Explore Hilo Town
Plan your Hilo day with a visit to the Lyman Museum
Lets say you have a whole day in and around Hilo. As you may have figured out already is that there is quite a bit to do in our sleepy town. For some mysterious reason I always get hot when I come to town - it may have something to do with my car's A/C being broken - but I usually include a trip over to the Bay.
Hilo is geographically and culturally centered around Liliuokalani Gardens and the bay. Be sure to check out these 'gardens' and the bay on your town day for sure, and maybe also on the way home from the volcano. Completely off point is about the water in the bay and how fresh water springs are virtually everywhere down there, though underwater. It is quite visible where the fresh water gurgles up into the salty bay water creating distortions while it takes a minute to mix. Anyway that is what the distorted water is all about down here.
But while you are here in Hilo, perhaps after the farmer's market, consider taking in the Lyman Museum. Its at the corner of Kapiolani and Haili streets. This is particularly interesting to those interested in Hawaii and Hilo history. The old Lyman House was built back in 1839 is mostly focused on the Lymans themselves but the museum itself is really the main attraction. Be aware that it costs $10 per adult AND that you need to visit between 10 and 4 though during lunch hours (11 AM to 2 PM), you will get a guided tour.
Ya Gotta Love Hilo Town
There are so many interesting things to see and do, while still being small enough to get from one place to the next easily enough. One of my favorite places is the Hilo Farmer's Market which is open everyday between 7 and 4. There are two big days (Wednesday and Saturday) when over 200 local area farmers come into the market, though there are several dozen every other day as well. While this is the best place to go to stock up on flowers, fruit and produce for the week there are many vendors selling crafts and Hawaiian Culture nick-knacks etc.
Photo above from: hawaiiancloudforestcoffee.com
One favorite product is Big Island local coffee. We have hundreds of coffee farmers on the island and many have their products represented here at the Farmer's Market. If you are interested in learning about our different coffees, how coffee tastes differ when grown in different places and conditions, then check out this video
which explores the topic detailing market products and farmer interviews.
Waipi'o - Valley of the Kings
About an hours drive north of Oceanfront Legacy is the world famous Waipi'o Valley. No doubt a visit here is already on your list and certainly should be. At the very least get to the lookout which is only 8 miles past the town of Honoka'a.
Once called "the Valley of Kings", Waipi'o Valley was home to thousands of Hawaiians.
The road down, which you may have already heard, is steep. I have been down this road in a 4-wheel drive, and even in such a vehicle, I thought it would have been better to walk. I have seen cars over the side and I have seen a car completely turnover right in the middle of the tiny road. Please don't think that your rental car will make it down safely, while it might get down it certainly NOT make it back up again. Instead make a day of it and walk on down to the beach for a picnic. There are also some other places near the beach to visit.
Way up the valley are some breath-taking waterfalls, though you will have to trespass across private land to get there up through the valley. I do not recommend a hike up through the valley simply for that reason, Hawaiians take private property seriously. There is plenty to do in the public area closer to the beach.
The Muliwai trail switchbacks up the far side of the valley and from there you will get into some real wild Hawaii... Assuming your are fit and already a hiker that is. The Waimanu valley is the next big valley over and quite rugged and wild. The switchbacks up out of the Waipi'o Valley discourage the vast majority of tourists, though the rest of the hike isn't easy either. Gorgeous and wild, this is a memorable overnight trek for the fit and intrepid adventurer.
Want to See
Some Living Lava?
One huge reason for visiting the Big Isle is volcanoes and lava. You may already know that our lava comes in two forms: "a'a" (say Ah-ah) and 'Pahoehoe'. The a'a is brown and crumbly, looks sort of like brown cottage cheese. The pahoehoe, is much different more like black, glassy pavement. If you are out for a hike across lava that is less than a few hundred years old, then getting across the a'a will have you wishing for a road as soon as possible while moving across the pahoehoe makes you feel like you could go on right to the top of Mauna Loa. Easy!
There is actually a third type of lava, the rarest kind: 'liquid' or 'living lava'. The red and hot stuff! I found this video of our Kilauea you might like, Helicopter views which might just make you want to book a tour. Getting close enough to really experience living lava is not only difficult but generally dangerous and illegal as well. The real danger in getting close to an active flow comes from the way it travels, crusting on the outside while a river of liquid lava flows underneath. Often times the crust over the top can be quite thin and fragile, breaking through, what is apparently solid rock, is much easier than you would believe. If all that happens is falling through into an ancient cave below, and you don't actually break any bones, you will still have to get out...
Enjoy this video from Paradise Helicopters, enjoy our island, and stay safe by learning the dangers before-hand, the easy way ;)
Plan a Trip to Waimea
Planning to explore the north end of the island? Or even just heading over to Kona side? Waimea town has much to offer, one is a delightful climate experience that changes from rainy to desert in just a few miles. Roads head off to the north for the scenic road to Havi and South to Parker Ranch on the side of Mauna Kea.
There is a good chance your plans will take you to the north side of the island at some point. Perhaps you want to explore the North Kohala peninsula or just get over to Kona, there is much to recommend Waimea town as a great place to take a break. Personally I am always impressed with how one end of town is in a desert while the other end is in a rain forest. Has it been too hot and sunny for you lately? Well, just drive to the other side of town to get into the cool again.
While you simply must find your ideal climate somewhere in this town, it still remains small and friendly... apparently an ideal climate isn't everything to everyone. I know most folks breeze on through on their way to one side or the other, missing the attractions that Waimea has to offer. Most famously is the Parker Ranch just outside of town. They have these cool 20 minute self-guided (and free by the way) tours of a 'not so long ago' Hawaii seen in the Parker Ranch. You may even convince yourself to take a horse-back ride.
If you are around September 2nd and 3rd there is a fun youth rodeo at noon.
Both photos in this post are from the Parker Ranch Website
A little closer to town is the Paniolo Heritage Center which hosts two Swap Meets in Waimea every week. There is the mid-week event on Wednesday from 9 AM to 4 PM called the "Waimea Mid-Week Farmers Market". There is also the Saturday morning event from 7AM to Noon. Find out more about both here at the paniolopreservation.org website. Here is the "Kamuela Farmer's Market" page.
So take a break on your next trip through Waimea to explore a little - you may change your retirement plans.
Explore Hilo Area
The world's largest telescope resides on Mauna Kea. Imiloa has a fabulous program for curious, young and old, at the Imiloa-Hawaii senter in downtown Hilo at 600 'Imiloa Place (808 932-8901). The main facility for laymen is just a bit up the hilll from the University.
Personally I love science and space and telescopes so this place stays fairly high up my list. This is a great place for families, I know my kids always loved these kind of places. One day in Hilo, at museums and centers, with some time at the bay is an ideal way to pass the day. The science center at 'Imiloa produced a nice "virtual tour" video which is worthwhile if you think this center should be on your list. When making plans keep this place in mind.
Island for the Birds
Something that hit me, eventually, is just how amazingly HUGE the Big Island actually is. There is nearly every climate available, at some time and some point on the island. There are also miles and miles of hiking trails leading into every type of climate you could want.
One fabulous hike which stands out to me because it is Hawaii's First Birding Trail. It is 90 miles of awesome sites with scenery, views and close encounters with a great many Hawaiian local birds. Runs across from Hilo to Kailua-Kona and while it still isn't totally finished the actual target sites are all there and accessible. To better understand what I mean take a look over at this nice site with an interactive map of the trail. You can get an up-to-date assessment there as well as a much better idea of Big Island birds, then check them out. (The map below is taken from their site).
While I don't honestly think I qualify as an actual 'Birder', I do love the beautiful colors singing and floating through the air. I know the names of so few yet who doesn't like them anyway? Hawaii Island is a great place for rare birds, though you may have to walk away from roads a few miles to get to the best places.
This looks great. I expect to know a few more birds when I get back. Maybe I'll see you out there.