6 Healthy Ways to Explore the Big Island of Hawaii4 min read
The Big Island of Hawaii is the healthy traveler’s mecca. This past summer, a few friends and I packed our bags and went looking for adventure in the South Pacific, and we definitely got our fill. From the hot, dry beaches of Kailua-Kona to the lush rainforests of Kilo, the Big Island really does have something for everyone. When you’re ready for a break from the fun and sun on the beach, here are my top recommendations for other activities you should try while you’re there.
Visit the Halema’uma’u Crater
The Halema’uma’u crater is located on the top of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii Volcano National Park. This crater floor is huge – nearly a half mile wide and 270 feet deep. According to Hawaiian mythology, it’s the home of Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes. There is a hiking trail around the crater with some picture-worthy views. Occasionally, there are active lava flows close enough to reach by foot, so ask at the ranger station before heading out – and be careful!
Dive at Night with Manta Rays
Diving with manta rays at night is something you’ll never forget. Unlike swimming with dolphins and all the ethical issues it entails, diving with the mantas is a kinder, gentler experience. Your boat captain drops spotlights into the ocean, which attract plankton – the manta rays’ primary food source. A few minutes later, you’ll be watching giant 12-foot manta rays perform backflips just a few feet below the kickboard you’re floating on. Don’t worry, they don’t bite!
Hike the Rainforest
Head over to the Hilo side of the island for a hike through the Hawaiian rainforest. One of the most scenic routes is through Wailuka River State Park, which includes the iconic Rainbow Falls. As the name suggests, this 80-foot waterfall is famous for the rainbows that appear in the surrounding mist. The water isn’t safe for swimming near the falls, but look for the hidden rope swing over the river near the park’s entrance.
Stargaze on Mauna Kea
Measured from the sea floor, Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest. It’s also the only place on earth where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about two hours, so be careful of altitude sickness. The observatory near the top of the mountain is the perfect location for crystal clear stargazing. Just be sure that you bundle up, since temperatures at night can approach freezing.
Eat Poké in Kailua-Kona
Poké is everywhere in Hawaii. Traditionally, it consists of chunks of tuna marinated in soy and sesame and served with a free-form salad. If you like sushi, you’ll love poké. My favorite spot is Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona. It’s a no-frills establishment with some of the freshest fish around. Grab your poké and enjoy it on the picnic tables in the parking lot outside.
Explore the Kapoho Tide Pools
The Kapoho tide pools are nestled behind a protective reef on the Hilo side of the island. You’ll find a maze of shallow pools formed in volcanic rock, some teeming with fish and deep enough to snorkel in. Make sure you bring reef shoes since the rocks are jagged and sharp, and always be aware that once you jump in a pool you’ll also have to find a way to pull yourself out. There’s a portable toilet and a small changing room near the tide pools so you can freshen up after your dive.
- Halemaumau Crater, courtesy of Huffington Post
- Night Dive with Manta Rays, courtesy of Liquid Hawaii
- Mauna Kea, courtesy of Mauna Kea Observatory
- Rainbow Falls, courtesy of Hawaii.com
- Poke at Da Poke Shack, courtesy of Da Poke Shack
- Kapoho Tide Pools, courtesy of New York Times