Of all the memorable experiences you can have on the Big Island, outdoor activities are easily the highlight. Swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, hiking, picnics, sightseeing, and sunset watching are all within easy reach no matter where you decide to set up camp, but the northern point of the island is easily the highlight for outdoor adventurers. This is the area known as Kohala, (often noted as North and South Kohala) which spans from the northern tip of the Big Island down through sleepy Waimea area, the Parker Ranch and its expansive rangeland, a massive dormant volcano, and finally to the region’s border with Kona. For many reasons, Kohala is the epitome of Big Island adventure, but these three activities are musts for visitors to the Island of Hawaii.
Famously one of the cleanest and coolest white sand beaches in the world, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is a must-see (and must-play) on Hawaii’s Big Island. The natural beauty of the beach is only bested by the incredible waves and expansive white silica sands, making it an ideal destination for a day spent on the beach. There’s also a snack bar, picnic area with BBQ pits, and bathrooms with shower facilities, making it easier than ever to enjoy a full day on one of Hawaii’s most famous and spectacular beaches.
A tremendous reward after a long and winding drive through the northernmost point of the Big Island, the Pololu Valley Lookout is a majestic and dramatic scenic expanse that provides a breathtaking look at one of the world’s most unique geographic features. Staggering cliff sides, crashing white waves, endless green forests, black sand beaches, and silver waterfalls are all within view, but for those travelers who wish to venture further, the lookout has a difficult hiking trail through the trees and onto the beach. Camping is possible there, but there are no services and no lifeguards on the beach, so take care if you plan to extend your stay.
A massive geographic feature on the Big Island, the dormant volcano at Mauna Kea is one of the few places in the world with uninhibited views of the starry night sky. For this reason, more than 13 observation facilities sit atop the 14,000 ft. summit, but visitors to the site can enjoy stargazing and educational activities year-round. Because of the rapid climb from sea level to the summit, altitude sickness is a high possibility; it’s advised that anyone in poor health or who have recently scuba dived not visit the summit. Those who do, however, are rewarded with unbelievable views of the heavens above, so be sure to dress warm and bring a camera (or two).