The Best Summer Adventures on Hawaii’s Big Island
There’s no doubt that the Kohala Coast makes an ideal base for all things outdoorsy and adventurous, whether that means outrigger canoeing, hiking or diving. And the backdrop is scenic to the nth degree. Coral reefs dot the turquoise waters. Mountain ranges are visible in the distance and ancient Hawaiian fishponds and petroglyphs are well within your reach.
First things first, though, the island of Hawaii isn’t nicknamed the Big Island for nothing. It’s the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, which means it’s a massive canvas for some showstopping natural wonders. Geographically unique, it has 10 of the world’s 13 climate zones — we’re talking everything from snowcapped mountains to rainforests to volcanoes.
That said, a set of wheels is a must. Since rental-car companies are notorious for having low inventory and high demand, Turo is a popular alternative. Think of it as the Airbnb of car rentals. Here’s the lowdown: online or through the app, you book a car from a local resident for a price that is set by the owner. Pickup and drop-off points are often more convenient than traditional car-rental locations. There’s a wide selection of cars, you can choose from different insurance coverage options and it’s common to find much better prices than with a traditional car rental company. Number one bonus: no need to wait in line; everything is arranged through the app and keys are already in the car or provided by the owner.
If you are a guest at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai you will not only enjoy luxury accommodations and top-notch dining experiences, you’ll also have access to King’s Pond, the resort’s 1.8-million-gallon aquarium, where you can swim with more than a thousand sea critters, including a spotted eagle ray, yellow tang, unicorn fish and a puffer fish named Meatball. Visit Pat, the resident octopus, and learn about sea urchins at the on-site Kumu Kai Marine Center. You can even meet up with a marine biologist for a private eagle ray feeding or tide pool tour.
Take a tour of Mauna Kea with a permitted company like Hawaii Forest & Trail for hiking and stargazing. If you are more interested in things like waterfall tours, sunset sails and surf lessons, then GetYourGuide.com is a great place to start. Score some quality time on the water with the company’s Luxury Catamaran Trip along the Kona Coast. This area is known for its caves, arches and swim-throughs, not to mention 600 species of tropical fish.
ToursByLocals also has curated experiences ranging from walking tours to driving adventures. Local guides will take you to Kilauea volcano, waterfalls and the Hamakua Coast, just to name a few. Come nighttime, don snorkel or scuba gear and make friends with manta rays (they can have wingspans up to 14 feet) in the calm waters off the Kona Coast. Using spotlights on the seafloor, outfitters like Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii attract plankton, which the hungry rays gracefully scoop up while doing back rolls.
“Kailua-Kona is protected by our volcanoes from any severe weather, so we have amazing conditions year-round and insane visibility,” says Jason Lafferty, a divemaster with Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii.
Help keep the island beautiful by volunteering with Malama Hawaii. And it’s not a chore either — multiple hotel and resorts offer programs so it’s easy to get involved. For example, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort offer the e ala e (get awake) ritual, when you’ll listen to a Hawaiian oli (chant), followed by a beach cleanup. (The Mauna Kea program is for guests only; however the Hapuna Beach Resort program is open to the public.) If you’d like to try something completely different, take a helicopter tour with Paradise Helicopters. The experience includes a private landing and the chance to plant a native tree.