On our fifth day on Hawaii’s Big Island, we decided to split up. John and I really wanted to go snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach Park, while Jeremy and James really wanted to take a drive up Mauna Kea and then Kapauu. Since the beach was within walking distance of our condo rental, everyone was happy!
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Kahalu’u Beach Park is considered one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, and for good reason. Right off the shore there is a lovely coral reef with tons of sea creatures hiding within.
Our biggest challenge was getting into the water. The sign below is no joke: coral is both sharp and slippery! If we do this again, I may purchase some dive/snorkeling socks that are compatible with fins. In any case, my parents had decided that the it was too slick for them and that they would stay on shore.
What great time! Once we made it past the buoys, there were tons of beautiful, brightly-colored fish, a few moray eels, and even some sea turtles! What fun!
While the snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach Park is amazing, the beach really isn’t very nice – it is small and very pebbly. Consider getting there early, as the parking lot is also small. One of the downsides of Big Island’s beaches is that you have to decide what you want: snorkeling, swimming, or surfing. Few beaches have it all. In this case, we decided that we couldn’t come all the way to Hawaii and not try out a real snorkeling beach!
A Drive up Mauna Kea
While John and I were snorkeling, Jeremy and James were taking a drive up Mauna Kea.
The first part of the drive is a little bland in both color and vegetation, but once you get closer to the top, the colors will start to pop out.
Mauna Kea itself is 14,000 ft, and there’s a visitor center at 9,000 ft. Without a true four-wheel drive vehicle (not just AWD like we had), it is not recommended to go past the visitor’s center. There is a checkpoint station there, and after seeing some of the roads up to just the visitor center, I wouldn’t chance going beyond there with a marginal vehicle.
If it is a rainy day lower on the mountain, you will also want to check the weather to make sure it isn’t snowing at higher elevation. Also make sure you have some warmer clothing in your car. At these elevations, you aren’t going to experience stereotypical Hawaii weather!
Jeremy and James did a little hiking. The visitor center is on the right, and there’s a path on the left going to a great vantage point (at least on a clear day; the next day driving across the island, the whole area was shrouded in fog).
They also enjoyed signs about the invisible cows!
To Waimea and Kohala/Kapaau
After the trip up the mountain, Jeremy and James decided to explore the northwest of the island. They stopped in Waimea to get a bite to eat, and drove along the high elevation road (Route 250) in the northwest of the island. Unlike the dry oceanside roads there, the road through the mountains was quite unexpectedly lush, with cattle grazing and views of the ocean through the trees. Alas, they didn’t take many pictures. They did photograph the statue of Hawaiian King Kamehameha I in Kapaau towards at the end of the mountain road, since this was near his birthplace:
From there, the took the drive back along the coast, eventually getting back to the condo in the mid-afternoon.
Our Afternoon and Evening
By afternoon, we met back up at the apartment and enjoyed dinner and a sunset at our apartment!
Next up: Volcanoes National Park!