Last month we published an article with suggestions by Royal Kona staff about how to make planning a Big Island family vacation painless and even fun. This article is about all the things you can do to enjoy your vacation once you arrive on our golden shores.
As any parent knows, herding cats is a piece of cake compared to keeping several children happy simultaneously. Fortunately, Hawaii's biggest island has enough activities that there's bound to be something that every member of your family will enjoy. Whether you like to walk, run, swim or lie down in the sun, we at Royal Kona can either set you up or help you find the way.
For people who want to see the smoke-belching inferno that lay under the Earth's crust, a volcano hiking trip is just the thing. Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park has the best of both worlds - active volcanoes with continuous lava flows that can be seen at any time of day or night, but don't erupt in massive catastrophic events, unlike mountains like Italy's Vesuvius. The Pu'u O'o cone has, in fact, been flowing for at least two centuries, making it the longest continuous eruption known in the world.
Viewing the lava is quite safe, if you go with a professional instructor and follow all common-sense procedures. For casual tourists, there are drivable roads and viewing platforms such as the Jaggar Museum overlook that take you within eyeshot of the caldera. For more adventurous souls, there are guided hiking trips over the rough terrain of old lava flows. If you decide to go on one of those, be mindful that they are physically demanding and the congealed lava can be sharp and abrasive, so make sure you're very physically fit and have proper protection, including sturdy clothing with full-body coverage.
For people in search of easily-accessed but amazing views, a gentle drive to the summit of Mauna Kea is a great activity. The scenery that will open itself before you is like nothing you've ever seen. We particularly recommend taking an evening trip and witnessing the famed Hawaii sunset. Afterwards, you can stay and do some stargazing. It's not for nothing that Mauna Kea is home to one of the world's most famous telescopes - the altitude, air clarity and absence of light pollution make the summit of this mountain one of the ideal stargazing locations in the entire world. Keep in mind that the combination of high-altitude winds and night-time chill might make it surprisingly cold, and it can even snow there during winter months - so pack some warm clothing just in case.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, snorkeling is an excellent and safe activity. For children or novice adults, you can rent snorkel fins and masks from Snorkel Bob's right next door to the hotel; while the Big Island has lots of locations for diving, you can do it safely and conveniently within a minute's walk of Royal Kona at our resort's clear and safe private lagoon. Daytime and night-time diving both offer unique charms - swimming with manta rays after dark is a truly unforgettable experience. Fanciful corals, fish, molluscs and arthropods in shapes and colors impossible on land are all waiting for you to discover them.
If you are interested in food, you have the choice of many great local restaurants, such as our very own Don the Beachcomber, a local institution. However you aren't limited to eating establishments: if you're interested in fresh produce and fruit, you can shop at one of the island's Farmer's Markets and taste locally grown fruits and vegetables. You can also try a selection of Hawaii-only prepared foods and local-style plate lunches for a truly authentic experience. Hawaii is an especially sumptuous treat for seafood lovers, for obvious reasons; you can taste the bounty of the ocean or even try your hand at deep-sea fishing yourself.
Coffee is another great Hawaii product. All coffee lovers can visit the award-winning Kona Coffee Living History Farm and learn about Kona's coffee pioneers from costumed interpreters. Walk through the coffee and macadamia nut orchards and tour the historic farmhouse while learning the history of Kona coffee.
If you are interested in archaeology and ancient cultures, the Big Island has something to offer you as well: you can take a self-guided petroglyph tour at Honokohau National Park. The park is covered in a lava flow around 1,000-1,500 years, and since then, ancient islanders carved mysterious shapes and figures into the stone. While there are theories, nobody knows exactly what the carvings mean.
As a final tip, the Big Island is aptly named. If you plan to explore the island and enjoy some of the activities mentioned above it is best to get a rental car. Just driving around the island is unique in that you'll see a variety of landscapes - from lava desert, farmland, jungle, active lava flows, sandy beaches, to highlands and views of mountains and valleys.
Follow our suggestions, and your Big Island family vacation will be an experience you won't even need to idealize in retrospect - it will be perfect the first time around.