EATING!!!: Let's get to the really good things to do first. We aren't Manhattan or San Francisco but we bet you go back weighing more than you did when you left!!!
AKAKA FALLS: About 13 miles north of Hilo, is a very scenic park with a beautiful waterfall. The walk around path is not long and is paved.
ATLANTIS SUBMARINES offers an interesting tour of the ocean to a depth of 100 feet. Very enjoyable, scenic and relaxing and not at all claustrophobic. They have seen whales underwater more than once. They do multiple trips daily and are located across from the Kailua Harbor.
BEACHES:: Who says we don't have beaches? South Point has Green Sands Beach. Past that towards Volcanos is Black Sands Beach. Alii Drive has White Sands Beach for boogie boarding. North of the airport is Kekaha Kai State Park and Kua Bay with gorgeous sand beaches. The Waikaloa Beach Resort area has several beautiful beaches including Mauna Kea, and Hapuna (rated the best beach in the nation more than once). Snorkel, sun bath, boogie board/body surf, swim - you can find it all on the Big Island beaches.
BIRDING: On the property are: Zebra Dove, Saffron Finch, Java Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Japanese White Eye, Gray Francolin, Common Myna, and Wild Turkeys. (Thanks guests Jan & Bill Deckman.) Also Yellow-fronted Canary and Spotted Dove. (Thanks guests Autumn & Bill Strahle.) Also House Finch and Japanese White Eye feeding from yellow-orange flowers in Silver (Silk) Oak trees (courtesy Richard Begley & Carol Nelson). There is good birding in VOLCANO. See the Maunu Ulu hike and the hike near the golf course. Given the recent eruption, check the park website for opens and closures.
BOTANNICAL GARDENS: About 7 miles north of Hilo on the scenic drive to Onomea Bay, has a very wide variety of plants and flowers in a very lush setting on the coast. Private, Fee.
CITY OF REFUGE: Also known by its Hawaiian name, PU'UHONUA O HONAUNAU is a national park. It is about 45 minutes south of us. It is a place where fallen warriors could come to save themselves from certain death. A great place to walk around and end explore. Just outside it the park entrance is EXCELLENT SNORKELING and generally has turtles. It is at the end of a road off to the right and adjacent to the park entrance. There is an easy entry called Two Step out on the lava; there are usually people standing or sitting around it. There is a VERY NICE HIKE from the south end of the park to a promenade about half a mile away. Just ask at the Park for directions.
GOLF: There are several golf courses in the area and in Waikoloa. For a list of golf courses on all the islands try Hawaiian Islands Golf Courses
HELICOPTER TOURING: The helicopter tour of the island is a once-in-a-lifetime flight. Make sure you do the whole island and not just the volcano tour. The Hamakua Coast is just as spectacular and impressive as the volcano, if not more. We have several good choices both out of the airport and near Waikoloa.
HIKING There is a very comprehensive list at BEST HIKES. In addition, there are several we like to recommend. They are short and easy and neaer the ranch. Kaloko-Honokohau State Park (see below) has 3 hikes all of which are within 20 minutes of the Ranch. The south-most hike begins at the north end of Honokoha Harbor. Almost always uncrowded, this is a great afternoon hike and there are always turtles in the shallows or hauled out on the beach. The middle hike is begun from the visitor center and goes to the ocean and a large brakish pond that generally has wild life. The north-most hike, and our favorite is accessed via an un-paved road about a mile north of he park entrance. It is easily transited and has a Hawaiian fish pond with restored rock wall. This is a DON'T MISS spot. There is apath to that goes to the north around the back side of the pond, and an old trail that goes to the south. Best done in the morning with fish jumping and feeding. Often there are birds fishing for breakfast. Pu'u wa'awa'a Cindercone State Park about 18 miles from the Ranch towards Waimea, has several hiking paths including one that winds around to the back side of the cindercone and then up to the top. If you are going to Volcanoes National Park Our favorite is Kilauea Iki. Start from the Thurston Lava Tube parking area and hike counter clockwise. The hike loops around and back up, ending about 1/4 mile before your vehicle. Napau Crater, a 12 mile round trip. City of Refuge has a nice hike with good views on the south end. Another don't miss favorite, better in the morning than afternoon, is OLD COASTGUARD ROAD. The road is about 4 miles before Hawi towards Kwaihae. Travel the ocean route from Kona. You can make stops at some nice coastal beaches and areas after Kwaihae. You can google map it. The road is about two miles long and ends at the ocean. It is worth, upon returning, to go over the "mountain" from Hawi if you have the time. Hawwi has a great ice cream/sandwich shop. If surf is up the coast below the parking gets bashed and it can be spectacular. There is a short hike back up the hill along the ocean that ends at a private subdivision and has very nice views. Turn left inland and you come to a whale statue with a dolphin. After this, take unpaved road/path that winds back towards the road and you come to a fence and turn left on a short path back to where you parked. You have made a "loop". You can do a second hike in the other direction, just go down to the waters edge and go along the coast. This is visually stunning. You can wander about as far as you like, well past some old buildings. For another great hiking guide, see the Paths website. Ask Rick for more information about hikes.
HILO Market: Open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It has a great selection of local fruits and fresh-baked breads. It also offers food, flowers, and a selection of local artist work. It is in the older section of town opposite the Bay. Combine this trip with a trip to the zoo. Hilo, the other side of the island, is only about an hour and twenty minutes from the ranch. The road is all new and ugraded the last five years or so and it is an easy drive.
HORSEBACK RIDING: There are several good riding stables in the Waimea area about an hour from the Ranch. Waipio Ridge Stables offers riding in and above Waipio Valley. Paniolo Riding Adventures offers open range riding for all levels in the beautiful Kohala Mountain area. Na'alapa Stables offers riding on Kahua Ranch and Waipi'o Valley
'IMILOA: Located in Hilo, Imiloa is a center for astronomy and Hawaiian cultural traditions. It has a 3-d tour of the universe, and a planetarium/ large-screen auditorium with extremely impressive video shows, 12, 1, 2, 3 (akin to IMAX), changing monthly. Special shows for children Saturday 10 am. HIGHLY recommend this for anyone. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 5pm. Under 12 half-price; 969-9700. Get directions and show information before going.
KALOKO-HONOKOHAU NATIONAL PARK: The park covers Honokohau South and North and a little more to the north, including a nice morning hike listed under "Hiking" above.
KAYAKING: A beautiful spot for kayaking is Kealakekua Bay about 40 minutes south of the ranch. Bring snorkeling gear with you as the Captain Cook monument is on the north side of the bay and is a very protected and good place to snorkel. The terrain to the north and south is very pretty. Often there are dolphins in the Bay. During the whale season (December through March) you can often get close to the humpbacks. Try Adventures in Paradise for rentals.
KEAUHOU MARKET Open on Saturdays. Smaller than the Hilo market and a more limited selection. All items are either Big Island-grown or baked (yummy). A selection of organic also. One vendor offers fresh fish but you need to get there early 8:30 or so as it goes fast.
MAUNA KEA: Take a tour or if you have four-wheel drive, drive to the top of Mauna Kea for the afternoon light and sunset. The top is 13,796 feet. The view and the sunset can be spectacular. On Thursday through Sunday nights, the Visitors' Center is open and they have public viewing through 14 & 16 inch Cassegrain telescopes.
MOUNTAIN BIKING: We are not the premier place for mountain biking but there is mountain biking on the island. There are some trails above the Ranch. Ask Rick or contact one of the bike shops.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Rick is an active amateur photographer both underwater and landscape. He is the founder of the Kona Camera Club. He would be glad to advise you on your trip. He has a short Word guide to his favorite photo sites that you can request by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pololu Valley: Located at the north of the island at the end of the road, it is a scenic hike of about 20 minutes from the lookout down to the valley. Best to do it in sneakers or hiking sandals/boots. Stop at Keokea Beach Park on your return. It is about 3 miles back.
RAINBOW FALLS: Just outside of Hilo. Just a few miles past it is Boiling Pots. Both are right next to the parking area. DO NOT try to hike down to Boiling Posts. It has strong undercurrents and several people have slipped in and drowned. The view site is very safe and fenced.
SCUBA DIVING: Your hosts are certified divers. Rick has a very good knowledge of the diving business and the Kona coast having owned a boat for some eyars and having been the president of the (now defunct) Kona Underwater Photographic Society.
SHOPPING: The big chains of Walmart, Safeway, Longs, Ace Hardware, Ross, Macys, Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco are here.
SNORKELING: Kona has the most colorful fish in the world, lots of turtles and lots of dolphins, and beautiful coral. A don't miss activity. In Kona, our favorite is Dolphin Journeys combining whale watching, snorkeling and swimming with dolphins (329-3030), a smaller boat with very personalized service. We have snorkeled with Red Sail Sports and Ocean Sports in Waikaloa. Kahaluu Beach off of Alii Drive just before the five mile marker south of town is long, wide and shallow, has a large variety of fish, and is excellent for those who are not strong swimmers.City Of Refuge (pu'uhonua o honaunau) has excellent snorkeling and generally has turtles. It is not in the park but at the end of a road just before the park entrance, north of and adjacent to the boat launch. There is an easy entry called Two Step out on the lava; there are usually people standing or sitting around it. Another favorite, Fair Wind offers an outstanding trip to Kealakekua (Captain Cook Monument) Bay - an absolutely beautiful area. It leaves from Keauhou Bay five miles south of Kona. For the brave of heart, you can kayak Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument instead of taking the cruise. This is a wonderful bay to do either or both. The Body Glove offers trips to the north and has a water slide.
SOUTH POINT: offers green plains with panoramic vistas; diving; snorkeling; cliff jumping and hiking/biking.
TENNIS: The Royal Kona at the South edge of town has several courts, is open to the public and the fees are very moderate. If you want a pick-up game you can hang out at the public courts at the old airport. You can usually find someone to play with any time of day.
UFO PARASAIL: offers an experience similar to hot-air ballooning. We recommend the higher ride (longer rope) and going in tandem if the winds permit. Don't fear the height; it is not the same sensation as looking over the edge of a tall building. They do multiple trips daily and are located across from the Kailua Harbor. Bring your camera up for some great pictures.
VOLCANO: Much of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is still closed. For status go to the Park Web Site The Jaeger museum will not re-open. Kilauea Iki hike is closed while the concrete stairs are re-built. Thurston lava Tube closed as there was some damage. There are a few trails open including an easy one to an overlook of the new and greatly-expanded crater. There is a complete list updated frequently on the park Open/Closed page.
WAIPIO VALLEY: Between Waimea and Hilo, it is a very lush and beautiful valley running back from the ocean. It was a favorite of Hawaiian royalty. The road down is about a mile or two long, steep and paved. It is narrow and due to steepness, it requires four wheel drive. There are pullovers to alllow uphill traffic to pass. Be sure to hike or drive out to the beach at the ocean. There are a number of small streams to cross. If you haven't crossed water, the most important rule is to drive very slowly so that you do not have water splashing into your engine compartment. There is a small and shallow river that you can walk across at the ocean. The rocks are extremely slippery. If you are staying with us, ask for some bamboo walking sticks to make it easier - two for each person. There is a nice walk to the other end of the beach and a zig-zag trail if you want to get some elevation for the view.
WHALE WATCHING: The whale season runs from December through March with January and February the peak season for seeing the Humpback Whales. From Kona, Dan McSweeney of McSweeney's Whale Watching runs a great trip and we recommend him highly. He is rumored to play whale music underwater to attract the whales. For a combination, Dolphin Journeys combining whale watching, snorkeling and swimming with dolphins (329-3030), a smaller boat with very personalized service. From the Waikoloa area, where we believe (and so do many other people) there are more whales, Ocean Sports has a gorgeous boat that goes out from A-Bay at the Outrigger hotel. During peak season you will see whales every day from either area but during beginning or end, we recommend the Waikoloa area.
ZOO (HILO): If you have young children, the zoo is a good stop if you are in the Hilo area - especially if you are going to Hilo from Volcano or vice versa. The zoo is just off of the road between Hilo and Volcano and about 4 miles before Hilo. It is a small zoo set in a rain forest area and is very green and very clean. There are a variety of animals, vultures, beautiful parrots and other birds, emu, horses, goats, monkeys, lizards & turtles, black swans, chickens and pigs and more. Saturdays at 1PM, they have a petting zoo for kids (and adults) for an hour. Combine this trip with a trip to the Hilo Market, open Wednesday and Saturday. Hilo, the other side of the island is only about an hour and twenty minutes from the ranch. The road is all new and ugraded the last five years or so and it is an easy drive.