A 4WD vehicle is a must for this Big Island adventure! 4WD is the only way you’ll be able to access all the best “off the grid” spots. Besides taking a day for Hawaii Volcanoes National park or a few in Kona/Kohala, here are some of our other favorite places to go, with Volcano Village as your home base…
Day 1: Explore the South
The south side is “old school”: few towns and mostly barren ranch land. We‘ve had some of our best adventures in this area of Kau! Be sure to pack a cooler and gas for the day.
- First grab some “ono” (yummy) coffee at the Ka’U Coffee Mill, open daily 8:30am – 4:30pm.
- Wood Valley Buddhist Temple is right up the road from the coffee mill. The NE CHUNG Temple welcomes visitors every day 8am & 6pm for meditation. Even if you’re not Buddhist, it’s a unique experience.
- Back on the highway south, be sure to turn off to Punalu’u (Black Sand Beach) for a quick photo op of Honu’s (Green Sea Turtles) relaxing on the sand.
- From there, trek to an all-day adventure at South Point – Ka Lane. 4WD is a must for reaching Green Sand Beach. While heading down South Point road, take your time! You may see an owl, a sky lark or horses—and you definitely won’t miss the windmills.
- Then, make use of having a 4WD! Explore the cliffs and views before finding the boat launch. To the left of it is your way to the Green Sand Beach. You’ll probably see others heading in, too.
- It takes about 30-40 minutes to get there by 4WD. Stop at all the little bays along the way and look for shells & debris. There will be a place to park above Green Sands- Papakolea Beach. This is one of our very favorite places to spend a day! The swimming is amazing, and the green olivine sand looks beautiful sparkling in the sunlight.
Hike to Pure Seclusion: Halape
- This is a long hike down to Halape, located in the National Park’s backcountry land.
- Look for huge prawns in fresh springs along the way, but be sure to respect the aina (land) and the nesting Honu (Green Sea Turtles)—if it’s that time of year.
- Visit NPS.gov for details and permit info about the park.
Tropical Snowy Paradise – How is that possible?
- Visit Hawaii in the winter and check out the summit of Maunakea to see for yourself!
- Even if there’s no snow, the view easily makes a climb worthwhile! Being the highest point on the chain of islands, it’s an ideal spot for star gazing!
- Every night of the year, the visitor center offers star gazing from 6pm – 10pm. At 14,000 ft. above sea level, stars appear to be within reaching distance!
- You can also hike to the spectacular lake, Waiau.
Day 2: East Side: Kapoho/Kalapana
- Our all-time favorite place for snorkeling is the Waio’pae tide pool in Kapoho. It’s hidden at Kapoho Kai Dr. off Waio’pae Road: walk down the dead end of Kapoho Kai Dr. and you’ll see a little trail between homes that opens up to this nicely sized beauty!
- Here you’ll see colorful coral reefs and an abundance of fish. It’s protected from the open ocean, so swimming is pretty safe, too.
- Another great swimming spot is Champagne Pond. About 15 minutes from Kapoho, it’s a short 4-Wheel Drive into the area. Champagne pond has great swimming and it’s usually not too crowded.
After a day of relaxing at the beach and swimming, take a night hike into Volcano Park for some lava!
- This takes about 4 1/2 hours round trip. Park at the viewing spot down in Kalapana and walk in! Getting close to the active lava flowing into the sea is an incredible experience.
- If lava isn’t flowing in an area you can access, contact AHIU Hawaii Tours. They offer guided hikes to areas other companies have no access to.
Day 3: North Side: Hamakua/Waipio Valley
On your adventure out North, visit Hilos Farmers Market, Waterfalls, Botanical Gardens, and Lapahoehoe lookout. Then experience the beauty and sacredness of untainted Hawaii – Waipio Valley.
- Take your 4WD down to Waipio Valley—one of the steepest roads in America!
- Again, be respectful of the ‘Aina (land)
- You can spend several hours exploring or relaxing at the beautiful black sand beach below.
- On the drive down you’ll see Kalo farms everywhere and the way of “old Hawaii.”
- Driving through streams, mud holes and bridge crossings is plenty of good fun!
- The island’s tallest waterfall, Hiilawe Falls cascades down 1,300 feet in the back of Waipio. You can even hike in to swim at the base (a wet and muddy hike). Please be quiet and respectful to the people of Waipio while in their community.
*** All of the above requires planning and research. Always be respectful of the people & ‘aina once you’re on your adventure. Have a good time and enjoy yourself in everything you do!
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