Fun Activities on Hawaii
Big Island activities, tours, and attractions are some of the most diverse in the entire chain of Hawaiian islands. A Big Island volcano tour is at the top of every visitor's list and a helicopter tour is the best way to see it. We invite you to explore the many wonderful things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
For years the magma under Kilauea has been pushing to the earths surface through "puu" or vents and has been making its way through a series of lava tubes to the seacoast. Here the hot lava pours into the sea at such enormous temperatures that vast plumes of steam and mist are formed and often ascend hundreds of feet into the air. Vast areas of the Big Island have been burned and paved over as a result, and the destruction and raw power of the earths creative force is one of the most spectacular sites to ever be seen.
This spectacle of nature is often much too dangerous to be viewed up close and visitors are prohibited to go close to the most spectacular fiery displays. Therefore, the only way to realistically see the active volcano is by helicopter or small plane. Helicopter trips in Hawaii and particularly the helicopter trips of the Big Island which fly over the volcanoes of Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are considered by many to be the single most spectacular trip available in all of Hawaii and should not be missed if at all possible.
Helicopter tours in Hawaii to see Mount Kilauea and the active volcanoes of Hawaii Volcano National Park depart from both Hilo and Waikoloa. Most visitors visiting the Big Island will stay on the Kona or Waikoloa coast. Since there are tours leaving from these resort areas, this is often their first choice of departure points.
It should be remembered, however, that the reason the Big Island is called the "Big Island" is that it is very, very big (it is a fact that the total land area of all the other islands combined would fit within the confines of the island of Hawaii) and as a result the tours that leave from Kona to view the volcano are generally over two hours in length and are fairly expensive. Many people as a result choose to drive the 2 or 3 hours or so from Kona to Hilo and depart from there, as the flight to see Kilauea is only 45 or 50 minutes in length and considerably less expensive.
The longer tours do have their merit, however, as they visit the slopes of both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa as well as the spectacular Kohala Coastline, so if expense is not an object please enjoy the longer flights.
Though there are many Big Island luaus, they all display certain similarities:
THE FOOD: Sharing of the "gift of food" is an integral part of every Luau. The main ingredient of any luau is "Kalua Pork" or pig. Preparations for the cooking of the pig begin early the day of the luau. A large pit called an "imu" is dug in the sand. Dry, hardwood Kiawe wood (known in North America as Mesquite) is placed into the pit with rounded river rocks assembled on top. The wood is lit on fire and after a couple of hours all that is left on the bottom are hot coals and incredibly hot rocks which will maintain the heat for hours to come. The rocks are then spread evenly on the bottom and fresh cut banana stalks are placed on top. Finally, a layer of banana leaves provide a bed for the pig. The pig is then placed in the pit and covered with more banana leaves and ti leaves and usually a gunnysack to keep the heat in. Finally the pit is covered with a tarp and beach sand. The rocks heat the juicy banana stalks causing a pressure cooker effect in the imu. After 6 to 8 hours the finished pig is unveiled. The intense steam has cooked the meat so it just falls away from the bone, and the moisture from the banana stalks has kept the meat moist and delicious.
Other delicacies usually provided at a luau are chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon, haupia (coconut desert), poi (very nutritious), veggies, salad, steaks, roasted chicken, fresh fish, rice, lots of specialty items, deserts and much more. An open bar is usually provided which includes Mai Tai's and other adult beverages while the children are provided with lots to drink. Although you will probably find a number of the items on your plate unusual to say the least, you can be assured that there will be plenty of food available that has some semblance of what you are familiar with.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: Another integral part of every luau is the entertainment included from many of the various cultures of Polynesia. Here you will find some variation with regard to what various luaus provide. Only a very few of the luaus are traditional Hawaiian in that they will provide only dance and song of the hula that is specific to the culture of old Hawaii. The vast majority of the others will provide entertainment that can be found from other cultures throughout the Pacific Rim such as from Tahiti, Samoa (with its famous fire dance), Fiji, and New Zealand.
Luaus are always held during sunset. Most are located on beautiful beach locations with a view of the setting sun over the ocean. They will last about three hours and there is no question that you will not only leave full and happy, but with an extra bit of the "Spirit of Aloha" that Hawaii is famous for.
Hawaii Forest & Trail offers guided nature adventure tours to a variety of remote and spectacular places on Hawaii's Big Island, introducing visitors to the incredible natural diversity of this largest of the Hawaiian Islands. On their eight different nature adventures, ranging from half day to full day tours, they share with guests pristine rainforests, rushing waterfalls, cliff side trails, rare birds, stargazing atop Mauna Kea and the awesome beauty of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Six of these tours feature relaxed, easy walks, with transportation to the site in comfortable, customized vans. Two of these tours - new for 2006 - are fun, off road adventures in six-wheel drive Pinzgauer vehicles, with stops and easy walks along the way.
Tours are small - 12 people maximum - and all are led by professionally-trained interpretive naturalist guides. Though the areas visited are spectacular, it is the guides who really "make" the experience for guests, helping them understand, learn about and really forge a connection with the unique natural areas found here.
More than just an adventure, these tours are really a means for visitors to take home a story, a profound insight into evolutionary processes and natural history that are showcased so well here. Hawaii Forest & Trail is among only a handful of companies in Hawaii offering guests the opportunity to see rare native birds in natural habitats.
It is also among a half dozen Island tour companies offering stargazing on 13,796 foot high Mauna Kea, which Fodor's guidebook called "one of the 10 unforgettable experiences in the world for 2006". Hawaii Forest & Trail is the recipient of the 2006 Ecotour Operator of the Year Award from the Hawaii Ecotourism Association.
Daypacks, water bottles, binoculars, walking sticks, warm wear and rain gear provided.
The ATV tours on the Big Island are among the most adventurous of the outdoor activities available in Hawaii. The Big Island is the original site of the very first 4-wheel ATV tours in the state, and that"s not by accident. The original company, ATV Outfitters, has an assortment of ATV four-wheel options which include the jungle and mountains of the Kohala Mountains above the town of Hawi, incredible ocean cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls.
The ATV tours include: Historical Ocean Cliff Trail 1 1/2 hour tour. See the hidden Hawaii on All-Terrain vehicles. Cruise towering ocean cliffs before touching the ocean at a remote private pebbled beach. Your guides will explain the culture and rich history of the area throughout your adventure. 15 Mile Waterfall Adventure Traverse through brisk mountain streams; enter a rainforest filled with native Hawaiian trees and canopies of ferns and flowers before discovering a private secluded waterfall. Your guide will paint a historical picture of the rich culture in the area.
A visual rush of panoramic collages makes this a driving experience to remember. 22 Mile All Day Adventure Ride along the beautiful Kohala Coastline cruising on top of 200 foot majestic ocean cliffsides. Continue your journey to a private and secluded bay (once private property of King Kamehameha) where there is a bird's eye view of a 1930's lighthouse.
Native Hawaiian guides share genuine history and let you enjoy the special beauty. Next you travel high into the mountains through a cool eucalyptus rainforest and brisk mountain streams. You will then make your way up to a 2000 foot elevation of the oldest volcano of the Big Island and stop at two waterfalls, taking a 5 minute walk to the foot of a private exclusive waterfall.
Without question the ultimate fantasy of visitors in Hawaii would be swimming with the dolphins in the wild. Fantasy is the key word here as in practice this is fairly rare (with the possible exception of off the leeward coast of Oahu) although certain activities provide encounters with dolphins in resort pool settings.
Though actually swimming with them is fairly rare, finding them and seeing them and enjoying their manuvers as they swim, surf, dive and jump off the wake of your boat is extremely common. It is for this reason that dolphin watches and dolphin excursions which offer information on dolphins are very popular in hawaii.
Known for their inshore habits, playfulness around vessels and star performances at oceanariums, bottlenose dolphins are probably the most popular of all cetacean species. Adults range in size from seven to eleven feet in length and weigh between 600 and 850 pounds. Their backs are medium gray, their sides are lighter gray and their bellies are white or pink. Offshore animals are darker in color than those found inshore and sometimes appear to be less interested in swimming along with boats.
A few thousand bottlenose dolphins are believed to inhabit the waters around Hawaii, usually living in groups of two to fifteen individuals. Most of these groups are permanent residents of certain coastlines and harbors, and are therefore easy to spot.
Spinner dolphins are the smallest of Hawaii's common dolphins. They are generally between five and six feet in length and weigh 130 to 200 pounds. Hawaii has its own subspecies that is easy to recognize by its distinctive "three-tone" color pattern which consists of a sharply defined dark gray "cape" on their backs, a stripe of lighter gray on their sides and a white or pink belly. This species gets its name from its spectacular habit of leaping high into the air and spinning several times on their tails before falling back into the water. Researchers are not sure why the dolphins spin, but most people who have had the opportunity to watch the dolphins don't seem to care, and find it a real treat. Around Hawaii, spinner dolphins congregate at night in large herds in the deep channels between the islands to feed. During the day, they break up into smaller groups and come near shore to rest and play. A few of the places where they can commonly be seen are in Kealake'akua Bay on the island of Hawaii, off the Leeward Coast of Oahu, on the southern boundries of Maui and off the coastline of Lanai.
The life cycle of dolphins is similar to that of other cetaceans. As mammals, dolphins bear live young, and the mothers nurse them on milk and provide care. A dolphin calf is born tail-first with eyes open, senses alert and enough muscular coordination to follow its mother immediately. At birth, the mother helps her calf to the surface to get its first breath. While nursing lasts between one and a half to two years, the mother will remain with her calf for a period between three and eight years. As there is some variation in the age at which sexual maturity is reached, the reproduction rate and the life expectancy among the different species of dolphins vary. Most species tend to bear one calf every other year or so during their reproductively active years and are believed to have an average life expectancy of about thirty years.
The calm waters, abundant sea life, great snorkeling, picturesque sea caves and beautiful weather surrounding the Big Island of Hawaii make it an ideal location for Big Island kayak companies to operate a variety of kayak tours. The most exciting locations for kayaking are to be found off the Kona coast.
Here in the lee of the giant volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea the tranquil waters are crystal clear and teeming with sea life. Don't be surprised to see dolphins, turtles, perhaps a manta ray or even enjoy whale watching in season. Snorkeling is particularly great as well and can be done right from your kayak.
One of the great kayaking and snorkeling spots off the Kona coast is the famous Kealakekua/Keaehou coastline. A number of kayak and eco tour companies paddle their way along this historic (Captain Cooke was killed here) and beautiful coastline, complete with rugged sea cliffs and spectaclar sea caves.
Some companies even allow a supervised version of cliff diving when the conditions are considered safe enough.
Do you like to party? Hop on a Hawaii dinner cruise, sunset sail, booze cruise or party boat from Kona. These boats off the Big Island have been known for years as the spot to "party your sandals off."
The sunsets off the Kona coast are absolutely gorgeous. Your island hosts are friendly and accommodating. The dinner and cocktails are a special treat. The entertainment is exotic and you'll be in heaven.
I always like to recommend these trips for your last days on the island. They are so very special and will provide you with some of your most wonderful memories of the times you had on the "Big Island. It's a great send-off and, if you're like most people, you'll have a hard time leaving the next day to head home.