Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (Big Island)
Favorite thing: As with birds, Hawaii is home to a variety of plants that exist nowhere else in the world. Evolving in isolation for over 50,000 years, Hawaiian plants normally lack the defense mechanisms or competitiveness to survive against introduced plabts, so they are now often found in unique environmental niches inhospitable to most western plants. One example of this is the silvesword, which can be seen on the high slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island (and also on Haleakala volcano on Maui).
Favorite thing: If you are interested in seeing some of the endangered endemic Hawaiian bird species, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is a good place to find them. With abundant ohia trees, it's easy spot 'apapanes, the red honeycreeper that feeds on the flowers. Since much of the Big Island is undeveloped and elevated, some of the usual causes for the decline of the Hawaiian birds have been mitigated, like loss of habitat.
Favorite thing: Hawaii's beautiful state tree is known as the ohia. It is easy to spot, due to its bright red brush-like flowers, which serve as feeding locations for many of Hawaii's indigenous and endangered birds. While you can find these trees everywhere, they are best noted for their ability to find a welcoming growing location in areas covered by lava flows -- often it's the first plant to do that. This makes this endemic species an appropriate choice for the state tree.
Ever wonder why you can't get tomatoes to grow in perfect top soil when you fertilize them and water them as if they were your own children? Well, you'll continue to wonder that even more if you hike around Volcano National Park. "How can these plants grow here?" is what you'll constantly mutter as you continue to scratch your head. Maybe I need to pour molten lava on my garden?
The battle for life is amazing to watch, and the volcanic landscape provideds a great window into what plants will do to survive.
Without a doubt, the primary reason to go to the Big Island is to see its unique black landscapes. Even if you don't get out of the car, the drive on Chain of Craters Road is spectacular and otherwordly. Just don't expect a lot of shade!
In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, many of the lava flows are marked with signs that indicate the dates of activity. As you spend time there, you become adept at differentiating newer flows and craters from older ones. Of course, for the newest flows, the road just ends!
Favorite thing: There are a variety of different lava types. While economists might say "That's the joy of a market economy!" the difference really stems from the temperature of the lava flowing from the ground. Hotter, faster lava forms more smoothly than slower, cooler lava which ends up chunky! The Hawaiians have lots of names for different types of lava. Some of the lava has gold strands in it known as Pele's hair, after the god or soccer player (who had very little hair). Sometimes, the lava looks like very rich, half-cooked brownies, crusty on the outside and gooey on the inside! Yum!
Favorite thing: As the name says this is the biggest and youngest island of the hawaiian archipelago. On the east side this island is still growing!! If you are lucky you can see flowing lava (we did!!). But even if you don't, the Volcanoes National Park is very interesting, smoky sulfur holes and hundreds of craters to explore.
The volcanos. Do the helicopter tour and take the drive up and see it up close. It's humbling! The force of nature is stronger than anything man could do and we should all realize that!
Fondest memory: Snorkeling. Being able to swim with beautiful birghtly coloured fishes and huge turtles swiming around you. All doing their own thing.
Our favorite part about visiting Hawaii was seeing the volcano. We spent all day there, from time they opened to dusk. We drove around, investigating each area, walked by many petroglyphs (ancient etchings in rock), smelled sulphur (yuck) and got very sunburned.
This is a MUST SEE. If you are real adventurous, you can walk over the older volcanic rock to see the actual, flowing lava.
Fondest memory: Our fondest memory is the town of Kailua-Kona. It is a nice, small quiet town on the dry side of the Big Island. There are many tours that begin here, walk around the neat historic town, eat dinner by the ocean, and go to a Luau at the King Kamehameha hotel.
Hilo, another city, is on the damp side of the island. Too many mosquito bites for me. My favorite area to see is the upper area of the island, around Waimea. You are away from the ocean/coast. It is very green. The Parker Ranch is here also. I am a horse person. This was a GREAT place to spend all day. I could go on and on. There is so much to see and do on this particular Hawaiian island.
We plan to retire there.
Favorite thing: This park has a rim drive and plenty of small walks. You can't see lava flowing there, but you can find the evidence of volcano damages from the various years. From the 1800s, people have been visiting the area and awed by the flowing lava. It's very powerful.
There's so much to actually see on the Big Island of Hawaii. Getting a rental vehicle is a must, though if you have the money, a tour package will help ensure you don't miss anything. Plan well in advance to be able to see all the highlights (the volcano, waterfalls, historical places etc) Scuba and snorkeling are better here also and don't be surprised to come face to face with our sea turtles and gigantic angel fish!
Fondest memory: My single most favorite memory of being on Hawaii is seeing the lava flow into the ocean at night! Now with the constant erruption and lava flow, I would love to go back and capture it on video as well as daytime photographs.
Favorite thing: The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is hands down the most unique park in the US National Parks system. It covers a huge area and encompasses two active volcanoes, a still-steaming sunken crater and geologically awesome landscapes of cinder cones, pumice pillars and hardened rivers of lava. Its terrain ranges from tropical beaches to the subarctic summit of Mauna Loa, and includes lovely rainforests and fern groves. This is one of the best areas in Hawaii for camping and hiking