Big Island Recreation – Hiking, Snorkelling, Horse-Riding & More
HIKE AND DIVE AT GREEN SANDS
Green Sands Beach, aka Papakolea, is one of the few beaches in the world made of the mineral olivine. A visit to Green Sands is a full day of wonders, from the drive through the rolling hills of island countryside, to the hour's hike through the meadows to the olivine cove where the water is the color of opals, to (if you dare!) the dive off the cliff at Ka Lae! Don't worry, there is a ladder back up the cliff, and there are friendly jeep drivers available for hire if you don't fancy the hike.
SNORKELING AT THE TIDEPOOLS
The former Kapoho Tide Pools (also known as Waiopae), 15 minutes south of Hale Mar, was known as one of the accessible wonders of nature in the aquatic world until volcano goddess Pele decided to give the coastline a makeover in 2018. Now a whole new tidal world is being mapped! Click on the video link above to experience the exotic drive to the area through the primeval mango rainforest Stretching almost a mile down the coast, this vast acreage of volcanically heated, fish-filled natural pools is a little-known wonderland that can be explored by foot or fin. Since the new terrain is being charted right now, check with us or on search engines for the latest news.
The Big Island is horseback riding heaven, with expansive rolling countryside, gorgeous scenery, and happy Hawaiian horses. Even fox hunting is available. For the ultimate steep-to-deep experience, try the Waipio Falls trail ride (www.waipio.homestead.com). For jungle-to-beach riding and snorkeling adventures convenient to Hale Mar, call Kai at SilverCrest Farms +1 (808) 333-1859.
There are about 20 golf courses on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hapuna Golf Course is the home of EWG's Hawaii chapter; Hualalai Golf Club (pictured here) is a challenging Jack Nicklaus design. Closest to Hale Mar are the Naniloa Golf & CC, Hilo Municipal Golf Course, and Volcano Golf & CC (bring a sweater, it's at a high elevation!). The Big Island Country Club, midway between Kona and Hilo, is a beautifully groomed course that offers discounts to visitors. See a complete listing of courses at www.hawaiiteetimes.com/collections/big-island-golf-courses.
EXPERIENCE HAWAIIAN TRADITIONS, CULTURE, AND HISTORY
The last major Pacific-wide tsunami (frequently called a "tidal wave") occurred in 1964. Whether your interest is historic, scientific, or one of simple curiosity about these strange and powerful intermittent forces of nature, you will find the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo (http://www.tsunami.org) a unique collection of information, photographs, and first-hand accounts. Other must-see stops: the renowned Lyman Museum of Hawaiian Settlement History in Hilo, and the world-class Botanical Gardens a short drive north of town.
MERRIE MONARCH CELEBRATION
The internationally acclaimed annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo features the world's top teams in a hula competition. It's held the weekend after Easter: see the details schedule at www.merriemonarchfestival.org. Other unique Big Island events include the Ulu (breadfruit) festival the first weekend in March (www.kuaokala.org, the Hawaiian Avocado Festival in February (www.avocadofestival.com), and the Panaewa Stampede Hawaiian Rodeo in February, www.HawaiiRodeoStampede.com.
And don't forget the original IronMan Triathalon, held every October!
Volcano Winery on the Big Island of Hawaii is home to one-of-a-kind wines made based on Hawaiian honey and tropical fruit blends. Volcano Winery is open for free wine tasting every day and is located about half an hour from Hale Mar. The Big Island is developing a sophisticated artisanal agriculture community: look for Hamakua gourmet mushrooms, Puna goat cheese, honey gleaned from tropical flowers, red and black Hawaiian sea salt, microbrewed beers, and rums, as well as microregional coffees.
ARTS AND ARTISANS
If art is your passion, print out the extensive list of galleries and museums at www.alternative-hawaii.com/activity/bifa.htm. The Volcano Art Center features Koa wood carvings and furnishings, blown glass, raku, and other ceramics, paintings, and more (www.VolcanoArtCenter.org.) The town of Holualoa has several galleries including the unique Holualoa Ukelele Gallery (they give lessons too!) In odd years (2013, 2015, etc.) don't miss the Hawaiian Quilt Show (www.hawaiiquiltguild.org), held the last Saturday in February in Waimea. Also in Waimea, the Isaacs Art Center and Museum have a small but important collection (www.isaacsartcenter.hpa.edu.)
DISCOVER HAWAII'S NATURAL BEAUTY
WORLD-CLASS STAR GAZING
Take a drive (about 2 hours each way) or a tour to the summit of Mauna Kea to visit the observatory complex, set amid a moon-like landscape of cinder cones, where you'll often find yourself above the cloud tops, and may have your feet in snow! Or just stop in at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in downtown Hilo for the convenient and condensed version. Try to visit the nearby Lyman Museum of Hawaiian History while you're there. And of course, when the sky is clear at Hale Mar, the stars are a magic carpet on black velvet.
VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Hawai'i Volcanos National Park is half an hour from Hale Mar. Its diverse environments range from ash cones to live lava cauldrons to the rainforest. Kilauea is erupting in some form every day: find lava status at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/activity/kilaueastatus.php. The Steam Vents area is easy to access for all ages: check out the Steam Vents Video above. If you like hiking, visit the lava at night in its full splendor. You can arrange private lava tours, by land or sea, at www.PokeAStick.com, www.LavaOcean.com, or several other private tour operators.
THE RAINFOREST IN HILO
In and around Hilo you'll find an enchanted rainforest, replete with world-class waterfalls: check out Rainbow Falls at Wailuku River State Park, and Akaka Falls, which features an easy, paved walk to dramatic beauty, just north of town. Head further north to take a donkey or 4WD ride down the jungly cliff at Waipio Valley. On the way home to Hale Mar take the kids to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, or stroll the Japanese garden and Coconut Island at Queen Liliuokalani Park.
BLACK SAND BEACHES
The newest black sand beach in the world was just recently created by the lava flow at Pohoiki, a short beautiful drive from Hale Mar; you'll find another stunning black sand beach with a new burgeoning coconut palm grove 15 minutes from Hale Mar where the highway ends at Kaimu. For swimming with giant sea turtles visit Punalu'u black sand beach, about an hour south; stop at the Naalehu Bakery nearby for sweet, fresh-baked pink and purple guava and taro bread, excellent with Kona coffee. For a virtual close encounter with a turtle, check out the Big Turtle Video link above. And not far from Punalu'u you'll reach the famous South Point, with its rare, green olivine sands and Acapulco-worthy high dives.
AMUSEMENTS AND ADVENTURES
EXPLORE AND DISCOVER...
Many other adventures await you on the Big Island of Hawaii: try a flyover of the 2018 volcano eruption with Paradise Helicopters, or tour the inland by kayak down old irrigation canals with Flumin Kohala. One of our favorite sites for ideas is http://bigadventures123.com. Be bold! And the most comprehensive Big Island guidebook for planning your vacation is "Hawaii, the Big Island Revealed.", available at www.HawaiiRevealed.com. Pictured here: the famed white tiger of the Hilo Rainforest Zoo.
Ocean Rider Seahorse Ranch (www.seahorse.com) has been breeding live sea horses for pets since 1998. They offer a unique interactive, educational and magical sea horse tour of their 3-acre farm, which houses over 20,000 seahorses, including over 15 different species, as well as a seahorse gift shop. Call for tour times and reservations. Animal lovers may also want to check out the Parrots In Paradise animal rescue sanctuary in Kealakekua.
The Big Island of Hawaii hosts a wide variety of tropical agriculture, including coffee, macadamia nut, honey, and vanilla farms, many of which welcome visitors. See www.hawaiiagventures.com for farm maps and hours of operation. Another must-visit for the nature lover is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Papaikou, just north of Hilo, open daily - allow at least two hours for your stroll, it's wonderful.
...OR JUST STAY HOME AND RELAX
That's probably why you took a vacation. If you stay still long enough, a flock of nene geese, the Hawaiian state bird, may land to nose around in the grass, the crabs will resume their scurrying across the rocks, and you will start to notice the sea turtles riding the crests of the waves. The sound of the surf will lull you to nap, the stars at night will inspire your dreams, and the rainbows will come to call on you, all in good time.