I feel like I say this about every place I visit, but the Big Island of Hawaii is HANDS DOWN the best place on earth.
I trust you’ve already read about how much I loved my yoga work trade in Hawaii, but I wanted to share some of the highlights of my time travelling around. This place is fascinating to me in so many ways, I just hope my photos and words can get across even a fraction of how wonderful it is!
A little about the Big Island
The size of the “Big” Island is only 4,028 square miles but it contains 8 micro-climates within that region! EIGHT MICRO CLIMATES YOU GUYS. Compare that to the UK, which is 94,000 square miles and has pretty much just the one climate: shitty.
It ranges from tropical jungle on the east side to arid desert on the west. There’s even a POLAR CLIMATE (yes you heard that right) at the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the island’s five volcanoes. Some crazy folk go up there to ski/board at certain times of year. It’s the tallest mountain on earth as measured from its true base below sea level, at 10,000m high! At that height it also has amazing conditions for astronomy and boasts one of the most significant observatories in the entire physics community.
Two of the five volcanoes (Kilauea and Mauna Loa) are active, which means the island is still growing! When they erupt, the lava flows into the sea, creating new land as it solidifies. I find it absolutely fascinating that 100 years from now the island could be a completely different shape.
If you visit for yourself, you’ll feel it; the island is alive with energy. It’s as if the volcanoes are living organisms, drawing their life force directly from the core of the earth, deep beneath the sea where they originate. And the people living there have a respect and appreciation for the earth like no place else I’ve been, maybe because of the deep connection you can feel to Mother Nature through the volcanic energy all over the Big I.
Mauna Loa hasn’t erupted since the 80’s but Kilauea is extremely active right now. Hawaiian legends say the fiery goddess Pele lives in the volcano and each time it erupts, it’s because Pele is angry and longing for her lost lover </3
My pals and I woke up one morning at 3:30am to go down and see the lava flowing into the sea in the dark and watched the sun rise. Then, when it was bright enough to see where we were going, we walked into the lava fields and found the molten lava flowing across the earth. It was the craziest experience of my life; we could hear the earth moving underneath our feet and the soles of our shoes were melting it was so hot!
Camping at Waipi’o Valley was pure magic. We had to walk for an hour down the most insanely steep hill with all our camping gear in order to get there but it was worth every second!
We set up our tent in the middle of an ethereal forest right in front of the beach. Camping isn’t technically permitted in this area as it’s privately owned, but if you’re discrete enough and obviously respect the land then nobody will bother you. We had stopped off at the grocery store for essential provisions (you know, like a box of wine and some bananas) and had a jolly old time around a campfire. Some wild horses even turned up and stole a banana from inside my backpack!
The sunrise from the beach in this valley is indescribable. We sat on the beach snuggled up in our sleeping bags at 5am watching the sun’s first rays light up the valley in all shades of pink and purple.
To get a better view of the well-known Hi’ilawe Falls, we had to embark on an illegal hike up the river. At points we were literally wading through water up to our chests, bags held high above our heads! As you can probably tell from the photos, it was totally worth the risk of being shot for trespassing when we finally arrived.
Kona is on the west side of the island where the sunshine is much more dependable. For that reason it’s also more touristy; lots of beach resorts and holiday apartments. But the beaches are to die for and I made several trips over at different points during my Hawaii stay. Just check out that bright blue water, palm trees and dazzling white sand! There’s a beach in Kona known locally as 2-Step Beach (soon as I heard that I couldn’t stop singing the Ciara song EVERYBODY ONE TWO STEP!), which is renowned for the friendly pods of dolphins that come swimming by early most mornings. I made several attempts to find them (dolphins are my all time favourite animal) but alas, it wasn’t meant to be – they never showed up for me! Yet another reason I have to return to the Big I 🙂
But one particular camping trip to Kona will stand out in my memory as one of the most joyful times of my life so far. It was my last big hoorah before I left Hawaii and a group of 6 of us took some camping gear over in search of a free camping spot for the night. Many people camp at Ho’Okena beach but it costs $20 PER PERSON which we thought was insane! We wanted to stay near 2-Step so that we could head down early in search of dolphins (you can’t actually stay ON 2-Step as it’s just a rocky beach).
We arrived at the beach in the afternoon and cracked open the beers. I made it my mission to find us somewhere free to camp by asking around among the locals. Eventually I found two old hippies smoking weed in their rusty automobile and they offered to show us a beach just down the road where we could camp for free right in front of the ocean. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually they turned out to be completely legit! They showed us to a side road we never would have spotted by ourselves and directed us to the perfect spot just down a private road where we could camp for free. They then proceeded to shower me in sacred Hawaiian water, gave us a big bag of weed, some avocados, a pair of women’s shoes and they were on their way.
Seriously, the camping spot was unreal. We set up our tents in this little alcove shaded by the trees, looking right out onto the most beautiful sunset over the ocean.
We may not have met the dolphins, but we did spot some whales and swam with a huge manta ray just off 2-Step beach!
Hilo is a small city on the east side of the island, about 30 mins drive from Pahoa. We had a favourite little beach there called Richardson, which has crystal clear water and two HUGE resident sea turtles. I suspect people feed them because they are so used to humans being around; they have been known to bite too, apparently! It was a great place to just sit and hang out with friends in the sun, as well as meeting new people as everyone is so darn friendly in Hawaii.
There are two beautiful waterfalls in/near Hilo – one is Akaka Falls and the other is Rainbow Falls. Finding them wasn’t quite as much of a rugged adventure as the waterfall in Waipi’o but they were beautiful nonetheless! I’m obsessed with the famous Hawaiian delicacy poké, which is raw fish (usually tuna) marinated in soy/ginger/other Asian flavours, served with rice and seaweed sprinkles. Hilo has a smashing poké joint called Suisan and every time I went anywhere near town I’d be straight in there to get my tuna fix!
My friends, I could go on forever about this incredible island, but you just have to experience it for yourselves. I’d always said that South Africa is the only place I’ve travelled that I’d consider living long-term but now I am super excited to add the Big Island to that list! Filled with the friendliest people, breathtaking scenery and awesome food, I think you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with it too 🙂
Mahalo for reading guys x x x