Volcano National Park. We convene in Kailua-Kona, and go up the Kona Coast to visit and walk the trails at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park to see how the ancient Hawaiians lived, fished and cared for their land. Green sea turtles may be found along the shore. Then we get a guided tour at the Ki'i Pohaku Petroglyphs, one of the largest and graphic collections of ancient drawings in the Hawaiian Islands. This a wonderful way to get acquainted with the local culture and terrain. We stay two nights at the family-run Manago Hotel where the sunset views are stunning, and a Japanese-style dinner at Teshima’s is in store.
The next day at Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau, the history is as interesting as the Hawaiian pronunciations. One trek takes us to where Captain Cook, the famous navigator and explorer, first landed in 1778. Ancient lava cliffs line the bay, and we might spot spinner dolphins here. At Honaunau Village we can watch outrigger canoes being launched, walk the shoreline trail in search of whales, or learn native culture in Place of Refuge National Historic Park.
We head south around the bulging island’s southwestern corner, taking a side trip to Ka Lae or South Point, where it is believed the first Tahitian-area sea voyagers landed on this island about 1,000 years ago. We also stop to watch, and talk with the local fishing folk as they fish with special poles and ladders from the rugged lava cliff edges. A coastal path leads to Green Sand Beach, where the ocean has captured an olive-rich crater – a unique and protected swim spot. This is also the site of several coast walks where we usually see humpback whales not far offshore, breaching and spouting in the Pacific waves.
We then travel eastward along the south coast to Volcanoes National Park with its mile-high rain forests, lava caves, Nene geese, and steaming Kilauea Caldera. We’ll peer into Halemaumau, the “house of ferns”, stride across the cooled lava pavements of Kilauea Iki Crater, and visit a bird sanctuary of old-growth trees that has been spared from the lava flows. A visitor center helps us interpret these geologic wonders for us. Based at the My Island B&B in Volcano Village for two nights. We’ll hike out through a lava tree-mold forest to the old Pu'u Hulhulu crater, where we can get a glimpse of the Pu'u O'o crater and it's vent, the only one that is currently spewing lava.
Then, we head eastward to non-touristy, interesting Hilo, with its cheery red and green roofs and swaying palms overlooking the Pacific sunrise and Hilo Bay. The Hilo area is renowned for its orchid growing, waterfalls, and proximity to Volcanoes National Park. It lies at the forested foot of the massive shield-type volcano, Mauna Loa (“the long mountain”). Bamboo forest walks to Akaka and Kahuna Falls complement a ramble along lovely Onomea Bay with its sweeping ocean views. The Puna District, a short drive southwards, offers us an Oceanside back roads walk, a black sand beach and an Oceanside thermal pool. Our two-night stay at the Dolphin Bay Hotel is short stroll to Hilo’s shops, the incredible farmer/craft market, and the historic Lyman House. We may also visit the fascinating new new Imiloa Astronomy Center.
Finally we head northward for two days and nights to the Kamuela/Waimea area, with its lush ranchlands and nearby, stunning Kohala Coast beaches. We do a fabulous hike down to the coast through ranchland. Then our Upolu Point walk gives us whale watching opportunities and a visit to the Mookini Heiau, a sacred ceremonial site; then onto Honoipu Landing, where an ancient fishing village site has been partly restored – interesting and evocative. Closer to Kamuela town, we do a fine walk on tree fern-lined paths to the very brink of Waipio Valley, with stunning views of this lush chasm, once home to kings of old Hawaii. Kohala Mountain and massive, snow-capped Mauna Kea (“the white mountain”) are the Kamuela area’s dramatic backdrop.
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