Big Island adventures in Hawaii, on land and in the sea

Outdoor excursions range from below the waves to above the clouds on Hawaii Island. Photo: SteveD, via flickr

HALF MOON BAY, Calif., March 28, 2013 — Hawaii, the Big Island, may be about relaxation, sun and surf, but it’s also about adventure. After your beach lounging is over, consider a few ways to get to know the island better.

Get up close to the gentle giants of the Hawaiian coast on a snorkel or dive trip just off the Kona coast. The Manta Night Dive offered by Jack’s Diving Locker in Kailua-Kona allows curious onlookers to watch manta rays as they feed on plankton, attracted to lights set both underwater and on the dive boat.

If you’re not a certified diver, don’t think you’re going to miss the show. While the front-row seat on the sea floor is perfect for watching the aqua ballet of mantas, snorkelers get an eyeful as well. The ray show is so mesmerizing that it’s hard to want to leave the water at the end of the trip. Just think, you can always go back tomorrow.

Lava fields abound in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (Photo: docoverachiever, via flickr)

Lava fields abound in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. (Photo: docoverachiever, via flickr)

By the next day, you’ll have the water out of your ears and will be ready to venture into Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Stretching from the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet to sea level, the park displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, and was created to preserve the natural setting of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the island’s volcanoes. The park also protects a wide diversity of ecosystems and habitat for native Hawaiian species, such as happy face spiders and colorful Hawaiian honeycreepers. 

Get the best out of your visit with an adventure tour led by Warren Costa of Native Guide Hawaii. Born and raised on Hawaii Island, Costa’s background as a naturalist, ranger on Mauna Kea and lava guide is far better than carrying a brochure in your pocket. With Costa, I explored lava tubes and steam vents, spotted native birds, and hiked across ancient and not-so-ancient lava fields.

After the sunset on Mauna Kea, stargazers break out the telescopes. (Photo: skyseeker, via Flickr)

After the sunset on Mauna Kea, stargazers break out the telescopes. (Photo: skyseeker, via Flickr)

Later, head up to the Visitor Information Station at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy on Mauna Kea. The station sits high on the volcano, at 9,200 feet. But there are few places better able to catch a star show when the sun disappears beyond the Pacific Ocean. Free stargazing programs are held here every night, and telescopes are set out on the lanai for you to get a closer view. Grab some hot chocolate, have a seat, and watch the stars move across the night sky before heading back down to your hotel and a Mai Tai by the shore before turning in for the night. 

Where to stay

During my trip to Hawaii Island, I stayed the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay. This resort hotel is set right on the waterfront (at night, manta rays sometimes visit near on-property restaurant Rays on the Bay), and the lush landscaping and swimming pools that wind through the open interior transport you instantly to island style. Families will find plenty to do here, but remember, there’s an entire island to explore. Rates start at $189 and vary, depending on time or year and type of room.

Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.


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Jill K. Robinson

An award-winning journalist and adventure seeker, Jill K. Robinson has been a columnist with The Washington Times, Communities section since 2011.

Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, American Way, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Robb Report, Westways, Journey, Let's Go with Ryanair, World Hum, Gadling, Lonely Planet and more. She lives in a small California beach town near the big wave surf spot, Mavericks, and divides her time between writing about travel, running a kayak business and trying to wring awe-inspiring adventure out of every day.

Always eager to take a leap into the unknown and experience new things, Jill shares adventure sport and travel highlights—even when the adventure isn’t adrenaline pumping or bone crushing. Adventure is sometimes only a state of mind.

Find Jill on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr 

Contact Jill K. Robinson

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