When I first got to the Big Island, I was greeted by black volcanic rock. Lots of it. And on the west side of the island, that’s pretty normal. As you move around the island though, you’ll notice that the scenery changes surprisingly fast. In about an hour’s drive, we went from a black rocky landscape to a lush green paradise. The tour company that we used was called Hawaii Forest & Trail. I highly recommend them! We had a fantastic experience from start to finish. Everything was thoroughly planned, our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and the size of the tour group was perfect.
Once everyone in your group is on the bus (some people meet at the Hawaii Forest & Trail office, others get picked up), you’ll make your way by van to the edge of some private property and then switch into a military-grade (at least that’s what it looked like) vehicle to drive off-road to the trailhead. This part of the tour is a pretty bumpy ride, so hold on to those handles! Because the hike is on private property, the whole area is very…private, so you won’t see anyone else on the trail. You basically have the place to yourself!
Once we got to the trailhead, our tour guide Peter gave us everything we needed for our hike (not including shoes): water bottles, granola bars, rain jackets, daypacks, sunscreen, bug spray, walking sticks, etc. The hike itself was about 1.5 miles roundtrip, and we got to see some gorgeous waterfalls (5 total I think), as well as some interesting plants along the way. You also learn about their very unique farming system. The last waterfall we actually got to swim in, so have your swim stuff on so you can jump in! The water is VERY cold, but after that initial shock when you first jump in, it really isn’t so bad. Don’t let the cold deter you from going in! Also be prepared for the weather to shift quickly and dramatically. It’ll be hot and stuffy one minute and pouring rain the next. But that’s why you have your jackets 🙂 The hike is mostly flat with a few mildly upward sloping hills, but nothing too strenuous. I went with my friend’s family and his 4-year old daughter made it through the hike just fine.
This tour included lunch, so after our hike, we drove back down the mountains to find a place to eat. The food was surprisingly good! Simple, but good. Sweet potato chips, sandwiches, and chocolate chip cake for dessert! After lunch, Peter dropped us all off one by one at our hotels/resorts. Wonderful experience overall, and I’d highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting the Big Island. It’s a nice escape from the touristy part of the island.
Favorite fun fact from the tour: Hawaiians believed that mana (power of a spiritual nature) was reserved solely for members of the royal family, and they went through great lengths to protect it. When royal family members died, their remains were buried in secret locations to ensure they wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. Even in their day to day lives, when they were eating meals, for example, they would use separate bowls to store all of their food remains so that they could be properly disposed of (usually burned) afterwards.