Big Island was the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, and these 3 activities we feature in todays post prove just that! Each of these hikes, some more gruelling than others, each lead to a different beach where you can go for a relaxing swim and catch some rays.
We’ll showcase them in the order in which we experienced each of these hikes and beaches starting with ‘Captain Cook’.
CAPTAIN JAMES COOK MONUMENT/ KEALAKEKUA BAY
This was one of the pieces on our Big Island to-do list that we were most excited for! The Captain Cook Monument Trail takes you down to Kealakekua Bay which is said to be one of, if not the BEST snorkelling spots on the Island. It’s about a 3km hike down and another 3km back up. There are some parts of the trail that keep you shaded within the trees, but other sections are completely open to the sweltering sun so MAKE SURE you bring a water bottle and put on sunscreen before you start! You definitely want to make sure you have water for the hike back up because it is almost fully inclined. The trailhead is on a side street so it doesn’t have ‘official parking’, but there is plenty of room along both sides of the street. Just make sure to keep a look out for No Parking signs because there are a lot of those throughout the Island. They weren’t lying when they said this would be the best snorkelling on the Island; we saw so many different fish! We weren’t lucky enough to see any sharks or dolphins, which are said to be seen in this area, but we were totally satisfied with all of the marine life that we did see. Even along the trail we spotted some wild pigs and goats! There were a few tour boats there at the same time which is another way you could experience this area, but we had decided to do it on our own. This spot is highly recommended from us!!
PAPAKOLEA (GREEN SAND) BEACH
The road to the Green Sand Beach takes you down to South Point, which is the southern most part of the United States. The road to the beach veers off to the left and takes you to an undeveloped parking lot, but it does have tons of space! If you don’t feel like walking the trail, there are locals waiting for you that can drive you through the dunes of the landscape for a small fee. We got passed by quite a few trucks and jeeps on our hike there and back, but we decided to indulge in the full experience and did the hike. It’s about a 45 minute hike along the ocean, with very little elevation change. It’s another hike that you need to make sure you have a water bottle and put on sunscreen. It was an overcast morning so the hike there was pleasant but by the afternoon it was a very sweaty hike on the return. It’s not the biggest beach but it’s quite secluded and the water was perfect! This was one of the top activities we did on our trip BY FAR. The trail ends on a cliff and there is a half natural and a half manmade staircase that takes you down to the beach. The water is definitely clear enough to go snorkelling but the size of the waves might make that difficult. There were some locals there fishing however so thats another activity that you could partake in there. It wasn’t until we were back above on the trail that we noticed some sea turtles swimming around the cove. That was exciting for us to know that we were unknowingly swimming with sea turtles! When we were deciding our to-do list for this trip, this beach was just a maybe and were debating skipping it, but in the end we decided we should go for it, and I’m so glad we did! Another recommendation thats high on our list!
WAIPIO VALLEY/ BLACK SAND BEACH
This was one of our last hikes during our trip, and for me, it was probably the most tired I’ve ever been from a hike in my life. Don’t get discouraged by that though, because it was still 100% worth it! You can more or less call this a ‘hike’, but realistically it’s a road that has an immense elevation change; 975 ft in 1.5 km to be exact. The way down may be rough on the knees and the way back up will be filled with huffing and puffing. The road is very steep and quite narrow, so it is difficult, but not impossible to drive down. It requires 4 wheel drive and some rental car companies may not allow you to drive down. We had a 4 wheel drive Nissan truck, but I was not confident enough to do the drive so again, we decided to indulge in the full experience and did the walk down! Once you get down the road theres a small forested trail that will take you straight to the black sand beach. The waves can be a little rough to go in too far, but it is extremely refreshing after a hike! If we ever come to the Big Island again we might try the drive down instead but I’m glad we did the walk so we could experience it. Just make sure you do your research about your car and your rental car company before taking the drive down. Even if you decide to walk, you should also do your research to make sure it’s a suitable activity for you!
In my opinion, this list cannot be scaled from best to worst because they were all amazing adventures that I would 100% recommend, and would do all over again if I had the chance. Please let us know if you have any questions about the Big Island if you decide to travel there, and make sure you refer back to our 3 Camping in Hawaii posts to prepare yourself for the trip!