Planning a trip to the islands soon? We’ve asked experts — Hawaii hospitality veterans with more than 200 years of combined experience helping guests get the most out of their vacations — to share their best recreational and cultural tips. And yes, we let them include at least one offering from their own home base.
CRAIG ANDERSON, VP OF OPERATIONS AT THE MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL A trained chef who loves to be active, Anderson has been at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for two years and has worked in hospitality in the state for nearly two decades.
• Start off with a beach walk along Kauna‘oa Bay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel; each lap is about a quarter-mile. Then take a 200-yard swim out to the iconic float. While it’s easier for hotel guests to do this, there are about two dozen or so public parking spots, and the morning is the best time to get one.
• Hike down to the beach at Waipio Valley and then back up. It’s said to be one of the steepest roads in the world, with a 25 percent grade; it is a mile to the beach, so plan on about 30 minutes down and 45 back up. Get a malasada at Tex Drive In Honoka’a on your way home; you’ll deserve it.
• Head to Kohala Zipline, the only all-canopy zip line in the state (you are in treetops most of the time). If you sign up for the Zip and Dip tour, you’ll get to swim under a waterfall.
• Walk on the largest active volcano on the planet. There are plenty of self-guided hikes to choose from in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, including nighttime lava-flow-gazing options.
• Summit Mauna Kea, which entails an hour-plus drive to a parking lot and a 7-mile hike to the top. Opt for a stargazing tour.
• Hawaii Island is world famous for night diving. Here you’ll swim with many sea creatures — most famously the graceful manta rays. Stay safe and get the most from your experience by diving with a guide.
• Go to bed, and repeat the next day.
DONNA KIMURA, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, ISLAND OF HAWAII VISITORS BUREAU Kimura has a bachelor of arts in Hawaiian Studies with a language emphasis from University of Hawaii at Hilo and has been at the bureau for four years. She started her foray into tourism more than 30 years ago at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as a front office cashier, when they had just started taking American Express (payment had previously been cash or check) and everyone was on a MAP (modified American plan) rate, which included breakfast and dinner.
• Uncover Hawaii history by exploring the island’s five National Historic Parks: Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau, Kaloko-Honokohau, Pu‘ukohola Heiau, Alakahakai National Historic Trail and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
• Begin the day in historic Kailua-Kona with a walk down Ali‘i Drive, home to Hulihe‘e Palace and Moku‘aikaua Church, the oldest Christian church in Hawaii.
• Head north along the Kohala Coast for a stop in Waimea, a town rich in paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) history and culture.
• Take a quick trip up Kohala Mountain Road to Kapa‘au for a picnic, and while there be sure to snap a picture with the original King Kamehameha statue, memorializing the man credited with uniting the islands into one royal kingdom.
• Follow the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, a scenic drive filled with gardens, waterfalls and small towns, to Hilo. While in Hilo don’t miss ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center or Lili‘uokalani Gardens, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
• To complete the circle-island adventure, stop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where visitors can gather at Jaggar Museum and Overlook to witness the glow of lava within Halema‘uma‘u Crater.