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.)

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 Hawaii 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: blogeditor@hawaii-aloha.com.


  1. I was just on the big island I went star gazing on the top of Mauna Kea I even saw Saturn and the moon through telescopes amazing. Volcano was awesome too. The Big Island really is a hidden treasure.

  2. Volcano Village is where my Mom lives. This is a very unique, artsy community. Mom is an artist and is one of many very talented artists in this quaint & close knit town. There is an annual art sale during the 3 day Thanksgiving holiday, Fri-Sat-Sun. This sale is one of a kind, as each artist has their works on display in their individual studios. You are given a map (all live close by) showing where each artist lives, you are welcomed into their homes, meeting each artist, and browse their art works. Amazing! Up the road is Cooper Center, a fun community center, offering excersize classes including Tai Chi & aerobics, quilting classes, senior citizen meetings & more. On Sunday’s Cooper Center has a farmers market and they make the best breakfast sandwiches and other food items made fresh to order. Another artist friend is Ira Ono, he has a very cool little restaurant serving healthy lunches.. enjoy some healthy eats then browse his art gallery. I definately recommend a visit to Volcano Village during your Big Island visit. This is a very interesting community offering a big scoop of Aloha!

  3. The Big Island is great for vacations. I love during the winter months how you can be down at Hapuna Beach in 80 degree weather and then in under 2 hours up at Mauna Kea in the snow and 38 degrees. 🙂

  4. And thanks a bunch Kalei for the info on Volcano Village..I lived on the Big Island for close to two years and never visited there. I’ll have to make it a point to do so on my next trip over. It sounds like a blast!!!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments! And a special mahalo to Kalei – I spend a lot of time on the Kohala coast and in Hilo for work, so trips to Volcano Village and the Park are special treats for me. It’s great to hear about some of the other activities that give me more reasons to plan my own visits upcountry!

  6. Yes, we all seem to take for granted the beauty of our island and what it has to offer beyond the coast. Cynthia, thank you for opening my eyes once again and rekindling the many memories, as a child, exploring the Volcano National Park with Dad. One such memory was the Boardwalk. We would lay on our opu, with match boxes to fill, and look for Pele’s Tears.

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