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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Parasailing, gliding on the winds with a parachute while being pulled behind a power boat, is a relaxing and thrilling experience. If you can handle heights, you'll revel in the experience of being suspended in air while soaring above Kailua Bay. The water is so clear you can almost see the ocean floor. And no swimming is required; takeoffs and landings are from the back of the boat.
The leeward west coast areas of the Big Island are protected for the most part from the northeast trade winds, making for ideal near-shore kayaking conditions. There are miles and miles of uncrowded Kona and Kohala coastline to explore, presenting close-up views of stark raw lava rock shores and cliffs, lava tube sea caves, pristine secluded coves, and deserted beaches.
For old salts and novice sailors alike, there's nothing like a cruise on the Kona or Kohala coasts of the Big Island. Calm waters, serene shores, and the superb scenery of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai, the Big Island's primary volcanic peaks, make for a great sailing adventure. You can drop a line over the side and try your luck at catching dinner, or grab some snorkel gear and explore when the boat drops anchor in one of the quiet coves and bays. A cruise may well be the most relaxing and adventurous part of a Big Island visit.
According to the movies, in the Old West there was always friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. Sometimes a similar situation exists between surfers and body boarders. That's why they generally keep to their own separate surfing areas. Often the body boarders stay closer to shore and leave the outside breaks to the board surfers. Or the board surfers may stick to one side of the beach and the body boarders to the other. The truth is, body boarding (often called "boogie boarding" in homage to the first commercial manufacturer of this slick little flexible foam board) is a blast. The only surfers who don't also sometimes carve waves on a body board are hardcore purists, and almost none of that type live on this island.
Along the Kona Coast you can find some of the world's most exciting "blue-water" fishing. Although July, August, and September are peak months, with the best fishing and a number of tournaments, charter fishing goes on year-round. You don't have to compete to experience the thrill of landing a Pacific blue marlin or other big game fish. Some 60 charter boats, averaging 26 to 58 feet, are available for hire, most of them out of Honokohau Harbor, north of Kailua-Kona.
This is the only place to see the famous triple-tier Umauma Falls. Like the World Botanical Gardens right next door, this park has a river walk, a zipline, and botanical gardens. This 200-acre park only opened two years ago, however, and the gardens here are not as lush and well-established as the gardens next door (though the competition is obvious). There is kayaking and a giant swing. COST: $12. OPEN: Daily 7:45--5.
After a hard rain, these falls thunder into the Wailuku River gorge, often creating magical rainbows in the mist. Located just above downtown Hilo. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/index.cfm?park_id=57.
Four separate streams fall into a series of circular pools here, forming the Peepee Falls. The resulting turbulent action—best seen after a good rain—has earned this stretch of the Wailuku River the nickname Boiling Pots. There's no swimming allowed at Peepee Falls or anywhere in the Wailuku river, due to dangerous currents and undertows. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/Index.cfm?park_id=57.
This underwater marine reserve is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. Dramatic cliffs surround super deep, crystal clear, turquoise water chock-full of stunning coral pinnacles and tropical fish. The brown sand at west-facing Napoopoo Beach, washed away during Hurrican Iniki in 1992, is slowly returning. You can easily enter the water here. This is a nice place to swim as it's well protected from currents. No lifeguards; at times, you may feel tiny jellyfish stings. www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/hawaii/index.cfm?park_id=46.
This no-frills industrial harbor, where in 1793 the first cattle landed in Hawaii, is a hub of commercial and community activity. It's especially busy on weekends, when paddlers and local fishing boats float on the waves. Second in size only to Hilo Harbor on the east coast, the harbor is often home to the Makalii, one of three traditional Hawaiian sailing canoes. King Kamehameha and his men launched their canoes from here when they set out to conquer the neighboring islands. There are several restaurants with nice sunset views in Kawaihae should you be nearby at dinnertime.
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