My first trip to Hawaii was in November. The timing was ideal because it wasn’t quite peak season yet, so not only were rates lower but the beaches and resorts were very quiet. This didn’t change the weather though; we enjoyed high 20 and 30 degree (Celsius) temperatures everyday!
With seven full days, we decided to see if we could get to two islands. It was a jam-packed schedule, so we were glad we planned some days to relax at the end. In hindsight, two islands was perhaps too busy and you could have a good, relaxing trip on Big Island in seven days. Nonetheless, we saw most of the highlights, except stargazing on Mauna Kea.
The Big Island is the most ecologically-diverse of the Hawaiian islands. The variation of climate and topography was what amazed us most. Especially since we experienced it first-hand on a motorcycle! Among many firsts on this trip, it was my first multi-day trip riding on the back of a bike. Of which, I came to the conclusion it’s probably a good thing I got my own license. Next time, I want to drive! Especially on the last day when we had no spare time, and we didn’t stop for the last two hours of our ride. My bottom was so sore from sitting on the uncomfortable seat, I was counting miles to take my mind off the pain!
Renting a bike is not a cheap way to explore the island (bikes start at about $100 per day), but the experience is totally different than in a car. You also meet more people when you stop because, as I’m learning, bikers like to talk to other bikers. Although, meeting Hawaiians seemed to be no problem as everyone was friendly most everywhere we went.
Planning for the weather with the bike was a little tricky. We had all our gear, which we were glad for in the evenings and early mornings when it was chilly riding through the Kohala hills and up to the Volcanoes Park.
We were a hot, sweaty mess for a good portion of the ride otherwise. Especially on the Kohala Coast, north of Kona, where the hot sun reflects off both the road and the black lava fields. It felt literally like we were in oven. This arid micro-climate makes it a great location for the resorts though because it’s almost always hot and sunny. This is also where you’ll find Big Island Motorcycle Company, in the Kings Shops in the Waikoloa Beach Resort.
The shop was super helpful, gave us a good map and helped us plan our rides. Because of him, we decided to ride around the entire island and avoided the Saddle Road (the weather changes quickly and the scenery sounded less interesting). He advised us the south coast of the island was less accustomed to tourists. We experienced this riding through when I was directed to a porta-potty behind a grocery store upon stopping for gas and inquiring about a washroom.
The South Point Road also proved much longer than we anticipated, and at times, resembles little more than a backroad. I was determined to go to the most southerly point of the United States though, so we went and tried to not blow off the rock when we got there. Although a little underwhelming, it was still neat to see.
Hands down, my favourite part of the island was the northeast coast (Hamakua). This is where huge sweeping gorges plunge down from Mauna Kea out to the ocean. The stretch of road is 25-30 miles of switchback after switchback, with bridges in between to cross the gorges. Waterfalls are visible in the distance of many of the gorges, while the ocean spreads out on the other side of you. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and nothing you can capture with a picture from the back of a bike. A picture would never do it justice anyway.
This part of the island is also home to Waipi’o Valley and Akaka Falls State Park, two areas which are absolutely worth the detour off the main highway to see. An intense sugar plantation once operated in the Waipi’o Valley and travelling through the towns of Honoka’a and Kukuihaele is a little like stepping back in time to the height of the sugar trade. Be sure to plan on stopping for lunch at the Waipi’o Cookhouse. It’s a small turnout on the way up to the valley look-out and the mahi-mahi sandwich and salad were arguably the best food of our trip!
The only way I can describe Akaka Falls is that it looked like Pandora from Avatar. When you walk down into the park to see the falls, you’re standing on a pathway with trees towering over your head with flowers and vines everywhere, little waterfalls beside you and no sight of the forest floor below. Truly incredible and then the falls themselves are just breathtaking. Again, pictures don’t do it justice!
For our first trip, we loved Hawaii and easily understood why people return every winter. There are some things I would change if I returned, and I will share those in a future post. This post is just to tempt your tastebuds because we also had an amazing day in Volcanoes National Park. More to come!