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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A different way to experience the Big Island's rugged coastline and wild ranch lands is through an off-road adventure—a real backcountry experience. At higher elevations, weather can be nippy and rainy, but views can be awesome. Protective gear is provided. Generally, you have to be 16 or older to ride your own ATV, though some outfitters allow children seven and older to be passengers.
Just off the highway, this garden park is on more than 300 acres of former sugarcane land. With wide views of the countryside and the ocean, this is the place to see the beautiful Kamaee waterfalls. You can also follow a walking trail with old-growth tropical gardens including orchids, palm trees, ginger, hibiscus, and heliconia; visit the 10-acre arboretum, which includes a maze made of orange shrubs; explore the river walk; ride the zipline; and take the only off-road Segway adventure on the island. The $13 admission (not including zipline and Segway) into the gardens is good for seven days, but if you skip the zipline, you can see it all in a few hours. www.wbgi.com. COST: $13. OPEN: Daily 9--5:30.
Bounded by 2,000-foot cliffs, the "Valley of the Kings" was once a favorite retreat of Hawaiian royalty. Waterfalls drop 1,200 feet from the Kohala Mountains to the valley floor, and the sheer cliff faces make access difficult. Though completely off the grid today, Waipio was once a center of Hawaiian life; somewhere between 4,000 and 20,000 people made it their home between the 13th and 17th centuries.
This 420-acre National Historical Park is the best preserved puuhonua in the state. Providing a safe haven for noncombatants, kapu (taboo) breakers, defeated warriors and others—a puuhonua offered redemption and protection for anyone who could reach its boundaries. The oceanfront 960-foot stone wall still stands today and is one of the park's most prominent features. A number of ceremonial temples, including the restored Hale o Keawe Heiau ( circa 1700) have served as royal burial chambers. An "aura" of ancient sacredness still embues the place to this day. www.nps.gov/puho. COST: $5 per vehicle. OPEN: Park daily 7 am--sunset; visitor center daily 8 am--4:30 pm.
Billed as "the only natural tropical rain-forest zoo in the United States," this sweet zoo is the home of white Bengal tiger, Namaste. You'll see variety of native Hawaiian species, such as Hawaii's state bird, the nene goose, the io (hawk), as well as lots of other rare birds, monkeys, and lemurs. Namaste's daily 3:30 feeding is quite the sight. Donations welcome. www.hilozoo.com. COST: Free but donations encouraged. OPEN: Daily 9--4, except Christmas.
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