Tropical rainforests, sandy beaches, snowcapped mountains, and erupting volcanoes- the Island of Hawai’i has it all. The biggest island out of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawai’i Island is full of rich history, culture, and raw, untouched beauty. And the best part is that it’s the most affordable Hawaiian Island to visit, especially during the late summer months of August and September. To help convince you to make the most of what’s left of your summer, I’ve come up with ten legitimate reasons you need to pack your bags and head to the nearest airport, because the Island of Hawai’i is just a flight away, waiting to be explored.
First off, you can see an erupting volcano. Yes, an erupting volcano. The whole orange glow, smoke billowing into the sky, red hot lava churning inside of a crater type of lava. Start off your trip by renting a car and heading to the Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at night for the best views of the erupting phenomenon. If you’re lucky, you just might see the lava burst into the sky. Or, take an evening tour with Kapohokine Adventures and drive over recent lava flows, explore lava tubes, and visit a private vineyard and tea orchid before heading up to see Kilauea Volcano in action.
You can stay in America’s cutest Airbnb’s. In the Southern part of the island, towns such as Volcano and Hilo are known for their cozy Airbnb’s such as 5th Street Ohana located near Volcano Village. Spend your nights stargazing on your front porch or cozied up by the fire, and in the morning head to Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant for a breakfast of Banana Pancakes with coconut syrup.
You can go waterfall hopping. Start off your morning and head to Rainbow Falls in Hilo, and if you get there at just the right time around 10 AM, you just might be able to see a rainbow hanging above the falls. If you’re brave enough, hike to the top of the falls and admire the unbelievable view from above. Next, head to Akaka Falls- a 442-foot waterfall surrounded by a tropical paradise. It is over twice as tall as Niagara Falls, and holds some of the island’s most unique plant-life. Be sure to keep an eye out for other smaller falls as you hike your way down to the main one.
You can take a selfie with a sea turtle. After visiting Hilo and Volcano, head to the black sand Punalu’u Beach, where sea turtles litter the shore and bathe in the sun. If you’re willing to risk the rough current, dive into the waves with a pair of goggles and search for them underwater.
You can visit the southernmost point of the United States. After hanging with the sea turtles, head to the bottom tip of the island, called South Point, and admire the incredible views. You can even bring a fishing pole and go deep-sea fishing right off the edge of the cliff! And don’t forget to admire the sea caves scattered throughout the cliff- just make sure not to fall in.
You can snorkel in Kealakekua Bay. After experiencing everything the lower half of the island has to offer, head up to Kona and explore one of the world’s most historical bays that happens to hold the reef Finding Nemo was based off of. Yes, you read that right. You can actually search for Nemo and Dory, while swimming in the same spot where Captain Cook was killed. It’s a pretty gnarly place, full of intriguing history and a colorful, fish-filled reef. Book a raft and snorkel tour with Captain Zodiac and he’ll take you right to the best snorkeling spot while also explaining the history of Captain Cook and the native Hawaiians along on the way.
You can watch one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. After dinner, head to Hapuna Beach at night to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Simply bring a blanket and some drinks and watch nature do its thing.
You can hike to secret beaches. Head to North Kohala and hike Pololu Valley. Start at the Pololu Valley overlook and hike down the wide trail until you reach the valley floor, which just so happens to be a black sand beach. But don’t stop there. Keep on hiking until you’ve finished the full three-mile trail. It might be a wet and slipper hike, but the magnificent views throughout and the hidden beach at the end will make every step worth it.
You can attend a luau. While in Kona, book your stay at the Courtyard by Marriot King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, and experience an authentic luau on the ocean front grounds. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn the hula and compete in ancient Hawaiian games, but you’ll get to watch as the Royal Hawaiian Court arrives by boat (err, canoe), feast on pork, poi, and coconut pudding, and watch a Polynesian show with ancient war dances, hula, and a Samoan Fire Knife Dance.
Lastly, you can paddle board with dolphins. And not just any dolphins- spinner dolphins. Or as I like to call them, the Forever Puppies of the ocean because they are like regular dolphins but only three feet long. Rent a paddle board from the Kona Boys Beach Shack, located at the Courtyard Marriot, and paddle out to the open ocean. Spinner dolphins rest in shallow waters during the day, so if you head out on your board in the morning, you may see them swim by and flip in the air. And if you’re brave enough, hop into the refreshing blue waters and swim alongside them. Just make sure not to lose your paddle.
So are you ready to book those tickets? Or better yet, just book a one-way flight, because once you experience everything the Island of Hawaii has to offer, you won’t want to leave.
For more information on what to see and do in Hawaii, visit the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau. And for tips on how to plan and afford the trip of your dreams, check out my book The Smart Girl’s Guide to Surviving Her Twenties which comes out later this summer.