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A Drive Around The Big Island, Part 2

Big Island, Part 2 of 3

While you’re in Hilo, you might want to make a short side trip to Rainbow Falls, located just outside of downtown Hilo along the Wailuku river.   It is one of the more accessible waterfalls on the Big Island.  I will post another article later with more information about Hilo.

Rainbow Falls, Big Island

One Hilo stop on my personal list, is the Big Island Candies store.  They not only offer their signature chocolate-dipped, shortbread cookies, but you will also find a line of interesting chocolate dipped local snacks.  How about chocolate-dipped dried cuttle-fish?  At any rate, its a great place to stop and indulge your sweet tooth…you can’t live on chocolate covered macadamia nuts alone!

Speaking of chocolate-covered mac-nuts, when you leave Hilo on Hwy 19 (aka Mamalahoa Hwy, aka Kanoelehua Ave in Hilo),  you will come to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory just before reaching the town of Keaau.  This is another fun stop where you can watch as they make these chocolate delights and visit their store to stock up or have them shipped home.  At the very least, you’ll want to stop just to sample the many flavored macadamia nuts that are offered.

At Keaau, you can take a side trip on Hwy 130 east to Pahoa and beyond to the coast to visit some interesting beach locales on this little visited eastern section of Hawaii.  If you drive east out of Pahoa, you will end up near the Cape Kumukahi lighthouse that marks the most easterly point of not just the Big Island, but of the state.

On the way there, you will come to the Lava Tree State Park.  This may not be the most dynamic place to visit, but if you enjoy seeing some of the strange affects that lava can have, you’ll find it interesting.  “Lava trees” are lava columns that remain after a lava flow covers growing trees and as the lava recedes, as it sometimes will do, it clings to the trunks of the trees and remain as testament to the fact that there once was a tree growing there.

Drive along the coast south of here and you’ll likely find the newest black sand beach on the island, if not the world.  For decades, Kalapana was a world famous black sand beach that was much photographed, but Pele reclaimed it when she sent her lava flows in this direction about 20 years ago and buried the whole town of Kalapana under some 5′ of lava, along with the famous black sand beach.

But, as I mentioned, while Pele claimed one black sand beach, she created another.  There have been several black sand beaches that have come and gone over the years, as the tides bring the sand in and then take them away.  Sometimes, they find a relatively permanent home and a beach is established.

This part of the Big Island is lightly visited by tourists since aren’t any commercial ventures to draw crowds down this route.  You, too, may decide to bypass it as well, but if you want to get off the beaten path, its a part of Hawaii many miss.

To get back on Hwy 19 (Mamalahoa Hwy), you have to back-track your way up Hwy 130 to Keaau and turn south to continue your circling of the Big Island.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

In twenty minutes or so, you will arrive at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  You can spend an hour at the Visitor’s Center or days exploring this fascinating park.  There is a $10 admission fee per car, which is good for a week.  If you plan on visiting Puuhanua o’ Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park in the Kona area and/or the Haleakala National Park on Maui, you may want to consider the tri-park annual pass for $25.

You can easily spend days here alone!  At the very least, you’ll want to plan on several hours exploring the more accessible parts of the park, including the Thurston Lava Tube.  If you need one reason not to attempt seeing the island in a day, this would be it.  There is nowhere else on earth like this…lava flows, lush tropical rainforests, rare native Hawaiian birds found nowhere else, and even  Hawaiian petroglyphs.  You’ll regret not having spent more time exploring it.

Kilauea Iki, Big Island

Here’s a link to a recent post on USA Today,  National Park Guide: Hawaii’s Volcanoes.

Continue the Big Island tour in Part 3 of  “A Drive Around The Big Island”, as well as that article on Hilo I promised.

Fare Buzz


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