Prepare yourself for a day or two full of excitement and exploration! The big island is one of the most wonderful attractions in Hawaii, with so many things to see and do on both sides Kona & Hilo it will have you busy throughout your whole stay. A suggestion of many tourists who come to stay on the big island is that you try to have a few days on each side of the island to get a real feel for the surroundings.
Collect your car and begin your day by venturing north along the Kona/Kohala Coast on the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy 19). You will soon reach the entrance to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park located on the ma kai side between mile marker 96 & 97. This is an 1160-acre national park which was established in 1978 to preserve, shelter and understand the traditional Native Hawaiian activities and culture that thrived on the site.
Keep driving north along the highway for approximately 32 kilometres until you reach the intersection of Hwy 19 & Hwy 270. Turn left and continue for 3 kilometres to the entrance of Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Around 1790, this “place of worship” was constructed by King Kamehameha I as an offering to the gods to ask for success in his campaign to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
From here head back east until you come to the town of Waimea where you will find several cattle ranches including parker ranch which was once the nation’s largest privately owned ranch. Continuing east, you will come to the town of Honoka‘a. Take a 16 kilometre detour from the highway onto Waipi‘o Valley. This will take you to a beautiful photo spot of this immense valley with the black sand beach below. This was the home of many chiefs and an important centre for political & religious life in Hawai‘i.
Once you’re back on Hwy 19, keep driving toward Hilo for approximately 48 kilometres to the small town of Honomū, where you will see the turn off for ‘Akaka Falls State Park. Once at ‘Akaka Falls, take the waterfall loop hike where you will first see 60 meter Kahuna Falls. Continue along the loop to witness towering ‘Akaka Falls, plunging 135 meters from the cliffs above. The hike takes less than an hour and there is a small entrance fee.
Travel back to the main highway for about 6.5 kilometres and continue south to the picturesque town of Hilo. Take your time and discover the art galleries, restaurants, local shops, attractions and don’t forget to check out the popular farmers market which is open 7 days a week; however Wednesday and Saturday are the most popular days.
Only a short distance from Hilo is the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center where the connection between Hawaiian culture and the universe is showcased through a colourful variety of displays and interactive exhibitions. There are daily Planetarium shows, an extensive Exhibit Hall, landscape tours, and a restaurant. The centre is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Tues-Sun (closed Mondays).
Overnight in Hilo town or, if you need to get back to the Kona side of the island, take Kaumana Drive to Saddle Road for a shorter drive across the centre of the island and allow approx. 2 hours for this.