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The Big Island of Hawaii

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The Big Island of Hawaii
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The Big Island of Hawaii

My son Miles and I live in the Pacific Northwest where winters are cool, wet and seemingly unending. With a little research I discovered that Hawaii’s Big Island would offer us the sun and warmth we craved, as well as some exciting recreation, for our Overlooking Waipio Valley – Valley  of the Kings,a place of beauty and inspiration.March spring break vacation.

The island of Hawaii, called the Big Island, is five times the size of the next largest island of Maui, yet contains only 13% of the state’s population. Rather than ritzy resorts, high rises and packed beaches, the Big Island is better characterized by its rural character and unhurried pace. It’s a great place to go if you seek adventure mixed with ample doses of peace and quiet.

Being a budget-conscious single mother as well as an outdoors enthusiast, we decided to camp out for the majority of our trip. I had never really heard of anyone camping in Hawaii, but how hard could it be? Turns out that camping in Hawaii is fairly easy and definitely worthwhile – so long as you plan ahead and know where to go.

Like most vacationers, we flew into Hawaii’s tiny Kailua-Kona International Airport on the dry side of the island. After getting our rental car, we drove 10 minutes south into Kailua-Kona to grab groceries, ice, and propane. We then turned north again and headed to Hapuna Beach State Park about 35 minutes from Kailua on the South Kohala Coast.

Hapuna Beach State Park maintains six primitive A-frame cabins for an unbeatable price of $20 a night. Each cabin faces west providing outstanding ocean views. The cabins have sleeping space for four (long wooden benches – bring your sleeping bags and pads) as well as an indoor picnic table and electric lights. Full bathroom and kitchen facilities are located a few yards away.Mauna Kea Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach was an excellent base for exploring the South Kohala Coast and the Big Island’s finest beaches. Since Miles was only five, we sought beaches with gentle surf.

Our favorite was Mauna Kea Beach. In Hawaii, all beaches are public property, although some entrances are privately owned. At Mauna Kea, we drove to the resort entrance, declared that we’d only be visiting for the day, and the attendant kindly gave us a parking pass and wished us an enjoyable visit.

Mauna Kea Beach large and roomy –making it easy to escape the small crowd huddled down at the resort end of the beach. The setting is also spectacular: smooth white sand, clear turquoise water and several trees for shade should you tire of the sun. (The Mauna Kea Resort has been closed due to earthquake damage, the beach is open.)

Sorry to leave the South Kohala area (four nights at Hapuna Beach State Park would be perfect), we next ventured an hour east over the mountains to the Hamakua Coast. We were now on the wet side of the island and the change was dramatic: instead of barren lava and dry grass, we found the landscape lush and green.

Soon Miles and I arrivClimbing about the lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.ed at Kalopa Recreation Area to find we had the pretty campground all to ourselves. After quickly setting up our tent, we explored the grounds to find a 3/4-mile native forest trail dominated by ohia trees and towering tree ferns. We also peeked at the accommodations – six large cabins perfect for large families or group gatherings.

The next morning Miles and I took a short drive over to the Waipi’o Valley. Known as the Valley of the Kings, Waipi’o is considered a sacred valley and birthplace of Hawaiian civilization. The valley, one mile wide at the coast and six miles deep, plummets more than 2000 feet from its surrounding cliffs. The sheer cliffs and abundant rainfall have given rise to a lush, verdant valley rimmed with numerous waterfalls. On our hike down we saw taro patches, tropical fruit tree orchards, and tame, wild horses that were very interested in our peanut butter sandwiches. It took about an hour to hike all the way down to the black sand beach. Soon after our arrival the sky darkened, heavy winds kicked up and enormous waves pounded the shore.

It was that afternoon that the wet side of the island lived up to its name. By the time Miles and I hiked all the waKilauea’s eruptions of molten lava make their way down the slopes to the ocean, crossing roads always adding to the Big Island.y out of Waipi’o Valley and back to our car we were soaked, though exhilarated from the adventure. The elation passed however when we returned to our campsite to discover that I’d left the tent flaps open. After packing up our very soggy tent Miles asked, “Can we go back to the dry side now, Mom?”

Agreeing with my son that sun was preferable to rain, we left the Hamakua Coast, drove southeast around the island – stopping briefly at a laundromat in Hilo to dry our soggy gear – and reached Hawaii Volcanoes National Park two days ahead of schedule. The friendly kiosk attendant informed us that Kulanaokuaiki Campground tended to be a bit drier than the closer, more popular campground. Without hesitation, we headed for Kulanaokuaiki, with our fingers crossed for sun.

We were not disappointed. Not only did it stop raining once we reached Kulanaokuaiki, but the peaceful campground had beautiful scenery including Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive volcano, as a backdrop. It also ended up being the more centrally located of the two campgrounds for exploring the park.



 

Where are Tricia and Marla?


Tricia and Marla climbed these steps to this magnificent temple. Where are Tricia and Marla?
Click here to find out. 

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