Our trip started with the volcano on the island becoming active and the National Park shutting down but the island is so large that you still have so many activities to do. On this visit we were staying on the Kona side and away from the Volcano four four days and four nights. The one advantage of the volcano being active is that the island, activities, and beaches were less crowded. This was a first visit to the big island and already we knew we would be back to visit the National Park. We wanted to start our trip by visiting two beaches the big island is known for: Green Sand Beach and Black Sand Beach. The names describe the allure of the beaches. The sand at these beaches are black and green because they are composed of different crushed rocks/minerals.
Big Island | Itinerary
What to See and Do
- Green Sand Beach
- Black Sand Beach
- UFO Parasailing
- Big Island Watersports
- Royal Kona Resort Luau
- Hang Loose Boat Tours: Dolphins and Snorkeling
- Kilauea and Mauna Kea Volcanoes
What to Eat
- Fish Hopper
- Kope Lani Coffee & Ice Cream
- Ultimate Burgers
- Broke Da Mouth Grindz
- Ohelo Cafe
DAY ONE/GREEN AND BLACK SAND BEACH
Green Sand Beach
You can drive close to the Green Sand Beach but you will need a high clearance vehicle with four wheel drive to get to the beach by yourself. There is a fork in the road when you get close to the Green Sand Beach. One path will take you the beach/ shuttle service and the other will take you to a cliff and cave.
You will find an open to the air sea cave and a cliff that you can jump from. Being an idiot, and against the wishes of Lucy I decided to jump off the 60 ft cliff. I was not prepared for the 60 ft drop and I had enough time on the way down to regret my decision. As I rushed towards the water I expected a hard and cold impact but surprisingly the water temperature was perfect and my impact was smooth and embracing. Once in the ocean you can swim towards the open air cave and what you learn is that the cave jump is safe and not as big as the 60 ft cliff dive. With this knowledge in hand I climbed the ladder, which was actually pretty difficult, and jumped into the cave. I could have spent all day jumping from the cliff and swimming in the ocean but Lucy wanted to see the Green Sand Beach before the sunset.
There is a convenient shuttle service in the area that will take you to the beach each way for 10 dollars/person but you might have to wait a bit and is cash only. The only thing I did not like about the shuttle service is that they pressure you a bit to use their service with some lies and the price is fluid and you might get different quotes from different people. They also try to book you for a round trip and limit your time at the beach. I would recommend a one-way trip and then either walk back or pay for the return trip separately.
We rode on the back of a pickup truck through the bumpy terrain and it was a fun but not comfortable ride.
The sand does not look green at first glance but if you run it through your hands you will see that it is actually a really beautiful emerald-green. There are only four beaches like this in the world and this one in particular is quite beautiful. The waves here were surprisingly big and made for great body surfing. We didn’t spend much time at this beach as we got tired from body surfing but ended up just sitting back and enjoying the view.
Black Sand Beach
The black sand beach by comparison is easy to get to as you can just drive any type of vehicle to it. The sand itself feels quite rough and different from regular sand. The beach does not seem very friendly to any water activities but the area is fun to walk.
This being our first night on the island we had not researched many restaurants and unfortunately we ended up at a tourist trap called the Fish Hopper. Do not get any mixed drink like a volcano or lava flow because they will be horrible (not thick and just watery). The food was decent at best and a bit overpriced (clam chowder was good but the crackers were stale). The best part of this place is the view of the ocean during the day but unfortunately at night you just get the atmosphere of the restaurant. The service was good though, so this is just a reminder to beware of tourist traps (Nothing wrong with them, but we typically try to avoid them).
DAY TWO/PARASAILS, JET SKIS, AND A LUAU
We woke up to do something we had never done but always hoped to do, parasail. I always viewed it as an intense activity, you get pulled by a speedboat and get tossed around by the wind with the possibility of landing in the water. We went with UFO Parasailing and the experience was very nice and tranquil. We boarded t
he speedboat and got placed in a tandem harness. Then the boat sped up and we just gently floated into the sky like angels. We were significantly above the water but the ride was so smooth. It was almost like riding around in those amusement park sky buckets. The view is wonderful and the whole experience was very relaxing.
We walked over to Umeke’s for some poke and Hawaiian bbq. I’ve given poke a chance at several restaurants and unfortunately I am not a poke person. This place though had one that I enjoyed which was the Warrior Poke (Garlic Ahi). The Hawaiian BBQ and Lau Lau was delicious at this location but you do have to wait a bit longer for it. In addition, come early as the lines can get long at this small restaurant.
We walked back down to the beach to enjoy some ice cream at Kope Lani Coffee & Ice Cream. This place had some damn good flavors and all of them unique so make sure to try some samples. This place advertises that most of their ice cream has Kona coffee in it and most flavors do but if you’re not a fan of coffee like myself they have plenty of coffee free flavors.
We rested on the beach for a bit before I went off to have some fun on a jet ski through Big Island Watersports. Lucy didn’t want to partake in this activity due to the danger and the fact that she will get seasick so I went solo. This was the first time I would go jet skiing and the experience was mixed. In Kona, they only have a relatively small area to play in and the staff didn’t add much to the experience. I had the whole area for myself and found myself a bit board after half an hour. Jet skiing is exhilarating when you throttle all the way down. I was able to reach up to 40 mph but the bumps had me keeping it around 20 mph for most of the hour since I almost flew off a couple of times. The highlight of the activity was the fact that some dolphins showed up and swam around me which was an awesome accent to the activity.
We headed back to the hotel and rested up before heading to our awesome Luau.
Royal Kona Resort Luau
The Luau took place at the beach front resort Royal Kona and although the space seemed small they managed to fit a lot in the space. The food was damn good and I wish I had not stuffed my face earlier in the day. The dances were great although the dances were a bit short. I felt like the show was a min-Luau, as you get every type of dance presented but it is the same cast performing all the dances. The cast is composed of 5 male and 5 female dancers for the entire show. A very intimate and pleasant Luau but definitely don’t expect any grand performance. The sea acting as a background to the performance was a wonderful touch and you will have a great view of the sunset.
DAY THREE/DOLPHINS AND SNORKELING
We booked an excursion through Hang Loose Boat Tours to go out for the day to swim with the dolphins and snorkel around Kealakekua Bay. We boarded a boat that took us from location to location looking for dolphin pods. This was an amazing experience as we were swimming with dolphins in the ocean, up close and personal. It wasn’t just one or two dolphins but a whole large pod (approximately 20-25 dolphins). One of the amazing things to experience is hearing the dolphins talking under water and then seeing them do flips above the water just because they think they are fun.
After swimming with the dolphins they dropped us off at Kealakekua Bay which was great for snorkeling. This was a descent spot to snorkel filled with colorful fishes and even a camouflaging octopus. Lunch was served on the boat and was basically just sandwiches and chips. The only downside of this activity is that it all felt a bit rushed. I wish I could have spent more time doing each activity but it was a wonderful way to spend the first half of the day.
For dinner, Lucy and I had differing opinions so we headed over to Ultimate Burger for Lucy to get a burger and I went to Broke Da Mouth Grindz for some Hawaiian food. We sampled each other’s meal and both were delicious. Broke Da Mouth Grindz had great braised beef ribs and delicious garlic chicken.
DAY FOUR/VOLCANOES AND STARS
We unfortunately visited the island during one of the more active periods of the volcano and because of this we had to cut out the activities at the National Park. We though still wanted to visit the volcano and the town near the volcano. We tried to get near some lava to see it but unfortunately every road was closed to anyone that wasn’t a resident. We were able to get a good view of the crater and smell the gases being released. It was still quite exciting to see the plumes of smoke being released from the volcano.
We dropped in for a late lunch at Ōhelo cafe in the neighboring town of Volcano. The food was pretty good and we spent a nice relaxing afternoon driving around the area. We started heading to Mauna Kea for a night of stargazing. When we arrived at the altitude, I felt a bit light-headed so I took it slow and acclimated to the heights. It was a star party night so the visitors center at the base of the summit had several telescopes out. They were pointed at the moon, Jupiter and a decaying galaxy, but the main event was the ability to see most of the northern and southern sky. As an example of this, we were able to see the Northern Star and the Southern Cross in one night sky. Make sure to bring warm clothes as it gets very cold and most people leave because they weren’t prepared for the wind. I highly recommend the visitors center where the oxygen is 80% of sea level. Some people go up to the summit but because oxygen there is at 60% of sea level you aren’t physically able to see the stars as well as you would at the visitors center. This was a great way to end our visit to the big island with a vast view of the universe.
Happy Travels !