Highlights of Kailua-Kona in Hawaii- Hiking, Turtles, Coffee, and Historical Sites

Like I mentioned in an earlier post (Hawaii, “The Big Island,” Third Time’s a Charm While Discovering Waimea), the first two times I went to the island of Hawaii, also known as “The Big Island,” I spent most of my time in the area called Kona or Kailua-Kona. For my third and most recent trip to The Big Island I decided it was time to branch out a bit and stay somewhere new so I chose Waimea in the northwest side of the island. That doesn’t mean I didn’t still go to Kona, though. Here are some of the things I saw and did in Kona this time in addition to places I’ve gone to on previous trips.

One of my favorite parks in Kona is the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. There’s a small visitor’s center with the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail behind the parking lot. To the north, you’ll find Kaloko Fishpond (closed to foot traffic), ‘Aimakapa Fishpond, and ‘Ai’opio Fishtrap. The trail also goes to Honokohau Beach, where you can see green sea turtles either eating algae or sunbathing on the lava depending on the time of day. I was there twice on this trip (and I had been there before), the first time in the afternoon and I saw the turtles sunbathing on the rocks and came back the next morning for a ranger talk and the turtles were busy eating algae then.

Another popular activity in Kona is going to the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, (https://maunakea.com) and watching the sunset. I did this on a previous trip and this time I noticed how much more expensive it’s gotten, at $300 per person and up, so I chose not to go there again. You have to have a 4×4 vehicle to get to the top so most people go with tour companies. Since it’s almost 14,000 feet above sea level, it’s also quite chilly so if you’re going on your own, you’ll want warm clothes or if you’ll be with a tour group, ask if they provide coats or other warm gear (many do).

There are several places where you can tour coffee farms in Kona. Some charge an admission, some don’t. I chose one that was free, https://www.greenwellfarms.com, and thought the one hour walking tour around the farm was thorough and the guide was entertaining while educating everyone about growing and making coffee. We got to sample several different coffees afterwards and there were bags of coffee and some other items for sale. There are also farms with roasting tours where you roast your own coffee beans and take the coffee home with you for a fee, such as Sunshower Coffee Farm, Hala Tree Coffee, and Hula Daddy Kona Coffee, just to name a few.

If you’re not familiar with Kona coffee, it’s similar to wine from Napa Valley in California, where the physical location of the product, coffee beans in this case, drives up the price to an average cost of $20/pound (some brands are much more). In other words, these highly coveted beans are expensive. You’ll often see Kona blend coffees, which mean the beans grown in Kona are blended with beans from other areas. In Hawaii, there has to be at least 10% Kona coffee beans but outside of Hawaii, it could be as low as 1%. Obviously, Kona blends are much less expensive than 100% Kona coffee.

For history buffs, there’s the Hulihe’e Palace, originally built from lava rock. It was the first home to High Chief John Adams Kuakini, brother of Ka‘ahumanu the favorite wife of Kamehameha, and later home to more members of Hawaiian royalty. You can see artifacts from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani, such as koa wood furniture, portraits, kapa, feather work, and Hawaiian quilts. Docent-guided tours are available Wednesday-Friday for $22/adult and self-guided tours are on Saturdays for $16/adult. https://daughtersofhawaii.org/hulihee-palace/

The Kona Cloudforest Sanctuary sounds like an interesting place to tour, but at $95/adult for a 2 hour tour, that seemed a bit much to me so I’ve never been. There are also one hour Sound Bath Meditation Journeys for $40 and 45-minute Forest Immersion Meditation Journeys (with no availability listed so I don’t know the price for that). https://www.konacloudforest.com

Another place I’ve never been to in Kona but it sounds interesting and unique to me (but also a bit expensive, which is why I didn’t go) is the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. A one hour tour costs $73/person, where there are apparently thousands of seahorses on their 3-acre farm. You can also take surfing lessons at the farm for $250 by professional local surfers. https://seahorse.com/product/oceanrider-seahorse-farm-tour-tickets/

Are you sensing a trend here? Most things other than the national historical park and coffee farm tour that I took are extremely expensive in Kona. This was one reason I chose to stay outside of Kona for this vacation. While I’m by no means saying things are cheap outside of the Kona area, they certainly seem hyper-inflated in the Kona area. But back to more things to do!

Of course there are black, beige, and a mixture of black and white sand beaches in Kona, many of which have clear water for snorkeling. Most are rocky, though, so either have tough feet or wear water shoes. There are several beaches in Kekaha Kai State Park between the 91- and 90-mile markers on Highway 19 north of Kona. Just be sure to check water conditions before you go because the water could have dangerous rip tides or big waves fine for surfing but not good otherwise.

Believe it or not, there actually is a trail here

Some hiking trails on the Kona Coast include the Makuala O’Oma trail, a 1.5 mile loop trail located at the Makahi Street trailhead. When you arrive at the Makahi Street trailhead, you feel like you’re in the rainforest in the middle of nowhere (which, you essentially are) so it’s a very different feel from the rest of Kona. The trails aren’t marked that great here, so pay attention and watch your footing, as there are more roots and rocks I had seen on a trail in a long time. This is within the Honua‘ula Forest Reserve.

The Captain Cook Monument Trail is 1.8 miles each way, with two paths, one that goes to Kealakekua Bay and one that goes to the monument. Parking is just off the roadside. Side note: Kealakekua Bay has some of the best snorkeling in the area and you can also kayak or standup paddle board here. This is on the southern end of the Kona area.

I stumbled upon this nature trail in the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area called Maka’eo Walking Path and loved the variety of flowers and plants along the way of this easy path. It’s by Kailua Beach and there’s also a skate park and playground nearby. There’s a huge (free) parking lot as well.

Much of the shopping in Kona is clustered together just off Hawaii Belt Road and you’ll find a few different shopping malls and a string of restaurants along Ali’i Drive. I had to stop in for lunch at one of my old favorites, Kona Brewing Company, and the pizza and beer hit the spot. Although I usually love local farmer’s markets, I decided to skip the Kona Farmer’s Market after I read several reviews about low turnout of items for sale after covid. However, I discovered a new place, a local running store, Big Island Running Company. It’s small inside, like many local running stores are, but they had a decent selection of unique items, like the running hat I bought with their logo on it, “Run Big” with a graphic of the island of Hawaii.

As much as I enjoyed my time in Kona on this vacation, I was glad I chose to spread my wings and explore other areas of the Big Island and stay in Waimea. Kona is perhaps a tad more central to exploring the island than Waimea, but not by much and I’ll happily drive a little more in exchange for less crowded and less expensive.

Have you been to Kona on the Big Island? What was your experience like? Is this on your bucket list?

Happy travels!


Mistakes I’ve Made at Half Marathons

Mistakes? Oh, I’ve made plenty of mistakes at half marathons over the years. However, I prefer to call them learning moments because I learned what not to do and my hope is to pass along this knowledge so that others may learn from my mistakes. Here are just a few of the many mistakes I’ve made at races.

  • Not fueling properly

This one took me several years to get “right.” I started out not fueling enough and would run out of energy after running for around an hour. After I figured out I needed to run long training runs with something to give me quick energy (simple carbs), I tried gels and they made me nauseous. Bloks likewise made me nauseous and sometimes also have diarrhea (the absolute worst when you’re on a long run and are desperately searching for a bathroom).

Finally I discovered Honeystinger products. First I experimented with their waffles and found they were good for runs up to an hour but I needed more for longer runs and I just didn’t like eating them while running. I really liked the taste and convenience of their chews so I experimented further with those. Before starting on a run longer than an hour, I eat three chews then have two chews after thirty minutes. At the next thirty minutes (so after 60 minutes of running), I have three chews, then two chews thirty minutes later, and three chews after another thirty minutes if I’m going to be out longer than 2 hours. For a two hour run I will (sometimes) end up having about 10 chews. If I just wasn’t feeling up to more chews, I would occasionally skip some, usually around 90 minutes but often at the two hour point. Before a half marathon I have a waffle within 15 minutes of the race start time, along with three chews, and continue my alternate schedule of chews every thirty minutes after I begin running. I find it easier to put my chews in a plastic bag and stash it in the front pocket of my Nathan running vest for easy access.

Nuun and Honey Stinger are a good combination that works for me!

Fueling is more than just what you eat, though, and it also includes hydration with electrolytes. For runs more than 60 minutes, since I have a high sweat rate, I need more than plain water; I need sodium, potassium, and magnesium as well. I started out making my own by adding honey and salt to water and putting that in water bottles when I ran. That worked fine but I realized I wanted more of a flavor (plus there was no potassium or magnesium) so I tried Gatorade and Powerade. I wasn’t happy with the long list of ingredients and how much sugar was in these. Finally I discovered Nuun hydration products and I’ve been using those for what feels like a decade at least.

Nuun makes several kinds of hydration products but my favorite ones are Sport for shorter runs or when I get back from a particularly challenging run where I lost a lot of sweat. For long runs, I make some Nuun Endurance and put that in my water bottles which I put in my Nathan running vest. When I have my Honey Stinger chews, I’ll take a long drag of Nuun along with them and that combination works well for me.

  • Starting out too fast/getting caught up with the energy of the running crowd

This one is an easy trap to fall prey to. You’re excited about running a race, everyone around you is also excited, and for many people, it’s their first time running a race, or maybe even their third time but the point is, the experience is still fairly new. You’re trucking along, feeling great for the first few miles and you think to yourself, “I could continue at this pace for maybe even the rest of the race. I feel great!” and then it hits you around mile 6 that no, you can’t continue at that pace. It’s too fast for you to sustain and your body starts slowing down. If the course is hilly or it’s hot and humid, starting out too fast will come back to bite you hard. By not reserving some energy for later when either the course begins to get challenging or your body begins to fatigue, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment later in the race.

Even though it may seem tough mentally, you will benefit from holding back in the first few miles of the race regardless of how “amazing” you feel. Just think how strong you’ll feel when you’re able to pass all of those people who ran past you in the beginning of the race when you’re hitting mile 11 or 12 and those people who started out too fast are now walking.

  • Not dressed properly for weather conditions

Weather can change quickly so being prepared for the weather on race day can be a challenge if you’re traveling to a race. I learned that when you’re in the mountains, even in the summer, if a storm blows in suddenly, the temperature can easily drop by as much as 20 degrees from one day to the other. In the winter, extreme temperature changes can be even more drastic.

Challenging doesn’t mean impossible, however, you simply need to pack a little more running clothes unless you are more of a cold weather runner. For me, I tend to fare better in warmer temperatures so for a summer race in the mountains I like to bring shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, along with back-up capris and long-sleeve shirt in case of those quick temperature drops. I might even consider bringing a buff and lightweight gloves if the predicted temperature at the race start is already on the cool side of a summer race, in case it drops even more.

I was so cold at this race in Utah I never fully warmed up even though I was dressed properly!

If you know you warm up quickly when you run but it will be chilly at the race start, you might want to bring a jacket, hat, and pants that you can either hand off to a non-running friend or family member right before the race starts or put in your gear check bag if that’s offered. My daughter is the opposite from me when it comes to dressing for the weather at races and she fares better in colder temperatures. For races in cold weather, what works best for her is to wear a jacket to the race and remove it just before the race starts, and she’ll run in shorts and a tank top even when it’s in the 30’s. Meanwhile, I would be dressed in running tights, long-sleeve pullover, hat, gloves, and have a buff around my neck and I would run the race in all of that. Find what works for you in advance before the race.

For hot weather, make sure you’re not over-dressed but this is more difficult than when it’s cold because there’s only so much clothing you can remove. Many women like running in just a sports bra but test that out on training runs. In fact, you should test out all of your running gear before race day to make sure everything feels the same after wearing it for a couple of hours or more as it did when you put it on. Sometimes bottoms will tend to bunch up around the thighs or the waist band will pull down after you’ve been running for a while. You don’t want to discover this on race day. Sports bras often chafe, especially on hot days so test different sports bras as well as different lubrications like Squirrels’ Nut Butter, BodyGlide, Vasoline, or others.

  • Not wearing appropriate running shoes

When I first started running, I just wore whatever athletic shoes I happened to have. When I was a kid, it wasn’t a problem but as I got older, I saw just how important having good running shoes is when I developed shin splints in college. I have no doubt they were caused by wearing old, run-down athletic shoes.

If you have a locally-owned athletic store where you live, see if they do running shoe fittings to determine the best type of shoe for your feet. I would skip the big box athletic stores for this, because at least in my experience, they don’t have qualified people for this. People in local running stores are happy to talk shoes with you all day and they’re trained to know what they’re talking about, plus many stores have cool gadgets that measure things like your arches and more.

So many things went wrong at this race in New Mexico, but I had to just go with it!
  • Putting too hard of expectations on yourself for a race

One race won’t define your life. Things often happen that are out of our control on race day and even before the race that can alter your performance in a race. You get sick, the weather is unseasonably warm, a storm rolls in and it’s cold and rainy, you didn’t sleep well for the past week, you miss a turn on the race course, and on and on. Life happens. If you put so much pressure on yourself for a goal time and you see during the race that you won’t be able to reach that goal, it’s good to have a plan b (and plan c). I’ve had many races where I wanted to finish in x amount of time and the course was more difficult than I thought it would be or I was having stomach issues or I just wasn’t feeling that great and I had to alter my goals. If you go into a race with multiple levels of goals, it will make it easier to drop down to your b goal if you already have one in mind. Preferably your b and c goals shouldn’t be linked to a specific time but more general like “finish with a smile on my face” or “not die.”

I’m sure I’ve made plenty of other mistakes at half marathons but these are the first ones that come to mind. What are some mistakes you’ve made at half marathons or other distance races? Have you also made some of the same mistakes I made at races?

Happy running!


Exploring Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii

The region of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii lies on the northeastern part of the island and is quite different in many ways from the other regions. Hilo used to be a bustling fishing and farming town and evolved into an industrial area for the sugar cane farms. With its annual rainfall of 127 inches of rain per year, Hilo is the wettest city in the United States. This is in stark contrast to Kona, which lies to the southwest and only gets around 26 inches of rain per year.

It may come as no surprise given all that rainfall that Hilo is famous for a couple of things: waterfalls and rainforests. There are a couple of rainforests you can visit but I went to Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden. When you’re driving to this place and are getting close, you immediately feel like you’re in another world. There is an earthy smell in the air, there’s greenery all around, the air feels heavy with moisture, and the roads are narrow switchbacks with one-lane bridges. My daughter was sleeping in the car pretty much from the time we left Waikoloa Village and she when she awoke, we were about 5 minutes from the Bioreserve and Garden. Her eyes got big and she exclaimed, “Whoa! Where are we?!”

Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden is open most days except major holidays from 9 am to 5 pm and costs $25 per adult. You can also buy wipes with bug spray when you buy your tickets, which I read online by others is recommended and I bought them but I didn’t see any insects while we were there. There’s a small gift shop with the typical shirts, mugs, and a few other items. Other than the steep walkway at the beginning, the paved trail is easy and is well-marked. Each area is marked with numbers and you can follow along with the guide they give you. I loved seeing all of the flowers and plants and was amazed at the variety growing in the garden. Apparently there are over 2000 plants contained in the 20 acres of the bioreserve. This was one of my favorite places we visited on the Big Island and I highly recommend it. https://htbg.com

Another scenic park in Hilo is Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens with Japanese Gardens said to be the largest outside of Japan. There’s also Kaumana Caves, which are giant lava tubes you can walk through; bring a flashlight and wear sturdy shoes. A popular spot is Rainbow Falls, although if there’s no rainbow, like when I was there, it may seem a bit over-rated. Nearby Rainbow Falls is Boiling Pots, another area with waterfalls that we didn’t spend much time at, as it’s only a viewing platform but no trails. Richardson Ocean Park is a popular spot to go snorkeling in Hilo and has a black sand beach.

Rainbow Falls, still a beautiful waterfall even if there’s no rainbow

Another one of my favorite things to do in Hilo was visit the Hilo Farmer’s Market. We bought a white pineapple, which I was told by someone who lives in Hawaii is sweeter than the yellow or gold pineapples, and indeed it was when I cut into it later that evening. There are basically two areas of the farmer’s market, one with fresh produce and another with other goods like koa wood products, soaps, jewelry, and other locally-made products.

There are a couple of restaurants and a food truck near the Farmer’s Market and a shave ice place. Eat at Poke N’ Sides (they have much more than just poke so don’t be put off by the name if you don’t like poke) but skip the shave ice place next door. Instead go to Wilson’s By the Bay for shave ice, just a short walk from Poke N’ Sides. I read that Wilson’s has the best shave ice in all of Hawaii, and while I have tried my fair share I haven’t tried anywhere near all of the places, but I have to say it’s the best shave ice I’ve had anywhere.

A word about shave ice. This is not shaved ice, nor is it anything like a snow cone, when made properly. True Hawaiian shave ice can rarely be found on the mainland but I did manage to find a place in Florida that although I was skeptical, they had the real deal there. The main difference in Hawaiian shave ice is it’s made by shaving a block of ice, versus using crushed ice for a snow cone. The difference is a lighter, almost fluffy texture rather than with crushed ice that you still have to chew and will have small chunks of ice. The last time I was in Hawaii, when I went to the islands of Kauai and Oahu, I learned the best shave ice, in my opinion, is made with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom, shave ice in the middle, and sweet cream drizzled on top, aka “mac nut on bottom with sweet cream on top.” My personal favorite syrup combination is coconut, lime, and pineapple but I also like many others. Also, plan on a HUGE serving and ditch your diet for the day. I don’t even want to know how many calories there are in a shave ice with the ice cream on the bottom and sweetened condensed milk on top.

This shave ice was ENORMOUS but oh, so good!

If it’s just to rainy for you to spend much time outdoors in Hilo, there are some museums you can explore. The Lyman House Memorial Museum, also known as the Lyman Museum and Lyman House, is a history museum built in 1838. Admission for the Lyman Museum is divided into two separate bookings: the Lyman Museum admission (self-guided tour, $7) and the Mission House Tour (guided tour, $3). Mokupāpapa Discovery Center is an aquarium and educational center. It’s small so you can get through everything fairly quickly. The Pacific Tsunami Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of the April 1, 1946 Pacific tsunami and the May 23, 1960 Chilean tsunami which devastated much of the east coast of the Big Island, especially Hilo. There are limited hours Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday and admission is $8 per adult. Finally, there’s the Imiloa Astronomy Center with a planetarium and exhibits about Hawaiian culture and history. Admission seemed a bit pricey to me ($19 for adults) and I read it’s on the small side, so I skipped it.

You can easily see the highlights of Hilo in a day, or two, depending on whether you go to any of the beaches or museums. I had never been to Hilo before because I honestly didn’t realize everything there was to do there but I was glad I went and would go back again to explore a little more and maybe spend more time at the beaches. Still, I most likely wouldn’t spend more than a day. Also, when I was there, it didn’t rain at all the entire day but maybe I just got lucky. We did come prepared with rain jackets just in case.

You can read my other posts on my recent trip to Hawaii here: Hawaii, “The Big Island,” Third Time’s a Charm While Discovering Waimea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Have you been to Hilo? If so, what did you do and see there? Would you like to go someday?

Happy travels!


Book Review- Born to Run 2. The Ultimate Training Guide by Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton

When I heard Born to Run 2 was coming out, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. I had read Born to Run when it came out more than a decade ago and loved the stories and characters in that book. For anyone who hasn’t read Born to Run, it’s more of a story about the Tarahumara people who live deep in the canyons of Mexico and who run seemingly effortless in flimsy sandals. The book spawned the enormous barefoot running industry. I’m surely not doing the book justice because that wasn’t the author’s intention and there’s much more to it than the involvement of shoes, so if you haven’t read it, I recommend reading it for yourself.

I heard McDougall speaking on a podcast about this follow-up book and he explained why he wanted to write this book. He said he kept getting compliments on Born to Run and people asked how they should begin barefoot running or sometimes just running in general and he had no answer for them. Although he was himself a runner for many years, he didn’t have enough sound advice to give others on how to take up running. Thus, the origin of the book.

Born to Run 2 is by and large a training guide, as is in the title. There are illustrated pages on how to prepare your body to efficiently be a runner. The authors call some of these exercises “movement snacks.” They are meant to be done to prep your mind and body using playful and easy range-of-motion activities that will alert you to any hidden or maybe not so hidden trouble spots. Although they are primarily written to be done with a partner, to incorporate the community aspect of running, they could just as easily be done solo. I like that there are also explanations of the purpose of each exercise.

Part 2 in the book is called The Free Seven. Diet is discussed in-depth but with other athletes’ points of views and their stories and includes a variety of recipes. There are leg and foot strengthener exercises, a section on running form and a promised “Five-Minute Fix.” Music as a way to monitor your cadence is discussed, which I thought was a creative way to cover that topic.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Born to Run book without a section on footwear. I like how it’s not just MacDougall and Orton’s opinions on running shoes, however, and there is space for other people’s opinions when it comes to running shoes.

There were a couple of sections I found surprising, like the information about using scooters as a form of cross-training. I also found the story about the Amish running couple interesting. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is how stories are intertwined throughout, so it’s not just another training book on running. There are stories that relate back to the particular topic at hand and many of the stories have the theme of “fun,” in that running should be fun or otherwise why do it.

The book is rounded out with discussions on running with your dog and finding a running community. Like the rest of the book, there are heart-warming stories including people running with rescue dogs (that are adopted after the run) and the importance of running clubs. There are tips and advice whether you want to form your own running club or join one. The authors emphasize the importance of the community aspect of running and how it’s immensely more fun (back to that word) to run with others than just by yourself all the time.

A story is told toward the end of the book about how Caballo Blanco aka Micah True, from “Born to Run” was missing and eventually found dead in a canyon. A section in the book reads as follows, “No wonder a rebel like Caballo loved running so much. If you were humble enough to go back to basics, and learn from the quietest teachers in the world, you would soar…. Follow in his footsteps. Run freee.”

This book, in addition to the two-week “reset” diet and many exercises, also includes a QR code to download a 90-day program app. The app has videos and will track your progress. The 90-day Run Free Program is also printed in the back of the book and has each day of each week broken down into food (for the first two weeks), fitness, form, and focus run with the appropriate exercises or information for each.

Finally, there’s one last section of the book that seemed out of place to me or perhaps like it was included as an after thought but is nonetheless an important subject: injuries. The most common runner injuries are listed, like plantar fasciitis with a description of how it feels with a diagram of where on the body the cause is and where the pain usually radiates. There are possible causes listed, remedies, and long-term strategies.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. When I told some running friends at my run club I just finished reading it, one of them rolled her eyes but after explaining what the book is about she said she “might actually consider reading it, just so long as it’s not another book about minimalist running.” Of course there is some element of minimalist shoe running in Born to Run 2, but that’s only a tiny fraction of the book. I look at it like a helpful book for beginner runners to help them get started on their running journey or for more seasoned runners it’s a book with plenty of useful reminders of exercises and other things we all could spend more time on to keep us running healthy.

Have you read Born to Run 2? If not, did you read the first one? Are you interested in reading this “follow-up” (although I hesitate to call it that)?

Happy running!


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you like volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii (The Big Island) is a place you’ll want to visit. This park has not one but two active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Since its first well-documented eruption in 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 34 times and last erupted in November through December 2022. When I was there in January 2023, it was Kilauea’s turn and it was actively erupting so much that I could see lava spewing and flowing during the day just using the zoom lens on my camera.

A live-stream video of the lava lake from Kilauea is available at: https://www.youtube.com/usgs/live. This is exactly what I saw when I was at the park. Park rangers have clearly marked the best spot to see the eruption, so you just follow the signs marked “Active eruption” from the visitor center and it’s a short, easy walk (or at least it was for me). The best advice for anyone, which I was told upon entering the park, is to go straight to the visitor’s area to talk to rangers there about current eruptions and trail conditions.

Active volcanoes aside, there are many trails at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other unique areas to explore. One of my favorite parts of the park is the Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube). It’s incredible to see a rainforest in the park in juxtaposition to all of the black rock from past lava flows and a giant lava tube formed from an eruption 500 years ago so big you can easily walk through it. The tube is lit from 8 am to 8 pm but you need to bring your own light outside of those hours. Another one of my favorite trails is the Kilauea Iki Trail, where you walk along the solidified lava lake on the floor of Kīlauea Iki crater.

The giant lava tube is just behind me

You can see (and feel) steam vents and sulfur banks along the Ha’akulamanu Trail. At Puʻuloa Petroglyphs there are 23,000 petroglyphs in the area. You can safely (for the protection of the petroglyphs) see many of them from boardwalks. For something perhaps unexpected, walk in a huge rainforest on the Halema’uma’u Trail (the phrase from destruction comes creation comes to mind). Another example of this is the Kipukapualu Trail. The walk will take you through a “kīpuka,” an area of older vegetation surrounded by a more recent lava flow from Mauna Loa.

There are also backcountry camping sites at the park. You just need to purchase a permit for $10 that covers up to 10 people up to 7 nights, on top of the park entrance fee. I think this would be an awesome thing to do but you would need to pack in absolutely everything you’d need since you’d be completely on your own (no food, no fresh water, no shelter, etc.).

You can also stay at the Volcano house, which has 33 rooms, albeit they’re pricey, at around $300/night before taxes and fees. They also have rustic cabins with just beds inside and a fire pit outside for $80/night. There’s also a restaurant, The Rim at Volcano House, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner especially can be quite expensive, as you can imagine. There are also rental properties in the nearby village of Volcano that are more reasonably priced and within a short drive of the park.

If you’re not really a hiker, no worries, there are two driving tours and none of the roads in the park require four-wheel drive vehicles. The first is the Crater Rim Drive. After you enter the park and go past the visitor center, begin your tour at Kīlauea Overlook and work your way clockwise along Crater Rim Drive. There are many well-marked overlooks and other stops with little walking needed.

The Chain of Craters Road goes north to south in the park, beginning at the Kīlauea summit and ending at the Holei Sea Arch. I had never been to the sea arch before (this was my third time in the park) and it’s worth going the extra bit to see it. Basically the road ends and there’s a parking lot from which you walk to the viewing area for the Holei Sea Arch. I’m a sucker for jagged cliffs off the ocean and this has that plus an arch of black lava rock extending into the water. It was much more beautiful in person than the photo can do it justice.

Holei Sea Arch is worth the drive to the southern part of the park

One final word of advice: be sure you check the National Park website before you go. Roads and trails are often closed either because of weather conditions, active volcanoes, or to protect animals in the park. You can also check on various parking lot conditions; many fill up by 10 am. You will be given a map to the park upon entry so keep that to help navigate because it’s a large park and it would be easy to miss something. Also, wifi and gas stations are spotty so download the area on your phone first and fill up before heading out to the park. https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm

Do you like volcanoes? Have you been to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

Happy travels!


%d bloggers like this: