The Big Island, or the island of Hawai’i, wasn’t on our radar initially, but the more research we did the more appealing it became. This ended up being one of our favorite islands! The landscape is incredibly diverse – we went from beaches, to deserts, to volcanoes, to lush greenery all in the same island. Plus, they have a seahorse farm!
We flew into Hilo, on the East side of the island, and stayed there for a few days before driving across the island to Kona. Both cities were fun and very unique – it’s impossible to for us to pick a favorite.
Adventures in Hilo
Although we flew into Hilo, we ended up staying in a town just outside of it called Pohoa. It’s easy to get to beaches from there, and was a nice area. One of our first stops was Isaac Hale Beach Park, which had tons of little tide pools filled with critters like hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins! Another park we went to was Richardson Ocean Park, where we stumbled across some larger tide pools you could swim in (you have to go past the main part of the park towards the peninsula to find these). The water was beautiful, and there were hardly any people there. Sam was even able to go swimming since the water was so calm.
Punalu’u Beach & Sea Turtles
Another thing on our “must see” list was the Punalu’u Black sand beach. Sea Turtles are one of our favorite things about Hawai’i, and there were plenty of them there! There was even an area sectioned off with rope for the turtles to rest and be farther away from people. Joseph spotted a few turtles in the tide pools too, which made for some great photo ops!
One of the most amazing things about the Big Island is access to colored sand beaches. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach was spectacular, although not great to walk on barefoot (hot & sharp). There is also a green sand beach! It gets its color as a result of green olivine crystals that make up the majority of the sand. A guy we met on the plane said it’s better to go during the week because the water is less cloudy. You can’t drive to the beach without 4-wheel drive (seriously!), and sometimes locals will hassle you if you try to drive at all. Some locals offer paid “shuttle” services where they’ll drive you to the beach, but we opted to walk. Not sure how long it took us, but the walk is about 2.5 miles one way.
Once we got there, there’s a little carved out path with makeshift “stairs” and a “railing” where you can get down to the beach itself. It’s safe to go down, but not the most accessible of walkways. That said, this is one of the best beaches we’ve been to! Incredibly unique, and it’s one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world!
Brightly Colored Critters and Volcanoes
These little fellas are all over the place on the Big Island! They’re called Gold Dust Day Geckos, and are easy to spot with their vivid coloring. We had fun taking tons of gecko pictures while we were there.
Volcanoes National Park
Last, but not least, the lava! There are many opportunities to see lava and volcanic activity on the Big Island. We spent time at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. They have a film showing of real footage from past volcano eruptions on the island! We accidentally fell asleep during the movie because we were still so jet lagged! Oops! Aside from the movie, there are steam vents you can see, empty lava tubes you can walk through, and more. You can also get a good view of a lava filled crater just outside the Jagger museum there if it’s not too cloudy. Very neat to see the deep orange glow of the lava coming from the crater.
One of the other once in a lifetime activities we were able to experience was an up close and personal view of the 61g active lava flow entering the ocean. We booked a boat tour, as we heard you couldn’t see it on foot from the designated viewing point. It was incredible to see the sheer amount of lava pouring into the water! The area was very warm, and our boat captain took a bucket of water from just outside of the boat and let everyone feel it. Practically hot tub water temperature! Although it was a bumpy ride on the boat getting to the lava flow, it was 100% worth it for the epic view! We also saw a whale on the boat ride to and from the lava, which was a nice bonus!