72 Hours on Big Island, Hawaii
Living on Oahu makes island hopping fairly easy; however, if you're visiting the Hawaiian islands and are thinking of visiting Big Island, here are some of my must-do suggestions and tips to consider while you're there.
My best friend and I decided to go to Big Island super last minute; all we wanted to make sure we had was a rent-a-car before we arrived. Renting a car is 100% necessary if you're wanting to explore the island at all. Big Island lives up to it's name because it's actually a massive island (at least compared to Oahu). We rented our car through craigslist because neither one of us are old enough to do it at the airport. We ended up camping in our mini van for three days. Two girls sleeping in the back of a mini van seems a little sketchy, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it here. Big Island, for the most part, is very safe, especially for young travelers. It was an absolutely perfect trip.
We drove around the entire island within the 3 days of being there. There is so much to see on Hawaii; you really need a lot of time to do it all. If you only have 72 hours, like we did, here are my top 7 things to do during your stay.
1. White Road Hike near Waimea
After crossing two gates and walking through some of the most scenic views of my life, we found a natural water slide, tucked away in these tall, luscious mountains. The water is freezing but the water slide is so much fun. The slide is covered in moss so it shouldn't cut you, unless you're like me and are very clumsy. This was probably one of the best hikes I've ever done and I would recommend going, even if it's out of your way. Just remember to not leave anything behind when you go.
2. See the island by helicopter
See the entire island in a fraction of the time by helicopter. You can only get close up views of Mauna Loa, the active volcano, from the air. You cannot go wrong by going on a flight because you will see so much more from the air, plus, helicopters are so much fun. We did our tour with Paradise Helicopters. Their tours start out at about $299, but you can always keep an eye out for discounts on Groupon or on hawaiidiscount.com. No matter how much you spend, I guarantee it will be worth it. They are a fantastic, local company and have two convenient locations on Hawaii too: one in Hilo and one in Kona. I couldn't recommend a better activity.
3. Watch the sunset at 13,000 feet
This was probably the best thing we did on Hawaii. Mauna Kea is extremely beautiful and is a great activity to do while you're on the island. It is only about a two hour drive away from Kona and an hour and a half drive from Hilo. You can drive half way up the mountain with any vehicle, however, you need an off-road vehicle to go to the top. We had a mini van so we were super bummed that we could not go to the top, but we ended up getting in the back of someone's Jeep and went to the top. If you are wondering wether or not to go to the top, I would definitely say it's worth going. The telescopes are so interesting to see and at the top, you can touch snow (depending on the time of year you go).
I thought it was so cool that we could be at the beach earlier that morning and later in the evening be touching snow. Being from Colorado, I was obsessed with the fact that I was touching snow in Hawaii. The altitude will get you; I ran up the mountain to touch the snow and it only took two seconds to completely take my breath away.
After you watch a killer sunset, go down to the gift shop half way up the mountain to stare at the stars. They have telescopes you can look through and they will point out different planets and stars. It's also freezing up top so bring lots of jackets and blankets. There is also hot cocoa in the gift shop, which was really nice to have after the sun went down.
P.S. when you're driving up to Mauna Kea, coming from Hilo side, you'll see signs for these underground caves. It was a random discovery, but we pulled over and checked them out. I recommend stopping at all the places you want in that scenic route. The entire drive is spectacular.
4. Driving to South Point
Although South Point is about a three and a half hour drive from Kona, it is still a nice spot to check out. It is an absolutely beautiful coastal sight and it's known for cliff jumping. It's about a 40ft jump into the bluest water I've ever seen. Once you're in the water, you'll notice several sea caves; bring goggles with you when you jump. Getting back up on that sketchy ladder is something you need to consider before you jump, but it really isn't that bad. The ladder looks a lot more intimidating then it actually is.
South Point is also only a 15 minute drive from the Green Sand Beach. To go to the beach, you either need to pay $15 to have someone take you to the beach, have your own off-road vehicle, or need to hike it. It's a pretty long hike, so I'd recommend driving. We actually hitched hiked to Green Sand Beach because neither of us had cash, but we got picked up by these two ladies probably in their 50's, who also planned a girl's trip. They were so awesome and we actually still keep in touch; they were like the older versions of Julia and I.
If you make it to the beach, DO NOT TAKE THE SAND HOME WITH YOU. Leave it there so it will still be there when you return.
6. Go to Uncle Robert's Night Market in Kalapana
At the very end of the road in Kalapana, they put up a night market with tons of food, music, and art. If you are near Hilo or Volcano on a Wednesday night, I recommend the drive down. It is located at the South end of Kalapana-Kapoho Road in Kaimu. It is in the evening, however, I recommend going early to get good parking and to watch the sunset from the black sand beach.
7. Grab a beer at Kona Brewing Company
The original Kona Brewing Company is located in Kona. Grab a drink after a long day, with new beer on tap that they sample out. The best part about Kona Brewing is that everything is Hawaii based and brewed locally.
Big Island is probably my favorite island to visit because there are so many things to see. I love how different Hawaii is from the rest of the Hawaiian islands. I hope when you visit, you do as much exploring as possible. Hawaii has many hidden gems all over, you just have to find them.