Find a landscape you love on the island of Hawaii, with a travel book

by Victor Block

Some vacationers bask in the sun on the white or black sand beaches. Not-so-distant divers are suited to snorkeling for an up-close and personal shot with a variety of deep-dive residents. Others check out a surreal moonscape of super-black lava, then hike through a lush tropical rainforest.

If this sounds like a choice of continent-wide activities, it’s because the island of Hawaii (as the locals explain it) is in some way like a mini-continent. It is almost twice the size of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Visitors find a place that includes almost every type of landscape. The dry, cactus-infested desert is located near lush rainforests. Barren lava fields contrast with waterfalls that plunge into green valleys.

People in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park come face to face with the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, and the largest underground active volcano, Mauna Loa. It has erupted 33 times in the past 75 years, most recently in 1984.

Most recently, Kilauea erupted from 1983 to 2018. During the 2018 eruption, lava flows added more than 875 acres to the island and created a black sand and pebble beach.

By day, visitors can watch the most recent eruption of gas and steam and enjoy the reflection of glowing lava deep in the crater after dark. The hours from 10 pm until before sunrise are the best times to avoid the heavy crowds.

The huge mountains of the island of Hawaii also have another fame. From its base at the ocean floor to its summit at more than 13,800 feet, Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest. Because of their elevation, the peaks of both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are sometimes covered with snow during the winter.

Several attractions welcome people who take the Crater Rim Drive through the national park. The Kilauea Overlook offers amazing views of the Kilauea caldera, the center of the collapsed volcano, and the Halema’uma’u crater. Ha’akulamanu is a thermal zone where volcanic gases deposit colored sulfur crystals and other minerals. The aptly named Devastation Trail leads an area buried under a blanket of ash during a volcanic eruption in 1959.

People who drive in the park are warned to look for the Eleni, the state bird of Hawaii. This is the rarest species of geese in the world, it is found only in Hawaii, it has been classified as endangered. Visitors are warned to drive carefully and not to feed the birds.

Besides volcanoes and the usual vacation activities in the sun and sand, there are plenty of other reasons to visit the island of Hawaii. For fishermen, the waters off the coast of Kona are known as the best in the world for catching giant blue marlin. An annual international billiard tournament attracts fishermen from many countries.

Great marine life drops off during whale watching season from December through May. While humpbacks have the highest bills, it is also possible to spot melon-headed sperm whales and whales.

Those who prefer to keep their feet on solid ground find a wide range of hiking opportunities, from easy nature walks to advanced trekking. Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park alone offers 150 miles of trails.

For history buffs, the story of the island’s past is as interesting as what greets visitors today. Early settlements were established by Polynesians who arrived after a long and treacherous voyage across the ocean in large double-hulled canoes. Estimated dates of their arrival span hundreds of years, from the fourth to the eighth centuries. Evidence abounds of the way of life of the ancient Hawaiian civilization. They include the remains of hyao villages (temples), agricultural hills, and other archaeological remains.

Some monuments, such as the royal fish ponds constructed to please noble palates and the lava rock carvings, have been preserved and incorporated into the hotel grounds. The engraved images depict humans, birds, and other recognizable shapes, as well as unfathomable lines and dots. Its exact meanings are unknown, but scholars believe it records births, deaths, and other major events and may include astrological symbols.

One of the most interesting sites is Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, a reconstructed royal complex. It was known as the “place of refuge”, and served as a haven for people who had violated the kapu (holy law). Offenders who managed to reach this sacred place could ask for safety and forgiveness. The complex includes temples, burial places, petroglyphs and other objects reminiscent of antiquity.

Another chapter of the island’s history comes alive in the Waipi’o Valley, a 6-by-1-mile wound in the ground surrounded by 2,000-foot cliffs overflowing with numerous waterfalls. The meandering river they created gave the valley its name, which means “bending water”.

Also known as the “Valley of the Kings,” it was once home to several Hawaiian rulers and contains the remains of important temples. Visitors can view the valley from a small view.

In contrast to the panoramic view of a deep valley, there is the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the stars as few people have seen them. Because of the clear skies and without the faintness of the city lights, the stars are like twinkling sparkles scattered in the sky. While the stunning light show can be enjoyed from sea level, the best star-gazing opportunities are offered by tour operators from 9,200 feet in Mauna Kea.

The opportunity to look at the stars in a way that few people have is not the main reason most people visit the island of Hawaii. It is just one in a long list of attractions that attract different interests outside the beaches, regardless of the color of the sand.

when you go

For more information: www.gohawaii.com

Visitors to the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Kauai enjoy the scenery. Image courtesy of Victor Block.

(SETIMAGE2) tad061222bdAP.jpg (end of image 2) (set caption 2) A visit to Hawaii might include enjoying a black sand beach. Image courtesy of Victor Block. (end of caption 2)

    Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii presents a light show at night.  Image courtesy of Victor Block.

Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii presents a light show at night. Image courtesy of Victor Block.

Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features from writers and other cartoonists in the Creators Guild, visit the Creators Guild website at www.creators.com.

Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii presents a light show at night. Image courtesy of Victor Block.

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