Sharing part two of our Hawaiian adventure (see part one: Maui) – Big Island! If Maui is for honeymooners, Big Island is for the adventurous.
Big Island is the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, and there is a lot to explore. We split our time in Big Island in two hotels (one on the east, the other on the west) to leave time to explore.
You can’t visit Hawaii without visiting the volcanoes national park, and this was a huge highlight of our trip. There are several active volcanoes in the park, and you can see smoke rising from the Halema’uma’u Crater (above). Start early – because there is much to explore, and stay until dark because that is when the volcanoes are at their most impressive.
We hiked across a large crater and could see steam rising from vents, and the ground was warm to the touch. (We also hiked close to dusk, and Simon was worried we would not make it before dark – which resulted in us practically running for half of the hike.)
Night Diving/Snorkeling With Manta Rays
Sadly, I don’t have any images from this incredible experience (at least, not until I get an under water casing and a trip back to Big Island!) Big Island Divers offer night excursions with Manta Rays. We opted for snorkeling, and were given masks, fins, and a pool noodle to help us float/hang off of a floating ladder with lights attached. Within a few minutes we were surrounded by enormous manta rays, doing back flips, and coming within inches of our faces. It was an experience like none other.
Mauna Kea is an inactive volcano, and when measured from its base at the sea bed, is the world’s largest mountain. It is also one of the best sites in the world for astronomical studies. The summit is full of telescopes which tower above the skyline, and no visitors are allowed after dark to allow scientists to study. In fact, the entirety of Big Island is fitted with special street lights so they do not interfere with the observatories.
To get to the summit you will need a 4×4 wheel drive (we were lucky enough to meet some friendly Hawaiians who offered to take us up in their SUV). The visitor center is located below the summit and it is worth staying after dusk. The visitor center offers free star gazing with several large telescopes (powerful enough to see nebulae and nearby planets) and park rangers who give a great overview of what you’re seeing.
(D0) go chasing waterfalls
I don’t think I have seen so many waterfalls on one trip in my life. We loved hiking and exploring the beautiful landscape in Big Island.
[Akaka Falls – twice as tall as Niagra falls]
There are several waterfalls near Hilo, which are a great pit-stop going to/from Hilo. Above: sign for the Peepee falls (which I was very mature about), the Rainbow falls.
[The Boiling Pots – near Hilo]
*Photos of Mauna Kea by Simon :)
- Do not miss swimming with the Manta Rays! The guides were not exaggerating when they said the manta rays would swim close to you. One came within inches of my face – it was incredible.
- If visiting the Volcanoes National Park:
- Make sure to pack a lunch if visiting the volcano national park (and maybe even a flashlight – if you are doing intense hiking close to dusk)
- The volcanoes are most visible at night. Just to set expectations – the volcanoes do not look (to the naked eye) as brightly lit as the images above, which are long exposures. You will definitely be able to see light and smoke, but from a fair distance. If taking photos, having a tripod will be an advantage for long exposure shots.
- If visiting Mauna Kea, it is best done with a 4×4 wheel drive (though note that even if renting one, many car rentals will not allow you to drive up to the summit). Do not attempt to summit Mauna Kea without a 4×4 wheel drive – most conventional cars burn out their brakes. Leave plenty of time to acclimate, especially if you are planning to hike, and make sure to stay after dusk for the most incredible star gazing experience.