Things to do on Big Island
The concept of recharging your batteries is bandied around a lot in travel marketing. Most places with a beach offer visitors the chance to unwind, relax and recharge. But believe me when I say Big Island is spooky energetic. My friend Ash who lives in Hawai’i says it best: “Big Island is energy.”
Without getting too woo woo about it, let’s just say it’s a special place. Whether it’s the lava bubbling beneath the surface, the fertile volcanic soil, the Jurassic forests or the tepid seawater teeming with life, I arrive feeling flat, and leave feeling buoyant.
It re-inflates me.
On my recent visit, I was lucky enough to see and do some extraordinary things with a fun group of people. It’s hard to say whether the improvement in my inner world was environmental, social or spiritual (or a combination of all three) but if you need a little soul tonic, here’s a recipe that worked for me:
- Helicopter ride over the new lava fields in Volcanoes National Park
Want to see 700 acres of brand new land forged by the fires of Mount Kilauea? Take a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour over Volcanoes National Park. Get a bird’s eye view on what was once the shoreline of Lava Zone One and marvel/sympathise over roads and houses that were swallowed by lava. It’s a fascinating look at the aftermath of a natural disaster that it is still steaming from the fissures.
- Driving the scenic route from Hilo to Waimea via What’s Shakin’
I was a little bit nervous about driving the group around (wrong side of the road and all that) but honestly, it’s a breeze. There’s only one main road north, and there’s also the scenic route that is windy, occasionally single-laned and very beautiful. We drove through this epic jungle and, in one of the clearings, we found this local Hawaiian place called What’s Shakin’. We stopped for a smoothie made from locally grown organic fruit, macadamia nuts, avocados the size of emu eggs (see above) and hippie good vibes because I felt pretty great afterwards. This is absolutely one of the best things to do (and drink) on Big Island.
- Waipio on Horseback with Micah, a fifth generation Big Islander
The horse ride into the Valley of the Kings, former home of King Kamehameha the Great, begins at a ranch surrounded by exotic fruit trees. We get to taste ice-cream fruit for the first time. It’s a long brown pod that is opened along one side to reveal a row of fluffy white beans inside. It’s subtly sweet and has a texture like fairy floss. We also help ourselves to hands of bananas – an example of one of 50 varieties grown on the property – and pet the old ranch dog while we wait for the rest of the guests to arrive. Micah, our guide, has a heavily scented orchid stuck into the air conditioning vent of the rickety van that takes us down the steep mountain road into the valley. He makes Dad jokes along the way and explains the historical significance of the area, while pointing out wild horses nibbling on the foliage at side of the road.Once we arrive at the stables in the valley floor, everyone is matched with a horse and off we go at a very sedate pace. The valley houses a number of waterlogged taro ponds, as well as an abundance of avocado, pomelo, breadfruit (known locally as ‘ulu’) guava and noni trees, as well as thimble berries, wild ginger and fiddle leaf fern growing by the trail side. Waterfalls converge into a wide, calm river and the whole place looks like it’s been landscaped to a brief of ‘Eden’.
- A cultural talk with Sheraton Kona‘s cultural ambassador, Rolinda Welu Bean
There’s charisma and then there’s Rolinda (pictured above), a former history teacher whose full Hawaiian name is 54 characters long. We meet her in the lobby and she gives you a proper hug, a gesture that sets the tone for the friendliness and inclusiveness of her cultural tour. The Hawaiian people have a lot to be angry about – after all, they were invaded and had their kingdom overthrown in a corrupt deal – but Rolinda explains things with precision, tact and diplomacy. Her cultural talk covers modern and ancient history, details the buildings that used to stand on the shores of the bay adjacent to the Sheraton property, and explains local myths and folklore. Her talk is not only illuminating; it’s also funny. A must do if you are staying in the area and definitely one of the best things to do on Big Island.
- Watching manta rays swooping through the water from Sheraton Kona’s waterfront bar
Maybe this is the Hawaiian equivalent of watching kangaroos grazing at sunset? Sitting at the bar that overhangs the rocky shoreline of Keauhou Bay, guests are treated to a free evening show where the mantas (pictured above courtesy of my friend Julie) – attracted by the lights – swing by for a plankton-based snack. Their acrobatic backflips keep us enchanted for hours.
Want to check it out for yourself? Visit www.gohawaii.com/au for more information and sing out if you have any questions – always happy to help!
What are some of the things you like to do on Big Island?