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.
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 photo 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 eerily beautiful:
The ridge you see in the distance is Mauna Loa to the south of Mauna Kea.
Yes, there may be snow on the summit. Click here for more info about the Mauna Kea Observatory.
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 down slope.
The level of molten lava in the lave lake within the crater was rising and falling a little, every few weeks for at least 3 decades. Here is how it looked in the fall of 2017, when the Kapehu owners were there:
Here's a view of the crater after all the magma drained out, on August 6, 2018:
There is so much to see within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, when it's open again 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.
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.
Another beautiful trail is the Pololu trail: https://www.hawaii-guide.com/big-island/hiking_trails/pololu_valley_trail.
A trail we haven't hiked but have heard is beautiful, is the Kolaha coastal walk: https://www.explore-the-big-island.com/ala-kahakai-trail.html
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.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park The national park is currently closed. The park will re-open as soon as it's safe.
Above is a view of the Kilauea Iki crater, one of the Kapehu owners' favorite short hikes within the national park. With steaming vents and sparkling "pele's hair," it's unforgettably dramatic. (Click on the photo for a link to more Volcanoes Park information.)