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Waipi'o is an amazingly beautiful, lush valley, all the way at the end of the Hamakua Highway, well off the beaten path. The view from the lookout at the top is tremendous, and many people just come here for the view alone. I come back to see it every single time I've been on the island (three so far).
We've hiked down into it twice, and it was the steepest hike I've ever done - a 25% grade and very hard on the knees - but well worth it. At the bottom it's thick with tropical vegetation, and the Waipi'o River flows out to the sea past a black sand beach. It's about a mile wide at the coast, and if you walk across the shore you can hike all or just part way up a switch-back trail on the far side for different views of the valley. The sides are close to 2,000 ft. high. We ran into a local man on the far side trail who was backpacking over into the next valley with his son to hunt wild pigs.
Thousands of Hawaiians used to live here before the most devastating tsunami in Hawaiian history flooded it out in 1946. It's quite a remote area now, with only a few dozen people here now who treasure their isolation.
You can't drive down into the valley unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle; several tour companies will drive you down there if you don't want to do your own thing. There are also options for horseback riding in and around the rim, which sounds more appealing to me. It's on the Hamakua Coast, on the Northeast side of the island off route 240.
Updated Aug 31, 2009
Green Sand Beach has to be seen up close to be appreciated. There are tons of green olivine crystals in the sand, which is pretty cool to see. You've got to hike to get there, unless you have a 4-wheel drive. The hike is easy, though. It's over uneven terrain, but it's basically flat, about 4 or 5 miles roundtrip from South Point. Just drive to the end of the road, past a few houses to the little bay where they launch boats, and park there. When you're facing the ocean there's a rough dirt road to the left (east) - that's the "trail".
By the way, when we went there was a sign on one of the houses saying you had to pay $5 to proceed any further. We ignored this, since we had read that it was a scam, and we had no problems at all.
Updated Oct 20, 2004
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.
Updated Dec 2, 2007
Pahoa is a little town that got stuck in the 60's. It still has wooden sidewalks and small wooden shops. The food is good, the shopkeepers are very friendly, and you can come as you are. There is also a very good natural food store there. Our favorite restaurant was Papa's. He served veggie Indian dishes. We stopped for lunch most everyday and he always had homemade cookies still warm from the oven. There was an outdoor patio great for people watching.
I am sad to hear that he is no longer there.
Updated Jul 6, 2004
This ohia tree rain forest was engulfed in lava in 1790. Although the trees themselves burned away, the molds of lava formed around the tree trunks and they are there today. There is an interesting 20 minute loop trail .
In front of the park the beautiful stretch of road is called the tree tunnel because of the arched monkey pod trees that arch overhead.
At night when you pass by there is a loud choir of tree frogs.
Written Jul 6, 2004
Phone: (808) 974-6200
The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitors center is 2 1/2 miles off the highway. You see macadamia trees on both sides of the road on the way. There you can walk down the outside walkway and see how the nuts are shelled, roasted, and packed. Across the road is a small gift shop and snack bar.
Not any real bargains here and no samples.
Written Jul 6, 2004
You can't get any farther south in the USA than South Point.
South Point has a rocky coast line and winds so strong that I could barely stand still.
You will see some trees almost horizontal from the wind blowing them.
There isn't alot here but some beautiful ocean
shots can be taken.
Written Jul 6, 2004
Lava Tree State Monument preserves the site where a lava flow burned through an ohia forest in 1790. The lava, flowing quickly from Kilauea's east rift zone, surrounded the trees and cooled forming molds of the burned tree trunks.
It's very interesting to walk around and see the old lava. An easy 0.7 mile loop guides you around. If you would like to walk further, a hiking trail leads through and around 17 acres of the preserved forest.
Updated Apr 10, 2004
Phone: (808) 974-6200
Plan a day at Mauna Kea! We drove the Saddle Road, a BIG no-no. The rental companies won't allow you to drive it. If you get in an accident, you aren't covered. So why take the road? Well it is a LONG, windy (twisty), very scenic road and your only way to Mauna Kea. Now don't think you are going skiing. You're going to observe! As you drive up the road to the observatory, you first reach the 9,000 elevation mark at the Onizuka visitors center. We only rented a car, so we had to stop there anyway. ONLY 4 wheel drives are permitted to drive the last STEEP, 1/2 hour climb to the 13,000+ mark up to the observatory. I was not prepared for the cold. I was still in shorts, as we had just left 90 degree weather down below. We stayed until dark so we could look through the huge telescopes. Saw the Milky Way, Saturn, Mars, and many stars. It was fantastic. The road is a little intimidating- straight down. But you've got to do this. I wish I had taken pictures, but all you could see is clouds and lots of lava rock. Friends of mine did drive up to the observatory. Enjoyed it very much. I highly recommend you drive to Mauna Kea.
Written Apr 12, 2004
Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo is located in Hilo
on the island of Hawaii.
It is the only natural tropical rainforest zoo in the United States.
This 12 acre zoo is the only tropical rainforest zoo in the United States. It is home to more than 80 animal species including the endangered Nene (Hawaii State Bird) and Namaste', a white Bengal Tiger.
If you are on your way to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts factory or the volcano, you'll want to stop by the Zoo. It's great!
Admission is free! It's only open 9am to 4pm, so don't be late or rushed getting there.
Written Apr 4, 2004
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