Unusual Tours: The Big Island of Hawaii

Everyone is thinking about traveling again, and more than a few of you are contemplating visiting Hawaii. A few years ago, I was able to go with my parents for a couple of weeks in Hawaii. We spent a part of the time on Oahu and the rest of it on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Island of Hawaii is the largest island in the United States and is home to just 180,000 people, about 13% of the state’s total population. I was delighted with the various climate zones and fascinated that you could drive from tropical rainforest to grassland to desert within an hour, mostly within sight of volcanic smoke or ocean views. The climate is as varied, as well: we visited in mid-March, and it snowed in the mountains the day we arrived.

You can fly into either Hilo or Kailua, and I would recommend renting a car. It is well worth the cash. We used Air BNB for our stays in Hawi and Volcano and could not have been more happy!

West Shore:

Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, tour, and tasting. Great example of Agritourism. You may be tempted to buy the coffee here, but you might be able to get the same beans for half of the cost at Costco. They have cascara available and local herbal infusions.

Ocean Rider Sea Horse Farm When was the last time you plunged your hands into a tub of sea horses and had one curl around your finger? Close to airport and worth every penny!

North West Shore:

King Kamehameha Statue Companion statue to the one in Oahu. Near Hawi.

Pololu Valley Lookout Keep a sharp eye out for wild boars and other wildlife. Great hiking trails here from the end of the road down to the beach.

Hawi. Great little stores and restaurants. Wonderful town to stay in away from the crowds, lots of Air BNB options. Perpetual rainbows, wildlife, and ocean views!


Quick drive up into the mountains of the interior. The grasslands and extensive ranches make you think that you are in Texas! We didn’t get to visit because of the snow falling, but Mauna Kea stands at 13,882 feet in the center of the Island and has astronomical observatories at the top. Next time!

Volcanoes National Park is one of the most fascinating places I have ever been. Catch the Ranger talks and enjoy exploring the rim on some day hikes.

East Shore

The Lyman Museum and Mission House Tells the story of early missionaries David and Sarah Lyman who arrived in Hilo, Hawaii in 1832. The Missions House, built in the 1830’s is one of the oldest wooden in structures in Hawaii. Bookstore and an amazing geology/gem collection in the basement. Not open on weekends. Here are a couple of biographies to get you started: David and Sarah Lyman and one of the local believers, Henry Obookiah.

Hilo Farmer’s Market. Open 7 days a week. Stock up on tropical fruits, local baked goods, and fiddlehead ferns, And of course, poke and shave ice!

Hawaii Botanical Garden Trails lead through the jungle to view rare and endangered species from around the world. Birds, orchids, and ocean.

‘Akaka Falls About 10 miles north of Hilo are the tallest waterfalls on the Island. The trail to the falls overlook is an easy jaunt and worth the time.

Pahoa Transfer Station. Want to see fresh lava? We enjoyed examining the terminus of the lava flow at the local dump. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is a reason my parents refer to my trip-planning as “Unusual Tours.”)

South Shore:

Stop by Punalu’u Beach for a sure spot to see green sea turtles basking on a black sand beach. Rough water, volcanic rocks to scramble on. Close to southernmost point in the United States. Mahana Beach is close by with its green sand.

Punalu’u Bakery. Billed as the southernmost bakery in US, I have one word for you: Malasada! There is a visitor’s center and, just up the road a bit, an older cemetery.

You will be glad you went!

One comment

  1. […] When I first started writing, someone gave me the advice to blog about questions I answer frequently.  This is one of those questions:  “I’m on Oahu for a couple of days.  What should I do?”  I’ve been a couple of times, the most recently with my parents, and have been discipled well by locals and frequent visitors.  Here are a few recommendations, and I have linked the names to web sites for you. You can find recommendations on the Big Island here. […]


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