Your love affair with lava begins the moment your plane touches down at Kona International Airport and the wheels roll across the ancient royal fishponds that were forever covered during the 1801 lava flow.
The horizon filled with lava fields is a shock for first time visitors expecting tropical palm trees, green golf courses and beaches but those are only a few minutes away, tucked into the manicured community and resort grounds of the Kohala Coast.
A lava message of love along the roadside — Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle
Finding Lava in the Most Unexpected Places on the Kohala Coast
On the roadside. As you leave the airport and drive north toward the Kohala Coast on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, messages of love spelled out in white stones on the roadside lava greet visitors. The lava theme continues in almost every activity or attraction that you’ll see and do on the island.
View from the 17th hole at Hualalai Golf Course — Photo courtesy of Hualalai Resort
On the golf course. The Kohala Coast is a golfer’s paradise and the bright green fairways provide a startling contrast to the lava tubes and fields that surround them. The Mauna Lani Resort’s South Course and the Waikoloa Beach Resort’s Kings’ Course weave in and out of lava fields full of ancient petroglyphs while the Jack Nicklaus designed Hualalai Golf Course has play over ancient fishponds.
Beach and snorkeling bliss at Hapuna Beach — Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle
At the beach and under the waves. Whether you’re soaking up the sun or exploring under the waves Hawaii’s beaches entertain visitors of all ages. On Hawaii, the Big Island the reefs sit on top of century’s old lava flows and are home to tropical fish and sea turtles. Two easily accessible reefs with spectacular beaches are next door to each other at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, which sits on world famous Hapuna Beach, and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Public parking fills up quickly at both locations.
At the spa. The endless spa options at Kohala Coast resorts offer a relaxing way to experience the power of Pele. With so many activities offered at the Hilton Waikoloa to entertain all ages, it’s easy to escape to the Kohala Spa for a Pohaku Hot Stone massage or treat your feet to a volcanic mud wrap during the Hiwahiwa massage at The Spa without Walls at The Fairmont Orchid.
From the sky. If you want to see lava spewing from Kilauea but don’t want to spend a full day in the car a helicopter tour is your best bet. Tours are pricey and start at $400 for a two-hour flight but you’ll fly through 11 of 13 of the world’s climate zones and see the volcano up-close. Blue Hawaiian, Paradise and Sunshine helicopters all depart from or near the Kohala Coast.
Kilauea lava flow at dusk — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson
If a helicopter tour is not in your plan, travel by car to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or take the guided and popular Twilight Volcano tour with Hawaii Forest & Trail that departs from the Waikoloa Resort area.
Wherever you discover lava, leave it where you find it. It’s considered bad luck to remove lava from its home and the Hawaii Island Visitors Bureau receives boxes of lava rocks from visitors that have taken it as a souvenir.