Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “If you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, you’re lucky enough.” Since I live a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean, I hear it all the time. I’m sure there are variations of the phrase depending on where you live; e.g., if you live in the mountains, if you live in a cabin, if you live on a lake, etc. The list is endless.
Here’s my favorite variation: If you’re lucky enough to have visited Hawaii, you’re lucky enough.
The State of Hawaii is made up of eight major islands and countless smaller islands and atolls. The island with which I’m most familiar is the island of Hawaii, often called the Big Island to avoid confusion with the state’s name. I’ve been lucky enough to spend lots of time there. The Big Island, as its name suggests, is the largest of the Hawaiian islands.
I’m going to take you on a quick counter-clockwise trip around the island, starting in Kona.
Kona is on the sunny and dry west side of the island. We’ll take the Queen Kaahumanu Highway (the Queen K) north out of Kona and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the bright blue Pacific Ocean to your left.
If you’re there in the winter months into spring, keep a sharp lookout for humpback whales, as you’re likely to see them playing and performing their courtship and mating rituals, including tail slapping, fin slapping, and even breaching. If you see their telltale water spouts, pull over and keep watching! These huge migratory mammals might just put on an incredible show for you.
You’ll pass some beautiful resorts as you travel north, as well as some incredible beaches. One of the most popular is Hapuna Beach, but if I were you I’d stop instead at Kauna’oa Beach. Get there early in themorning, because there are very limited parking spots and once those are gone, you’re out of luck. The sand is beautiful, warm and white, and the water is crystal-clear and blue. Watch for sea turtles (called “honu”), but don’t get near them. They’re endangered and you can get a huge fine for bothering them.
After you’ve spent some time at the beach, continue driving north until you come to a fork in the road. You can either turn right and head up the mountain to the town of Waimea or you can go left and head to North Kohala and all the breathtaking beauty (not to mention the Hamakua Nut Factory) it has to offer. Let’s go to Waimea this time and head around to the east side of the island.
Waimea is a paniolo (cowboy) town nestled between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea. It’s home to the famous Parker Ranch, and boasts an abundance of great restaurants and shops to fit any taste and any budget.
Leaving Waimea, drive east along Highway 19 toward Hilo. This is where you’ll start noticing the weather change and the rainforest begin. It may very well be raining as you get closer to Hilo, and it’s green and lush and gorgeous. Stop for a snack at Tex’s (you can’t miss it) for one of their malasadas (my favorite is the mango-filled), then get back on the road.
And don’t miss a chance to stop at Akaka Falls, a waterfall of over four thousand feet and an incredible experience of sight and sound.
When you get to Hilo, stop for lunch at Royal Siam, my favorite Thai restaurant. It’s on Mamo Street, right off Kamehameha Avenue. Take a little while to walk around Hilo. It’s an old city with lots of Hawaiian history. If you’re there around Easter, try to score some tickets to the Merrie Monarch festival, an annual celebration of hula that is one of the most popular events of the entire year on the island.
After Hilo, you’ll make a right onto Highway 11 for the trip around the southern part of the island. Do not miss Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you may get to see part of the current eruption of Kilauea. You can explore various parts of the park that aren’t closed due to eruptions and hike through a lava tube (pretty cool, huh?).
Next, you’ll pass near South Point, which is the southernmost point in the U.S. If you want to actually see South Point, you’ll have to get out of your car and hike. Make a quick stop at Punalu’u Black Sand beach, where you’re likely to see lots of honu resting on the sand.
If you’re hungry for dinner as you drive back into Kona, consider some delicious poke at Da Poke Shack. Or head over to the Kona Brewing Company for the Naalehu Nachos with kalua pork and a pizza (it doesn’t matter which one—they’re all delicious).
On your next visit, start in Kona and go clockwise. That way you can stop at the coffee farms just south of town in the early morning and sample their rich offerings!
Amy M. Reade is an author of romantic suspense. Her books include Secrets of Hallstead House, set in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York, and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, set on an antebellum plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina. You can find her online at http://www.amymreade.com (website), http://amreade.wordpress.com (blog), http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor, and on Twitter @readeandwrite.
Amy Reade offers an ebook giveaway! Up for grabs is one copy of Secrets of Hallstead House and one copy of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. There's a delay in delivering The Ghosts of Peppernell until April 28th as it won't be released until then -so if you win, you’d be one of the first to get your hands on it. Leave your links so we can contact you.
(all pictures provided by author)