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.)
Kapoho Tide Pools:
Some of the most pristine snorkeling reefs in Hawaii are less than an hour from our Kapehu Retreat: the Kapoho tide pools on the the eastern-most point of the island. Swim among multicolored corals and spectacular tropical reef fishes in swimming-pool sized volcanic ponds protected from the surf, where the water is calm and warmer than the open ocean (so you can stay in longer before getting chilled). With no chance of getting pulled out to sea by currents, it's a great place to bring the kids. This area was recently designated a marine life conservation district. Take Hwy 11 south from Hilo to Hwy 130, then 130 to Hwy 132, then 132 to 137 south, then to Kapoho-Kai Dr to the Vacationland subdivision. The tide pools are all along Wai Opae Street, and there used to be a parking lot there for snorkelers. But in 2014 Hurricane Iselle took out that parking lot and parts of the street, and the people who live by the water don't want people parking at their homes, so you're now required to park 2 blocks away from the tide pools at the entrance to the subdivision, and walk to the tide pools. There are fresh water showers at nearby Ahalanui Park, the popular warm spring park. So after snorkeling, you can drive a mile and a half south on Hwy 137 to Ahalanui Park, where you can take a dip in the warm pond, or have a picnic, or simply rinse the salt off in the fresh water shower.
Volcanoes National Park:
A special highlight of your trip will be visiting the active volcano in 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. Here's 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.)
This is the Hale Ma'u Ma'u Crater, just outside the Jagger Museum, as seen during daylight. Hale Ma'u Ma'u means "house of the ferns" -- there used to be a fern forest where this crater now is. You'll want to go back at night to see the crater again, and when you do, be sure to wear a warm jacket, long pants and maybe even a wool cap. Nights are chilly at this elevation, especially if there's a breeze. For a link to view the live webcam pointed at Hale Ma'u Ma'u, click on the photo above. To see the thermal camera, click here.
The level of molten lava in the lave lake within the crater rises and falls every few weeks. When it's low, you see an eerie red glow and red steam rising from it. When the level of lava in the lake is high, you see cracks in the crust, and boiling lava leaping from the cracks high into the air:
There is so much to see within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you'll want to go back several times (and you'll be glad you chose to stay on the Hilo side of the island).
Inside the Thurston lava tube, HI Volcanoes Natn'l Park.
Ancient petroglyph, just off the Chain Of Craters Rd.
Mauna Kea Observatory
The summit of Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet above sea level. Click here for more info about the Mauna Kea Observatory.
Hilo Farmers Market A special Hilo activity is the farmers market downtown, unlike farmers markets anywhere else. Over 200 local farmers and artists sell their produce, crafts, gift items and tropical flowers in a festive outdoor setting. You'll find many varieties of exotic and international foods to sample, too. Prices on fruits and veggies are unbeatable, and you can shop for unusual gifts to bring home to your friends and family. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the big days with music and arts and crafts, but it's open for produce every day all year round. (By the way, our very favorite lilikoi jam and lilikoi butter are from Les' Menehune Kitchen - 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.
Ocean Adventures: If you'd like to take a boat tour along the scenic coast, or hire a diving guide, or simply rent diving gear, you can contact Hilo Ocean Adventures: www.HiloOceanAdventures.com.
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 3.5 miles away in Onomea: http://www.htbg.com
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.