Hawaii, commonly called the Big Island, is the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago in the Central Pacific. What attracted me to visit the island is that it is home to the most active volcano in the world. So we planned a jam packed volcano day trip to the Island of Hawaii from Oahu.
TOURING THROUGH AIR
We departed the Moana Surfrider Westin Hotel at 5:30 AM for an early morning flight out of Honolulu to Hilo via Hawaiian Airlines. We arrived at Hilo International Airport and grabbed breakfast before our 7:30 flight time with Paradise Helicopters. We signed up for their one hour Volcanoes and Waterfalls Extreme tour. Extreme means the doors are off the helicopter and if you’re sitting up front like I did, your seat literally hangs out the edge. Talk about an exhilarating experience. Upon lower altitude flyovers on some of the lava flows, we were able to feel the heat emanating from the fresh lava below. The fresh lava was an amber color surrounded by a beautiful silvery color and it eventually cools off into a darker matte black color. The trip entire helicopter tour was just breathtaking and my 73 y.o. mom enjoyed every minute of it.
HIGHEST POINT IN HAWAII
After the flight, with the adrenaline pumping in our system, we grabbed a rental car from the airport to start exploring the island by foot. First stop was to climb Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii at 13,796 feet. From Hilo, it was an hour drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor Center and it was another 40 or so minutes to the peak. We recommend renting a 4×4 to climb to the top since the roads are gravel roads and at times can be extremely treacherous with hairpin turns with no guard rails. Once you reach the top, it’s another amazing view of the observatories as well as being above the clouds. You certainly feel as if you were on top of the world. Bring weather appropriate gear as it will be windy and colder at the summit. Some of the views seem like a scene from the movie The Martian.
CHASING WATERFALLS & VOLCANOES
We descended from Mauna Kea and had Rainbow Falls next on our jam-packed itinerary. Located in Hilo, Rainbow Falls is 80 ft. tall and 100 ft. in diameter. We didn’t quite see any rainbows at the falls that day, but it was still a great stop. I would definitely spend several days hiking and exploring this amazing place.
After Rainbow Falls, we planned to spend the rest of the afternoon at Volcanoes National Park for a highlight tour. I could easily spend several days at this park, but not today.
Since we were based in Waikiki, I asked myself while I was planning our vacation if this trip was feasible to go from Honolulu to Hilo and back in one day. The answer is obviously YES, and it was well worth it. Sure it was a long day, but for me, this is what travel is about. There are some days you sit on the beach for hours and some days are long and jammed with adventures that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
HOTEL: Moana Surfrider Westin Hotel