Like all the other islands, 48 hours will give you a brief opportunity to explore Hawaii Island, but if you only have 48 hours, here’s what you should do:
The Big Island, as it’s called, is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined. There are many microclimates including lava desert, jungle, tropical breaches and cool highlands. You’ll find everything from farmland to active lava flows and old lava fields. Start the trip in Kona and head south around the bottom of the island. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop at some breath taking scenic outlooks from high above the valley.
Stop at the Ahuena Heiau ceremonial statues that have been reconstructed and you’ll see where King Kamehameha spent his final days in the area. Next, continue along the road to the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. You can learn about coffee, take a plantation tour and sample coffee. Get ready, because the next few stops will get you wired. Along the twisting highway, you will find several coffee shops all serving fresh Kona coffee. Stop for lunch at the Coffee Shack and sit outside on the lanai. The views of the valley are breathtaking and the food is pretty great as well.
After lunch, continue south towards Volcano National Park. Along the way you’ll pass lava fields and forest with tons of blooming flowers. It’s pretty amazing. Once you make it to the National Park, you can stop at the visitors’ center for information about active lava flows and where they can be seen. Currently they can only be seen from the air, but I saw active lava flows on the ground during a trip to the Big Island 7 years ago. You can find plenty of information about Helicopter tours online and at your hotel.
The next day you can tour the north and northeastern sides of the island. Take the road to Honokaa to reach the viewpoint overlooking the nearly deserted Waipio Valley, 850 feet below. It’s one of the most spectacular views on the island. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed to drive down the steep road to the valley floor and its black-sand beaches and some rental car agreements have rules about driving on these roads, so read carefully.
Near Waimea you’ll find Parker Ranch Museum where you can learn about the history of ranching in Hawaii. In the Waimea region you’ll find rolling green hills, a huge contrast to the lava fields and forests on the other side of the island. There are also lots of great views of the coastline along the highway as you head back towards the west side of the island.
The Big Island really is all about nature so make sure you come prepared for outdoor activities and bring along your camera to capture stunning views.
What do you like to do on the Big Island?