The Big Island
Yes, I'll fully admit it... I am one of millions of Americans who is obsessed with Hawaii. Growing up on the West Coast, Hawaii seemed never too far out of reach, but just far enough to feel like a tropical escape. If you're planning a trip there this year (and if you're not, you should be) consider the Big Island, AKA Hawai'i.
As Nick's dad and stepmom moved here in November, we were pumped to visit for the first time and get some quality family time over Christmas in their new home! They live in Kona, a short drive from the airport, which is convenient to a lot of beaches, state parks, and shopping. Comprised of gorgeous black lava rock, Kona is definitely the "desert" side of the Island — a very different feel from the traditional Hawaiian lush landscape I am accustomed to. Hilo, on the eastern side, embodies those lush jungle vibes... but comes with the rain too. We enjoyed perfect sunshine and stunning sunsets in Kona every night!
If you're thinking about a tropical escape to Hawaii this year, I'd actually recommend NOT traveling there for Christmas. While it was a fun time to be in a tropical destination, plane tickets were outrageously expensive. You can find roundtrip flights for under $400 if you're flexible on dates. I recommend setting up price alerts through Kayak or subscribe to Pomelo, which actually regularly sends me great deals on Hawaiian flights! Hawaiian Airlines is definitely the airline you want to fly if you can swing it, as they offer plenty of flexible route options.
This was the third time Nick and I had been to Hawaii together — our first trip was to Kauai over Thanksgiving a few years back, and we also spent a weekend in Honolulu two summers ago. Each visit to Hawaii has proven to be memorable in completely unique ways, and this trip was no different! Unfortunately we were only able to stay for 3 nights due to our work schedule, but it was definitely worth it. We can't wait to go back!
P.S. Thinking about making the move to Hawaii? Nick's dad will be leasing out their home over the summertime! Hit me up!
Heading to the Big Island soon? Here are a few things I highly recommend checking off your list:
Pololu Black Sand Beach
While there are unique beaches dotted all over the Big Island, Pololu is pretty accessible (if you don't mind a short steep hike) with simply stunning views. The tide was high when we visited, but was still gorgeous nevertheless. There are multiple rope swings and tire swings in the area for perfect Instagram photo opps!
Explore State Parks
The Big Island is home to one of the most stunning National Parks in our country — Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, which we'll get to in a moment — but is also dotted with countless mesmerizing state parks. As we road-tripped around the island we stopped at several for body surfing and suntanning. This map shows all the state parks on the island:
Helicopter Ride Above Kīlauea
Kīlauea isn't the largest volcano in Hawaii — that honor is reserved for the mighty Mauna Kea, which was snowcapped when we saw it from the road and is considered to be the tallest mountain on Earth from its base at 33,000ft — but it is the most active. I never in my life thought I'd see lava flowing from a helicopter on Christmas Day, but I can now say I have! This was an incredible and thoughtful surprise from Nick's dad Joe, who had me tricked thinking we were going horseback riding. What an incredible adventure! The tour from Blue Hawaiian Helicopters was called "Circle of Fire Plus Waterfalls" which is exactly what it was! They tell you to arrive super early, which you definitely need to do to get properly situated and watch the mandatory safety video ahead of time. The helicopter ride is just shy of an hour, and aside from featuring an awesome playlist that perfectly coordinates with what you're seeing, it is an incredible way to experience the National Park. Note: the lava is continuously changing. It wasn't pouring into the ocean when we went, but was definitely active inside the crater! Soooo rad!
What Else To Do
As our trip was so short and mostly revolved around family time as opposed to sightseeing or surfing, there is a lot we didn't get to do... which is perfect as we have plenty of reasons to return! Here are some things still on my Big Island Bucket List:
- Papakōlea — this green sand beach is one of four in the entire world! I'm told there's no way to access it except for horseback or on foot, so plan accordingly.
- Take an ATV tour — one of my favorite ways to explore new places is ATV. Bring your favorite Crocodile Dundee hat and some sunscreen!
- Botanical Gardens — while Kauai is the bonafide Garden Isle, Hawai'i boasts stunning botanical gardens worth visiting.
- Surf — as Hawai'i is the youngest of all the Hawaiian islands, and still constantly growing, surfing isn't as prominent here as it is on some of the other islands (like Oahu). There are still plenty of great surf spots if you know where to look!
Note: some of the images in this post are from my sister-in-law Marissa's camera.