10 Unexpected Big Island Experiences
The Big Island offers surprising revelations large and small—from unexpected snow and equestrian experiences to green sand and sunken vessels. For visitors who think Hawaii only offers sunshine and sandy beaches, the Big Island reveals unexpected opportunities to discover different ways of life, explore distinct island tastes from the sea and land, encounter unusual tropical creatures, and learn from a variety of historical sites.
We stayed in Hilo—hot, wet, and tropical Hilo—in a rented, Japanese-style house. Since I’m an astronomy nerd, I had to take the tour up to the observatories on Mauna Kea—way up on the top of the Big Island. The van trip was fun and educational, and they offered oversized pullovers as the weather got cold, but they were next to worthless when we got to the top. The wind was whipping by at 50 miles an hour, the temperature was below freezing. We were above the clouds, amongst the Hawaiian gods, watching the sunset of sunsets. Most retreated to the heated van, but I stayed out to watch. I pulled my arms in from the pullover to stay warm, so the sleeves blew limply in the high wind. Years ago I got sunburned while in Ireland, so it only made sense I’d get frostbite in Hawaii. But, as with all real travel, it was worth it.
47-4841 Old Mamalahoa Hwy &, Dahana Ranch Rd, Waimea, HI 96743, USA
Become a Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy) for a day and do an actual cattle drive while on the Big Island of Hawaii. Even though it was a rainy, moody day, it was the perfect unique experience to have in Hawaii. Hawaii is much more than beaches! More information about my experience at Dahana Ranch: http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/cattle-herding-in-hawaii/ Dahana Ranch P.O. Box 1293 • Kamuela, HI 96743 • toll free: (888) 399-0057 • p (808) 885-0057 • f (808) 885-7833 • email@example.com
Ali'i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
Not going for any photo awards here. I just feel compelled to document the occasional blindingly repulsive aspects of travel now and then. This godless creature haunted an otherwise lovely Hawaiian romp. In fact, it still haunts me.
56-2864 Akoni Pule Hwy, Hawi, HI 96719, USA
My wife and I like the amenities of resort vacations as much as the next couple. But in June 2012, we spent a month living like locals. Our favorite part of that experience was at a magical place near Hawi named Puakea Ranch. The place is dripping with history: All four of the structures on the property date back to the 1940s or earlier, vestiges of the place’s former life as a pig ranch and a sugar plantation as part of the communal Kohala Field system. Puakea also offers luxury: When the owners purchased the place in 2006, they spent three years gutting the structures and retrofitting them with modern kitchens and luxurious (stand-alone) bathhouses. Most important, Puakea is a haven for little ones learning about the world. Animals on the ranch outnumber humans by a count of nine or 10 to one. Storms move through regularly, leaving nothing but rainbows in their path. On clear nights, thanks to zero light pollution, the night sky reveals a bazillion stars. Our girls—ages 3.5 and 1 at the time—loved interacting with this wonder. Every morning, my toddler and I fetched eggs from the chicken coop across the lawn and plucked papayas from trees out back. During afternoons, the four of us tromped up the hill to watch the horses graze. In the evenings, my wife sauntered into the garden to snip herbs for pasta and other dishes. On aimless walks around the property, I’d take the baby to watch the switchgrass wave in the whipping wind and play spot-the-wayward-cows-and-goats.
73-200 Kupipi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, USA
For a challenge, scuba divers should seek out the sunken Beechcraft airplane that lies near the Kona airport. The plane rests at a depth of about 115 feet, which makes it a little more challenging (deeper) dive than some other sites in the area. The plane crashed in the 1980s and everyone was able to evacuate the plane, except one passenger. A local fire rescue professional was nearby and watched the crash, pulled on his gear, and was able to pull the remaining woman out of the aircraft and saved her life. Attempts to salvage the wreck from the Pacific were unsuccessful, so this aircraft has a permanent resting place in the ocean where sea creatures are now making it a home.
82-1140 Meli Road #102, Captain Cook, HI 96704, USA
Instead of purchasing some Big Island Bees Honey up the road at a coffee farm, I decided to make the trip directly to Big Island Bees. It was late in the afternoon and Kevin was the only staff person around when I encountered the extremely well decorated museum and shop. I was instantly enamoured with Kevin’s excitement for his work as part of a team who has curated all sorts of information about Bees in Hawaii. This little shop should not be missed to learn a little history of the hives, take in the curious honey comb art, and taste plenty of sweet honey samples. Open from 10am to 4pm, there is no charge to visit the museum. A free Beekeeping Tour happens Monday-Friday at 10am and 1pm and should be arranged in advanced via the farm’s website.