Road to Hilo
We opted for the shorter route to Hilo taking 200. At the beginning of the trip, it was very dry and there was not that much to see. As we approached Hilo, the temperature dropped and the surroundings became very lush and green.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Highly Recommended, Kilauea Iki Trail – Highly Recommended
The entrance fee to the park was $20, but it is good for 7 days. We did the Kilaueau Iki Hike, which was supposedly 4 miles “round trip. “ The hike went through the jungle and descended down to a crater. As we looked out onto the crater floor, it was just a vast amount of black volcanic rock everywhere. It was one of the most unique places I have ever been. There were spots where the ground was cracked and hot steam flowed out. Though the sign told us it was a “round trip” hike we ended the hike not where we started and were utterly lost when we finished. Luckily, a tour guide helped us to find our car.
We also went to through the Thurston Lava Tube. It was an easy walk through the tunnel created by lava.
Hilo Farmers Market – Recommended
The Hilo’s Farmers market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is probably one of the big attractions where you can find all sorts of great food and souvenirs. There are also some art shops and local delicacies to try.
Akaka Falls – Recommended
I would head to Akaka Falls after exploring Hilo about 20-40 minutes depending if you take the scenic 4-mile detour. There is a small hike you can take during this detour, but we just took a picture and moved on. Akaka falls is the biggest waterfall on the Big Island and is worth checking out if you like waterfalls. We parked on the side of the road and paid $1 per person to go in. Also on the way is the botanical gardens, which I heard is great but I wouldn’t pay $15 per person to go see.
Rainbow Falls – Recommended
This waterfall is just outside of the shopping area in Hilo. We pulled up to the parking lot and could immediately see the waterfall. There were stairs that you could take that took you to the water. Along the way, we passed a huge acacia(?) tree. It was definitely the biggest one I have ever seen. Many people were climbing on it.
Chain of Craters Road – Skippable
In the evening, we headed back to Volcanoes national park again to drive around. We started driving down Crater’s road, but didn’t have enough time to drive to the ocean. If you had more time, there are lots of hikes you can do along this road. However, after doing the best hike in the park (Kilaeua Iki), we thought the other hikes paled in comparison.
Jaggar Museum – Highly Recommended
The main attraction at night is seeing the lava glow from the Jaggar Museum. Although you can’t actually see lava, it is an interesting site nonetheless. It got pretty crowded. I would recommend going a 10-15 minutes before sunset to get a good spot. The museum is also very interesting. Also, bring a jacket because it is cold.
In a nutshell, I would recommend doing the Kilauea Iki trail, Thurston Lava Tube, and the Jaggar Museum at night. The trail and lava tube takes 2-3 hours at a leisurely pace, so you can make your way to the museum afterwards. After doing the Kilauea Iki trail, I wasn’t too impressed with the other sites where you just drive and park to take a look. Everything starts looking the same.
This was our last day and we took our time driving back to Kona Airport the long way along the south coast. We didn’t do a whole lot besides stop at Punaluu Beach, where you can see sea turtles. I would say it is worth checking out if you’re on the way, but not worth making a whole day trip for. The beach is a bit rocky, but it’s a decent black sand beach.
Our adventure on the Big Island was quite relaxing and different than any other trip we’ve been on. We drove about 700 miles on this trip in a week exploring different parts of the island. I would definitely recommend at least 5 full days on the Big Island because it takes some time to drive around. I would also be careful while driving because I got a speeding ticket because the speed limit is only 55 and goes down to 25 all of a sudden. Despite that, the Big Island is great to get away from crowds and be an adventure seeker!