Around the Island in 3 Days
Day 1 You'll See:
- Kealakekua Bay
- James Cook Monument
- Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
Day 2 You'll See:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Lava Tree State Park
- Rainbow Falls
Day 3 You'll See:
- Hilo Farmers Market
- Pacific Tsunami Museum
- World Botanical Gardens
- Waipi’O Valley Overlook
Kealakekua Bay - Welcome to Hawaii never sounded better than it does here at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, your very first stop on this island in South Kona, located just 12 miles south of Kailua Village. Besides the obvious and almost unreal natural beauty, Kealakekua Bay is known to be an important historic site in Hawaii, the site of the first extensive contact between Hawaiians and Westerners through legendary Captain Cook in 1778. On the other side of this stunning historic beach park, you will find the Hikiau Heiau, a sacred temple and traditional religious site honoring the Hawaiian god Lono. This area is also known to be a popular Marine Life Conservation District, a perfect spot for wildlife watching, snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking.
James Cook Monument - Your next stop is one that goes hand in hand with the Kealakekua Bay visit, the on-site James Cook Monument. This memorial statue, part of the State Park, is located along the shore of the deep Kealakekua Bay waters, making it a perfect seaside spot to snorkel and spot dolphins. Some people actually dub this area the best snorkeling spot in the entire world, definitely being one of the favorite spots among the locals. You and your group can get to the actual monument either by charter boat or by a steep windy train alongside the shore. The trail is a bit physically challenging but if you are up for the adventure it begins just off Old Mamalahoa Bay. Be sure to wear good walking/hiking shoes and bring a camera with plenty of memory!
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau - This sacred site is hundreds of years old, the temple beautifully and meticulously restored. Honaunau Bay is also known for being a great spot for snorkeling. The beach was voted best in the United States in 2004 by Travel Channel and is fronted on each side by large, smooth lava rock flats. This gorgeous natural setting of flats makes for easy entry into the colorful gardens of coral, parrotfish, and moray eels. Once you’ve taken in all the history and glorious beachfront you can here head over to the Royal Grounds beyond Pu’uhonua for more historic exploration!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Welcome to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 1916 established National Park located just 30 miles southwest of the city of Hilo. This unique and stunningly gorgeous destination is excellent for spotting live lava flows, lava tubes, and various glowing craters. This is a serious one-of-a-kind place in which you and your group can "watch the landscape change right before your eyes," with two different active volcanoes and 330,000 total acres of breathtaking and superbly diverse land, from the summit of the Mauna Loa Volcano to the sea. At this park, you will find not only Mauna Loa Volcano but one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the Kilauea Volcano.
Lava Tree State Park - This heavily forested area preserves the stunning lava molds of tree trunks formed in 1790 when a lava flow swept through the area. While here your group will also get to explore the total 17.1 acres of native Hawaiian plants, trees, and wildlife. There is an easily accessible paved trail around the park that typically takes about half an hour to an hour to hike. You will see so much greenery here, vining plants and trees making a magnificent tunnel of orchids, bamboo, and lava tree molds!
Rainbow Falls - Welcome to Rainbow Falls, one of the most popular sets of waterfalls in Hawaii, located within the Wailuku River State Park in the city of Hilo. The falls themselves are 80 feet tall, the base a hundred feet in diameter and surrounded by lush, dense tropical rainforest. The extraordinary natural beauty surrounding this gorge is almost unbelievable, aided nicely by the sparkling turquoise pool below the falls, as well as all the nonnative wild ginger and Monstera growing all around the waters. These falls are also called, by locals, Waianuenue, or "rainbow water," and are known to be at their best viewing on a sunny morning around 10 am (best rainbow opportunities).
Hilo Farmers Market - Start your morning off right, at the highly popular Hilo Farmers Market. This large open-air market is located along Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street downtown and is open twice weekly, each Wednesday and Saturday, from 6 am to 4 pm or as the vendors like to say "from dawn till it’s gone." Here you will find over 200 local vendors ranging from rural farmers and ranchers to seaside jewelry makers and artisans. Explore all the different stalls and vendors and find fresh produce, artisanal foods, and local handicrafts such as woodwork, shells, and jewelry. There are also many local eateries, bakeries, and amazingly delicious food trucks within this marketplace.
Pacific Tsunami Museum - This museum is dedicated to the history of April 1, 1946, and May 23, 1960, tsunamis which devastated much of the east coast of the Big Island, especially here in Hilo. Inside this museum, locals and tourists alike can study their own tsunami evacuation zone map and instructions, put together carefully by both the NOAA and State of Hawaii Civil Defense Department. Groups of over 15 people total may participate in group tours, one hour long events beginning with a 30-45 minute presentation on the science of tsunamis, Hilo city history, and personal survivor accounts.
World Botanical Gardens - Amid the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano, your group will truly enjoy this wonder of nature, a "true Hawaiian eco-adventure" that includes the second largest herbaceous maze in the world, outstanding zip lining opportunities above the rainforest and gardens, and even adventurous segway tours! You may hike the many various trails along Hana Pueo Stream and waterfalls, admire and/or photograph the hundreds of wild orchids along the 80-meter long orchid wall in the Rainbow Walk, or learn all about the exotic food plant options here such as guava, mango, papaya, pineapple, banana, and coffee fruit.
Waipi’O Valley Overlook - Along the northern Hamakua Coast your group will find your last stop, the Waipio Valley overlook within the sacred Waipio Valley. Here your group can enjoy the dramatic tropical beauty of the "fertile valley," which is technically one mile across and five miles deep, surrounding on the edges by 2,000-foot high cliff walls. Enjoy the taro fields, rivers, and waterfalls, some including the tallest on the island at 1,300 feet, the Hillawe Falls. The view from the valley overlook is outstanding, and you will also gain important cultural information as this was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha!