A Vast Postcard of Natural Wonders

Hawaii The Big Island

Awe inspiring, majestic, grand, a vast postcard of natural wonders, The Island of Hawaii has been on my bucket list as long as I had one. On September 24th, Darren and I will board a flight to The Island of Hawaii. It is never about just crossing something off of my list; experiences like this are life-changing and I’m going to make the most of every second. From the molten magma flowing from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the world famous Manta Ray Snorkel & Dive with Fair Wind; from the green rainforests of the Hamakua Coast to the jet-black sands of Punaluu Beach; I don’t want to miss a thing on The Island of Hawaii. With only 6 days to explore the dramatic size and scope of the largest Hawaiian Island, we need to plan effectively. Here’s the plan; it reads more like a life list rather than 6 days of activities.

1. Stay at Hilton Waikoloa Village
2. Swim with dolphins at Dolphin Quest
3. Enjoy The Legends of the Pacific Luau

4. Morning Cruise with Fair Wind Inc (Diving, snorkeling, sea rockets, and SNUBA)
5. Manta Night Snorkel & Dive with Fair Wind Inc
6. The Hawai’i Experience helicopter tour with Paradise Helicopters

7. Rent a two door jeep with Discount Hawaii Car Rental
8. Kohala Zip & Dip with Hawaii Forest & Trail
9. Raft, Snorkel & Dolphin Adventure with Captain Zodiac
10. Sheraton Kona for the last night
11. Dinner at Rays on the Bay

This is just the start of our list. We’d also like to include surf lessons and boogie boarding. What are your suggestions? Do you know a great experience on The Big Island. Share it with us and maybe it will make the list. 

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63 thoughts on “A Vast Postcard of Natural Wonders

  1. I lived on the island of Oahu for 11 years (stationed there with military spouse). I loved it. Had a 29 foot sailboat and sailed to all of the islands. I miss it every day. I have gone back many times to visit (I was just there in May)….but I don’t know if we could afford to retire there. My husband says its too expensive to own a house there. I don’t know about him, but I don’t need a house. Staying there forever is on my bucket list.

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    • We feel that way about California too, but we’ve found a life and family in North Carolina that makes it a dream destination as well 🙂

      I hope you have complete happiness wherever you live.

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      • We have kayaked off east Oahu, zip-lined high in northern Maui, and helicoptered around Kauai, but nothing rad on Big Island, though we did quite a bit of island exploring. If you drive south of Kailua-Kona you can reach the southern-most point in the U.S., good bucket list item. The Volcano National Park is a phenomena you don’t find hardly anywhere. A coastal drive north from Waikaloa and return over the highlands horse country (horseback ride?) is beautiful, and the Hilo coast from Waipo Lookout to some of the lush botanical gardens north of Hilo is a treat. All it takes is time (it is BIG Island Hawaii) and petrol.

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  2. I’m excited to be following in your footsteps and visiting Hawaii (the state) in November/December. It’ll be my 50th US state!

    My trip includes seven days on Hawaii (the island), so I’m going to be watching your blog very closely to help me decide what to do while I’m there, Lesley!

    Have fun!

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  3. The town of Kona is my absolute favorite place on earth. I plan to spend a month or so there next year. It is not the sites so much as the vibe that draws me back there. When I was about to leave my job to give myself some freedom to do all the things that I had on my list, Kona was always the place that called me.

    Have fun on the big island and stop in Kona along with all your other adventures.

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  4. You will love it! My husband and I went for our 10yr anniversary in 1999 and stayed at the Hilton Waikaloa as well. We spent the majority of our time on Oahu – only two days on the big island, but we hit a lot of the items on your list by taking a bus tour of the island. The turtles on the black sand beaches of Punaluu were my favorite. Have a great time!

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  5. The beaches at night are to die for. Curled up on the sand listening to the surf, the air warm and sultry. Coming from Alaska, we couldn’t get enough of this. Hope you have a great trip (though I know you will). Can’t wait to hear about it, and see the pics. P.S. When are you coming up to Alaska?

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  6. Been to Hawaii three times but never the Big Island.Loved so much in Kauai saw a very rare seal, learned to scuba, took a helicopter tour, visited botanical gardens, went to a wonderful luau, snorkeled, visited Maui and O’ahu, too, Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial which were very moving. But one day I will esp remember, all the gang wanted to hit a bar and stay there (are you kidding me we’re in Haawaii, we have bars in Boston!) so I split and walked off the resort and came upon a road worker who would take is break go off into the woods and work on a rock trying to carve a face out of it. I enjoyed that little encounter a great deal because it was a) off the beaten path and b) very real, raw art. Hope you find a lot of little moments between your big adventures! I’d go back in a heartbeat and would love to visit some of the smaller islands. Read some history about Hawaii before you go if you are not familiar. It’s a fascinating tale.

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  7. Now you’re in my neck of the woods. I didn’t see lava walking on your list. It’s a 5-6 mile hike over hardened lava fields to see actual lava flows, but go with a guide. Or take a boat tour to see lava pouring off the cliffs. That will be one unforgettable experience. I see you’re taking a helicopter tour, so that’s a great way to see the lava, too. I think you’ll need more than one trip. The Big Island is awesome. Oh, and don’t forget to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where you can tread Devastation Trail, walk through an actual lava tube and fern forest, and hike across the bottom of a volcanic caldera, with steam vents along the way. All this is such a long way from where you’re staying, unfortunately. Booking a B&B in the village of Volcano, or even a hotel in Hilo is the way to go for a few nights at least. Oh, one more thing: Must see: Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (city of refuge) south of Kailua-Kona. It’s a great place for Hawaiian history and culture, plus great snorkeling nearby.

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    • I think we may see some lava from the helicopter but our trip has completely filled up. I think I could visit Hawaii a thousand times and still have more and more to do and see. Hopefully, we’ll make it a regular family vacation spot 🙂

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  8. Love, love, love the Hilton! The place has stayed on my mind and in my heart since we stayed there 3 years. I ache to go back! Dolphin Quest is great too! Have a GREAT time! I hope you love it as much as I did. Post some pictures 😉 Cant wait to here what you think!

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      • My kids swam the dolphins and loved it. We really enjoyed the dolphin show each day. Quite honestly, my favorite activity was waking up very early and grabbing a coconut flavored Kona coffee from the little shack and watching the whales swim from the area by big Buddha. Whales probably aren’t there now. The ritual of lighting the tiki torches was really neat. We also went zip lining but I can’t remember where. We did a catamaran snorkeling trip that was fun as well. Honestly, the resort was so amazing that we loved just hanging out there. I am excited for you!

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  9. If you want a suggestion for surf lessons, let me know. The Kona Inn restaurant is great for food. Wander 3 stores down and you can see where I retail my prints. 🙂 Krazy About Kona. All local artists.
    That’s a lot for 6 days so, anything else might just be too much. Better to enjoy vs rushing around.
    Do Paradises doors off tour if possible. Hawaii Volcanoes Nat Park is a day in its self. Of course I know the lava flows old and current very well.
    Have fun……

    Contact me directly if you want to know more.

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  10. We’ve stayed at that Hilton a couple times. You’ll love it! We also drove up to Waimea which reminded me of California. It’s at a higher altitude (5,000 feet above sea level) and isn’t as typically Hawaiian. We happened to see HUGE rainbow there. And we had dinner. I made my husband stop on the way back. The sun was setting and everything was pink. I took photos of the trees and the yellow grass that was painted all pink by the sunset. I’ll try to remember to post a painting I did of one of those photos on my blog tomorrow. Also, on this drive, the road leads through old lava flows. That part of the road is barren and beautiful in that part.

    You’re going to have a BLAST. I love the Big Island.

    Thanks for your like today!

    Nia

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  11. Bon Voyage. Your photos are wonderful, and your discriptions make me feel like I’m there with you. Have a great time in Hawaii, take loads of photos, and post them for those of us who are unable to travel.

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  12. I’m going to Hawaii for the first time in a few weeks so I’m really glad I saw this post! Haven’t made my “Hawaii Bucket List” yet but I’ll definitely be copying some of yours 🙂 Thanks for the post!

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  13. I love my father, but I have to say, that I had never had a relaxing vacation until I went on one without him. He always had a list of things we had to do and see and we never really relaxed and “vacationed”. The first time I had a relaxing vacation I was in Hawaii without my family. We slept in and we did a lot of things but in a relaxed way. We took in the “Island Time”. My suggestion is to relax and enjoy the beauty more than all of the “touristy” things. 🙂

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  14. You are going to have such a blast! BTW, so glad you are giving SNUBA another go! You can do it!! Oh, and I know a lot of the pilots from Paradise Helicopters – many of them are reserve pilots – so you’re definitely in good hands there! Enjoy!!!

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  15. Oh, before I forget, have you tried stand-up paddle boarding? I actually like it even more than surfing and you can do it whether or not you’ve got waves {actually, no waves makes for better SUPB}.

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  16. I am truly jealous – my family and I travelled and stayed on Ohau and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has been one of the most amazing places I have ever been and would love to go to again. Better get the e-mail sent to you. Have a great trip. Janice 🙂

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  17. I have been to Hawaii many times and my suggestion would be to slow down and not try to do to much. You will miss the very essence of the islands if you become a frantic tourist. My best times were going to local non tourist places and enjoying the local scenes. Walking across the lava flow was one of my most memorable events from the big island. Take the time to eat where the locals gather. You will learn more there then at any arranged tourist trip. Ask the locals questions when you get there. They will give you great suggestions for litte known activities. Hawaii is super expensive so be prepared for a shock. Everything is costly. Have fun..

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  18. A friend of mine used to visit Hawaii a lot when she worked on cruise ships. She said it is amazing, the one place in the world she would like to live the most. I’m very jealous, have a fab time 🙂

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  19. You will love it. We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa twice and ended up buying a time share there but use the timeshare for other trips now. The Hilton is very nice, but the restaurants are very pricy. There are other options within a short drive. The first time there we drove over 700 miles, went whale watching (winter trip), snorkeling, hiked over to the lava flow, very hot on the feet, walked through lava tunnels, went to all but one of the climate zones and visited all of the parks. The only think I didn’t do on either trip was to rent a jeep and go to the top of the mountain, but would recommend it. I loved the big island and as you can see, can’t sit still. I will be looking forward to hearing about your trip.

    07Viajers from A Boomer’s Travels

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  20. So envious, the Big Island is one of my most favorite places! Seeing the lava at night was an incredible experience, but now you’ll have something to come back for. I stayed at the Four Seasons in Kona, which was unbelievable. But when asking the concierge about a luau and dolphins I detected a whiff of condescension (too lowbrow for FS, lol). So I did my own research and we actually snuck offsite (yes, it felt that way!) to hit the one at the Hilton. We loved the luau, really fun. Personally, the dolphin encounter was not for me– it was a quick photo op with a dolphin, no swimming involved. The hotel did look like a lot of fun though. Also loved the way the island changes terrain (and temperature) when driving the perimeter. So many places are tourist free, you really feel like you’re off the grid at times. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time, can’t wait to read the posts!

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  21. Did you get to see the sea turtles at the Punaluu black sand beach? That was my favorite part of our trip. We stayed in a condo within walking distance of the beach. My more adventurous spouse hiked out to an active lava flow and drove up Mauna Loa. We loved the laid-back, uncrowded southern part of the Big Island.

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