Being my first visit to the Islands of Hawaii I was completely unaware of the extreme diverseness of the islands. They are not like your typical tropical islands that I am personally so accustomed to, like the ones of the Caribbean. Hawaii is an island of extremes. I met a local on the beach in the Big Island of Hawaii, who said, you could wake up and go for an early morning surf, drive up 2 hours to the top of Mauna Kea for a bit of snowboarding and still make it down in time to catch the late afternoon surf. Well, when I heard that, my jaw dropped… they have snow in Hawaii? Surprisingly, during the winter time their largest mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, along with countless others actually do get snow. Throughout the duration of our conversation, it had rained twice in 5 minute intervals that only contributed to the crazy diverseness of the islands, as the weather cannot exactly make up its mind if it wants to be tropical or not. Within a 45 minute time frame you can take a walk through the rainforest, drive through the prairie lands, stand on top of hardened molten lava, take a dip on a black sand beach and stand on top of a volcanic crater watching the land around you steam, all while getting a tan. The island almost seems overwhelming and violent. Where should you start?
THE LIST OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IN HILO, HAWAII
1) Richardson’s Beach: A local black sand beach. This beach was created from the left over lava that had previously taken over the area. Now what remains is fine black sand with large lava formations that are fun to climb, and have created little pools of water that currently inhabit large sea turtles. Not the small kind though, we are talking about the big guys who just swim right up to you. Don’t worry, they don’t bite, but they are curious and may be too friendly. The beach is not known for being overly tourist-y, the majority of individuals there that we had met were all locals who came to enjoy the impressive and uninterrupted wildlife under water. The snorkelling and coral found 20 feet from the shore line was some of the best snorkelling I had ever done.
This beach is a short taxi ride from the Hilo Pier or a 30-45 minute walk from there.
2) Hitchhike: If you’ve ever wanted a personal experience with locals where you can count on the security of safety. Hilo is the place to do it. Within 5 minutes of sticking out your thumb on the side of a road, a local will pull over and is more than happy to drive you where ever you want. Some of my friends had hitchhiked their entire way up the mountains which is a 2 hour drive. I was able to find a ride back to the ship with a local on the beach. He offered and piled my friends and I in the back of his truck. Even the taxi drivers go out of their way to accommodate you, most give you free rides if you promise to call them later on for another ride. (Which you should!) They will give you their personal phone number and give you great tips and tour deals for your stay.
3) Volcanic Activity: There is the traditional, Volcano National Park, which is nothing short of impressive. You can visit the top of the volcanic craters, and watch the eruption unfold before your eyes. An eruption that has been going on for 23 years! My advice: Do not limit your volcanic experience just to the volcanic park. I suggest you go out again after dinner when the sun has set and watch the lava flow down the mountain, and if you’re lucky, you can watch it fall into the ocean. A spectacle I’ve only seen pictures of and heard was incredible.
4) Geothermal Hot Springs: End your stay, or evening with a visit to this hot pool that is warmed up by the volcanic activity of the island. The pool is a secluded little area of the ocean and surrounded by palm trees. We had gotten there at around 1 am and hoped the fence… there are no lights at night, just the moon to light your way and a sky full of stars. It was beautiful. This is a must and a must at night after hours.
Happy Travels. I hope you keep finding the way off the beaten track.