Travel Log: Hilo/Pahoa, Hawaii

Today I am sharing part two of our Big Island adventures! You may have seen my Kona Travel Log last week, if not you can read it here. We visited the Big Island of Hawaii in May, celebrating my dad's birthday and recent retirement. We spent five days in Kona and three days in Pahoa, on the Hilo side of the Big Island. In today's post I have highlighted our activities from the Hilo side of the island as well as provided links where applicable. During this part of our trip, our focus was visiting the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park to see and learn more Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Please read on for more photos and details of our time on this beautiful island.

Our first activity on the Hilo side was ziplining with the Umauma Experience. We did the zipline tour, which consisted of nine long lines with some walking in between. The guides were experienced and friendly, making sure that everyone was safe but also encouraging people to have fun. The first couple of lines had two lines side by side, so you could "race" with a partner. There were shaded waiting areas like the above photo so you could stay cool, along with water and fresh fruit at one of the stops. This photo shows the lovely tiered Umauma Falls that the company is named after.

The guides encouraged everyone to have fun and try zipping upside down or at least hands-free. These lines and equipment can hold the weight of a van, which is crazy to me. Of course I had to try upside down, and it was such a thrill! I was so glad my dad captured this fun shot!

The most unique feature of the Big Island is its live volcano activity! Kīlauea is not only the most active volcano in the United States, but also currently the most active volcano in the world! We love visiting National Parks, so it was a such a treat to get to check Hawaii Volcanoes National Park off our list. This photo is of the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater viewed from the Jagger Museum, steaming non-stop during our visit in May. Since our visit, there is now lava flowing into the ocean from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater a bit further east (more on that later).

We visited Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park several times during our stay, and on one of those visits we hiked down into the Kīlauea Iki crater and back up. This hike is only three miles roundtrip, with plenty of reasons to linger and explore the terrain.  You start this hike at the Kīlauea Iki Overlook and parking lot, follow the trail down into the crater, cross the crater, and hike back up. Super easy! In this photo, you can see the view down into the Kīlauea Iki crater from the trail above to get an idea of the distance.

Once we arrived at the crater floor, I felt like we landed on another planet! You can see the cracks from where the lava floor rose and fell in back in 1959, leaving a surface that looks kind of like a cake that drops in the oven.  The lava is warm, not hot, so it is safe to walk across.

There are steam vents located randomly across the crater floor - you don't want to get too close but they make for some great photos! These vents emit sulfur, so they smell like rotten eggs, phew!

This photos is of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater by night. The lava floor would rise and fall throughout the day, and the national park service was constantly monitoring its activity. It was surreal to be so high up on the volcano, watching this eerie glow, and also being so close to the stars. If you visit the Big Island, I highly recommend visiting the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park for at least one day and night for this experience.

Speaking of the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and the volcanic activity, we chose an aerial tour with Safari Helicopters on my dad's birthday that flew us over the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater.  This crater has been active since the early 1980's, when cameras captured eruptions with huge lava fountains as well as spectacular shots of lava flowing into the ocean. In May when we visited, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater was steaming with some small lava "burps," which was super cool to be able to see.

I was lucky to be able to sit in the middle of the front seat, in between the pilot and my dad.  This was our view approaching the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater.

Our pilot circled over the Puʻu ʻŌʻō several times, enabling us to get views from both sides of the helicopter and a chance to see multiple lava "burps" like the one visible in the above photo. One other fun fact is that the bubbling lava is over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

 During our helicopter ride we were also able to see previous lava flows all the way out the to the ocean. In this photo, the green spots are trees and the rest is black lava. This particular lava flow was from 1990, if I remember right, and destroyed over 100 homes over about nine months. Lava flows are slow, fortunately, allowing people to track its path and vacate homes well in advance.

Further proof that this volcano is still highly active: the smoke in this photo is actually burning trees! You can see the lava creeping along into the forest, burning trees in its path. The lava flow was very slow when we visited - so slow you could not see it moving from the air.

 This is our group photo (complete with our posing pilot) after our helicopter ride! We had a wonderful experience with Safari Helicopters, and I would recommend this activity to anyone who wants to see and learn more about the volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii.

After our helicopter ride, we grabbed plate lunches and iced coffees at Hawaiian Style Cafe (so good!) and drove out to Rainbow Falls. There is a short walkway but no real hike here.  It is very pretty and definitely worth a stop if you are nearby.

We walked up some steps followed a trail to reach the river above the falls. The trail is not marked, but it is easy enough to see and follow other people.  Once you reach the river, you can walk out to the very edge of the falls and take a photo like I did here! Be careful, there is nothing to keep you from falling off the edge and you are walking out at your own risk. We even saw one guy jump off the falls here--that was crazy.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the Kapoho Tide Pools near our Air BnB in Pahoa. These tide pools vary in size and depth, and are a great place to snorkel. Some of them are even warm, heated by volcanic vents.

These tide pools are located within a residential neighborhood, so if you decide to visit please make sure to park in the designated area and be respectful of the homeowners nearby. The parking area is very easy to see as you drive in, and from there it is just a short walk to the pools. Our Air BnB was actually located in this neighborhood, so the pools were just a short bike ride or walk away.

We absolutely loved our vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I sincerely hope to be able to visit again in a few years. I hope that if you are considering a trip to the Big Island, you find this information useful in your trip planning! Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope you have a fabulous rest of your week!


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