Big and Beautiful Hawaii’s Big Island
I’m standing no more than a kilometre from the spewing red lava of fiery Mt Kilauea. Plumes of smoke puff high into the air, wafting out to sea in a whirl of ash. My feet are warm, heat seeping through my shoes up from the solidified black lava baked by the sun.
The lava here looks like twisted rope while other parts are set in their ooze, much like a cow pat.
The cow pats are one of the biggest drawcards to Hawaii’s Big Island. If you’re after a Christmas getaway, the festive season is one of the most popular times for Expedia’s Aussie travellers and a few days on the Big Island is all you need to tick a few things off the Bucket List, ie up-close volcano viewing.
I’ve traipsed about a kilometre over this incredible terrain to this viewing spot. The hike from the car park requires sensible walking shoes and a bottle of water. The viewing site shifts depending on the wind – the fumes can be toxic. Park rangers are on hand to advise you of where to park and view on any given day.
There aren’t many places on the planet where tourists can wander up to the core of the earth, fly over it in a helicopter or even take a boat to watch it sizzle madly into the sea. Watching crimson and orange rocks shooting into the clouds of smoke is mesmerising. It’s a daytime firework show.
“Kilauea” translates to “spewing” in Hawaiian. It’s very apt because the mountain has been constantly erupting for the last 30 years. In that time it’s resurfaced 123sq kilometres of land. The Big Island keeps getting bigger.
But this is only one drawcard to a beautiful island, which is a microcosm of the earth’s climate. You’ll find lush tropical rainforests with waterfalls which will make you stop and stand in awe, snow-topped mountains and black sand beaches – don’t forget the coffee plantations.
The famous Kona coffee is only grown here but you’ll find it for sale all over the world. It gets its accolades because the high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil create an ideal environment for growing coffee beans.
There are hundreds of coffee farms on the Big Island and if you’re a connoisseur you can pop in and do some tastings. If you’re not, just choose one with a veranda and a great view and drink the whole cup!
There’s so much to see and do on the Big Island I’d recommend hiring a car. It’s very easy to get around. Tip: Rent a car before you arrive as they go quickly and you don’t want to be stuck waiting for one to be returned.
If you plan on visiting the volcano, you need to be staying in Hilo as tours like the Kilauea Volcano and Sunset Lava Walk go before dawn and just on dusk to get the full effect. It’s about 30 km to the mountain from here.
Expedia travellers like to fly into one airport and out of the other. If you arrive at Hilo you’d only need a couple of days to explore this little town and visit the volcano, then drive around the island to Kona where the white sand beaches, most of the hotels, resorts and coffee plantations are located. Then fly out of Kona back to Honolulu.
A few fun things to do on the Big Island:
If you’re after a cultural show, there are several luau’s on the island. We love the Sunset dinner and performance at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
For helicopter views of the mighty Mt Kilauea, take the 50-minute Circle of Fire tour over miles of rainforest and waterfalls to the volcano and back to Hilo Airport.
Or join Doors-Off Helicopter Tours for a similar experience.
We also like the zip-line rides, mountain biking, swimming and snorkelling tours. There’s never a shortage of activities on Hawaii’s incredible Big Island.
For more ideas on where to go, check out the Expedia Big Island Travel Guide.
Images by Hawaii Tourism Authority, Tor Johnson and the Big Island Visitor’s Authority.