So it's your first trip to the Island of Hawaii and you're trying to figure out the best way to maximize your stay. The Big Island boasts a plethora of activities and sightseeing opportunities to take in. Narrowing down your itinerary will be a task.
Visit an Active Volcano
Hot, molten lava has been continually spewing out of Kilauea Volcano for more than 20 consecutive years, much of the time flowing directly into the sea on the Puna side of the Big Island. Visitors are allowed to hike near the flows to witness incredible displays of red, molten lava spilling into the ocean, often fountaining, spattering and oozing within yards of the viewing site. Conditions change daily, so check with park rangers for current eruptions updates and directions to the flow.
Take a Kayak Tour of Kealakekua Bay
Pods of spinner dolphins frolic in this protected and historic bay located in South Kona. At the north end of the bay, the Captain Cook monument area offers stellar snorkeling opportunities that can only be reached by kayak or by booking a snorkel cruise such as Fair Wind. Many places along the highway rent kayaks; Kona Boys in Kealakekua is a reputable surf/dive/kayak shop. Kayakers usually launch from Napoopoo Wharf, which can be tricky to maneuver depending on the tide level. An easy option is to rent kayaks from Ehu & Kai located at a private cove south of the wharf. Here you don't have to load a kayak onto your car. Access into the water is safe and simple.
Enjoy a Picnic at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
An ancient place of refuge dating back to the 15th century, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is considered one the most sacred sites in the state of Hawaii. This national park presents unmatched scenery on the shores of Honaunau Bay. The original temple overlooking the bay, which has since been restored, once housed the bones of 23 chiefs. The best-kept secret of the park, the picnic grounds to the south offer tables and barbecue areas adjacent to the rocky coastline. Bring a picnic dinner and enjoy a splendid sunset in an exquisite setting.
Go Snorkeling at Kahaluu Beach Park
Located in Keauhou near Kailua-Kona, Kahaluu beach Park is known for its easy access and abundant sea life. Snorkel gear can be rented at the surf shop across the street. Gear comes in many types and sizes, so make sure you have a good fit. The shop's experts will help visitors properly fit their mask and snorkel while providing insider tips about the bay.
Watch the Manta Rays in the Surf
Manta rays come nightly to feed on plankton just below the Crystal Blue lounge at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay resort & Spa. To attract the mantas, the resort shines the lights on the water from above. Visitors can enjoy a cocktail while viewing the mantas from the lanai.
Go Coffee Tasting in the Kona Coffee Belt
Several working coffee farms offer tours and tastings featuring 100-percent Kona coffee. Roadside kiosks and coffee stops are scattered along the upper highway from Holualoa Village to Honaunau. Some farms also include mills and coffee roasting facilities that are open to the public.
Karen Sprinkles has been a freelance writer since 1988. She's currently the managing editor of a luxury home magazine and has written for regional newspapers and magazines. Sprinkles received the Award of Excellence from the Hawaii Book Publishers Association for "The Hawaii Home Book," which reached No. 1 on the Hawaii bestsellers list. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California.