Family Vacation to the Big Island

We went to the Big Island of Hawaii in early December and are still getting back into our regular routine. For anyone that's ever wondered about Hawaii and/or traveling with young children, the Big Island is a great place to visit. 

I'd recommend Oahu for older children (hike the Diamond Head volcano, hike through the rain forest, go para sailing, snorkeling, and try surfing), but I'd recommend The Big Island for people of all ages. We went as a group of six - my husband and I (early thirties), my husband's parents (fifties) and our two children (ages 4 and 6) and there was enough to entertain us all.

The big island is a wild place. It's part of the United States, so there a lot of "normal" things you can count on like clean water, restaurants, regular money/phone calls/language, etc. But it's so very different from any other state. 

The first thing you'll notice is that almost everything is covered in lava. Awesome! Miles and Miles (and acres and acres) of lava stretch in almost every direction. 
Along the East Cost of the Big Island - All lava stretching out to the sea.
The Roads are cut with the land so they twist and turn and jump up and down in all directions. One minute you'll be driving along a winding curve overlooking a 30 foot drop and the next minute you'll be driving down the steepest slope and the road will instantly turn into one lane bridge....and on and on.

Most of the terrain is lava covered, but the landscape alternates between lava, lush rain forest, and rolling hills. Not the kind of hills you find on the mainland, but hills none the less. And many of the hills are studded with cows - all the way up the hill! How did they climb such steep hills?

I loved seeing the cows and seeing them eat grass - the way they were intended.... There are so many waterfalls, pools, craters, mountains, volcanoes.... and beautiful shoreline everywhere you turn. Everyone should see it at least once.

Waterfall in Waimea 
We made every day in Hawaii an adventure and had the chance to do so many great things. Wondering what to do with kids in Hawaii? Our resort was outfitted with 4 pools and 3 hot tubs (including a water slide, wahoo!) We spent some time in the pool, but we were fortunate to be right on the ocean and were able to have fun in the water right outside the hotel.

We snorkeled, paddle boarded, kayaked and built sand castles. During the one and only rainstorm in the week we were there, we walked along the beaches as the waves got wilder and wilder. Then we chilled in the hot tub for a while.

The view from our hotel room balcony
We saw so many sea turtles basking on the beaches, swimming under our surfboards & kayaks, and coming up to us along the coasts. We saw huge 15 foot manta rays, and so many other sea creatures while snorkeling, and we cliff jumped into the ocean. husband cliff jumped, and I climbed to the top, but came back down the rocks a few moments later. It was a step toward bravery. Maybe next time. ;)

The 32ft cliff my husband jumped from
Did I mention that the Big Island has volcanic activity? You can see lava everywhere - walk on it, touch it, see it's devastation. But it's amazing from the air. We boarded a helicopter to see the inside of Kilauea first hand. We went deep inside the crater and got scary close to where the lava was still actively flowing. Some days it flows more than others and on the day we went up in the air it was flowing slowly but surely.
Climbing into the helicopter

Viewing Kilauea actively spewing lava

The lone house surviving the big lava flow
Kilauea Steam Vents
Hawaii's big island has white, black, and green sand beaches. The black sand beach is made up of bits of lava and is really quite remarkable. The white sand beaches are gorgeous and were a blast for kayaking and snorkeling. And the green sand beach....

It was a journey. The green sand beach is 3 1/2 miles away from any real roads and is best traveled on foot or by 4x4. We did it in our rental vehicle and it was a hairy trek. When you get to the end of the road (so to speak) this is what you see:
On our way to the Green Sand Beach
My husband travelling down the rocks to the Green Sand Beach - the white figure in the top left corner
If you get to the Green sand beach, be sure you go all the way. The top of this trench is littered with specks of green sand, but to really see and feel the beach you need to travel downward. It's not as scary as it looks and my two little kids made it up and down quickly. They actually traveled it better than the adults! Just watch them carefully because the water is wild on both the green and black sand beaches. It's not a place for swimming.

What else can you do on the Big Island? We went zip lining through the rain forest, went sailing in the middle of a wind storm (want to know what it's like to be knocked down in a sailboat - more than once - with two little kids - no life jackets and a boat full of burritos? Yep, that's how we rolled,) checked out the farmer's markets, drove the wild roads, scoped out a few shorelines and waterfalls, looked for petroglyphs, toured a macadamia nut factory and walked along the road where lava overtook civilization.
Traveling along the road covered in lava
Road closed due to lava - ya think?
We had a lot of great fun - and everyone in our group enjoyed it. If you're looking for more adventure, you could ride your bike, surf, scuba, kayak, catamaran, seek out dolphins and whales, hang glide, or take the 4 mile hike across the lava lake. There's a lot to do and see. It's an out of this world (or at least the mainland) experience. 


Anonymous said...

that looks beautiful

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