I had booked my car the day previous, but failed to do enough research on the buses – so I walked out to the airport. Not a great start, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Once I had the car, the real fun began, my grand circumnavigation of the island, from Hilo to Ocean View.
Akaka was the first stop, a surprisingly popular tourist stop, with the tallest waterfall I saw in Hawaii. The set-up is pretty smart with small car park, facilities and a nice looping path out and around to see the falls. It was interesting that they had a member of staff to work the automated ticket machine. Clearly the machine had some issues and it meant they need a staff member there at all times to help tourists pay the dollar. Another perfect example of bad planning and a quick temporary fix that has been dragged into a permanent solution. Money very badly spent there – which is money that could have been used fixing up some of the other sites. Interesting as well, you only need to pay the fee if you park inside the boundaries of the car park, so by parking just outside the gate you can save a little, although it’s so cheap you may as well just find a space inside if you can. Again, it is understandable that the charge is just for parking, but when you can pull up right outside, you’re not helping the situation, or donating to help maintain the parks.
Laupahoehoe Beach Park was up next, and it looked like I’d crashed a party. A little festival was happening in the campsite there, with lots of locals drinking and barbecuing while I wandered aimlessly around and snapped a few pics. It was a pleasant spot, and it was nice to see so much evidence of the community – something that Hawaii really seemed to have in abundance. Still as an outsider with no idea about the occasion I just enjoyed the music from afar and made my way onward shortly after. The coast road on Hawaii is certainly a lot easier, and faster than on Maui, but still with some great views. You’re not so close to the ocean, but it’s something that would probably be awesome to do on a motorbike.
Waipi’o Valley is a big site for hikers, a huge valley stretching inland for miles. There are high cliffs and a lot of hiking trails working their way through, over and around the cliffs, meadows and hill tops. It’s not for the casual explorer like myself, and many of the hikes are multi-day expeditions, the kind where you need to carry everything you plan to sleep in, eat and enjoy the whole time until you get back again. You can drive to the edge of the valley, to the point where the road gets incredibly steep and the signs warn that only 4x4s can continue. There’s a great little viewing area, and if you fancy the walk you can follow the road down and check out the beach, or enjoy the views a little further into the valley. The geography of the area is fascinating, and I can understand why it’s so popular with hikers, I’d love to go back one day and get into that wilderness.
I had to race back to Ocean View to get there before it got too dark, this time staying in the most adorable little hostel I’ve ever seen. 1 4-bed dorm room built on it’s own little chunk of land next to the owners house. There was a dog or two running around outside, and the hostel had everything it needed, even a free breakfast. First night it was just me in the cabin, but I was joined on the second day by a French lady who had some big plans for hiking, more than I could even consider. It really struck me that the Big Island is a paradise for hikers. Definitely need a vehicle though, and preferably a friend who can drive that vehicle around and pick you up on the far side a few days later.