In my process of planning my Hawaiian vacation, a visit to big island was one of the top things on my list. Normally, I have tiers of attractions that dictate my travel itineraries. First, Wonders of the World (natural or man-made) (finalists and runners-up). From there in a somewhat official rank: UNESCO sites, Historically significant sites, National parks, Friend recommendations, filming locations, breweries, “best of” lists, superlative adjectives, unique attractions, and so on. I have many criteria. Well, the Big Island meets at the middle of this Venn Diagram: Volcanoes National Park is one of America’s UNESCO sites. South Point is the lowest point in America. Green Sand Beach is a rare spectacle. Several friends told me to hit Saddle Road. And of course, the famous Kona Brewery would be a great place for a night cap.
My flight in from Oahu was quick an easy on Hawaiian Airlines. Once again, they use the oldest planes for these island flights. I had arranged to rent another Jeep Wrangler for the short time I was there. 4WD is a must for Maui, but a Jeep is almost a requirement for the Big Island. I chose to use Hilo airport instead of Kona, even though my hotel was closer to Kona. Hilo gave me a better starting point for my adventures.
As quickly as I could rent the Jeep, I took off and headed South. I had an aggressive agenda for the fact that I was only on this island for 30 hours.
My first stop was another Black Sand Beach (Punalu’u). I just can’t get enough of this unique sand colour. This beach had a little surf shop and rest rooms. It seems more local than the Road to Hana attraction.
But once again, the sand seemed magical. I know that is felt like normal sanf, but my brain couldn’t process it that way. It felt different.
From there, I brushed the sand off, as well as I could and headed south again. My next stop was Green Sand Beach (Papakolea). Everything I had read indicated either a long and hot hike, a bumpy ride with the locals, or a treacherous drive. I went with option three. Why else would I rent a Jeep? Once you get to the stop point, there are food vendors and many parked cars. There is one little gate. I watched as another Jeep exited, and I flagged him down. I wanted to know if civilians could drive. He casually laughed indicating that you can, but it isn’t easy. Challenge accepted.
This guy was not kidding: sand, rock crawling, hill crests, and everything else you could expect. 2.5 miles later, and I was finally parked atop the beach head. From there, I had to scale down the rock face to the beach. But it was all worth it.
The sand is actually comprised of miniature gemstones. It is so beautiful. What looks like moss in pictures, is really sparkly and wonderful.
My next stop proved to be the biggest challenge of the trip: South Point. This is the southernmost point in all of America. I had recently visited the Southernmost point in Continental US in Key West. I couldn’t skip this opportunity. I read all about jumping off the cliff, and I was excited. The biggest worry was the flimsy metal ladder to get back up.
I arrived at the scene and got out to evaluate. The previous visitors were not wrong: The metal ladder that was used to return to the point seemed very dangerous. I am no small human, so this added pressure to me. After checking out the distance (50ft) and the ladder, I almost decided to leave with just a picture. But then a local pulled up in an old beat up Bronco. He called me over and asked if I was going to jump. We both had a laugh about the ladder. He told me that around the turn, there were some rocks that could be used as stairs. This was all I needed. I changed into my bathing suit in the absolutely disgusting port-a-potty.
Other people arrived, and one lady offered to film the jump. I steeled myself and stepped to the ledge… a slight jump step and I was airborne. It felt like an eternity. As I fell, my legs crossed and went into a “criss-cross applesauce” style. I hit the water with a solid force (22,950 pounds). My tailbone had no chance. I hit the water like a neutron bomb. I was worried that I had evacuated myself. After a quick look around, I cleared that thought and realized I needed to indicate safety to the viewers up top.
Now came the swim. I am not a good swimmer. I am even worse with a broken tailbone. As I rounded the corner, the realization hit me, that if a tide sweeps me out, there is nothing to stop me from Asia. I pressed forward, back to the rocks. As I arrived, I tried to grab hold, but it was too slippery. I decided to use the tide and beach myself up on the first rock. As I did, I was approached by many small crabs. They realized it was either them or me, and they moved. Slowly, I climbed back up the rocks, until I was finally back up top.
I strongly recommend jumping. It is thrilling. here are my key points:
- bring water shoes
- bring a towel
- bring a bathing suit
- have a friend film it
- go in with your legs straight
- go at high tide
After this, I was in far too much pain to change, so I just got back in the Jeep and left. The local in the Bronco gave me a heartfelt Shaka and called me part of his ohana. I felt every bump in the road all the way back to Kona Brewery. This brewery was by far the most commercial. The parking lot was packed, there was a line to get in. I shimmied my way past them, to take my place at the bar. I needed something tasty to take my mind off the pain.
It was fun trying some of their beers and talking with the patrons. But all I could think about was getting to the hotel and enjoying a hot tub. So I finished my tab and headed out. I had picked the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. Turns out, the pools stay open 24 hours. I had made the correct choice.
I spent the evening drinking beers and discussing German cars with a lovely European couple.
After a very eventful first day, I knew the only way to follow was with a day filled with even more wonder. After breakfast, I checked out and filled up the gas tank. Saddle Road is apparently otherworldly. Friends who told me this were very correct. I drove through terrain that felt like Mars or the Moon, passing by the Mauna Kea observatory.
I finally made it to the airport. It was time for my Blue Hawaiian helicopter tour of the volcano. I chose the Circle of Fire plus Waterfall tour.
As we made our way, I could honestly feel the heat from the lava. It was so cool to see the island from the air. One of my friends hiked the lava trails, but I was in no place to hike that much.
I had heard about a waterfall near the airport, Akaka falls, and I had some time to kills, so I headed up to get a quick view in.
The falls were beautiful and the hike was easy. For my last stop, I hit up Mehana Brewery. I grabbed some cans and hit one last beach.
If you visit Hawaii, you need to make it a priority to visit the Big Island. Even if it just one day, it is worth it.