Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most unique National Parks in the U.S. You can actually drive around the crater of an active volcano, taste the sulphur in the air, and feel the hot steam rising from fissures around you. In the evenings, the unearthly glow of molten lava is visible through cracks in the earth. The activity of the volcano is not predictable, but it is carefully monitored. On the day this picture was taken, lava was flowing quietly underground into the sea, creating a large plume of steam. Several days later, large fountains of glowing lava were shooting skyward as the ground rumbled.
The cliffs at South Point feature a lot of ancient Hawaiian history, a sparkling, olive green sand beach, and a chance to feel like you are standing at the end of the world. Sunsets can be spectacular here, too. Bring water, as there is none for miles. Better yet, stop in the little town of Na'alehu for picnic supplies, and spend the day hiking the coast to the green sand beach.
Sea turtles are always easy to spot at the beautiful black sand beach of Punalu'u. They nest here, and scour the shoreline rocks for algae. An old trail leads from the north end of the beach across vast rocky lava fields to other sheltered coves where more turtles, and a "heiau" can be seen. The hike also gives you a chance to enjoy the panoramic view of the southeast flank of Mauna Loa.
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau or "Place of Refuge" National Historical Park is one of the most beautifully Hawaiian locations you can imagine. This National Historic Site is one of the best locations for learning about ancient Hawaiian life. Talk to the rangers, as they are a wealth of enthusiasm and information. Charles Hua will even play the nose flute for you by request! Demonstrations of local skills are often happening here.
Hapuna Beach State Park - This broad white sand beach with a view of Maui is perhaps the best beach on the island for ease of access and lots of soft, white sand. It's possible at certain times of the year to lie on your back in the warm waters of Hapuna, and look up at 14,000 ft. snow-capped Mauna Kea!
Rainbow Falls is located near Hilo, and is a quick and easy drive up the Wailuku River. The vegetation is lush and colorful. The weather can be "playful", so bring your umbrella. If you are interested in Hawaiian mythology, this river is mentioned in many tales of local gods, goddesses, and demons.
Onomea Bay Drive, north of Hilo, is a beautiful little
country road that skirts this little bay, and overlooks waterfalls, cliffs, and some charming old Hawaiian homes. It is "real jungle". Start at the south end, and drive north. The 4 mile loop ends on Highway 19 near the road that takes you to Akaka Falls.
Akaka Falls near Hilo are both lush and exotic. Take Hwy. 220 through the quaint little town of Honomu. Flowers, bamboo, palms, orchids, and philodendron leaves as big as an elephant's ear are all growing wild. You will be rewarded with some spectacular waterfalls, too!