Fun things to do in Hawaii (Big Island)

  • Dragonfruit and mangoes
    Dragonfruit and mangoes
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    Road blocked by lava from helicopter
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Hawaii (Big Island)

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    The Hawaii Experience Helicopter Tour

    by KiKitC Updated Sep 10, 2005

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    Originally, our itinerary did not include a helicopter tour, as it isn't inexpensive at all. But, now I have to say, is one of the best ways to see the Big Island. Face it, the island is expansive, and takes a bit of driving to see all of what you can see from the air.
    We chose the "Hawaii Experience" tour...two hours of heavenly views. First, our pilot took us 11,000 feet over the mountains, over Kilauea Crater, then down by the lava flows by the ocean. There wasn't any surface lava when we were there, so we got to see it reaching the ocean through tubes. Then, off to the rainforest side of the island, our pilot flew us past waterfalls and cliffs, and even flew into a valley where waterfalls filled every view all around. It was remarkable to see the colors in the water of the reefs, and I swear you could see the fish...

    Oh...bring lots of film. We brought our digital and took over 350 pictures just during the tour.

    Paradise Helicopters also offers other packages, such as a "door's off" experience, to really get close to the lava, and another where they land at a waterfall with a fresh water pool that is only accesible by boat or helicopter, so you get to swim there practically alone.

    Koji our pilot Good snorkel spot?  Guess so Lava reaching the sea
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    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

    by keida84 Updated Sep 14, 2007

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    When I first laid eyes on the volcano it surprised me that it wasn't like Mount St. Helens or Mount Vesuvius. The volcano is actually a shield volcano, broad sloping mountain with what they call "calderas" in which the lava rolls out of instead of spews forth. There are two types of lava in Hawaii. The first kind ropey and smooth in texture and it is known as "pahoehoe". It looks like pancake batter. The other type which is rough, sharp called "clinkery" is known as "a' a'" The Hawaiian name is apt because if you fall or slip on the a'a lava that is what you will be saying, "a'a! a'a, a'a"

    There are many areas to see. It's probably best to start on the Chain of Craters road, but a note of caution: the volcano is still active, so portions of this road can be closed to volcanic activity so it's best to call before setting out. For Lava flow info: 808-985-6000

    Visit the Kilauea caldera. It is 400 ft. deep and 2 1/2 miles across at the widest point. What I found fascinating and a bit unnerving was the steam emanating from its cauldron.

    A bit of folklore here, make sure that you do not take any of the rocks from the park. Madame Pele considers every rock one of her children. If you take one of her "children" legend has it that you will be plauged with bad luck until her child returns. It must be true because the rangers frequently receive packages of rocks from visitors who have taken rocks home, experience bad luck and then mail them back to the park service asking the Rangers to return the rocks back where they belong. I can personally attest that this is true. One of my girlfriends, despite warning, took some rocks to build a gas barbecue in her backyard. Upon her return home she had her brakes go out, all four tires blew out within a period of a week, her washing machine overflowed ruining her new floor, and she was fired from her job. She promptly boxed the rocks up, enclosed five dollars and a note telling the rangers where she had taken the rocks from.

    A'a lava The Devastation Trail
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    Parker Ranch

    by JetlagCity Updated Aug 31, 2009

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    Parker Ranch is a good example of what I wasn't expecting to discover in Hawaii! This is where you'll find cattle, horses, and the Hawaiian cowboys known as paniolos, who hold a rodeo every 4th of July in addition to their regular cattle ranching work. The ranch is bigger than the whole island of Oahu, and is located in the high meadows by Waimea, at around 2,500 ft. elevation. It's a beautiful area, with red dirt roads and mountains in the background. You can arrange to go horse riding on the ranch if you want.

    The ranch was founded about 150 years ago. We toured both the original Parker family homestead, which still has much of the original furniture, and also part of the more recent home. It's a great place to get a sense of Big Island 19th and 20th century history, plus they have a nice collection of French Impressionist and Asian art.

    The last owner, Richard Smart, left the ranch and its art collection to the people of Waimea.

    Waimea area
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    Lava Flows

    by keida84 Updated Mar 1, 2005

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    In this picture is a good example of Pa'hoehoe lava which looks like burned pancake batter. The lava which comes out of the Pu'u O'o vent flows rather than spews as it makes its way downhill to the sea. There has been only one time when the Kilauea crater actually exploded and that was in 1790.

    Walking on these flows the lava was still warm and make sure you have good sturdy shoes on because you do not want to fall down onto the flow...Ouch!

    We sat out until dark and we were able to see the glow of the lava as it slid into the sea.

    Road Closed
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    Home of Pele

    by KiKitC Written Oct 25, 2005

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    Halema'uma'u Crater is the crater-within-the crater of Kilauea Crater. This is believed to be the home of Madame Pele. When Mark Twain visited, he desribed it as "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone," as it was a bubbly pool of lava then. While we were there, you could see both craters, but it wasn't active.

    We had a chance to view the craters from both the air and from the rim at Volcanoes Natl Park. The Halema'uma'u Crater was more visible from above.

    Kilauea Caldera from the helicopter Kilauea Caldera with me...and my cast
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    Akaka Falls State Park

    by JetlagCity Updated Jul 14, 2004

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    On the east side of the island around the Hilo area, the climate is sooooooo much wetter than on the west side! North of Hilo there's a lovely little paved walk you can do to Akaka Falls. It's about 1/2-mile or so circular nature trail through beautiful and strange tropical vegetation - orchids, bamboo groves, ferns, and other plants I'm not familiar with. A delightful interlude. The falls plummet over 400 feet down.

    Akaka Falls
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    Snorkeling with the Turtles (Honu)

    by keida84 Updated Mar 1, 2005

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    Kahalu'u Beach is a great place to snorkel. There is a family of turtles that live here and when I was snorkeling what I thought to be a big rock got up and swam. He was not afraid of me and I was able to take many pictures.

    When you first get in the water it is cold, this is because of fresh springs which feed this little bay. Swim out about 100 feet and the water clears and becomes warm.

    The water inside the reef is generally pretty calm but watch out during high surf when rip currents can occur.

    Honu
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    Hike Kilauea Iki Crater

    by JetlagCity Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Kilauea is the big volcano in Hawaii that's been erupting continuously for 19 years. Kilauea Iki means "little Kilauea". We did a four mile hike across and around the Kilauea Iki Crater. You descend about 400 feet, then walk across the crater from one end to the other, where you go back up and around to the start. Talk about some weird landscape! Follow the cairns (stacks of rocks) across the face of the crater, picking your way between steam vents and fissures. It's a good short hike if you only have one day to spend in the park.

    Still on my list of things to do here - hike to where you can see live lava from Kilauea pouring into the sea. A more dangerous but also more spectacular proposition!

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    Vanilla, It's the REAL thing

    by keida84 Updated Aug 6, 2006

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    Tucked away on the windward side of Hawai'i's Big Island is the only plantation in the entire USA where Vanilla is grown, harvested and sold for commerical use. The Hawaiian Vanilla Company is family owned and operated by Jim and Tracy Reddekopp. We discovered this little gem from a show done on PBS (Public Broadcasting Station).

    We visited the Mill on a lovely, bright day. We decided to do a tasting (less calories than the luncheon) but we still got to try several dishes both "savory" and "sweet" made with the vanilla beans grown on the plantation. Eggplant Brushetta, vanilla ice tea and vanilla ice cream were on the menu for our tasting which cost $10.00. The luncheon is offered at $29.00 for those who are interested. The tour hours are limited and are by reservation only.

    Guests are not permitted in the greenhouses--the growing process is delicate one. It takes about 16 months to grow vanilla beans and it is a labor intensive process. During the tasting or the luncheon you will learn how the process is done.

    This tour is a family oriented. Jim and Tracy's 5 children help out on the farm and with the luncheon. There are items to purchase as well. I am looking forward to cooking holiday dinner with the pure vanialla extract and vanilla infused sugar I purchased.

    An interesting note here, items that state they are "vanilla flavored" are flavored with "Vanilan" a by-product of paper!

    The Original Chocolate Company of Hawaii uses Hawaiian grown vanilla to flavor the cocoa beans grown on the island to make their chocolate and candies. All I can say is "Yum"

    The Hawaiian Vanilla Company Vanilla tasting room
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    Fair Wind and Fair Seas

    by keida84 Written Aug 6, 2006

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    Snorkeling is what I enjoy doing when visiting the Hawaiian Islands. I was looking at the different local cruise companies I was immediately drawn to the Fair-Winds company. I recall using them for a snorkel cruise back in 1988 and I am glad that I chose them again. Aboard the Fair_wind a continental breakfast is served while cruising down the Kona coast to a sheltered embayment known as "Kealakekua Bay" where the memorial stands for Captain Cook who discovered the islands in the 1700's.

    Once we arrived at the site we were instructed on snorkel techniques and advised to stay off the rocks and coral because these are protected waters and the reef is being destroyed by those who walk, sit or stand on it. If the reef dies then the fish in the area will starve and die. The Fair-Wind staff are all certified lifeguards and they took their posts both in the water as well as out on the fore and aft decks of the boat. There are a variety of floatation devices and they have a "viewing box" which floats on the water's surface and enables underwater viewing without putting your face in the water, this is great for kids!

    After a good hour of snorkeling we returned to the boat, I like the fact that the ladder extends far out into the water making it quite easy for me to climb back aboard. The bar-b-q was going full steam and a delicious lunch of garden burgers and hamburgers were cooked by the captain. Pasta salad, fruit and chips were also a part of the fare offered.

    One thing that impressed me, a gentleman ordered a beer and the staff politely asked his name and then wrote it down on a clipboard. The crew monitors alcohol consumption of all who imbibe and they keep a close watch on any and all persons who have consumed alcohol.

    The cruise offers "Snuba" which gives you an experience similar to scuba diving only you go down 1 atmosphere (25 feet) and utilizing a regualtor which is attached to an oxygen line so you have no need to carry oxygen on your backs.

    Captain Cook Memorial The Captain oversees the lunch Hmmmm snorkler for  lunch?
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    Steamy Lava Fields

    by keida84 Written Mar 2, 2005

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    Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will see the billows of steam emanating from the cracks in the Earth. When you really stop to think about it we were walking all over x live volcanoe. It is unlikely that it would explode but still you have respect for it as you realise it is much bigger than you and there is no where to run.

    These lava fields are on the Chain of Craters road near some of the "newer" lava flows, but close to the Kiluaea Caldera.

    Steam emanating from the Earth
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    See the lava flows at night

    by RickinDutch Updated Sep 11, 2006

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    This has become a popular activity so expect crowds. You hike out to the lava flows before sunset and then stay and see the lava flow at night. Wow! The creation of land right before your eyes!!
    The hike is not for little ones. It is over very rough A'a lava flows for about 1.5 miles (the distance changes as the lava changes it flows) each way. When we went, the flows were getting further from the road.
    Bring water, good shoes, and a very good flash light for each person for the walk back. Water because it is bare lava you are crossing that is black and gathers the heat, even with a breeze blowing we were hot and thirsty. Good shoes because it is very rough and uneven ground, especially the A'a lava. There is no real trail, just a bunch of folks wandering in the wilderness.
    And when I say crowded, I mean a hundred cars parked along the road when we arrived at 4:30, a good 2 hours from sunset.

    And the road ends here! Lava flow
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    Palm trees and turtles

    by kyoub Written Jul 6, 2004

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    On this small bay you will find black sand, beautiful palm trees, and green sea turtles basking in the sun.
    There is also a duck pond with some unusal looking ducks.
    Near the park headquarters, the surf hits the rocks and makes some beautiful pictures.

    Beach
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    Beautiful fertile valley

    by kyoub Written Jul 6, 2004

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    You can hike, horseback ride, go by wagon, or with a guide in a 4 wheel drive vehicle into the Waipio Valley. We wanted to go by wagon but they were all booked so we went with a gentleman in his 4WD station wagon.
    We saw taro fiels, water falls, streams, and beautiful ginger and other flowers.
    It is well worth taking the time to see it.

    Valley
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    Hot Lava

    by kyoub Written Jul 6, 2004

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    Volcanoes National Park is an amazing place to visit. Plan on staying from morning until after dark. There is so much to see, it takes quite awhile. My husband had to stop at every crater in the park, the steam vents, Thurston Lave Tubes, then down the chain of craters road all the way to the end. There we had to check out the beach and the pavement where the lava went over and closed the highway.

    Lava
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