Off the Beaten Path Adventures on the Big Island
Mention Hawaii and most people instantly think beach resorts, umbrella drinks, and honeymooners. But cyclists, divers, surfers and anyone who’s ever hung out with a local can testify that there’s a whole different side to Hawaii. In particular, to the Big Island for those seeking off the beaten path adventures. Beyond the luxury hotels and golf courses, there are volcanoes, rainforests, ranches and hidden beaches. Nature tailor-made this island for adventure-seekers… Hence, all you have to do is choose which one you want. We’ve come up with a few ideas to get you started.
Take an ATV to a Hidden Swimming Hole
ATV Outfitters Hawaii runs trips to the Kohala mountain rainforest area, inland of the Gold Coast on the northwest corner of the island. One of the only tours in Hawaii where you can experience a beautiful private beach and a waterfall in a rainforest. This tour lasts three hours and will take you along the Kohala coastline, over 200 foot ocean cliffs. Furthermore, you will see exotic plants unique to this rainforest, not found anywhere else in world.
Above all, ATV Outfitters works with native Hawaiian guides who share their genuine history during the tour. Refreshment and a light snack are included. Tours depart twice a day: at 7:30AM and 12:00PM (Noon). For more information or to book a tour, visit www.ATVOutfittersHawaii.com
Stop and Smell the Heliconia
There are, roughly speaking, a zillion tropical gardens in Hawaii. What makes Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens special is that it’s located on oceanfront property. The 17-acre garden is nestled into a tropical rainforest, but part of the main trail goes right along the ocean. Because it’s not a tough hike—about a mile and a quarter of trails– it takes about an hour to 90 minutes to complete. Furthermore, On the way, you’ll see stunning Onomea Falls, as well as Heliconia Trail, Banyan Canyon, an open-air orchid garden and nearly 200 palm species, the highlight of which the Palm Jungle Trail.
“A lot of people say the orchid garden is a photographer’s and nature-lovers’ paradise,” comment the Botanical Garden staff. So bring extra batteries for the camera.
You may want to leave the picnic lunches at home, though. There are picnic tables, but it’s not typical for visitors to picnic. If you want a light bite, a few snacks are for sale in the gift shop.
For more information, visit www.hawaiigarden.com.
Swim With Mantas
Kona Honu Divers visits a lot of sites, but the Manta Ray Night Dive is the standout. It’s a shallow dive—the water’s only 30 feet—and therefore, any level of diver can do it.
“I’ve had divers get certified that morning after classes, go out and do the manta ray dive that night”Rich, one of the dive guides
Furthermore, snorkelers can also be a part of this adventure. The divers take lights down with them, while the snorkelers on the surface of the water shine their lights downward. This creates a column of light that attracts plankton, which mantas know as “dinner.” Because they are attracted by the plankton, they often stay to spend quality time with their human visitors, doing belly rolls, gliding past, and sometimes going all the way to the surface and doing loops with the snorkelers–right over the divers’ heads. All of this in a light tunnel filled with bubbles and a miniature tornado made of tiny fish.
“It’s been described as Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” says Rich. Sans scary aliens, of course.
For more information, call 888-333-4668 or check out www.konahonudivers.com.
Be an Ironman for a Day
Big Island cycling enthusiasts challenge visiting cyclists to take the Ironman Challenge They’re referring, of course, to riding the Kona-Kohala coastal trail, which is the site of the annual Ironman competition. The tour goes through Kona coffee country, along the Kona Coast, along the Gold Coast, up the slopes of Mauna Kea to Waimea Town. Above all, the scenery is unparalleled—as is the physical challenge.
If you don’t want to go it alone, Big Island Bike Tours offers a multi-day Kona Coast guided tour. The schedule is pretty relaxed, and there’s a modified itinerary for people who want to take it even easier. This tour guide also offers a variety of other cycling tours, from easy 4-hour downhills to a challenging 4-day circle island ride.
For more information, visit www.bigislandbiketours.com
Ride ‘em Cowboy
Few people are aware how important ranching is to the Big Island—but truthfully, cattle rank right up there with coffee and cane sugar. Because the regions of Hualalai and Kohala are still primarily cowboy country, with Hawaiian cowboys (known as paniolo) looking after thousands of head of cattle. Also, not all working cattle ranches are open to the public, but the 11,000-acre Ponoholo Ranch welcomes guests seeking off the beaten path adventures. Finally, they do guided horseback rides for all levels of rider, and even encourage participants to dress up in traditional paniolo garb.
For more information, visit www.panioloadventures.com
Looking for a different type of adventure? Check out our guide to Hawaii’s Supernatural And Historical Landmarks