Those four nights in a tent on Oahu were just too much for us. Arriving on the Big Island, luckily Hilo is one of the few places on Hawaii that offers relatively cheap accommodation and we could therefore afford two nights in a basic hotel. Even though the hotel was far from nice, it felt like a palace to us. Finally a hot shower, a proper toilet, mirror and a big comfortable bed – we felt like in heaven. It felt so good, that we adjusted our travel plan and made sure that after a maximum of four nights of camping there would be a hotel night again. And because on the campsites on Big Island you can stay in a camper van, we had booked a mid-size SUV which we could use as a camper van. The only thing that bothered us, was that you pay more than 40 USD per camping night, all you get for it, is a parking lot and nobody checks if you paid for a permit – we felt a bit swindled.
Walking trough tropical gardens in the south
The southern tip of the island is full of lush rainforest. Some of it so pristine, that you fear to destroy its equilibrium if you simply touch it. In harsh contrast to this you can find the lava fields right next to it. About a year ago was the last outbreak of one of the five volcanoes and this one destroyed more than 700 buildings and structures and forced more than 2’000 people to relocate. One of the streets is still blocked by solidified lava.
There are many waterfalls worth visiting on the biggest of the Hawaiian islands. Two of them are the Rainbow falls and the Akaka falls. We visited the Rainbow falls first and after waiting long enough, there was enough sun, to make the rainbow appear. The Akaka falls don’t have a rainbow but are, with their 132m of free fall more than twice as high as the Niagra falls.
Whale watching from the shore
The south-west part of the island offers the best whale watching possibilities. We just arrived at one of those spots, when we saw a relatively large group of people with telescope lenses. We immediately installed ourselves and managed to see one of those giants jump. We witnessed three big jumps and got it all on camera. All this happened quite far away from us, we needed all the zoom we had, but it was still a unique experience.
Petroglyphs at black and white beaches
Petroglyphs are stone carvings created by the ancient Hawaiians. Their exact meaning is not known but they show events like birth and other major events and most of the carvings are placed towards the volcano. Possibly their meaning was to calm down the mountain. Close to the petroglyphs is a black and white beach. It is colored that way because the black volcano stones mix with white remains of the corals.
Searching for dolphins
There is a place at the west coast that rents out kayaks. And with one of those we paddled back and forth in a small bay on the search for dolphins. After some rounds we needed a break and therefore continued to the Captain Cook memorial where we went snorkeling. It is probably the best snorkeling spot on the island as the corrals look super healthy and there are many colorful fishes including needle fishes.
Only a short drive further was 2-step the second best snorkeling spot on the island and even before had arrived at the water we were told to hurry as there were dolphins swimming with the snorkelers. We made ourselves ready as fast as we could and swam quite a distance to reach the point we were told. First there was nothing happening, but after a while they showed up. First we saw them deep down, but then they came up and swam next to us. It was absolutely magical. And as they are called spinner dolphins, one of them was jumping out of the water and doing his pirouettes.
Hiking Volcano NP
Even tough there was no more glowing lava to see, it was still a super interesting trip to do. We learned a lot about the five big volcanoes on Big Island and the recent eruption. After the introduction and inspecting some steam coming off the ground, we made our way all the way down to the ocean. But first we took another stop at one of the craters and searched for Pele’s tears. Those tears are black and shiny and can be found on the ground when looking closely.
Driving up the highest mountain in the world
No, we are not talking about Mt. Everest, we are talking about Mauna Kea. Measured from the ground of the ocean this mountain is more than 10’000 meters high. We started in Hilo on zero meters and drove all the way up to the top of the mountain. We started in the tropical warmth of the coast, then passed the rainy and foggy area in the middle, then warm again and then freezing cold on the summit.
But driving up there was probably the best thing we had done in a long time. The view up there was simply mind blowing and all the telescoped up there looked fantastic during sunset. And btw. a car with AWD is absolutely sufficient to drive the little piece of unpaved road on the way to the top.