I love Hawaii and I don’t miss an opportunity to go back there because I consider these islands my “home”. This year I was lucky enough to visit Big Island for the first time, the largest and youngest of the islands. What to visit if you only have 4 days available?
You can travel through many of the world’s different climate zones here, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra and to Desert, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa.
The nature is beautiful and there are many cool activities and it is almost impossible to fit everything in your vacation. Big Island is a very special and very relaxing island. Here are the stops that I recommend if you only have a few days to visit the island.
DAY 1 and DAY 2 – WAIPIO VALLEY and BLACK SAND BEACH
Waipio Valley is of awe-inspiring beauty, mostly wilderness interspersed with taro fields (Taro is a traditional Hawaiian staple food) and a couple of dozens of inhabitants. It was home to old Hawaiian kings. Waipio Valley is named after the river that runs through the valley (wai-piʻo means curved water in the Hawaiian language). The valley meets the ocean towards the north with a beautiful black sand beach that is cut in two by the river.
Some curiosities about the Valley:
- A legend says that the Waipio Valley is the gateway to an otherworldly realm and is considered to be one of the holiest places in all of Hawaiian islands.
- Off the coast of Waipio Valley, Kamehameha the Great fought the first Hawaiian naval battle
- The Waipio Valley is an alleged site of the Night Marchers. They appear and march to the sound of an invisible drum beat. Many believe that they are the ghosts of warriors still on the way to do battle.
- Captain Cook loved this place
In this place parts of the movie “WATERWORLD” with ‘Kevin Costner’ was filmed
- The Hike down into Waipi‘o Valley will take you from the overlook into the valley, to the black sand beach, and back up. The total length of this hike is 6.5 miles including lots of vertical meters and is not for the faint of heart. It’s strenous.
- The Muliwai Trail until the Waimanu Valley. The complete trail is an extremely difficult 2-day hike. The first part of the hike (up the valley wall) is also strenuous but not that long and very rewarding. You will get a unique view in the valley that is especially spectacular with the setting sun.
- Hi‘ilawe Falls: this hike is in the back of the valley and is not possible without crossing over private property. Don’t attempt without the landowners’ permission.
BLACK SAND BEACH
The beach is split in two by the river coming out of the Waipio Valley, and depending on the amount of water it can be difficult to cross. It’s a dangerous place to go swimming especially during the winter months. I suggest you to spend lots of time here, this is an energetic beach.
DAY 3 – KILAUEA VOLCANO
Located along the southeastern shore of the island, the volcano is between 210,000 and 280,000 years old. Its’ the youngest and most active volcano on the island of Hawaiʻi, with a consistently active summit caldera that frequently hosts lava lake-style eruptions. According to Native Hawaiian tradition, Halemaʻumaʻu crater is the home of the volcanic deity Pele.
In the park, there are many trails that you can follow to admire the landscapes. I recommend that you dedicate at least a full day to this area. And in the evening, when the light goes down, the spectacle of the lava and of the fire in the crater is fascinating.
DAY 4 – Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden and RELAX AT MAKALAWENA BEACH
Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
It’s a nonprofit botanical garden and nature preserve located on the 4 mile scenic route off of the Old Māmalahoa Highway. Their mission is to inspire and educate people to live in unison with our planet through inclusive education focused on diverse ecosystems.
These gardens are a spectacle of nature. I admit I was skeptical at first because I feared they might be too touristy and not very glamorous. I quickly changed my mind as soon as I entered. You’re immediately projected into a tropical paradise and the visit proceeds pleasantly in an environment of great magnificence. If you are in the area I highly recommend them. I am sure you will be fascinated by it.
Probably the best beach in Big Island, and not accessible by road. There are several bays dug out from the Kona coast with beautiful white sand beaches and plenty of shade from palm trees. The hike to Makalawena Beach keeps the crowds away, especially on weekdays. It’s hard to find a more perfect beach anywhere in the Hawaiian island chain. Swimming is generally quite safe when the water is still.
This is the Kekaha Kai State Park, formerly known as Kona Coast State Park. The name Kekaha Kai comes from the Hawaiian phrase ke kaha kai, meaning “the shore line.”