Have some big-time fun on the Big
Katie Pebley, People & Places editor
Whoever invented the fall semester forgot something important:
fall break. For those who can’t wait until Christmas vacation
to escape O‘ahu and schoolwork, maybe a weekend getaway to the
Big Island is in order.
With exploding volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, black-sand
beaches, and waterfalls everywhere you look, the Big Island
is by far
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|the most diverse in the Hawaiian chain.
It is so large that all the other islands combined could fit inside
it. With the lava still flowing, now is a great time to explore
the island, especially if you’ve never been there before.
Airfare to the Big Island is $130 roundtrip on Aloha or Hawaiian
with the two main airports being Hilo and Keahole (near Kailua-Kona).
Make sure to check the travel section of the paper for weekly
specials though, as many packages offer air, room, and car for
only $25 more than a plane ticket by itself. Having a rental
car is necessary to see the island, but be prepared to pay an
extra $20 a day if you’re under 25. Gas prices are higher than
O‘ahu, with the Kona Coast being $.15 more a gallon than Hilo.Seeing
both sides of the Big Island is mandatory, but be sure to gas
The best way to see the Big Island is to start at one side
and make a complete circle around. It’s impossible to see everything
in one day though, so if you start early in Hilo, try spending
the night in Kona (or vice versa). The following are some must-see
stopping points for your weekend adventure.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes Park
Less than 30 miles south of Hilo, Hawai‘i Volcanoes Park is
home to Kilauea and its most recent lava flows. Make sure to
bring water and walking shoes. The entrance fee, $10 per car,
is well worth it. Once inside, the 40-mile roundtrip drive takes
you past sulphur banks, steam vents, Halema‘uma‘u Crater Overlook,
the Thurston Lava Tube, the 1982 Lava Flow, and much more.
The drive ends where lava blocked the road in 1995. From there,
a 30-minute walk will take you to flowing lava. Breathing conditions
are poor with “vog” (a local term for volcanic fog), and water
is not available. Join the crowd and make the pilgrimage towards
the newest lava; park guides will be there to point you in the
right direction. Make sure to wear your shoes, since the old
lava you will be walking on is still very hot. Contrary from
popular belief, you won’t get to see the lava falling into the
ocean. If this is something you must do, though, there are helicopter
tours available from the Hilo airport that will fly you right
over the lava; get ready to empty out your wallet for that adventure.
Black Sand Beach
Seeing a black sand beach is, for many people, the best part
of the trip to the Big Island. Made out of volcanic rocks, the
black and green sands of Punalu‘u Beach are worth the drive.
Located about two hours away from both Hilo and Kona, the beach
offers campsites, snorkeling, swimming, and bodyboarding.
Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
One of the neatest things about the Big Island is its sense
of history. Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, located
on Kona’s southern coast, is an ancient place of refuge definitely
worth seeing. Old wooden tiki carvings and heiau buildings surround
the beach, and turtles sunbathe on the shoreline rocks. It’s
a beautiful place to stop and watch the sunset, known to be
gorgeous on the Kona coast. On-site interpreters are available
to give you insight on the role of pu‘uhonua in ancient days.
This sanctuary is the best preserved and most important in the
islands because it is linked to the Kamehameha dynasty.
White Sands Beach Park
Located just a few miles south of Kailua-Kona, this beach is
absolutely gorgeous. The water is crystal clear, and the waves
are perfect for a little afternoon body surfing. During the
winter, bigger waves come in and suck away the sand, giving
the beach the nickname of “Disappearing Sands.” The beach looks
like a postcard, complete with swaying palm trees and a sand
volleyball court. The island’s only annual bodysurfing contest
is held here; stop by and you’ll see why.
If you want to drink and party the night away, Kailua-Kona is
the place to do it. “Waterfront Row” on Ali’i Drive is home
to a wide selection of bars lining both sides of the street
with Pancho Leftys, Bubba Gump’s, Hard Rock Café, and many more
Kona originals. With a party atmosphere much like that of Front
Street in Lahaina, this a great place to hit a few watering
holes with your buddies. Be sure to “shop around” the bars for
drink specials, or a night out on the town will set you back
a pretty penny. Don’t be discouraged, because nearly every bar
offers a decent drink special. My favorite spot for example,
Dirty Jakes, offers any two bottles of beer for $5.50. If you’re
a real college tightwad and would prefer not to pay for beer
at all, head over to the Kona Brewery, where tour visitors drink
for free. Although the volume of complimentary drink is not
staggering and might not satisfy all tastes, it is tough to
argue with free. Don’t forget to bring valid proof of age because
the brewery will absolutely not serve beer to those without
Located approximately 35-40 minutes north of Kailua-Kona, the
Hilton Waikaloa is quite possibly Hawai‘i’s finest vacation
destination. The resort has an array of art and sculpture from
many different cultures that impresses art lovers and passers-by
alike. If it is not a cultural experience you are after, don’t
fear: this great resort offers ample opportunities for relaxation.
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|With several lagoons, waterfalls,
and numerous pools and waterslides, you can surely find a quiet
place to calm your fall-term blues. An especially great place
to wind down is in the hammocks stung up between the palm trees
throughout the resort. Most students, myself included, do not
have the financial means needed to stay at this resort, since
room rates start at $209 a night. However, the resort is so big
and sprawling it is literally impossible to distinguish between
hotel guests and visitors. So, act like you’re supposed to be
there, and live the life of a grown up on a college budget. While
you’re enjoying yourself, have a beer served to you poolside –
it will only set you back $5.
For those that think the largest privately held cattle ranch
is in Texas, your guess, simply put, is all bull. The largest
cattle ranch in the United States is on the Big Island. Encompassing
over 220,000 acres and 50,000 heads of cattle, Parker Ranch
is the place to come for fresh air and wide-open space. This
is the home of the paniolos, otherwise known as Hawaiian cowboys.
Waimea is a great location to take in and marvel at the wonders
of a real live rodeo. Everything from calf roping to bull riding
is included in the show, much like it was 100 years ago. For
those uninterested in the life of a cowboy, Waimea is still
a quaint town that is worth checking out. With several mom-and-pop
shops and restaurants, it provides an opportunity to escape
western tourism and take a step back in time. If you’re hungry,
try a piece of local beef at the Paniolo Country Inn, located
in the heart of town.
Twenty miles north of Hilo is the majestic 442-foot Akaka Falls.
Nearly every waterfall on O‘ahu requires at least a 30-minute
hike to reach. This waterfall location is designed especially
for those who are lazy or do not enjoy hiking. In three to five
minutes you can be taking in its asplendid precense.
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| Far superior to any on
O‘ahu in terms of height and water flow, it is a must see for
waterfall lovers. Another five-minute walk down the way leads
to Kahuna Falls, another magnificent sight. Keep in mind this
is a tourist attraction and likely you will not be the only person
there. The one draw back of this waterfall location is that there
is no swimming or wading in the pool, as it is impossible to reach
Hilo is, more or less, a place to land, to pick up your rental
car, and to be on your way. With little to do here, staying
more than one day would not maximize your Big Island experience.
If you do however become hungry in your passing through Hilo,
stop in to “Ken’s 24-hour Pancake House,” the only 24-hour restaurant
on the island, or at KK’s Place, reviewed by Playboy magazine.
Worth mentioning, though, is the nearby Rainbow Falls and Kaumana
Caves. Many times, rainbows will appear through the mist of
the falling water, giving the falls its nickname. The Kaumana
Caves, just a two-mile drive past Rainbow Falls, take only a
few minutes to check out. The caves were formed between two
lava tubes by an 1881 lava flow. Bring a flashlight and some
good walking shoes – with the amount of rain Hilo gets, the
caves can be a bit slippery.
The thought of snowboarding in Hawai‘i seems too good to be
true. But here on the Big Island, anything is possible. Mauna
Kea reaches 13,796 feet and at that height, it snows no matter
where in the world you are. Although there currently isn’t any
fresh powder, some will be coming in the approaching winter
months. To get to the snow, you’re going to need a car with
4-wheel-drive. And since there are no lifts, be prepared to
either hike or take turns driving down to pick up your friends
The road to Mauna Kea is a gorgeous stretch known as Saddle
Road. Although most rental car companies forbid taking their
cars on this road, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Before
even beginning the mountain climb, the road takes you to about
7,000 feet, where the air is already below 60 degrees. Along
the way expect to pass grasslands, lava flows, and desert-like
open space. Keep your eyes open for nene; Hawai‘i’s state bird
loves this part of the island.