Week 3 & 4 I stayed in Pahoa, which is south of Hilo on the east side. The place where I stayed was owned by a woman named Tao – who’d done a beautiful job landscaping and decorating her off-grid home. Since I didn’t have internet or cell phone coverage there, this post had to wait until I got back to Tucson.
Driving over the Saddle Road on the way to Pahoa. The top image is Mauna Kea and the bottom image is Mauna Lao.
The amazing shoreline at Mackenzie State Park. The park is located on the east rift zone of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Because of this, the park’s landscape consists mostly of rocks and dried lava, with some lush greenery on the far sides. Low sea cliffs are located along the water’s edge.
Black sand beach, Kaimu Beach Park is at the end of the road on 137. This beach and the area surrounding it didn’t exist a mere 20 years ago. In 1990, a lava flow from nearby Kilauea volcano reached the shoreline at Kalapana and destroyed this entire community along with the neighboring subdivisions of Kaimu and Royal Gardens.
Also buried under 50-75 feet (15-23 m) of lava was Kaimu Black Sand Beach, a beach that was a favorite among local residents and visitors alike because of its fine, jet black sand and stately coconut palms lining the shoreline. In an effort to bring Kaimu Black Sand Beach back to its former glory, new palm trees have been planted on this brand new shoreline land. A small new black sand beach is located near where the old Kaimu Black Sand Beach used to be.
You may remember that I previously visited the Volcano National Park but didn’t find the trail that I was looking for. Well… all I had to do was ASK at the visitor center! (Just like a guy not asking for directions when he knows he’s lost.)
The Kilauea Iki trail is one of the most popular trails at the park. Stops along this trail reveal the story of a dramatic eruption in 1959. A well-marked path leads you through lush rain forest along the rim of Kīlauea Iki (little Kīlauea) and down to its still-steaming crater floor. It’s 4 miles and descends 400′. A must do if you’re on the Big Island.
After hiking the Kilauea Iki trail, I went through the Thurston Lava Tube – a 500 year old cave. Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings. There are several lava tubes you can visit around the island but Nahuku is the most easily accessible and is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave. Unfortunately, my picture taking in dark places needs work. 🙂
Akaka Falls State Park, north of Hilo, is an easy 0.4-mile uphill hike through a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns.
As you follow the paved footpath, you’ll first see 100-foot Kahuna Falls. Continue to follow the loop around the bend, and you’ll discover towering Akaka Falls which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps Hawaii Island’s most famous waterfall.
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a must see. The 40-acre valley is a natural greenhouse, protected from buffeting tradewinds and blessed with fertile volcanic soil. Throughout this garden valley, nature trails meander through a true tropical rainforest, crossing bubbling streams, passing several beautiful waterfalls and the exciting ocean vistas along the rugged Pacific coast.
Known as Green Sand Beach or even Pu’u o Mahana, Papakolea Beach, is well deserving of its name. The olive-like color of the sand comes from the presence of a greenish, semi-precious stone named, appropriately enough, olivine. The erosive force of the ocean washing into the base of Pu’u o Mahana cinder cone has extracted olivines out of the cinder. These are deposited on the sand, giving the sand a green tint.
This secluded sand beach is located near Ka Lae (South Point) in the Ka’u district of Hawaii. The hike is a rugged 2-3 mile dusty labyrinth of ruts that eventually lead to the beach. I decided to avoid the ruts and walk over the lava instead. 🙂
I learned a lot about the Big Island. If you want to mostly snorkel, then the west side of the island is the best – of course it’s more expensive and busier. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to go from one side of the island to the other over Saddle Road and the views are well worth the trip.
I ended up going back to the west side quite often my last 2 weeks just to snorkel at Waialea Bay (Beach 69). I left my camera at home during these trips (No sense worrying about a break-in) but you can click on the link above and see it yourself.
I had a WONDERFUL trip and met some great people. I’ll be happy to answer any questions if you plan on visiting the Big Island.