While planning for our trip to Hawaii, I didn’t put much thought into our itinerary. We were going to be at the beach on an island after all, and I’m all about going with the flow when on beachy, island-y vacations. So when Adam asks the million dollar question “What should we ______” (the blank inevitably filled in with either “do” or “eat”) I had expected to say either “beach” or “pool”.
The Big Island of Hawaii had other plans.
There is so much to do and choose from here activity wise that I began to regret not being more type-A with my vacation planning as I was confronted with seemingly impossible decisions on day 1.
Do I want to hike to see a waterfall? How about drive a little to do some snorkeling? There’s this tiny green sand beach down at the southern most point of the island – how about that?
All of it. That’s the only correct answer. The only limitation should be how long a car ride you can stomach.
For us it’s 2 hours – more specifically it’s 2 hours for our little gremlin. We arrived at the 2 hour conclusion midway through a 3 hour drive. While that didn’t make a definite decision for us, it at least narrowed down the options a bit.
You see, the Big Island of Hawaii is…well…big. There are a few main roads but it just takes a long time to get anywhere over here. To do it all you would need either A) two weeks or B) zero gremlin companions. As we had neither we knew some tough decisions lay ahead of us. We chose to stay closer to the main town of Kailua-Kona so that put us further away from some of the big sites – Volcano National Park, Waipio Valley, etc.
Some other gremlin induced limitations included: not entering Sulphur fumed national parks (sorry Volcanoes), limiting sun-exposure (no-can-do 7 hour days on the beach), constant vigilance near bodies of water (single snorkel excursions for two? Think again parents.).
So we landed on attempting to take a drive up to Waipio Valley where we could see a pretty lookout and hike down to a black sand beach. We made it there with minimal other cars on the road (a good thing about being in paradise is lots of folks sleep in), and minimal gremlin eruptions.
You arrive at the Lookout after climbing to around 2,500 feet elevation from sea level. To us Denverites that may not seem like much, but the views it affords and scenery is impressive. We felt kind of silly getting Zeke all tricked out in his hiking backpack as the Lookout is literally one set of stairs away from the parking lot. As one TripAdvisor poster said – minimal effort with maximum views. He was right.
I would add an amendment: minimal effort if you don’t hike down to the beach. There is a gate attendant on the road to make sure no one goes down the road without 4 wheel drive engaged. This road is STEEP. Like, oh it’s a roller coaster steep. Except on your feet. With a little gremlin on your back.
The humidity of the jungle becomes fully apparent as you make your way back down to sea level. We walked along a very muddy trail (I refuse to call this pot hole ridden riverbank a ‘road’) until you reach a set of houses in the bottom of the valley – the houses are standing where the old village used to be before it was wiped out by a tsunami. Sweet real estate.
The waterfall is seen from a distance – we read that you are able to access it by traversing private property and hiking a grueling four miles while fording rivers on your own two feet – but we decided to appreciate the view from a distance. It was breathtaking and immediately apparent why the early Hawaiians – heck and current ones – would choose this land to make their home. (I’m sure being close to a fresh water source had something to do with it too). After we’d gotten our fill of waterfall views we turned around and hiking back along the pothole ridden riverbank towards the beach.
The beach road got progressively muddier and pothole ridden – at one point we saw an SUV submerge itself up past the grill to drive through a particularly wide waterlogged spot. It was one of the few times we felt lucky to be hoofing it as we were able to stick to drier paths.
The beach was already filling up with locals who were prepping for an all day cookout. Grills were firing up, tables were being set up and surfers were having a ball. Zeke decided to check out the mouth of the river where various pools were created by moving rocks to block certain parts of the water flow. We proceed to get soaked – my shoes and socks included – right before then being covered in black sand. The hike back was looking bleaker and bleaker.
We start back as rain starts falling (duh.) and the locals are cheering us on, knowing the intense steepness we were about to encounter.
With a deep breath and promises to stop at a brewery on the way home we start the climb. It’s humid. It’s hot. My socks and shoes are soaked AND sandy. We rounded a bend about half way up which is when we realize Zeke must’ve had his thumb out.
A local in his pickup truck stopped and told us to hop in. He was taking his grandsons – who were living it up in the bed of the truck – back to the top after a morning of boogie boarding and wanted to take us the rest of the way.
So there we were, backseat of a truck, Zeke is in between us still strapped into his hiking backpack, while two little kids pepper us with questions from the bed of the pickup, and the driver peppers oncoming drivers with a healthy dose of Hawaiian scoldings when they didn’t move through the narrowest parts quickly enough.
Hitchhiking…I guess Zeke has one less crazy thing to check off his bucket list.