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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Eight miles north of Hilo, stunning coastline views appear around each curve of the 4-mi scenic jungle drive that accesses the privately owned nature preserve beside Onomea Bay. Paved pathways in the 17-acre botanical garden lead past ponds, waterfalls, and more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers, including palms, bromeliads, ginger, heliconia, orchids, and ornamentals. www.hawaiigarden.com. COST: $15. OPEN: Daily 9-4.
Since the latest eruption began in 1983, Kilauea Volcano has been adding new land to the Big Island more or less steadily—except when a big shelf of recently cooled lava rock suddenly breaks off and crashes into the sea. Meanwhile, molten lava continues to pour from outbreaks on the southeast flank of Kilauea, until it meets the ocean, cools, and solidifies into a new ragged, rugged stretch of coastline. It's fire, earth, and water: creation at its most elemental. And you can watch it happen. If you do nothing else on the Big Island, do the volcano.
This outfitter leaves from Kona and also picks up guests at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort and at the Paniolo Greens Condominiums in Waikoloa Village. You'll stop for dinner along the way at a historic ranch. Hawaii Forest & Trail supplies parkas, gloves, and brings a telescope along. Cookies and hot chocolate make cold stargazing more pleasant. The price is $189 per person. www.hawaii-forest.com.
This small island, just offshore from Liliuokalani Gardens, is accessible via a footbridge. It was considered a place of healing in ancient times. Today children play in the tide pools while fisherfolk try their luck.
Named after the "First Lady" of Hawaii ranching, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske, this ranch offers a rare opportunity to see a fully restored cattle ranch house on the Big Island. Wander the picturesque grounds and gardens on a self-guided walk, watch a master saddle maker and an ironsmith in action, and take a tour of the historic house, where Anna's elaborate pau (riding) costumes are on display. The knowledgeable staff will share anecdotes about Anna's amazing life. The ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places. On Wednesday afternoon a farmers' market is held here. www.annaranch.org. COST: Guided tours $10. OPEN: Tues.-Sat. 10-4.
Easy to drive by on the twisting two-lane highway, this garden offers a wealth of Hawaiian ethnobotanical traditions. On 12 acres, 250 types of plants are grown that were typical in an early Hawaiian ahupuaa, the usually pie-shaped land divisions that ran from the mountains to the sea. The new visitor center, now on the south side of the garden, includes a gift shop. The garden is 12 mi south of Kailua-Kona, just past mile marker 110, across from the Manago Hotel. Call for information on guided tours. www.bishopmuseum.org/greenwell. COST: $7. OPEN: Tues.-Sun. 9-4.
A meandering 10-minute loop trail takes you to the best spots to see the two cascades, Akaka and Kahuna. The 400-foot Kahuna Falls is on the lower end of the trail. The majestic upper Akaka Falls drops more than 442 feet, tumbling far below into a pool drained by Kolekole Stream amid a profusion of fragrant white, yellow, and red torch ginger. COST: $5 per vehicle (non-residents); $1 for walk-ins. OPEN: Daily 7-7.