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TAKE A WALK ON THE ISLAND OF HAWAII'S WILD SIDE
10 ways to discover the island’s great outdoors by land, sea and sky.
Four if by land. Three if by sea. Three, again, if by sky. That’s the number of great ideas below, designed to help plan an inspiring vacation getaway on the island of Hawaii with lots of outdoor activities and adventures – some so wild and very much products of the myriad landscapes and climates of our 4,028-square-foot island, you’ll experience them nowhere else in the world.
Hit the ground hiking
The island of Hawaii boasts more than a dozen hiking trails managed by the state’s Na Ala Hele trail and land access system, from mountain rainforest and valley hikes to coastal and mountain treks. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s more than 150 miles of trails uncover much of Kilauea volcano’s unique beauty. Or take a guided tour of the longest and deepest lava tube on Earth, Kazumura Cave. You can even take 360-degree virtual treks on more than a dozen of the island’s best and most scenic hiking trails before your trip even begins with Google Trekker’s island of Hawaii parks and trails page at www.gohawaii.com/treks/big-island/.
Some insist the world looks better from atop a horse. Having enjoyed some of the best workday views of the island herding livestock on Maunakea, Maunaloa, Kohala and Hualalai volcanoes since the 1800s, Hawaii’s paniolo (cowboys and cowgirls) would likely agree. See for yourself via a horseback ride on the working ranches of North Kohala’s and Waimea’s paniolo country or along the rim of Waipio Valley. Or go metal pony with an ATV.
With its bounty of stream- and waterfall-carved valleys, and acres of verdant forest, the island's Hilo area and northeast Kohala and Hamakua coastlines offer up some of the state’s most idyllic landscapes for zip line enthusiasts. Want to soar through a towering forest or down a valley and several hundred feet over a cascading waterfall without an airplane or helicopter? We’re definitely your island.
Return from vacation boasting about walking, hiking with a ranger or taking a guided bicycle tour by day on one of the world’s most active volcanoes, via the multiple fern forest, lava desert, coastline, caldera and mountain trails and roadways of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Or share stories of an evening visit to the 4,091-foot elevation summit of Kilauea volcano for the lava glow at Halemaumau crater – best viewed from the Jaggar Museum observation deck – and incredible stargazing. The island of Hawaii has the national park that satisfies day and night.
Watching the whales
Each November through April, thousands of North Pacific humpback whales drop into Hawaii’s warm, shallow ocean waters to mate, calve and nurse their young. For folks watching from land and sea as the humpbacks breach ocean surface, it’s a thrilling thing. On the island of Hawaii, humpback season is only the beginning as pilot, pygmy sperm and false killer whales share the coastlines with spinner and bottlenose dolphins year-round.
Underneath it all
Here, you don’t have to leave the undersea world to its marine residents simply because the sun sets for the evening. When you’re finished day exploring the reefs at one of our famed snorkel and scuba spots or seeing what honu (green sea turtles) lunch on, sign up for a sunset dive for manta rays and other sea creatures that only come out at night.
Is staying comfortably dry your preferred way of enjoying the ocean? The island of Hawaii has you covered with submarine tours, daytime and sunset sails, glass-bottom excursions, outrigger paddling, kayaking, tidepool exploring, deep-sea fishing and other adventures. In Hilo, learn about the federally protected waters of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and check out some of its marine life at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center.
Top of the world
No, you won’t get to peer into the universe at any one of the 13 telescopes at the 13,796-foot summit of Maunakea volcano, one of the world’s most preeminent astronomical sites. But guided excursions will take you to this highest point in the Islands, reveal the mountain’s significance in Hawaiian history and culture, and, on evening tours, squeeze in a monumental summit sunset and excellent lower-elevation stargazing.
Starlight, star bright
Speaking of lower-elevation stargazing, one of the best spots in the world to get some done with the naked eye is the 9,200-foot elevation Maunakea Visitor Information Station. Prefer a scope? A nightly stargazing program on the station’s outdoor terrace offers several for public use guided by astronomically inclined volunteers. At Hilo’s Imiloa Astronomy Center, catch live universe views from the big summit telescopes. Staying on the Kohala Coast? Several sea level resorts offer evening stargazing programs from shoreline scopes.
What the heli
Sure, there’s lots of breathtaking Hawaii Island scenery to soak in from ground level. Take a helicopter tour, though, and you’ll have sky views of Kilauea and Maunakea volcanoes’ vast lava fields (plus, flowing molten lava if Kilauea’s really pumping) and the verdant amphitheater valleys, rugged sea cliffs and hidden rainforest waterfalls of the Hamakua Coast to brag about.
For information on the island of Hawaii, please visit http://media.gohawaii.com/hawaii-island.