The location of the Kapehu house is the perfect base from which to explore the entire island - nothing is a long drive away, and all the drives are beautiful. With everything so close to Kapehu there is no need to split up your vacation and stay on different parts of the island. Listed below are a few of the sights to see and things to do nearby theKapehu Retreat House. For a printable PDF version of this information plus some restaurants: area attractions
This 400 foot tall waterfall is only 5 miles from the Kapehu Retreat House. (Click on the photo for a link to more about Akaka Falls.)
A little over an hour to the north is Waipio Valley, one of the most naturally beautiful places on earth, with its stunning cliffs and thundering waterfalls, mile-wide black sand beach, taro ponds and many miles of hiking trails for day-long adventures. Even if you only attempt the 1/2 hour walk from the overlook down to the black sand beach, you'll be rewarded with many fine photo-ops. If you have a high clearance vehicle, preferably 4-wheel drive, you can drive down to the beach. (Click on the photo to open a link to more info about Waipio Valley.)
For a day of adventure, continue north from the Waipio Valley into the Kohala district (where the topography changes as the green side meets the desert side), and at the town of Havi, turn right to get to another spectacular valley: Pololu. Take another 1/2 hour walk down to this extraordinarily beautiful beach, with awesome views along the way.(Click on the photos to open a link about Polulu Valley.)
Mauna Kea Observatory
The summit of Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet above sea level. On your drive up to the summit, you can stop at the visitors center at 9,000 feet and catch your breath before continuing higher. The visitors center offers free star gazing programs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from 7 pm until 10 pm. The views of the volcanic landscape as you drive to the summit are beautiful and eerie:
The ridge you see in the distance is Mauna Loa to the south of Mauna Kea. Kilauea is on the other side of Mauna Loa, further to the south.
Yes, there may be snow on the summit. Click here for more info about the Mauna Kea Observatory.
Volcanoes National Park The national park is currently closed because of steam explosions from the caldera at the summit of Kilauea, which is located inside the park. The park will re-open as soon as it's safe.
A special highlight of your trip will be visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: less than an hour away but providing a wealth of opportunities for hiking, sight-seeing, and the exhibits at the Jagger Museum. Above is a view of the Kilauea Iki crater. The 2-hour walk through the Kilauea Iki crater is unforgettably dramatic, with steaming vents along the way. (Click on the photo for a link to more Volcanoes Park information.)
About those steam explosions: For decades, Kilauea's summit crater, Hale Ma'u Ma'u, has been filled to the brim with boiling magma. What you saw from the top was a lake of red hot lava, as in the pictures below. The lake was connected by a vertical conduit of magma to the mantle of the earth some 50 miles below. That conduit is the main volcano. Throughout recent decades, lava has also been erupting from the sides of the mountain through vulnerable rifts. On May 3rd, 2018, lava began erupting 20 miles down slope of the summit caldera in the volcano's east rift, in the subdivison of Leilani Estates in the lower Puna district, while at the same time the lava in the caldera began to drop below the rim. As eruptions continued along the east rift, the caldera at the summit continued to drain lower and lower. When the level of lava in the caldera dropped thousands of feet, to below the water table, water began entering the conduit, causing steam explosions from the summit caldera and sending steam and ash flying high into the air. As long as these steam explosions continue the National Park is likely to remain closed.
This is how the summit caldera, Hale Ma'u Ma'u, looked for many years before the 2018 eruption -- the view from a mile away at the viewing site just outside the Jagger Museum. The crater has been sinking, broadening and changing shape since the current eruption began downslope. It will be fascinating to see it again when the National Park reopens.
The level of molten lava in the lave lake within the crater was rising and falling every few weeks. Here is how it looked in the fall of 2017:
There is so much to see within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you'll want to go back several times.
Inside the Thurston lava tube, HI Volcanoes Natn'l Park.
Ancient petroglyph, just off the Chain Of Craters Rd.
Hilo Farmers Market A special Hilo activity is the farmers market downtown. Local farmers sell their fresh produce and other foods and tropical flowers 7 days a week, and their prices are so low you'll be shocked, especially after you've seen the grocery store prices. You'll find exotic and international foods to sample, too. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, artists and artisans sell crafts and gift items at the farmers market, and you can shop for unusual gifts to bring home to your friends. (By the way, our very favorite lilikoi jam and lilikoi butter made by Les' Menehune Kitchen - Les and Dionne are usually selling their jams and butters on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Hilo farmers market.)
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches!
At least 80 beaches grace the Big Island. Several beautiful black sand beaches are just a few minutes from the Kapehu Retreat.
Along the southern shore of Hilo Bay, just east of downtown Hilo, are several dramatically beautiful swimming beaches with black sand, black rocks and turquoise water. To get to them, go east on Hwy 19 and cross Hwy 11 onto Kalanianaole St. Pass a mile of industrial warehouses and you'll come to this stretch of beach parks: Onekahakaha, Keaukaha, Carlsmith, Leleiwi, Lehia, and Richardson Beach Parks. Giant turtles swim here, too, and will be happy to swim with you if you show them respect and don't get too close. The friendly sea turtle pictured was the size of the person taking his picture at Richardson Beach. A popular spot for surfers to catch a wave is Honolii Beach, about 2 miles north of downtown Hilo.
Tour Boat Adventures: There area numerous tour boat companies offering tours of the scenic Hamakua Coast and its waterfalls, as well as other beautiful sights around the island. We only know of one tourboat company that offers a boat ride to the lava as it flows into the ocean: http://seelava.com/big-island-boat-tours/lava-boat-tour/. (There are likely to be others, so do ask around.)
Botanical Gardens There are 3 lush and stunning botanical gardens within about 15 minutes of the Kapehu Retreat House. The nearest one, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, is just 4 miles away in Onomea: http://www.htbg.com We love to visit these gardens over and over, they're so beautiful, so we always purchase annual passes.
For the birds:
Are you a birder? Interested in a guided tour to see endemic Hawaiian birds with a local expert? Contact Jack Jeffrey: http://jackjeffreyphoto.com/
If you're a hiker and/or backpacker, you can explore spectacular wilderness trails on Big Island. There are 150 miles of hiking trails within Volcanoes National Park. We snapped the above sunset while camping on a deserted beach on the Halape wilderness trail, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
If you enjoy sea kayaking, there are several outfitters in Hilo and in Kona from whom you can rent kayaks. Ask them where the calmest waters are.
This little gecko is displaying all the colors in his palate, trying to match his surroundings. Alas! Mauve just isn't in his repertoire.
KAPEHU RETREAT HOUSE area attractions page
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