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12 REASONS WHY THE ISLAND OF HAWAII IS THE WORLD'S BEST INDOOR-OUTDOOR CLASSROOM
When you think of time spent in a classroom does hiking an active volcano, getting underwater with marine life, or learning about Hawaii ranching history on a working Hawaii ranch spring to mind? Uh-huh. We thought not. Prepare to let the island of forever redefine your definition of classroom time with our below list of unrivaled indoor-outdoor learning opportunities sure to have your family, friends or even just you alone looking forward to being schooled again.
# 1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Trust us. There’s no better way to learn about volcanology than hiking and exploring an active volcano. Hawaii’s biggest national park is a grand natural sciences lab without walls, its vast acreage offering countless up-close-and-personal volcano learning experiences. From self-guided Kilauea volcano hikes on more than 150 miles of trails, and informative ranger-led programs and treks, to absorbing the mass Hawaii volcanology knowledge on tap at the Kilauea Visitor Center and Thomas A. Jaggar Museum and Observation Deck, you’ll insist on staying after class.
#2. Kona Coffee Living History Farm
At this working 5.5-acre coffee estate first homesteaded in 1900 and now maintained by the nonprofit Kona Historical Society, interpreters in period wear share a fascinating history of the daily lives, hardships and triumphs of Japanese immigrant coffee farmers in the early 20th century as guests explore historic buildings stocked with authentic era artifacts and antiques. Go ahead and query interpreters about the coast’s rich history and settlers from other myriad cultures, too.
#3. Friends of NELHA
Friends of what? This nonprofit entity offers up virtual and in-person tours of the pioneering aquaculture and mariculture activities, ocean- and sun-powered renewable energy projects, and other high-tech businesses at the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA) facility on the island’s Kona Coast. While at NELHA’s Hawaii Ocean Science Technology Park, visit the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm to learn about and gently interact with the endangered marine fish.
The island of Hawaii has two of the largest petroglyph fields in the state. Puuloa Petroglyph Field, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is home to several thousand images etched into lava bedrock by Hawaiians between A.D. 1200 and 1450, many of them accessible by a foot trail. On the Kohala Coast, a hike through Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve reveals a third of its 3,000 kii pohaku (Hawaiian for “images in stone”) depicting early Hawaiian spiritual and everyday life.
#5. Loko ia
Hawaiian loko ia (fishponds) were a common sight along Hawaii coastlines through the 1700s. Though most were lost to time, a few of these still innovative constructs of fish husbandry were preserved or are being restored. On the island of Hawaii, check out the lava rock fish trap and restored fishponds of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, the Kohala Coast resort area’s preserved Kalahuipuaa and Anaehoomalu fishponds, and Waiakea fishponds on Hilo’s bayfront.
#6. Lyman Museum and Mission House
One location. So much island historical cool. Visitors to the titular 185-year-old Hilo house are told the everyday life stories of its first occupants, New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman, after their 1830 island arrival. A next-door wing explores the lives of Hilo’s early Hawaiian residents and late 19th century multicultural sugar plantation workers. And an Earth gallery examines the island’s multiple world climate zones and natural history.
#7. Mokupapapa Discovery Center
The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument isn’t the world’s easiest place to visit. Comprising dozens of remote islands, atolls and pristine coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands stretching 1,000 miles from Nihoa Island to Kure Atoll, its 139,797 square-miles are home to 7,000 marine and 22 seabird species. This center – with educational interactive exhibits and a 3,500-gallon aquarium filled with monument marine life – is a nifty next best.
#8. Astronomy and Space Centers
You can go to the mountain, sure. But on the island of Hawaii you can also let the mountain – in this case, Maunakea and all of its astronomical wonderment – come to you. At the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, hands-on exhibits explore connections between modern astronomy on Maunakea and early Hawaiian studies of the cosmos.
#9. Kahaluu Beach and Richardson’s Ocean Parks
Prepare to cross off a fulfilling number of fish and crustaceans from your Hawaii marine life must-see list at these snorkeling spots on the island of Hawaii. A natural underwater rock formation keeping big waves out and its shallow depths gently agitated make Kahaluu in Kona a haven for snorkelers, coral and countless fish and marine life, including honu (sea turtles). A similar nature-crafted set-up at Richardson Ocean Center in Hilo offers wonder for east side snorkelers.
#10. West Side National Historical Parks, Sites and Trails
The sharing of Hawaiian history and culture in the sensory-overwhelming outdoor locations that actually shaped the timelines of both propels the compelling narratives of all four National Park Service-managed sites on the island of Hawaii’s west side: Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. Carve out a well-planned sunrise-to-sunset schedule, and you could even visit every one on a full day of learning, exploring and nature bonding.
#11. Lapakahi State Historical Park
There are no guided tours of this partially restored early Hawaiian fishing village first settled more than six centuries ago. No residents and few visitors, as well. But these are all positives. A visit to the relatively remote North Kohala park is instead all about quiet contemplation of the village’s stunning coastline location, solemn hale (houses) and lava stone walls, feeling its mana (spiritual power), and imagining a time when it bustled with residents and the cacophony of life.
#12. Paniolo Life and Times
Whether, as the songs says, you’re “going back to paniolo country,” or headed to the ranching town of Waimea for the first time, the Paniolo Heritage Center at Pukalani (or Puukalani) Stables, and working ranches Anna Ranch Heritage Center, Parker Ranch and Kahua Ranch, are great places to learn a few things about the island’s fascinating, and longtime, place in U.S. ranching history. Play your horseshoes right and you may even leave with a few practical paniolo (cowboy/cowgirl) skills to show off back home.
For information on the island of Hawaii, please visit http://media.gohawaii.com/hawaii-island.