Begin your unique Big Island adventure through the island's most beautiful natural attractions out at Pololu Valley toward the end of the road along the Kohala Coast. Since you're likely to be waking up in Kona, where most of the island's hotels are, drop by Island Lava Java in the heart of Kailua. Fill up on coffee or tea, pastries, bagels, eggs . . .you get the idea. It's all super simple fare, but delicious and well-suited to take on the road and help get your adventure started.
Take a cruise down Highway 19 towards Kohala and you'll be treated to the scenic route by the coast. Pine Trees, a scenic lookout, Mauna Kea Beach and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area are all along the way, but Pololu Valley is the destination. After about 30 minutes, you'll turn onto Highway 270 which will bring you right to the valley, a beautiful and historically significant part of the island where many kings were born and raised. We suggest just hanging out at the top for a photo opportunity, and to take in the peace and serenity, because the trip down is quite strenuous and long.
Pololu Bay — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
From here it's back to the highway towards Kamuela; cruising through this quaint inland town is a scenic experience of its own. This would be a good time for lunch, so stop at the Hawaiian Style Cafe nestled in the heart of the cool-climate town. It's a treat, at this local favorite, to try traditional Hawaiian food as well as plenty of American dishes with a local twist. Eat onsite or take it on the road.
You'll soon begin to see spectacular views along the Hamakua Coast. It won't be long before you turn towards the direction of the ocean, Honoka`a Town and Waipio Valley. You could easily spend an entire day just within the valley itself, but today it's all about the views from above. Gaze down at the black-sand beach and river, notice the "Z" trail winding up the far wall of the valley and look for waterfalls cascading down cliffs at the rear of the valley.
While cruising along the Hamakua Coast on the way to Hilo on the east side, notice the many gorgeous views. Vertical cliffs over the ocean, rolling green pastures dotted with cattle and sheep and an abundance of roadside waterfalls and mini-valleys.
Rainbow Falls — Photo courtesy of Carolyn Reich
Rainbow Falls in Hilo will be the last stop before heading up to a volcano for sunset. Named after the rainbows that are created in the mist around the cascading water, Rainbow Falls is a gorgeous and serene. Look head-on at the falls or carefully take the often slick trail to the top of the falls and look down. Bring a camera; you can capture a rainbow.
Just around the corner is a lovely eatery, Cafe Pesto, where you may want to enjoy dinner. Offering a gourmet take on traditional Italian dishes like pasta, calzones and pizzas, Cafe Pesto is one of the best restaurants in Hilo for family fun or a romantic date.
After dinner, it's time for what may be the most unique part of this adventure. Head up Saddle Road to the world's tallest volcano, Mauna Kea. At the Mauna Kea Summit and Onizuka Visitor's Center, you'll witness the best sunset view on the island. Watch the sky turn purple and orange above the other volcano, Mauna Loa, and over the ocean in the distance. Learn about the island's history in the center and look through telescopes at the ocean and the stars.
Enjoy Hawaii's biggest island, absorb the peace that radiates from it and don't forget a camera!