Standing tall at 13,803 feet (4,207.3 meters), Mauna Kea is the highest peak in the state of Hawaii. It is also one of five volcanic hot spots on the island, but is currently dormant, having witnessed its last eruption about 3,600 years ago. The mountain is sacred to the native Hawaiian people, and only high ranking members of the community were traditionally allowed to ascend the peak. Its summit is considered one of the best astronomical observation sites in the world and is home to a number of observatories. Numerous trails exist on the mountain, some of which lead up to the summit.
Among Big Island's white sand spots, this one stands out and is regularly ranked among the top beaches in the world. The sand is sugar-fine, warm and clean and stretches as far as the eye can see. The waves are deep blue in the distance, foamy when they hit the shore. The half-mile strip also has great facilities like a paved walkway leading from the parking lot, which is a rarity in Hawaii!
Estimated to be between 200 and 1000 years old, these eerie, timeless remnants of Hawaii's past are at the end of a 0.7 mile paved trail. The trail is easy to maneuver and the scenery is amazing. The first part travels over a vast expanse of lava rock. Eventually it leads into a dry wood forest where crude symbols are carved into large rocks. The historic site is located in the Holoholokai Beach Park.
The tallest peak in Hawai'i, Mauna Kea is famed for snow dusted slopes through the winter season. Natural deposits left by Ice Age glaciers are easily visible to any science buff. People with an interest in archaeology may want to hike the 40-minute path to Lake Waiau, where an archaeological site still shows remnants of ancient pre-contact Hawai'i. Plenty of other people come here to get a good look at the island from the vantage point of 13,000 feet above sea level. Note: Limited access to rental cars. Check before attempting to make the drive.
Located at the very end of the Honokaa-Waipio Road, this valley is perhaps one of the most sacred in the islands. Burial caves and other relics of ancient Hawaiians still exist in the valley. The endangered Hawaiian hawk are also spotted here. They gather in the late afternoons to search for prey. Today, the valley is home to taro farmers, who take their crop up the narrow road to poi factories in Hilo. The valley is on private property and access by rental cars is prohibited by car rental agencies. Please respect the area when visiting.
A visit to Pololu Valley is probably one of the most enjoyable drives on the island. It's an experience that can be described as interesting and pleasurable. To get to Pololu, one must drive through the small town of Hawi, past the King Kamehameha statue in Kapaau and continue down through single-lane bridges, metal-roofed plantation-style homes, and vistas that include the eastern slope of Haleakala on Maui on a clear day. The drive proceeds past forested land and tropical landscapes. The jaw-dropping view appears quite unexpectedly when the road starts its descent into the valley. Truly unforgettable.
The sunny Kohala Coast yields some of the best beaches on the Big Island, and Waialea Beach is certainly one of the best. Located at mile marker 69 along Queen Kaahumanu Hwy, this beach is not as popular as nearby Hapuna or as busy as Spencer. The shoreline is a sliver of white sand but the beauty is in the clear waters and remote location. Locals gather on weekends in droves with kids and body boards in tow. Snorkeling is a popular activity here since the waters are clear and conditions are typically calm, especially in the summer months. Park respectfully and leave only footprints, please. The beach is open from sunrise to sunset.
Located on the sunny Kohala coast of the Big Island, Kaunaoa Bay is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. The wide sandy crescent shoreline fronts the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and is the perfect beach to spend the day on the soft sand or swimming the clear, warm, gentle surf. Although public beach access is mandated by law, the hotel controls access by limiting the number of parking spaces, so arrive early and bring along a picnic and drinks to avoid the pricey resort offerings. Showers and restrooms are available, but beach chairs and umbrellas are not. The beach is open from sunrise to sunset.
This quiet, peaceful beach is located behind the Orchid at Mauna Lani. While it is separate from any of the hotels, it often gets included in hotel amenity lists. A secluded, rocky expanse, it is good for hiking or picnicking, but not so good for swimming. A path across the parking lot from the beach leads to the Puako Petroglyphs. Restrooms and picnic tables are onsite. Pets and off-road vehicles are not allowed and camping is prohibited. Do not try to bend the rules, security guards patrol regularly.
Nestled on the southern foothills of Mauna Kea, Mauna Kea State Recreation Area may be less famous than its counterparts, but remains a popular stop among visitors who come to see the stunning dormant volcano. This volcano forms a formidable backdrop for the surrounding scenery. The recreation area is set in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and spans across 20 acres (8.09 hectares) of wilderness. Trails crisscross over shrub-lands to form the landscape of this dry and windy terrain. There are camping and picnic facilities as well as a playground for children.