Our plane took off from Waikiki airport at 9:30am. We flew to Kona airport of the Island of Hawaii, it is also called The Big Island because it is indeed the largest island of Hawaii with the largest active volcano. Flight was very short. Only 45 minutes. It felt like we started landing as soon as reached the cruising altitude. Flying as of today in September of 2017 is the only way to travel from island to island in Hawaii. Talking to one of the taxi drivers in Waikiki I remember him mentioning that locals wanted ferry to be brought back to service for travel between the islands, because on ferry people could travel with their own car from one island to another, what is impossible when flying. For us however flying was the best way to travel to The Big Island of Hawaii because it would have been the fastest and we had only one day to see as much as we could. Our flight back to Oahu was scheduled to take off at 9:50pm that same day.
When we landed at he airport of Kona, we rushed to find a shuttle that took us to the car rental location. Renting a car is highly suggested because everything on the island is quite far from each other. Talking to the car rental associate we started feeling like coming to The Big Island for one day was a mistake because as he has said, we wouldn’t be able to circle the island in on day with stops to see all attractions. However as we found out later on our own, we could complete a loop around the island with many stops that I would describe further down the article. We rented a red Ford Mustang convertible. Living in San Francisco we would never buy convertible for ourselves because of the cool and misty climate, but on Hawaii it was the best choice ever. We enjoyed driving through the island with an open top.
From car rental we headed north on the island. Northern side is the one that has the volcano park and we wanted to see just that thinking that we won’t be able to see much more. Our first stop was almost right away on the view point overlooking the bay from the hill. It was called “Ohi’a Cave Historic Preserve”. Gorgeous view overlooking the ocean with lots of greenery all around.
Since we woke up early not to miss a flight, we were craving coffee that we still didn’t have that morning. Driving down the road we almost passed by, however stopped by the coffee shop called: “The Coffee Shack”. The Coffee Shack happened to be built right on the cliff with another gorgeous view from it’s balcony on the opposite side of the entrance. It took us around 10 minutes to get our coffee to go, meanwhile we took couple of photos of the view and off we went continuing our trip around the island, knowing then that we most likely won’t be able to complete it. We decided to reach the volcano park then measure from there on Google Maps how long would it take us to get to the city of Hilo and come back the other way.
Driving further north, greenery started becoming blacker and blacker until we reached part of the island that was completely lifeless. It was the part where lava of the volcano simply burned everything on it’s path when it was erupting last time. Eruptions thanks God wasn’t there when we were driving by. There was however a view point stop with a parking where we took photos of the volcanic lifelessness. It is something to remember. You would never see anything alike on the land where we all live and have no volcanoes.
Next stop on the way to the volcano park was gorgeous “Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park”. It is a must see destination if you copying our road trip around The Big Island of Hawaii. The sand on the beach is pitch black and guess what, the turtles that enjoy the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach as their habitat are also black. However the sign stated that turtles were “The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles”. It probably was dark green, because they very much blended into the black sand on the beach. Lots of palm trees off the background spice up the darkness of the volcanic lava that turned into sand after exploding in the water into tiny particles. I’ve seen some people swimming on the beach, however we didn’t have time to stay there longer than we did, we had only one day to see the island. And waves were quite large with sign warning of strong current. We took some photos with the scenery and turtle and again with an open top continued our journey.
Finally the next stop was where we actually wanted to get as our final destination just to realize that we had more than enough time to continue forward instead of turning back. “Hawaii Volcanoes National Park” is quite large and has multiple things to see. We spent around 1 hour driving and walking around there. Entrance to the park is paid and guess what, they do accept credit cards at the car entrance. We were worrying they wouldn’t and got cash, but they do accept credit cards if you won’t bring cash with you. When you drive into the park, head straight to the visitor’s center, it’s the first building on the right that you would see after driving straight past the entrance gates. Or ask the ranger at the entrance to point you to the visitor’s center. Visitor’s center has multiple guides walking in the park ranger uniform. They will quickly explain you want to see and where to drive. This will save you a lot of time if you are short on time as were we.
In the “Hawaii Volcanoes National Park” we got to see the volcano itself from the observation deck of “Thomas A. Jaggar Museum”. You won’t need more than 20 minutes or so to take photos and move onto the next point of interest in the park. Our next stop was “Thurston Lava Tube”. However we stopped and parked our car by the entrance to the “Crater Rim Trail”. From there we walked. It is a half a mile hike to the Thurston Lava Tube and half a mile back. Hike was very nice and on the right side of the trails you could see the volcano along the way. Gorgeous view. We walked fast. Walked through the Thurston Lava Tube. It was quite dark in there, it is a cave in a shape of a tube, you walk through it and then walk the same way back. There is a parking however right next to the Thurston Lava Tube entrance. If you prefer not to hike fast, then drive directly there to safe time.
When we got to the car, we still had plenty of time. And since the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was pretty much almost in the middle of the opposite side of the island from Kona airport and we had plenty of time before our flight back, we continued on to Hilo and decided to complete the loop around the island. We reached Hilo pretty fast without any additional stops and went straight to the Hilo historical district. It’s a small street along the coast. Not much to do there. We parked however walked around at most for 20 minutes, got fresher squeezed juice in the “Loved by the Sun” juice bar and continued on driving further.
There were two more stops that we did on the way forward to Kona airport. I said forward, because we continued on around The Big Island. Next stop was Akaka Falls State Park. Funny name, I know, but the scenery there is gorgeous. We stopped on the parking lot, enjoyed the scenery for a little bit and continued on. There is a park trail there that leads closer to the waterfall, but we just glanced at it from the far of the parking lot. Entrance is paid to the park, by the way. Not expensive, but it is paid.
Our last stop was “Waipio Lookout”. As you can see, it was already starting to get dark. Even photos are darker. Waipio Lookout is a bird’s eye view of the bay. Great for pictures and memories. That was our last stop. We tried to make it into the local brewery in Kona that’s located minutes away from the Kona Airport, but the waiting time was 30 minutes and unfortunately we didn’t have 30 minutes to wait. We had to rush to the airport and fly back to the island of Oahu.