Day five and we're ready to begin exploring the Kona side.
General: DIY / How-To
|Guide Series: Big Island Vacation Itinerary
This is actually our first full day on the Kona (west) side of Hawaii Island and we're going to head a bit to the north side where we'll begin our adventures and exploration and work our way back down from there.
Let's start our day with a trip to the Big Island's Waipi'o Valley with two main points of interest that are worth your time. First up is the amazing Waipio Valley Lookout which offers some of the best views on the entire island. You'll want to bring a camera and take plenty of photos.
After you've taken in the impressive views, let's head down to Waipi'o Beach which is a black sand beach. Although there is a road that leads down to the beach it's not well maintained and it's very steep in parts and thus requires a 4x4 vehicle. Because of that, most rental car companies won't let you drive your vehicle down here.
That won't stop us as we're hiking the road instead. We brought you here in the morning when it will be cooler in anticipation of this hike. Expect about a 45 minute walk each way and it can be a bit of a leg burner due to the steepness. It's not for everyone, but if you're up for it then give it a go for sure. Bring water, some snacks, and note that there are no facilities at the bottom. It's not really a beach you'll swim at, but spend a little time at the bottom and then begin the hike back up the same way.
Next up, let's take a drive over to Honokaa. Explore the various shops of this small town at your own pace and stop for lunch if needed or wait a bit if you prefer. After that, we'll head to the Pololu Valley Lookout for more amazing views. Again, bring the camera. On the way out, stay on Highway 270 heading west and you can travel through the town of Hawi and explore some shops here if you wish.
If you haven't had lunch yet, we're going to be passing through the Waikoloa Resort area which includes Queens' MarketPlace, Kings' Shops, and many other restaurants nearby if you hadn't eaten lunch yet.
After that, head over to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. In ancient Hawaii if you broke a Kapu (sacred law) it was punishable by death. Breaking a Kapu could be as simple as entering an area that was reserved only for chiefs or maybe eating a forbidden food. Clearly this one was way to deal with overcrowded jails! Your only chance of survival? Make it to Pu'uhonua which means place of refuge.
Remember playing tag as a kid and how "gool" (or goal) was the safe zone? This place was like that but in more of a life or death scenario. Today you're allowed to take a self guided tour of this sacred place. There are cultural demonstrations, hiking trails, fishing, and places to enjoy a picnic.
Now, how about something fun and unique? Head over to Big Island Bees which is, as you can guess, is a bee farm that offers various tours as well as honey-based products (honey mustard, honey caramel, just plain honey, and so on). Fun, educational, and tasty.
Okay, we clearly need to get into the ocean now so how about heading over to Honaunau Bay / Two Steps for some snorkeling. This is one of the best and most popular snorkeling spots on the Big Island. The area is well protected from the open ocean so it's often very calm with very clear waters. The name Two Steps comes from the two natural steps in the lava flow into and out of the water.
If you're looking for something more on the historical side, you'll enjoy seeing nearby St. Benedict Painted Church. The church was erected in 1899 by Father John Velghe who painted pictures all over the inside of the church (without any formal training). It's certainly unique and offers a different glimpse at Hawaii's past.
We have one more big activity planned after dinner today and that's a trip up Mauna Kea for the Mauna Kea Star Gazing Program. The stargazing program is completely free and no reservations are needed. The program will begin at 6:00 pm with the showing of First Light, a Mauna Kea documentary, though you can show up at any time. Once it's dark, the staff will point out objects in the sky with a laser pointer and telescopes will be setup for your stargazing enjoyment.
It gets cold up there so dress warmly and bring a jacket. Or buy one in their gift shop. That's right, they're prepared for you! Make sure your vehicle is fueled up and bring a flashlight as well. On the way down (and up for that matter) go slow and be careful so you get back to your hotel safely.
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