Hawaiian Hiking – Part 2 – Hawaii “The Big Island”

with 24 Comments

Landing in Hilo, you’re greeted with a typical attitude of tropical heat and foliage. It’s lush, green, and hot.

Drive around the island to Volcanoes National Park (a World Heritage Site) and experience another universe. While you can still hike into the undergrowth and get out of the sun, this part of the island is decidedly arid with a rough landscape to match. It is similar to hiking in northeastern New Mexico, where you traverse lava fields guided by rock cairns.

When you go, treat yourself to a stay at the Volcanoes Lodge and upgrade your room to get a view of the steamy red/orange volcano. It’s worth it to drift off to sleep by the glowing light and ponder the very existence of the lava boiling so nearby.

Hiking within the Volcanoes Park is easy—trails are clearly marked. It’s a treat to take one of the ranger tours—you always new learn things. Don’t miss out on wandering through the steam vent area. The path provides educational signs helping you understand what you’re seeing.

You can’t hike on this island without treading down and up from the Pololu Valley Lookout. Parking at the top and gazing out at the view is a treasure, to be sure. But actually hiking down this steep path to enjoy the forest and beach at the bottom is completely rewarding and gives you an entirely different point of view. Note that the beach is not for swimming—there can be high tides, nasty undertows, and riptides. Dip your feet in, have a picnic and get ready for the hike back up.

On the opposite side of the valley, from the south side, is another hike—far more difficult. The Waipi’o Valley Overlook consists of a stunning view of the beach and valley. A four wheel drive vehicle is mandatory for taking the road down to the valley. Even walking it can be quite strenuous. The Waimanu Valley is used year round for hunting, so aside from the normal hiking gear, your clothing should be brightly colored and ensure you stick to the trails. This valley trek is not for the casual hiker. It is hard, long, and should be thoroughly planned in advance.

Waipi'o View, Hawaii
Waipi’o View, Hawaii


When you take a hiking break, make sure to get a delectable island treat—the Malasadas. Ask a local for the best provider in the area and you won’t be disappointed. The other culinary item on Hawaii is the Kona Coffee. It’s everything it’s noted to be and the best price in town to bring beans home: Costco.

This island bears repeating. From the Hilo Farmer’s Market to the views on a clear night near the Mauna Loa Observatory (The Solar Observatory is not open to the public, however, there is a great visitor’s center with helpful volunteers.), it is diverse, open and waiting for you to come and explore!





Also published on Medium.

24 Responses

  1. Jason B
    | Reply

    I’m enjoying your Hawaii series a lot. I’ve definitely added it to my list of places to visit.
    Jason B recently posted..Reasons Why I’m Paying Off DebtMy Profile

  2. Doreen Pendgracs
    | Reply

    Hi Rose: The Big Island is marvellous, isn’t it? We never made it to Hilo, though, I have indulged in the many confections of Big Island Candies. We loved the Pololu Valley Lookout. Such gorgeous vistas! I’d love to be back there right now!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..cacao cuisine with a Mexican twistMy Profile

  3. Marquita Herald
    | Reply

    Nice tour Rose. I’ve spent a LOT of time on the Big Island, and my two favorite areas are Volcanoes National Park (the art gallery there is awesome!), and I agree with you about the lodge. The other is Waimea, in fact we’ve considered moving there on more than one occasion. It’s a beautiful Island and well worth a visit.
    Marquita Herald recently posted..Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Through Meaningful AllyshipMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      You have to keep me honest, Marquita, in case I get a place wrong or something!
      I’ve noticed that there is a Waimea on each of the three island I’ve been on and keep forgetting to look up the word. Okay, “reddish water.” Do you think that fits?

      I can understand your debate of moving there–I truly loved that trip.

  4. Donna Janke
    | Reply

    Great photos of the lava field and the steam. This sounds like an interesting area to stay and hike. It sounds like there would be a lot of up and down on the hikes. Is that true? This prairie girl also has give her muscles time to adjust when she travels to a place with hills.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      The Volcanoes Ranger tour that we took was flat. Come to think of it, all the hikes through the steam areas were flat. Less vertical than the Yellowstone Park Mammoth Hot Springs–which is short, but up and down. The hike down into the crater area is not. Hm, and the lava hike that we took was a good mix of flat and hills. I think you’d be fine. The Diamond Head hike was WAY more strenuous!

  5. lenie
    | Reply

    Rose, gorgeous pictures again and a fascinating write-up. I love the Waipio Sacred Place. I’ve read a lot about Hawaii, so much amazing history.
    I love sitting in the dark when there is a full moon out so can only imagine what it would be like to watch the glow from the volcano – I think that would be the perfect place to meditate and just let life be.
    lenie recently posted..Dutch Pea Soup – Winter’s Ultimate Comfort FoodMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      Well said, Lenie. If any place can root these wandering feet in the moment, it would be the beauty of Hawaii–including the orange glow of a volcano!

  6. Susan Cooper
    | Reply

    Hi Rose, lovely photos. The arid area in comparison to the lush green is amazing. I don’t know how soundly I’d sleep with a volcano bubbling nearby. Yikes.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      I don’t remember hearing any noise from the volcano–or do you mean simply knowing it’s there? Ah, yes…I get that!
      It was amazing to see the Hilo side and then go to the opposite side with black sand beaches and the Volcano’s Park with the aridness. Amazing diversity.

  7. William Rusho
    | Reply

    What a great place for vacation, especially considering I am looking at the storm of the year approaching me. I wish I was there right now.
    Thanks for sharing this with all of us.
    William Rusho recently posted..To be Free in the Middle Ages, or, How Little Rights Can Mean a Lot.My Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      We think Pittsburgh will miss that storm, William…but that was last night’s news. Today, who knows? So, I’ll be pulling the curtains and letting the Hawaii pic scroll across my screen…

  8. Ken Dowell
    | Reply

    The idea of sitting in a hotel room and looking out into the darkness and seeing the glow of a volcano sounds pretty awesome.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      Ken, that was such a unique experience. I stayed awake a whole lot later than I usually do, just marveling over it.

  9. Jackie
    | Reply

    Fantastically beautiful photos!

  10. Jacqueline Gum
    | Reply

    Completely loved volcano national park… and the coffee! Another great tour Rose!
    Jacqueline Gum recently posted..A Break For Where’s The JusticeMy Profile

  11. Sabrina Quairoli
    | Reply

    Wow! That’s cool. I would love to see Volcano National Park. It looks vast. I love seeing this kind of stuff, it humbles me at what mother nature can do. Thanks for sharing.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted..10 Kitchen Organizing EssentialsMy Profile

  12. Jamie Schroder
    | Reply

    So great to see Hawaii through your eyes and lens and so well explained. Fun to see your header photo and I can identify all but one fruit!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge