Best things to do in Hawaii and sightseeing in Hawaii
Mahana Beach - Hawaii
Hike time: 1 – 1.5 hrs Green Sand Beach is an absolute must-do activity for anyone traveling to the Big Island. Don’t be scared off by the tales of a windy, long hike, just be prepared. Yes, it’s extremely windy, and dusty, and rocky, but once you get there you’ll know it was well worth it. I saw a couple doing this hike with an infant on their back, so it’s definitely more than doable. Green Sand Beach There is very little shade on the beach so bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen – it’s hot out there. Often there will be locals with their 4-wheel-drives selling cold beer and sandwiches. You can also pay them to give you a lift back ($10-15) if you’re not feeling the treacherous journey, though don’t count on it because they’re not always there. I ran out of water with not a local in sight and the hike back was not fun. From Ka Lae (South Point), find the Kaulana Boat Ramp and follow the rough trail for about 4 km (2.5 mi). It’s hard to get lost, just follow the coastline, you’ll know when you’re there. It’s pretty steep getting down onto the beach so make sure you follow the trail and watch your step, it can be quite slippery. The beach sits in a volcanic crater and the olivine deposits actually cause the sand to be green. You may notice a green shimmer in the rocks as you get closer to the beach. It’s forbidden to take any of the sand as a souvenir to preserve one of the only two natural phenomenons of its kind in the world (the other being in the Galapagos), so be sure to respect that and take pictures only.
Kohala Coast Crane - Hawaii
Back to the Kohala coastline, aquamarine waters and white sands greeted us. Hawaii as is seen in the popular imagination is no less beautiful when seen in the perspective of the Kohala beaches. After the starkness of Mauna Kea summit, it proved to have an allure of the human influence and kind nature.
Lake Waiau - Hawaii
Mauna Kea - Hawaii
Reaching the summit of Mauna Kea might seem a bone-jarring effort, but it is well worth the drive. The starkness of the land at the top of the summit has an otherworldly feel to it that surpasses one's imagination. Having grown up on a steady diet of Hollywood fare, I felt that a meeting with ET wouldn't feel quite outlandish here.
Waipio Valley - Hawaii
Hike time: 30 mins. Waipi’o Valley used to be home to ancient Hawaiian royalty, but is now mainly taro farmers. Sheltered by high cliffs on either side, Waipi’o valley is only about 1 mile long with a stream flowing into the ocean from the privately owned Hiilawe Falls towering 1,400 ft above, making it the highest waterfall on the island. To get there from Hilo, take Route 19 north and turn right onto Route 240 to Waipi’o Valley. There is a car park at the top with a lookout and although there is a paved road allowing access to the valley, it is very steep with a 25% grade and only accessible by 4-wheel-drive. A walk down is usually your only option to access the valley, but well worth the trek. Though many locals use this beach as a surf spot, the current can still be quite strong and it’s best to swim only when the water is calm. It is especially dangerous in the winter months, though still worth the trip because this is the best time for whale watching. You have to be wary of the waves crashing in, I went from knee-deep to waist deep in a matter of seconds and damaged my camera that was (stupidly) in my pocket, another silly mistake of mine. For another excellent view of the valley, cross the river and cross all the way to the opposite side of the beach and head up the steep Muliwai switchback trail leading to Waimanu Valley (an excellent but long hike for the more adventurous). The third switchback is the best photo opportunity with little to no tourists getting in your way, it only takes about half an hour to get this far.
Pololū Valley - Hawaii
Hike time: 20 mins. Not the kind of beach you go to for basking and bathing the day away, but a tranquil place of contemplation in a wild, lush, untamed and unpopulated valley at the north end of Hawaii’ Island. Most tourists opt to visit Waipi’o Valley so this is a great place for seclusion, I didn’t see anyone else when I was there but noticed that some campsites had been setup at some point so it might be a great option for an overnight stay. To get there drive north on Highway 270 until you get to a the end and you will be rewarded with a gorgeous view over Pololu valley and the rugged Kohala Coast. From there I highly suggest taking the hike down to the beach. The trail is a rough switchback, dropping 400 feet rather quickly so you should be moderately fit or the way up will be a challenge. The valley is privately owned so you should stay close to the beach. You can cross the stream 80-120 feet inland and can usually find a stone ford in that area to cross easily. It’s not recommended that you swim here as the beach lies at the channel connecting Hawaii and Maui, bringing strong currents and rip tides, even the strongest swimmers can easily be caught and swept away.