It is fun to hike down the Pololu Trail down to the black sand beach below, but don't forget to stop and take lots of pictures on your way down. The views of the cliffs and Pololu Valley, in addition to the beach below, are all beautiful to see. After we hung out at the beach for a while and had a snack, we hiked up another hill and found a tree swing with amazing views of the Pololu Valley.
On the Kona side of Hawaii is a little visited but interesting beachside historic park that contains pre-contact Hawaiian fishponds and a large heiaiu (a stone platform used for religious ceremonies). Built on a lava field, this nice little park has a few miles of hiking trails and a protected beach for relaxing. A long house (haulau) has been reconstructed on the beach to mimic the environment of old polyneasia. If you're into wildlife, you can also see sea turtles at the park.
Lots of web sites describe Kehena Beach, an isolated strip of black sand off Rte 130 in Puna, as one of the most attractive beaches near Hilo. And, amazingly it is all that if you like attractive naked people. Though nude beaches are illegal in hawaii, Kehena beach turns out to be a well-known (among locals) and tolerated clothing optimal stretch of sand. There were definitely people opting to wear clothes there -- but definitely not everyone. About 50% of the male and female beachgoers were exposing flesh that would get you arrested in Waikiki. Pot-smoking and alcohol consumption is also tolerated by the many hippie leftovers that were enjoying the sun that day. Also notable were the pod of dolphins off shore -- apparently they are regulars, too!
If yo have the time and money-a lot of it-you can visit the other islands. Every hotel has a set up to assist. We did this once, and even years ago it cost a fortune for the day. Wonder what it is like now. I cannot blame the airlines, because the distances and logistics command the prices, but too bad cannot take in all islands a more reasonable way. If time permits, you could take a cruise. Price that one.
Macadamia Nut Factory is one pleasure that needs nurturing and buy a box for here and home. It is a nice drive up the east coast and the road climbs slightly along the way. YOu can take in the local hoiuse and how some live daily. The Kona Coffee plantation is just to the northwest of Honolulu, as well as the Dole pineapple factory that used to be in operation with ours. The coffee will be a shock when you see the pirces. It yields 8 millions pounds a year.
The Big Island has the only seahorse farm in the United States, and one of the few in the entire world. The place is a mom-and-pop business called Ocean Rider, and you can take a one-hour tour of their facilities and see these enchanting sea creatures up close and personal. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was that some of these seahorses in their big tanks were a lot more active and even interactive than the ones I've seen at the Seattle Aquarium. Probably because they know you might be feeding them, some of them bob up to the surface, look you in the eye, and open and close their mouths/snouts at you. You're allowed to put your hands in at a certain point and let one hook on to your fingers with its tail.
They raise seahorses here for aquarium pets, to help stop the havesting of seahorses from the wild for pets, which has contributed to their being endangered (along with the Asian medicine trade). Tours are $35 per person.
Pololu Valley is at the start of a series of seacliffs at the northwest part of the island on the Kohala Peninsula, past the town of Hawi. It only takes about 20 minutes to hike down the trail to the black sand beach in the valley below, and for those who can't hike there's a gorgeous viewpoint up top. If you keep walking through to the other side of the valley another trail goes back up 600 ft. and over the next ridge, down into Hono Kane Nui Valley. There are staggering views at several points along the way, and although there were a handful of people down in the first (Pololu) valley, we were the only ones on the trail up and over the next ridge to Hono Kane Nui.
At the end of November, 2007, the trail down into Hono Kane Nui was wiped out about 1/3 to 1/2 way down by a rockslide. However, the views are well worth going that far.
Part of the trail are exposed to wonderful ocean breezes, and other parts are dank and muggy, but the views are worth it. Wear bug spray.
If you're by Hilo and headed to the Puna Coast, there's an uncrowded unheralded state reserve known as Lava Trees state monument. Here you will find a forest of lava tree trunks that must be the bane of any termite's existence. Formed when hot, fast-running lava cooled as it hit the tree trunks in a mature forest and then quickly receded, Lava Tree State Monument is a unique American landscape. A 30-minute walk on a paved path will take you through several stands of these hard black phallic symbols -- definitely a pleasant break from the car. And the State moinument is free, so bring the family (as long as you don't let on the phallic nature of the items to the youngsters!).
Next door is Hapuna Beach, one of the best rated and therefore most crowded beaches on the island. To escape the crowds head to Puako beach just down the road, a beach known mostly to locals and though not as clean a much less crowded beach.
This area on the Mauna Lani resort is also open to the public by State law. Keawanui Bay is another nice place to walk and enjoy the views. On the same trail as the Kalahuipua'a Fish Ponds, it's another in a series of Kodak moments...
Another "public access" feature of Mauna Lani Resort is the Nanuku Inlet. Enjoy the sand and sea as you walk and look over the water.
Continue past the the Kalahuipua'a Fish Ponds (see above) and turn right towards the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel Bungalows. The inlet will be on your left.
Another sight on the ritzy Mauna Lani Resort grounds (guaranteed access to the public by State law) are the fish ponds of Kalahuipua'a. In addition to the historical preserve nearby, you get to see some lovely scenery, interesting palm trees sticking out of the pond... and, of course, lots of fish.
To get there from Kona, go north on Highway 19, then turn left on Mauna Lani Drive. Go "straight" through the traffic circle. Then turn left on South Pauoa Road. There's a parking lot a few hundred feet down the road on the right.
This rocky beach, on the grounds of the Mauna Lani resort, is serviced by the same parking lot as the petroglyphs. The public is also allowed access for the same reason you are to the Petroglyphs: State Law guarantees public access to these sites. I didn't swim here, but I saw an adult and two children enjoying themselves in the water.
In one of the ritziest resorts on Hawai'i, Mauna Lani, there are a number of remarkable sights and archeaeological finds. One fact many don't know about: Hawaii State law requires public access to beaches and archaeological preserves. Because of this, even if you can't afford to stay here (and not many of us can...), you can still see some nice petroglyphs on the property. (I also later found out I should not have been denied access to their black sand beach. It turns out I could have reported them to State authorities.)
The Malama Petroglyph trail is near Holoholokai Beach Park. Traveling north on Highway 19 from Kona, turn left on Mauna Lani Drive. At the traffic circle, head right on North Kaniku Drive, then take the left fork. Finally, take a right on a small road before you reach the Fairmount Orchid Hotel. From the beach parking lot, the first site is about 50 yards in from the trail head. Then hike inland on the trail for about 1/3 mile (800 meters) to the second site.
At North Kohala, the state park around the ancient city of Lapakahi offers a fine self-guided walk. At the parking lot, pick up a brochure from the box outlining the self-guided walk. The trailhead is marked by a "Start Here" sign. Follow the arrow to the left and enjoy. Along the trail, there are 20 marked, numbered sites described in the brochure (apparently, they ran out of space to describe sites #21 and #22... :)
The park is on Highway 270, about 15 minutes north of the junction with Highway 19.
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