Take the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail
Puu Loa meant 'Long Hill', and the Hawaiians interpreted it to mean 'Long Life.’ So for countless generations, fathers came to Puu Loa and placed their newborn’s umbilical cord in small holes scattered about the site, hoping for a long life for their children. Stand quietly here, and listen to the loud silence, and feel the mana of this still very spiritual area.
The Puu Loa Petroglyphs, located off the Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are also worth viewing. Petroglyphs were carved into lava rock: circles, human figures and turtles. The trek to the petroglyphs takes about an hour.
Get up-to-date information on the Volcanoes National Park page for this hike here.
Photo Credit: National Park Service
Hike Across the Kilauea Iki Crater
The walking path leads you through the tropical jungle with tree ferns, wild impatiens and birds. The trail follows the crater's edge before eventually descending into it. Kilauea Iki crater, the "little Kilauea" crater, is not an active volcano at the moment. From the many trails that you can hike in the Volcano National Park, the Kilauea Iki is a must.
This loop of 4 miles takes about two hours and leads through jungle-like vegetation as well as across black lava. The trail can be described as medium heavy, and medium heavy only indicates that you have to descend 300 feet down to the bottom of the crater and ascend again, and the temperature can be around 90 degrees or higher already on a normal day.
The trail itself is short, has no difficult passages for average people and the bottom of the crater is rather flat.
This 4-mile loop takes about two hours and leads through jungle-like vegetation and across black lava. Because of the 300 foot crater descent (and ascent), the trail can be described as medium heavy. Temperature can be around 90 degrees or higher already on a normal day. It takes an hour and a half to do the entire walk.
Learn more and see up-to-date information on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Day Hikes page.
Photo Credit: National Parks Service
Walk through the Thurston Lava Tube
Get a close-up look at a Hawaiian rainforest and the Thurston Lava Tube. Also called Nahuku, it is located in the rain forest ecological zone. A visit here consists of a short walk down a paved trail as it descends into a pit crater (covered with vegetation). The trail then goes through a short section of a lava tube, before looping back to the starting point.
You'll see the general structure of a Hawaiian rain forest here and become reminded of the evolutionary importance of the underground ecosystems.
The tube is named for Lorrin Thurston, a newspaper publisher that played an instrumental role in creating the park. Thurston lava tube is also called by its Hawaiian name, Nahuku, which refers to the small protuberances on the walls of the tube.
Photo credit: National Parks Service
It's an easy, lighted underground stroll on a smooth floor. The flora at the cave entrance seems especially lush when you look at it from the darkness of the cave.
To get there:
The Crater Rim Road takes you to this site. This is a popular visitor stop and the small parking lot is often crowded with cars and buses
Stroll among giant banyan trees, some of which were planted by famous people. Banyan Drive outlines a small peninsula that juts north into Hilo Bay. This drive is lined with immense Banyan trees that were planted by dignitaries and celebrities such as Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth and Richard Nixon.
A 15 minute stroll along Banyan Drive will take you to Lili'uokalani Gardens. Hilo began planting these massive trees in the 1930's. Now, their large aerial roots and leafy canopies line the entire street making it both unique and beautiful.
To get there:
Take Highway 11 to Hilo from Pineapple Park East. When you come to the intersection at the bay, straight ahead is Banyan Drive.
Hilo Farmers Market
The Hilo Farmers Market is a must-have experience when you’re on the Big Island. Stop at the Hilo Farmers Market for your fruits, crafts, flowers and gifts. Over 100 local farmers and crafters sell their produce, crafts, gift items and tropical flowers in a festive outdoor atmosphere that is reminiscent of the old "plantation" days of early Hilo.
Located at the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in historic downtown Hilo, it's open year-round, every Wednesday and Saturday, from dawn til' it's gone.
To get there:
Head North on Hwy.11 (Kanoelehua Ave).Turn left on Hwy 19 (Kamehameha Ave.) This will take you into Historic Downtown Hilo
The Hilo Farmers Market will be on your left at the corner of Mamo and Kamehameha Ave.
Parking is available at Mo'oheau Park or on all the streets, it's FREE! of Mamo and Kamehameha Ave.
Photo Credit: State of Hawaii, Agricultural Development Division
This Japanese-influenced landscape near the sea features tranquil settings, views of the bay and pathways winding over half moon bridges. Queen Liliuokalani's gardens are 3/4 mile from Hilo airport Hostel and Hotel and make for a nice morning walk. Covering 18 acres on Hilo's scenic Banyan Drive waterfront, the gardens are testament to the Queen's love of Hawaii and the finest park in the Islands. You may see a mongoose scamper across the lawn or tiny black crabs scurry and hide between rocks in the waterways as you pass. Take the footpath that goes to Coconut Island for more beach views and a restroom.
Lili'uokalani Gardens are on the west side of the peninsula. These serene Japanese gardens feature tranquil settings, views of the bay and pathways winding over half moon bridges. You may see a mongoose scamper across the lawn or tiny black crabs scurry and hide between rocks in the waterways as you pass.
Take the footpath that goes to Coconut Island for more beach views and a restroom.
To get there:
Take Highway 11 to Hilo from Pineapple Park East. When you come to the intersection at the bay, straight ahead is Banyan Drive. Park and walk along the giant trees to Lili'uokalani Gardens.
Photo Credit: "LiliParkHilo" by AlaskaDave - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Naha and Pinao Stones
Legend says that only chiefs of Naha blood are able to move it, and when Kamehameha overturned the stone, it proved he would be Hawaii's greatest king. While the Pinao Stone was just a pillar at the Pinao Temple, the Naha Stone tested the fitness of Hawaii's ali`i.
The Naha and Pinao Stones stand in front of the Hawaii County Library.
To get there:
Take Highway 11 south. Do not turn onto the winding Napoopoo Road (also called Hwy. 160) but continue about 6 miles and turn right on Highway 160 which leads to the beach. Turn left at the sign for Place of Refuge National Historical Park.
Photo Credit: "Naha Stone, Hilo" by W Nowicki - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Pleasant self-guided walk through lush tropical vegetation to scenic vista points overlooking the cascading Kahuna Falls and the free-falling ‘Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge.
"The 0.4-mile loop footpath requires some physical exertion. (65.4 acres)." State Parks Trail Webpage
To Get There:
End of ‘Akaka Falls Road (Highway 220), 3.6 miles southwest of Honomu.
Rainbow Falls in Wailuku River State Park
The Rainbow Falls are named for the beautiful rainbows frequently seen in the waterfall’s mist, especially in the early morning. The Wailuku River runs near Hilo and plunges 80 feet down a cliff into the deep pool beneath, creating rainbows in the sun and mist.
Rainbows can only be seen in the morning when the sun is behind you, but it's a beautiful spot anytime. Take the path up to a higher vantage point near the top of the falls. Sometimes Rainbow Falls is a triple falls.
To get there:
Take Highway 11 from Pineapple Park/Hilo into Hilo. Turn left at the bay on Kamehameha. Drive along the waterfront and turn left on Waianuenue Avenue. Take the right fork after the 1 mile marker and follow the signs to Rainbow Falls. A mile further up the road take Pe'epe'e Falls Street to Pe'epe'e Fall and Boiling Pots.
St. Benedict’s Catholic Church—aka “Painted Church”
In 1904, Father John Velge covered the interior of this quaint little church with religious murals to relate biblical stories to native Hawaiians. These trompe-d'oeil paintings are distinct and unforgettable, from the striped columns to the florid ceiling imbued with shades of aquamarine and red. The church itself is surrounded by a small graveyard spotted with leis, statues, and exotic flowers. It is well worth the visit to this beautiful and secluded church, a miniature Hawaiian version of the Sistine Chapel.
Photo Credit: "St Benedict's Painted Church - Exterior (89964720)" by Steve Cadman from London, U.K. - St Benedict's Painted Church - Exterior. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
City of Refuge
Learn about Hawaii's past Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. It is a beautiful beachside park that preserves aspects of Hawaiian history. Admission is $5 for parking.
Park rangers will give you a map of a self-guided tour of interesting spots. You will see recreated thatched temples and dwellings, a royal fish holding pond and a boathouse where you may watch a Hawaiian in traditional garb carve a Koa canoe. Play the ancient game of Konane, with black and white pebbles on a special lava playing surface.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Kahalu'u Beach Park is a great place to snorkel and surf. It's easily accessible and full of sea life. The south end of the bay is fairly shallow and protected from ocean currents by an ancient breakwater. Green sea turtles chew away on the sea bottom, occasionally surfacing for air. Walk just north of the park and visit the historic St. Peter's Catholic Church (“Painted Church”), the Little Blue Church, and Ku'emanu Heiau—the surfer temple. In ancient times, only chiefs were allowed to surf. Here, chiefs would pray and make offerings to ensure good waves.
Snorkel Captain Cook Monument
Kayak among dolphins as you cross Kealakekua Bay, to the village site where Captain Cook was mistaken for the Hawaiian god, Lono. Cook Monument is a premier snorkeling site. You can also get there by horse, or hike a steep and difficult trail 2 1/2 hours. For $40, you can rent a double kayak from Pineapple Park's grass shack in front of the hotel. It's about a 30 minute paddle to the Cook Monument. Tow your kayak behind you as you snorkel with your mask and fins.
Important Note: Do not land your kayak on the shoreline near the monument. This is allowed by permit only.
Swim with Dolphins
Swimming with dolphins changes you. You can swim with spinner dolphins in the Kealakekua Bay or in the Honaunau Bay. The dolphin's world is one of flow and grace, community, and communication. Experience the sonic ray of dolphins’ sonar, as it resonates through your body and reveal multi-dimensional realities full of transformation and healing. Dolphins are safe, gentle, profound and joyful beings.
Important Reminder: Hawaiian Spinner dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That means you cannot pursue, harass, touch, or get within 100 feet of them. Please help these amazing creatures rest and feel safe.