Finally on Vacation
Mauna Kea Sunrise
Hawaii Big Island despite COVID
16-day Hawaii Big Island despite COVID: turtles, coral reefs, crystal clear water, sunbeds, Hawaiian history and 9 climate zones.
We have seen a lot of the island; we particularly liked the Hapuna Beach and the beach at Maunakea Hotel Resort. Both are great for snorkeling. Other highlights were AKAKA Falls and Rainbow Falls in Hilo, as well as Volcanic National Park and the sunset at MAUNA KEA.
Things to do / see
- Akaka Falls
- Rainbow Falls
- Hawaii Route 200 – Scenic Route
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
- Hilo Farmers Market
- Honoli’i Beach Park
- Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
- Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
- Lyman House Memorial Museum
- Nani Mau Gardens
- Pacific Tsunami Museum
- Richardson Beach Park
- Carlsmith Beach Park
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
- Puuhonua-o-Honaunau National Historical Park
- Kanaloa Octopus Farm
- Hulihee Palace
- Ocean Rider Seahorse Tour
- Visit Volcanoes National Park
- Sunset at Mauna Kea
- Go horseback riding in Waipi’o Valley
- Take a Helicopter Tour
- Go Snorkeling ( may with Manta Rays or at Kealakekua Bay – Captain Cook Monument)
- Delphine ore Whale Tour
- Coffee Tour
- Enjoy a Luau – traditional Hawaiian feast/show
- try surfing
Black Sand Beaches
- Pololu Valley Beach, one of the Big Island’s most scenic beaches is on the North …
- Kehena Beach, in der Puna Region
- Kaimu Beach
- Waipio Valley Beach, just one mile walk from Waipio Valley overlook …
- Pohoikiki Beach – Isaac Hale Beach Park, created by the 2018 eruption
- Kehena Beach – nudist beach
- Richardson Beach Park, small city beach with black green lava sand in Hilo.
- Carlsmith Beach Park, Hilo
In the vicinity of Klioa-Kona there are also some “city beaches”, all of which are very popular. We like it a little quieter therefore we have only seen most while passing by. The Magic Sand beach is called this because the sand is sometimes swallowed by the sea and then washed up again (mainly in Winter).
A great beach for snorkeling is also the Kealakekua Bay, at the Captain Cook Monument, which can only be reached by kayak (permission) or by hiking.
Manini’owali beach in the north of Kona can be reached after walking 10 feet over lava. There is no shade therefore do not forget a sufficient amount of water and sunscreen.
Two Step Honaunau Bay located at State Park, is particularly popular, there is no sand only lava rock on which you can make yourself comfortable for sunbathing.
Waikola Beach is named as one of the best snorkeling beach in south Koleha. But we think that Hapuna Beach is the better snorkeling spot (on the far-right side) based on visibility, amount, variety of fish, and the amount of green sea turtles you will see. A great beach for every beach activity.
Kahalu’u Beach Park, like all beach parks, offers showers, picnic tables, toilets, as well as some shady pavilions.
King Kam Beach, (Kamakahonau) Family beach with calm water which is the most beautiful early in the morning.
The beach in Waipuna is a mix of lava rock, sand, and it is very spacious.
One of the, if not the most beautiful sandy beach is Hapuna Beach, is located in the state park of the same name. Here you can snorkel, Jump into the water, build sandcastles, surf and enjoy sunsets.
Departure and arrival at Hawaii Mauna Kea Hotel Resort
72 hours before our flight, we had to get tested for Covid (NAAT Test). We did the test with Carbon Health and received our negative results within 24 hours. With the downloaded PDF, we had to register on the Hawaii Travel Safe Website. 24 hours before departure we received a message to fill out a questionnaire, which we did.
With packed suitcases we left our house on March 5th to head to the airport. The check-in and the flight went smoothly. We landed on Big Island just at sunset. After we had passed the second Covid test, we picked up our rental car at Alamo (we picked up a yellow Jeep (4 door) instead of the ordered 2 Door model – I guess they only have 4 door Jeeps) and arrived at the hotel at about 8:30 pm. Since most restaurants closes at 9 pm, we could only go to the Copper Bar at Mauna Kea Hotel Resort (the french fries were awesome – the burger not so much).
The following days we spent on the beach and enjoyed wonderful sunsets from our balcony. We hiked a part of the Ala Kahakai Trail – which follows the coastline – and runs directly past the hotel 😊.
Trips to Waimea Valley and Waipio Valley
Since it was rainy on the third day, we decided to make a trip to the PU’PU’UKOHOLA HEIAU. The Heiau is a 20-foot-high Lava Temple which was built in 1790/91 by King Kamehameha to support his prophecy – to unite and lead all Hawaiian Islands. The temple was destroyed but has been largely rebuilt. An audio guide, which you can get, explains the story. The Spencer Beach Park next to it was unfortunately closed. Back in the car, our Gipsy Audio Guide takes us north to Hawaii, where we enjoyed a Shaved ice cream and admired the statue of King Kamehameha. Next, we went to the Pololū Valley Viewpoint and the return route led through Waimea Valley – Cattle Farm and Cowboy Land which are called Paniolos in Hawaii. In Waimea we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Moa Kitchen with a beautiful sunset.
This was followed by another beach day with snorkeling and manta rays in the evening.
Another rainy day took us to Waipio Valley also to the north. When we arrived, we booked a horseback ride through the valley spontaneously and had a lot of fun. This time we ate dinner in Waimea at Koreaner Yongs Kalbi. (Portions are rich and pancakes here are not dessert 😉, but salty and very tasty.)
The Parker Ranch was closed due to COVID otherwise we would have love to attend the 20-minute self-guided audio tour.
We made another day trip, this time to Kona. On the way we stopped for a picnic in the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, and the Honokhau Settlement and Heaus. We saw some green see turtles. Hulihe’e Palace is in historic Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, on Ali’i Drive. Once a summer holiday home for Hawaiian kings, Hulihe’e Palace is now a museum that displays Victorian artifacts from the era of King Kalkaua and Queen Kapi’olani. Right in front of the Marriott Hotel on the beach is the Ahuena Heiau that the King Kamehameha has built in honor of God Lono (fertility and agriculture). It was destroyed by Tsunami 2011 and rebuilt afterwards. Kona itself is a bustling coastal town with many small shops and restaurants some orphaned due to COVID.
Incredible, but that was the first week and we continued our vacation with the drive to Hilo.
Besuch der Akaka Falls und des Volcanic National Park
In Hilo haben wir die AKAKA FALLS bestaunt, danach führte unser Weg zum Vulcano National Park Visitor Center von dort sind wir zu den Steam Vents gefahren. Nach der Wanderung von den Steam Vents zum KILAUEA “Overlook” fuhren wir den „Chain of the Crater“ Drive an der Thurston lava tube (geschlossen) zum Aussichtspunkt, der Arch am Ende der „Chain of the Crater“. In Volcanic Village haben wir uns Thai Thai gegönnt und sind dann nochmals im strömenden Regen zum KILAUEA Aussichtspunkt gefahren, um das Glühen der Lava zu sehen. Auch wenn wir pitsch nass geworden sind, war es wirklich sehenswert. Durch die sich ständigen ändernden Bedingungen, solltet ihr euch im Vorfeld oder im Visitor Center erkundigen wo ihr Lava sehen könnt. Im Augenblick (2021) gibt es keinen Lavafluss der in Meer fließt, wie um 2018. Im Rückblick würde ich noch den Devestition Trail und die Sulphur Banks besuchen und entweder eine Nacht im Park oder eine zweite in Hilo verbringen.
Akaka Falls and Volcanic National Park visit
In Hilo we visited the AKAKA FALLS, and then continued the day in the Vulcano National Park. After a short stop in the Visitor Center, we drove to the Steam Vents. After the hike from the Steam Vents to KILAUEA “Overlook” we drove the Chain of the Crater Drive at the Thurston lava tube (closed due COVID) to the viewpoint, the Arch at the end of the “Chain of the Crater“. In Volcanic Village we indulged dinner at Thai Thai and then drove again in pouring rain to the KILAUEA viewpoint to see the glow – we got very wet, but to see the Lava Glow it was worth it. Due to the constantly changing conditions, you should inquire in advance or at the Visitor Center where you can see lava. At the moment (2021) there is no lava flow flowing into the sea as around 2018. In retrospect, I would visit the Devastation Trail and the Sulphur Banks and spend either one night in the park or a second night in Hilo.
Vulcano National Park musts
- Stop at the Kilauea visitor center
- Halema’uma’u crater overlook (the glow)
- Kīlauea Iki crater + hike
- Stop by at Thurston lava tube (if open)
- Drive Chain of Craters road
- Visit the Volcano art center
- See the sulphur banks
- Mauna Loa Road Scenic Drive
- Join the free ranger program + workbook (kids aged 12 and below)
- Keanakāko’i Crater + Halema’uma’u overlook
- Seeing lava in the park
Hilo – Mauna Kea Sunrise and Sights
The next day we could see the sun rise behind Mauna Kea (room with sea view and Mauna Kea view at the Double Tree Hotel – wonderful I think this was the earliest we had ever got up during a vacation.
There are plenty of Beach Parks in Hilo such as e.g., Carl Smith and the Richardson (Black Sand) Beach Park, all very popular when the weather is nice, so we only made a short stop. We enjoyed our lunch at Liliuokalani Park before heading back to Kona.
Waikola Village, turtles, white, green and black beaches
After arriving at Kingsland Hilton Waikola Village , we needed 2 hours to check in. We finished the day on the beach to enjoy another wonderful sunset. The next day we celebrated Chiara’s birthday and spent a wonderful day at Hilton Beach Resort (lagoon for snorkeling, dolphin, pools and…). The highlight was the dinner at sunset in the LAVA LAVA Beach Bar.
Another excursion took us to the southernmost point of the USA and to the only Green Sand beach on the Big Island. To get to Papakolea Beach you must walk about 2.8 miles along the coast over steppe and deep furrows. Locals who use their trucks have set up a shuttle service and take visitors to the beach if you don’t want to walk. We ran and enjoyed the wind that accompanied us. Unfortunately, the beach is not an insider tip and was relatively full. Since we were already in the area we went on to the Black Sand Beach Panulu’u, probably the most extensive black sand stand on the island. Below the Watchtowers was also a green turtle, which was very photogenic 😉.
Hawaian History and Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Our audio guide gave us a great insight into the history of the island from the arrival of Captain Cook (1778) about the struggles among the Hawaiians, the unification of all the island under King Kamehameha the first, the overthrow of the monarchy and integration in 1959 as the 50th state. What is particularly sad is that today there are only about 8,000 native Hawaiians from the original about 400,000 in 1778. One hundred years later, it was still 50.00 and they made up 72% of the population.
In the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park we got a further insight into Hawaiian history. A short circular trail with 19 stations informs about the buildings, way of life, and the purpose of the facility. The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau gave “lawbreakers” the only chance to survive. The kapus (holy prohibitions) include fishing, planting, harvesting the social position to guarantee internal stability. As soon as they reached the Refuge, they were rescued and given the blessing so that they could return home.
Once big island was known for its big coffee plantations. Today there are no longer large coffee plantations only small ones who process their own coffee. But still the Kona Coffee is one of the best in the world. The Kona Pacific Farmers’ Cooperative was unfortunately closed due to COVID, we could not visit the Painted Church as it is only open on three days (Mo Mi Fr).
We took a break in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau and enjoyed some time on the beach. On the way home it rained in Kona, and a great rainbow was visible. Unfortunately, we could not catch it (photograph), but we were rewarded with a wonderful sunset.
With more than 2 weeks we had enough time to explore the island and enjoy the beaches. The last days we enjoyed at the beach with snorkeling.
Big Island Map with Sights and Beaches