How many places in the world can you climb a volcano, lay on the beach and swim in a waterfall all in a day? As far as I know not many! I’d be very interested to know of any other places that are like this (comment below). But in this instance I am referring to the wonderful islands of Hawaii! My latest trip was my third visit to the Sandwich Islands… yes I said Sandwich Islands, this is what the Hawaiian Islands were originally named when first discovered by Captain Cook. Anyway I’m getting side tracked, prior to this trip I had only ever visited the island of Oahu. This time around I was lucky enough to explore Maui and Hawaii (The Big Island).
Maui greeted me with overcast skies and windy weather, not exactly the kind of arrival I was hoping for. But weather’s never been the kind of thing to deter me from my plans. First thing on the agenda a trip to Molokini Crater, I will be honest the gloomy weather was a bit of a downer but the reef was beautiful boasting an array of colourful fish. On the way back from the crater we stopped in at “turtle town”, an area off the coast known to be frequented by turtles. Considering the name I was expecting to see at least 100 turtles. This wasn’t quite the case but I did manage to spot a couple. One of these friendly guys let me hang out with him for a bit, we took a couple of selfies and I watched him snack on a jellyfish.
I spent the next couple of days exploring the Hana Highway, there were literally waterfalls around every corner and I was in heaven! To make it even more amazing there were rainbow eucalyptus trees, lava rock cliff sides, black sand beaches and cave pools. I followed the Hana highway past the town of Hana and on to Haleakala National Park to visit pools of Ohe’o, definitely worth the extra miles. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore the road; I guarantee you’re going to want to stop around every bend. I think my photos are the best way to give you an insight how wonderful it really was. Oh and don’t forget to pack a swimsuit!
On my last day in Maui I made a trip to its’s highest point, the top of Haleakala Volcano. Sitting at over 3000m the hike to the top is much easier than it sounds, the road takes you nearly all the way there, leaving only 100 vertical metres to climb to the top. I also hiked partway into the crater, its such a barren landscape it almost feels like you could be walking on Mars!
Hawaii (The Big Island)
I started my adventure on The Big Island in the sleepy little town of Volcano. Well to be exact I started at Kona airport and road tripped to Volcano, lets just say I grossly underestimated just how big the BIG Island actually is ! I would have been much better off flying into Hilo airport but I’ll know that for next time!
The draw card of Volcano Village is that it’s just down the road from Hawai’i Volcanoes National park. Home to Kilauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world and the reason why The Big Island is continuously growing in size.
In addition to Kilauea Volcano, the National Park boasts a number of exciting hiking trails, a whole lot of lava rock, the spectacular chain of caters road AND it’s a popular hang out for the endangered Nene bird (Hawaiian Goose).
Possibly the thing I was most looking forward to on this trip to Hawaii was climbing the tallest mountain in the world!!!! Mauna Kea stands at over 10,000m tall, thats over 1000m taller than Everest! The catch is that only 4205m of Mauna Kea is above sea level. But hey technically its the tallest mountain in the world so I’m going to claim it. The visitor centre sits at 2800m and this is where you start the trek. I was there at 6am for a very chilly start to the day, I was possibly a little underprepared for just how cold it was (there was frost on the rocks)! Over the next 5 hours I hiked Humuʻula trail to the top of Mauna Kea, gaining 1405m in altitude, this was one tough hike! 100% worth it, it was absolutely beautiful and the early start meant I got to watch the sunrise on my way up. As you’re nearing the top of the hike there’s a detour that will take to you to Lake Waiau, this spot is absolutely magical and a very worthy rest stop if you are taking the trail to the top! I opted to hike down the roadway back to the visitor centre, although 2 miles longer than the trail, I had read that it was much easier to descend this way and by this point my legs were like jelly so the easier the better!
After the descent I hung out at the visitor centre for a but, had a sneaky nap in the car and waited for it to be late enough to return to the summit for sunset. This time I opted to 4WD to the summit rather than hike, if you’re not an experienced hiker this is a fantastic way to experience the incredible summit area. We ended up giving a lift to another couple who hadn’t realised a 4WD was necessary to get to the summit (our good deed for the day).
Another road trip in the opposite direction to the first one took me back to Kona. Along the way I stopped off Punaluu County beach park to try to spot some sea turtles and visited South Point, the southern most point of Hawaii and the USA!
Kona delivered more excitement that I could have even dreamed of! Upon arrival I had a night snorkel with Manta Rays booked. Absolutely incredible, these gentle giants will take your breath away. I’ll be honest it is a little creepy floating out in the ocean at night time but I got over it pretty quickly. Lights are shone into the water to attract plankton which just so happens to be a manta rays favourite food. All in all it makes for an up close and absolutely incredible encounter.
On my final day in Kona I visited a snorkel spot recommended by my trusty lonely planet book. A short drive took me to a spot of coastline called two-step. It got its name because all you had to do is take two steps and you’re in the water with an incredible reef below. About a 20m swim across the reef you come to a drop off point where the water gets very deep. This spot just so happens to be a favourite for spinner dolphins and on the day I visited there were about 3 or 4 pods of them! I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited in my life! There were mums and babies and just so many dolphins! Thanks to my many years as a synchronised swimmer I have the ability to hold my breath for quite a while which meant I was able to dive down and swim amongst the dolphins. But don’t worry if you’re not great at holding your breath, the dolphins have to come up to breath and they seem to take great pleasure coming right up in amongst all the snorkelers! I think I ended up spending over 3 hours swimming around with these friendly characters, I never wanted to leave!
I finished up my Hawaiian adventure with a spot of shaved from Scandy’s in Kailua Bay (they have 65 flavours to choose from!) and a final sunset.
If the photos aren’t enough, I think my Hawaiian video does a pretty good job of showing just how amazing my trip was! All thats left to say is Mahalo Hawaii, you were wonderful!