“Because we are so close to the elements, the rhythm of the ocean, and being centered in the middle of the Pacific, we really are the center. I think that is one of the biggest contributor to our peace of mind because we are one with the universe,” says Hawaii Island native and renowned fashion designer, Sig Zane.
Hawaii Island is the largest and youngest of all the Hawaiian islands and with 266 miles of stunning coastline, it is not hard to be swept away by the calm, beautiful universe that is Hawaii – the second you step off the plane onto the Island of Hawaii, you are instantly met with not only the incredible beauty of the island but the serene energy and love of the people. Here are several relaxing and enlightening activities and places to visit on Hawaii to achieve a much-deserved rest and most importantly, a recharged and happy mind.
Hawaii Island Retreat – Located near the charming village of Hawi in Kapa’au, Hawaii Island Retreat takes peace of mind to a new level. The eco-boutique hotel offers stays in relaxing bungalows, suites and yurts, and health and wellness classes that delve into meditation, breathing and yoga. Must-tries include the half-hour Ke Alaula, a guided meditation class based on Ho’omalamalama, the Hawaiian principle of enlightenment, as well as the Chi Gong class that practices the 2000-year-old series of body movements and breathing techniques to calm the mind and reduce stress.
Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa – Located on historic Keauhou Bay, the newly renovated oceanfront resort is a family friendly option that provides all the comforts and unique activities to help you unwind. While the kids are occupied by the Manta Ray Pool’s 61 metre lava tube water slide, you can relax at the Hoola Spa, which overlooks the lava rocks of Keahou Bay and offers the only Himalayan salt room on the island. The room generates large amounts of super-fine salt particles to create bacteria-free air said to relieve respiratory and skin conditions. In the evening, soak in the spectacular island sunset by booking a cruise on the traditional Kini Kini Hawaiian sailing canoe, or stay on land and sip a signature Frozen Mo’o (fine rum blended with coconut milk, lime and fresh mint) at Paakai Point.
Start in Hilo
Hilo Farmers Market – “You smile to everybody, you wave to everybody, and you make conversation with everybody here because everyone is a friend in Hawaii,” says local history interpreter Pauline Nishida-Miller from the Kona Coffee Living History Farm.
Experience the generous spirit of Hawaii by joining the locals and visiting one of the best farmer’s markets in the country, Hilo Farmers Market. Be charmed by the friendly vendors who pour their hearts into their locally grown product, which range from delicious cacao, honey and macadamia nuts, to the freshest lychee, passion fruit and pineapple. Unlike a lot of farmers markets that close at noon, Hilo Farmers Market goes on until 4pm, so you can really take advantage of the easy pace and enjoy every minute of your visit (and not feel guilty about sleeping in!).
Tip: The market is divided into two sections, so don’t forget to cross the street to find locally designed and made jewelry, home accessories and clothing.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – If you’re going to be on an island with several active volcanoes, there’s no way you can leave without walking on a black sand beach. While on Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, take a moment to take in this truly unforgettable sight and you just might see a rare Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Make sure not to touch these protected turtles or remove any black sand or rocks from the beach as it is prohibited.
Tip: Local lore says that visitors who remove black sand or rocks risk incurring the wrath of fire goddess Pele. According to the LA Times, “The native Hawaiian view of taking such souvenirs is tantamount to stealing from Pele while visiting her home.”
Hawaii Volcano National Park – If you want to leave your stresses behind and feel like you’re on another planet for a few hours, grab your hiking boots and get ready for a truly unique journey. There is only one way to describe the experience of hiking Hawaii Volcano National Park: extraordinary. With over 240 kilometres of lava trails, you can walk from sea level to more than 13,000-feet, encompassing two volcanoes and six climate zones along the way (so, dress in layers for sun, rain, cold and heat). Kilauea volcano has been erupting since 1983, which means the acreage of the park keeps growing. Here you can get a chance to see firsthand the fiery, oozing lava, just metres away (and beneath) you. For a truly magical hike, enlist the experts at Hawaii Outdoor Guides to take you on a guided trek from afternoon to night. Not only will you see the incredible 61G lava glow at your feet, but also the clearest sky for stargazing come dark.
Maunakea Volcano – Transcend your mind and see some snow in Hawaii (yes, SNOW) at one of the tallest mountains in the world. At over 33,000 feet, Maunakea Volcano beats out the 29,000 feet tall Mt Everest! Due to the elevation and snow conditions, it’s recommended to enlist the services of a licensed tour operator like Mauna Kea Summit Adventures to truly take in the surreal landscape. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures’ 8-hour excursion includes Arctic style parkas with hoods, gourmet hot beverages and dinner and the comforts of a luxury van. Once at Maunakea, take a deep breathe as you stargaze and take a few moments to yourself and enjoy Hawaii’s diverse nature and climate.
Kazumura Cave– Formed between four to six centuries ago, Kazumura Cave is the longest continuous lava tube in the world yet virtually unknown. What exactly is a lava tube? As a volcano erupts, the lava flow can create a spectacular tunnel-like conduit (when lava flows it cools from the outside in, producing a hard crust around the flow). It is a true natural wonder and a once in a lifetime experience to see first-hand how wondrous our world really is.
Hit the Road to Kona
The best way to lose yourself in the grand gorgeousness of the Island of Hawaii is to drive around and through it, on the Route 11 segment of Mamalahoa Highway. Leaving Hilo and heading west towards Kona, you’ll pass by pretty green farms of Waimea, papaya fields, bamboo forests and stunning oceanside.
Akaka Falls State Park – This breathtaking rainforest, along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, is like stepping into a jungle-like paradise. In an easy, less than half a mile walk, up a paved path filled with wild orchids, ginger lilies and bamboo groves, you’re met with two stunning, cascading waterfalls. It’s hard to not at least come close to reaching peace of mind when surrounded by so much natural beauty – beloved local artist and cultural ambassador, Desiree Cruz explains, “this beautiful island of Hawaii gives one a sense of deep gratitude, which is essential to cultivating peace.”
Pololu Valley and Waipo Valley Lookouts – Hawaii is an Instragrammer’s dream and the Pololu Valley Lookout at the end of Hwy 270 provides dramatic cliffs and views of the northeastern coastline. Located on the northern Hamakua Coast at the end of Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive is “The Valley of the Kings,” aka Waipo Valley. This panoramic view was the childhood home of King Kamehameha I.
Small Town Charm in Hawi
Eats and drinks at Bamboo – Reaching a sense of calm and relaxation should be rewarded with heartwarming eats and a delicious drink or two. Stretching just a few blocks, the village of Hawi houses Bamboo Restaurant, one of the island’s oldest and most-cherished. The fun Hawaii-Asian menu boasts island comfort dishes like Kohala Cordon and Kalua (macadamia nut crusted organic free-range chicken, wrapped around smoky kalua pork and swiss cheese, topped with a passion fruit mustard glaze) and Coconut Crusted Fish of the Day drizzled with sweet chili aioli. Bamboo’s real claim to Hawi-fame is their passion fruit margarita (legend says they invented it).
Kayak the Kohala Ditch – Adults and kids of all ages will love Flumin’ Kohala (pick-up and drop-off in Hawi), a unique and leisurely kayak float that takes you through the rich history of the Kohala Ditch while slowly passing through beautiful waterfalls and lush mountains. The Kohala Ditch is a 110-year-old system of hand-chiseled tunnels, elevated flumes and concrete channels that once supplied millions of gallons of fresh water to sugar cane plantations.
Swim and Snack
Hapuna Beach – You know you are close to Kona once you hit Hapuna Beach, the biggest white sand beach on the island that is constantly praised as being the best. After swimming up a storm in the clear blue waters, the perfect way to cool down is a shave ice from the Original Big Island Shave Ice truck located down the street. Addictive, joy-inducing shave ice options include: Trini-Chantilly with macadamia nut cream, chocolate syrup, condensed cream, Chantilly drizzle, whip cream and chopped macadamia nuts, and local favorite, HaloHalo with fruit jellies, sweet potato cream syrup, cantaloupe, boba, ube ice cream, azuki beans, whipped cream and condensed milk.
A Sweet Kona Ending
Once you’ve reached Kona, charter a private Mantra Ray Adventure and enjoy an evening snorkel with the stunning manta rays in their native environment as you float along with them in the ocean waters, reaching the perfect zen moment.
Achieve relaxation and enlightenment on points. Fly to Hawaii on whatever airline you choose, whenever you want. You might just find inner peace before you leave.
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