7 nights/ 8 days
Kona to Kona

It’s easy to feel awed on Hawaii Island (aka the “Big Island”). From the molten magma flowing from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-capped heights of Maunakea; from the green rainforests of the Hamakua Coast to the jet-black sands of Punaluu Beach; Hawaii Island is an unrivaled expression of the power of nature. The Big Island is nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. You can travel through ten of the world’s 14 different climate zones on Hawaii Island ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa. With surroundings ranging from lava-strewn deserts to tropical plantations and gardens, you can engage in every imaginable outdoor activity here.

2017 Small Group Trips:December 13-20 $2250 (Single Supplement $1100)
Trip Leader(s):Stacey
Places Visited:The Big Island, Hawaii (Kona)
Activities:Hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, ATV
Travel Style:Comfort
Physical Rating:Easy to Moderate

Ready to book? Please click the button below to BOOK THIS TRIP and submit your information along with a $500 deposit.  Your deposit is fully refundable for 72 hours and always transferable to any of our other trips, or we can hold it for a future trip.

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Highlights

  • Snorkel with manta rays off the Kona coast, at night!
  • Witness geologic oddities with black and green sand beaches.
  • Hike the Kilauea Iki Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, voted the #3 Best National Park Hike in the USA!
  • Go swimming with Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins in their natural environment and snorkeling at one of the best coral reefs in the Islands.
  • Explore the Waipio Valley, also known as “the Valley of the Kings,” on an ATV and discover a place that time forgot.
  • Explore the pristine and warm waters of the Kona Coast by kayak.
  • Enjoy a traditional Hawaiian Luau at historic site of Kamakahonu.

Day 1: Kona

You are free to arrive in Kona (KOA) at any time. The sunny Kona District stretches for about 60 miles from Kona International Airport to beyond Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii Island’s lava-lined western coast. There are no planned activities today, so you are free to explore this area at your leisure. The historic Kailua-Kona village is a bustling gathering place, just a 15-minute drive south of the Kona International Airport. Home to shops, restaurants and nightlife, you can conveniently take a walking tour of Kona’s history at place like Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church and the Ahuena Heiau. Other significant historic places include Kealakekua Bay to the South, where Captain James Cook first set foot on the island in 1778 and where he was eventually killed. Nearby is Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, a well-restored Hawaiian “place of refuge.” North of Kailua-Kona is the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, a 1160-acre park that lets you explore early heiau (temples), fishponds and petroglyphs.

Upon arrival at the airport, your trip leader will pick you up in our van transportation. We’ll then head to a nearby grocery store to get some groceries to have on hand in our condos for the week.

INCLUDED:
–Airport Pickup

Overnight at Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 2: Kona/ Papakolea Green Sand Beach

This morning, we’ll head to the south part of the island for a bit of hiking. A geologic oddity among few in the world, a green sand beach is located in a bay cut by the ocean into a side of Pu’u Mhana, a cinder cone that erupted about 50,000 year ago. The green sand is created by a common silicate deposit of Big Island lava called olivine, which stays deposited on this beach because it is heavier that the other, lighter components of the lava. Once arriving at the parking area, we’ll take an approximately 2.5 mile hike to the beach.  Expect a hot, humid, windy hike to the Green Sand Beach. Look for several ancient sites along the way, mostly heiaus for fishing. The ancient Hawaiians would make an offering of their first catch on the temples to appease the gods. Most of the sites are very eroded and are only foundations. Once arriving at the beach, look for an ancient small cave dwelling on the western side of the beach and higher on the cliffs. There are no facilities of any kind in this area at either the trailhead or the beach. You might want to bring a swimsuit and other beach gear for swimming, but please be aware that the surf is quite strong along the notorious southern shore.

This evening, we’ll head to the harbor where we’ll board a boat for an opportunity to participate in one of the most unique ocean adventures in the world! Manta rays frequent the warm waters of the rocky volcanic coastline in search of plankton, their primary food source. With their giant mouths constantly open, they glide through the water and filter out these tiny creatures. Unlike most of their relatives, Manta Rays have NO teeth, stinger or barbs and are completely safe to be around. There is one particular spot close to the Kona airport where mantas congregate in the early evening, and after dark they are attracted to lights that are placed on the bottom of the ocean in about 30 feet of water. These lights attract clouds of tiny plankton and the plankton attracts the mantas. These giant rays, sometimes referred to as the “Butterflies of the Sea,” gracefully glide, twirl and do somersaults to swoop up the tiny little food particles, sometimes within a foot or so of the snorkelers!

INCLUDED
–Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach
–5:30-8:30pm Manta Ray Night Snorkel (includes beverages, snacks, complimentary photos, snorkel gear, wet suits, and flotation devices)

Hiking Distance: 5.3 miles (in & out)
Difficulty: Easy (100ft elevation gain)
Estimated travel time: 1.5 hours driving to Papakolea Beach
Overnight at
 Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 3: Kona/ Hawaii Volcanoes National Park/ Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Today will be a full day excursion to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Established as a National Park in 1961, the park displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution – processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with complex and unique ecosystems and a distinct human human culture. The park encompasses 230,000 acres and ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth’s most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet. Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, offers scientists insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and visitors views of dramatic volcanic landscapes. Over half of the park is designated wilderness and provides unusual hiking and camping opportunities. In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been honored as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

The Kilauea Iki hike is famous for its breathtaking views of the Kilauea Iki crater and the last eruption which occurred in 1959. It also happens to be voted the #3 Best National Park Hike in the USA. The trail is the easiest way to access and thru-hike a volcanic crater in Hawaii! Led by a ranger trained interpretive guide, we will ascend through a lush rain forest to the floor of the solidified, but still steaming Kilauea Iki Crater lava lake. At the bottom of the Pu’u Pua’I cinder cone, your guide will show you the remnants of the vent that erupted to a height of approximately 1900 feet in 1959. It was the tallest lava foundation ever recorded in Hawaii.

On our return, we’ll make a stop at Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Located between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu, Punaluu Black Sand Beach’s jet black shores are an unforgettable sight. Coconut palms fringe the upper edge of sand and you may also discover large honu, or Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, basking on the beach. Although it may be tempting, please DO NOT TOUCH these protected turtles.

INCLUDED:
–Kilauea Iki Trail Hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with a Naturalist Guide
–Visit to Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Hiking Distance: 4 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging (Steep and rocky, descent & ascent 400ft each way with steps and switchbacks)
Estimated travel time: 2.5 hours driving to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Overnight at
 Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 4: Kona/ Kealakekua Bay

This morning, we’ll get an early start for a once in a lifetime experience swimming with dolphins in the wild! This amazing experience will have us swimming with Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins and snorkeling at one of the best coral reefs in the Islands. What could be better than swimming with dolphins that are 100% free and in their natural environment? Dolphins are among the most intelligent beings on the planet and swimming with them in their own environment will amaze you!

Kealakekua means “The Pathway of the Gods,” and is the largest sheltered bay on the island and it offers some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. This is a place of beauty, historical significance, and a very sacred site. The crystal-clear bay is abundant in sea life, the waters are calm and the coral reef is visible up to 100ft. K-Bay, as it is sometimes referred to by locals, has been designated as a Marine Life Conservation District and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the home of the Captain Cook monument that marks the spot of the first recorded European contact with the Native Hawaiians of the Big Island.

Note: We only work with travel suppliers with a proven history of running tours that are conducted with the utmost respect for the dolphins and the entire marine environment, as we are guests in their world. They are also among the few commercial boat companies that are permitted to bring snorkelers into Kealakekua Bay.

INCLUDED:
–7:30am-2pm Morning Dolphin Swim & Kealakekua Bay Snorkel (Includes gear, flotation devices, swim guides in the ocean, fresh fruit, muffins, coffee, water/sodas, snacks, sandwich wraps, photos of your trip)

Overnight at Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 5: Kona/ Free Day 

Today is a free day at your leisure. For those still looking for more adventure, you’ll have the option of joining others for a zipline and waterfall adventure or possibly visiting the summit of Mauna Kea for some stargazing!

Optional: Kohala Zip & Dip $260/ person
Spend an inspiring and exhilarating day in North Kohala, a land of stunning beauty and profound cultural significance. Zipline high above the forest floor, picnic on the rim of the Pololu Valley & swim under a private waterfall fed by a cool mountain stream. This is a full day adventure (8 hours) and includes transportation from Kona, a fun off-road drive through private lands in open air 6WD Pinzgauers, stroll through a private nature reserve and see seven secluded waterfalls, swim under a private waterfall, eat lunch at a private picnic spot overlooking Polulu Valley, fly through Kohala Zipline’s full aerial canopy course including 9 lines, 5 sky bridges and a rappel, and complimentary snacks and drinks throughout the tour.  Includes: Snack, deli style lunch with assorted soft drinks, juices and souvenir water bottle. Walking sticks, warm wear, towels, day packs and rain ponchos also provided.  Tour length: 2 ½ to 3 hours

Optional: Mauna Kea Summit $220/ person
This adventure begins with a mid-afternoon pickup in Kailua-Kona. As you drive up the mountain, you’ll learn about island geography, geology, and natural history. While acclimatizing and dining at the Mauna Kea visitors center, you’ll find out why the world’s largest telescopes are located on this spot. And you’ll learn a bit about the lives of astronomers who work there. Before leaving the visitors center, you’ll gear up with parkas and warm gloves and engage on a four-wheel drive adventure up the steep half-hour drive to the summit area. On the summit, your guide will point out the observatories as they begin to open and rotated into position. You’ll learn about famous observatories such as Keck, Subaru and Gemini. There is plenty of time for photos while the sunset transforms the area into a beautiful and quite unearthly spectacle. When the best of the color has past, you’ll descent to mid-mountain where the sky is equally clear but the climate and air density is much more comfortable for stargazing. Tour length: 7 to 8 ½ hours

Overnight at Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 6: Kona/ Waipio Valley

Today, we’ll head to the Waipio Valley, also known as “the Valley of the Kings.” Inhabited by 50 generations of Hawaiians for over a thousand years, Waipio Valley is “old Hawaii” – a place that time forgot. It is serene, awe inspiring and majestic. Of premier importance in old Hawaiian legends and lore, this mystical place was once the political and religious center of Hawaii, the birthplace, home or burial grounds of Hawaiian royalty for a millennium. It radiates with a resounding mana (power) from its 2,000ft sheer walls to the amazing abundance of the valley floor below.

With vistas from the mile-wide black sand beach to the 1200ft splendor of the twin Hi’ilawe Falls, Hawaii’s highest single-fall waterfalls, we’ll ride ATV’s through breathtaking scenery and unimaginably grandiose panoramic views. We’ll pass through eucalyptus and ginger forests on our three-plus hour journey through former sacred royal land where access is limited. Swim in the headwater of Hi’ilawe, see the back side of the Parker Ranch lands, go to the top of Waipi’o, and be one of the few to ride the rim!

INCLUDED:
–12:45-4pm Waipio Valley ATV Tour (includes light refreshments, knowledgeable and fun guides, single ATV or Polaris Ranger buggy driven by tour guide)

Estimated Travel Time: 1.5 hours driving to Waipio Valley
Overnight at
 Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 7: Kona/ Keauhou Bay/ Kuamoo Bay (D)

This morning, we’ll explore the pristine and warm waters of the Kona Coast by kayak. This adventure will include dolphin and whale watching, exploring sea caves, snorkeling, and possibly cliff jumping! After leaving Keauhou Bay (birthplace of Kamehameha III) we head south along the cliffs toward Kuamoo Bay. Along this stretch, we’ll look for dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and whales. Humpback whales are in the area from December through March and they are not intimidated by kayaks. Humpbacks can be up to 50ft long and weigh up to 50 tons, and it’s spectacular to see them breach out of water. There are interesting arches and blow holes along the cliffs. At Kuamo’o Bay, there is a sea cave/ lava tube that often allows us to go inside it. Often times, this cave catches ocean swells that makes this stop an exciting highlight of our adventure. Heading south along Kuamo’s Bay, we follow the coastline, and paddle over coral gardens and underwater lava tubes, till we arrive at the next cave which is almost always calm and cool. This is a dry lava tube that extends deep into the earth. Next, we’ll head to a snorkel spot where tropical fish are abundant. There may even be wild parrots flying overhead as you enjoy snacks and cold drinks. Often, you can walk over to the tide pools to watch the eels hunting a’ama crabs. From the vantage point above, you may also have the opportunity to jump from the 12 to 25ft cliffs into the water below.

Upon returning to the condo after our kayaking adventure, you’ll have the rest of the day at your leisure to relax, go shopping, snorkeling, or possibly enjoy another hike.

This evening, we’ll enjoy a traditional Hawaiian Luau at historic site of Kamakahonu, home to the ancient King Kamehameha, who conquered and united the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800’s and made this location his home and headquarters, ruling all of the islands from this very location. Here King Kamehameha worshipped his gods and sought advice of his advisors. This location is the most sacred place of all of Hawaii, and is never to be developed in any way. Our evening will start with a shell lei greeting and a picture taken with one of the Hula and Fire Dancers. At the start of this Hawaiian Luau you can take part and see ancient Polynesian arts and crafts demonstrations and then meet the talented cast of performers that you will later see on stage performing. You can learn to Hula and learn how fast it takes to prepare a coconut before the luau. You can also enjoy all you can drink Mai Tais and other beverages. Big Island Luaus are the best luaus in Hawaii!

INCLUDED:
–9am-12:30pm Keauhou Kayak Tour
–5:30-8:30pm Traditional Hawaiian Luau (includes open bar, arts & crafts, hula session & the Imu Ceremony, Royal Court Arrival & Presentation with the opening Oli (chant) & Hula followed by buffet dinner & Island Breeze Polynesian Revue)

Overnight at Kanaloa at Kona or similar 

Day 8: Kona/ Departure Day

Today is departure day and there are no scheduled activities. At the appropriate time, your trip leader will take you to the airport for your flight home or to your next destination.

INCLUDED:
–Airport Dropoff

Depart Kona

What’s Included?

7 nights condo vacation rental in Kona (4 people per 2 bedroom condo)
All meals indicated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L= Lunch, D=Dinner)
Van transportation for all included activities & airport transfers
Manta Ray Nigh Snorkel
Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach
Keahou Kayak Tour
Traditional Hawaiian Luau Dinner
Kilauea’iki Trail Hike with a Naturalist Guide
Visit to Punaluu Black Sand Beach
Waipiao Valley ATV Tour
Morning Dolphin Swim & Kealakekua Bay Snorkel

What’s Not Included?

Airfare to/from Kona International Airport
Beverages & Meals not specified
Optional Activities
Tips for your local guides
Personal Expenses
Travel Insurance
Airport taxes and excess baggage fees

DOSSIER/ ITINERARY DISCLAIMER

The information in this trip details document has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However, it is subject to change, and does not form a contract between parties. While it is our intention to adhere to the route described, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. Occasionally our itineraries change due to weather or other circumstances that are beyond our control. Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary.

Trip Length
7 nights/ 8 days
Travel Style
Comfort
Physical Rating
Easy to Moderate
Price
Starting at $2250