, where Hawaiian royalty prayed for surf.
Maua Kea - the world's tallest mountain
Hard to believe that this dormant volcano is the world's tallest mountain at a height of 32,000 ft. measured from the bottom of the ocean floor to the summit. Although a good portion of it is below sea level, 13,796 ft. is visible and rises above the ocean. The last eruptions occured about 4,500 years ago.
At the summit is the world's largest astronomical observatory with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries.
You can drive to the summit to view the domes, but visitors cannot "look through" the telescopes. Visitors are not permitted to this area after dark.
There is a Visitor Information Center at 9,000 ft. where one can learn about the mountain and telescopes. One can watch videos and there is a gift shop. Sometimes a Celestron telescope is set up for visitors to view the sun and its spots. The Visitor's Center has nightly stargazing programs from 6-10 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays they conduct a summit tour from 1-5 p.m.
The road to the summit is unpaved with steep grades and can be dangerous. 4WD is required or else visitors can take a tour. There are adventure tours to the summit with Hawaii Forest & Trail.
During winter months snow is common.
Mokuaikaua Church is the site...
Mokuaikaua Church is the site of the first Christian church in Hawaii established in 1820. The present structure of lava rock and mortar made from coral, was dedicated in 1837. The serene interior is constructed with the handsome native Hawaiian woods ohia and koa. Inside a church is a model of Thaddeus, the ship that brought the first missionaries to Hawaii.
On the picture there is a triumphal arch to the church.
Waipio Valley, a hiking primer
Last night, a friend informed that there was "another" Waipio thread on a forum that I once frequented. Having lived through a number of Waipio battles, I enjoyed not being a participant in that one but I was sadden that some thing never change. For the record, I have hiked Waipio more times than my knees care to remember. I’ve probably hiked the valley six or seven times. So I have been there, done that.
The question is always simple and innocent: "should I hike into Waipio?" The responses generally divide into two camps, residents of the islands saying NO or only go in an organized commercial group. The opposition which is usually tourists and an occasional resident who say yes.
So what so special about Waipio Valley? Well, it is a spectacular place. It is historically important to the Island of Hawaii. Some say it is the birthplace of King Kamehameha. At one time the valley boasted a population of 20,000 and was a major food producing area for the island. It is a breathtaking valley with numerous waterfalls, a river running through it and a pretty salt and pepper beach. It is a photographer dream and there is a feel of history once you step on the Valley floor like few other places in Hawaii. It is virtually unchanged. There are no resorts and no millionaire palaces abutting the beach. It’s simple and pure.
The opposition generally uses a combination of fact and fiction to create an impression that Waipio is a scary place. I read statements that Waipioans hate tourist because they trespass. Some opine that tourist trespass merely by going into the valley. Some say that tourist knock of doors of houses and this annoys the residents. There has been discussions about tourist going off the road to waterfalls which is a trespass. There are horror stories like tourists doing donuts in a taro field which, of course, causes animosity. The problem with many of these stories is there is never any collaboration or documented facts.
I can’t deny that at some point in time a tourist did trespass. What I find hard to believe is that any tourist would be so stupid to enter property and knock on a door where the property has a sign, “No Trespassing, violator will be shot“. These signs are everywhere. I guess we tourists are a pretty stupid bunch.
So what the truth about Waipio. Here’s my take.
1. Trespassing. Contrary to what some say, the road into Waipio is public. The road to the beach (turn right at the valley floor junction) is public. The beaches in Hawaii are always public. The Z trail on the opposite side of the valley is the Muliwai Trail and it is a public trail. The road paralleling the beach is public access. So there is no trespassing if you hike to the beach or to the Z trail. BTW the road into the Valley is extremely steep. One cannot drive down the road without a four-wheel drive and I know of no rental car company that allows its vehicle into the valley. This is one ugly drive. I would not recommend attempting this drive.
As a corollary, I personally would not go up valley. At some point the road become private and there is no reason to annoy the locals. It goes without saying that I would never approach a house.
2. “The locals hate us“. Do the Waipioan hate tourist? I think it can be summed up by Greta Garbo’s great line “ I want to be left alone”. The Waipioans are there because this is where their families have been for centuries or they have come here in search of a simpler life. If that sounds like the hippies of the sixties there is truth to that analogy. They are happy to live their life without you. They will ignore you and you should ignore them. I talked to many and have found them to be wonderful people but even then, there is a reservation. These are not mean or violent people; they are living a different lifestyle and would prefer that you not engage them. You really have little in common.
Anybody who has spent time in the islands know that there are people who resent mainlanders. I have been rebuked and given the eye on every island. There are people who will dislike tourist because of history, poverty, ignorance or perceived injustice. I believe there must be a few Waipioans with this attitude, but I never felt resentment.
So should you go into Waipio unescorted? If you can hike 900 ft down in 1.25 miles and then walk back up, why not? This is a place few see up close an personal. If you can’t hike it, well then, join some commercial tour. Just realize this is a special place in the world and in Hawaii. It is different. Respect is a import concept in the islands.