If "sea level Hawaii" is all you've experienced, you are definitely missing out on many of Hawaii's scenic treasures–and some real adventure.
Many people, when they think of Hawaii, immediately see images of white sand beaches, coconut trees and mai-tais in the tropical sun. Not that there's anything wrong with that–you aren't likely to find anyone who lives here turning down a luxurious beach day or their favorite sunset cocktail! But, on your next visit, may I suggest getting to know Hawaii at higher elevations?
On the Big Island, there are a number of opportunities to experience "upcountry" Hawaii, but people taking a Hawaii vacation often put at the top of their itinerary a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park–a great place to get your first taste of the Big Island at 4,000 ft. above sea level. The Park is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, so if you spend some time here you can explore up to seven ecological zones (seacoast, lowland, mid-elevation woodland, rain forest, upland forest, subalpine, and alpine) in one trip.
I recommend, if it is at all possible, staying at a Volcano Village bed & breakfast for a couple of nights during your Big Island visit. Most folks don't realize how long the drive from Kona or the Kohala coast to Volcano will really feel by the time you reach the Volcanoes National Park. Being able to relax and enjoy the Village as well as the Park will make your trip to Hawaii's Big Island much more enjoyable.
There are a few great restaurants in Volcano–Kilauea Lodge is one favorite of mine (we've gone there for many special occasions and, for a few years, going to the Lodge for Thanksgiving Day dinner was a highly-anticipated treat). But you'll also want to reserve some time just to slow down and soak in the stunning beauty of the lush rainforest. Ohia forests and hapu'u ferns abound here–making Volcano Village an ideal place for a restful morning cup of coffee and or reading on your lanai as well as for getting up close and personal with "madame Pele" and her volcanic playground when you're ready to explore the Park.
(Photo: Though beautiful, kahili ginger is an invasive species commonly found in the Volcano area.)
Related post: Waimea and the Kohala Mountains
We are happy to welcome Cynthia's contribution to the Hawaii Aloha Travel blog this week. Cynthia will tell us about other ways to see Hawai‘i at higher elevations in future posts, as well as other notes about the Big Island.
If you live in Hawaii and would like to contribute a post, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 22nd, 2010