The Big Island
Hawai’i- The Big Island Adventure A New World mystique hovers over Hawaii’s vast and varied namesake isle. While The Big Island denomination may seem overwhelming, the Island can actually be explored within a day if you are really keen. Saying that, I would recommend that you take your time to really experience the quirkiness of the various cultural areas that the island presents. You can conquer the mountain peaks, cascading creeks, and sea comfortably in a one-week trip. Here are some details on how to tackle the tropical island and some of the highlights of my trip.
Indispensable tip: Fly in to Kona and out of Hilo (or vise versa) This way you can explore one side of the island when you land, and the other side when you leave. While some flights head for Hilo, the majority major airlines land in Kona—part city, part seaside town, and one of the driest spots on the island. The Kohala Coast boasts a resort-clustered shore North of Kona along the historic lava flows.
Upcountry, Hawaii Island’s natives wander in the shadow of the world’s two tallest mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (if you measure from the ocean bed to the mountain peaks). On the East side is Hilo’s luscious waterfalls, and as you move down to South Point—the Southernmost point in the USA—you’ll pass Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes adding over 500 acres of molten magic to the island since 1983. So for the ultimate exploration… Hire a car and loose yourself in a mountain rainforest zone of lush emerald-colored canopy and moss-draped trees. The diversity of the island is amazing, as aside from the tropical rainforest , you will be on a terrain that looks flat and moon-like.
Where to stay?
The Kirpal Meditation and Ecological Center (KMEC) in Puna
Open yourself up to a calmer, gentler and more authentic way of living.
It’s through the practice of mindfulness that we can glimpse our unconditional goodness and ground ourselves in compassion and well-being.
As you wander through the wild landscapes both inside of us and in nature, you can work on your physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment over your time at the retreat. You can develop insight and open your heart to the possibilities of wellness, compassion and peace.
I recommend taking a look at upcoming events that the retreat has to offer but attend with no big goals or expectations. Instead enter into a world of being rather than doing. Deepen your inquiry into mindfulness practice and deal more effectively with the demands of your daily life.
While at my stay at Kirpal, I formed a great relationship with Angela- the yoga instructor at the retreat. Angela is a beautiful lady with a wonderful outlook on life. She has her own business, which she takes wherever she chooses. Enriched Yoga Retreats are customized retreats in the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a blend of healing arts , organic cooking , and authentic lifestyle living . Enriched Yoga partnered up with Kirpal meditation and ecological center hosts an 8-day retreat in Pahoa. The retreat features Daily Yoga , Qi Gong, Vegan meals breakfast lunch and Dinner. Kirpal was founded by Len Sussman devoted to St. Kirpal Singh. The land is clearly blessed and sacred attracting people who are looking to heal, deepen their spiritual path and connection to nature. AngelaMari Firewalker will be hosting 2-3 retreats every summer from 7 to 10 days long . Enriched Yoga Retreats is also planning something very special-a 7 island boating retreat where people can learn yoga, Qi gong , sailing , how to fish , cook and camp . This will be to be announced with further details . You can sign up to email by sending a hello to firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram: amfirewalker and enrichedyoga_retreats or feel free to call 915-491-3663
The retreat is more than simply yoga and meditation and both of these are optional during your stay. There are plenty of activities to nourish your mind, body and spirit and awaken the prana and life-force inside of you. Go for a walk and watch sunrise, pop by the drum party at Kehena beach or sip kava with the locals at night.
A haven of tranquility in a setting of breathtaking beauty… you have found sanctuary. Now picture this…
The gentle trilling from an orchestra of insects interspersed with the croaking of frogs and the singing birds is a soothing and entirely natural symphony to fall asleep to.
The land hosts a selection of exotic fruit and vegetables. This unique and blissful tropical property is completely off grid, which means everything runs off solar panels and a collection system for rainwater. Also the natural geothermal pools are only a walk away from the retreat. In keeping with the retreat’s low impact philosophy, buildings are designed and constructed to ensure that the vegetation and birdlife are disturbed as little as possible. Additionally to minimize ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, the natural cooling effect of the rainforest was incorporated into the designs so that air-conditioning is not required and more than adequate cooling is produced from cross ventilation and ceiling fans. The unique and contrasting styles of accommodation are offered at KMEC to suit all tastes and budgets.
The chef at KMEC has been a huge inspiration to me. Padma Devi, is a born foodie, vegan cooking enthusiast, and self-proclaimed “Domestic Goddess”. Raised in a small rural town in Southern New Jersey, from an early age Padma learned the quality of fresh, organic produce and the value of farm to table living. She started in the restaurant business as the Executive Head Server and Event Coordinator at Winfield’s Restaurant, a popular and highly regarded fine dining establishment in Millville, NJ. It was there that she began cultivating a relationship with their trained kitchen staff, and started learning advanced cooking techniques while hanging out in the kitchen. With her foodie fire ignited, Padma landed a job in the kitchen at another well-received local restaurant, Wildflower Earthly Vegan Fare. Dabbling with gluten free baking and plant based substitutions; she quickly realized how exciting and rewarding vegan cuisine could be! After two years of honing her craft between the two restaurants, she spent the next year traveling around the US, and eating at some of the best vegan restaurants in the country. Settling on the West Coast, she was fortunate to wind up as a volunteer farm hand at an organic homestead in Northern California. Again, through the generosity of others sharing their knowledge for healthy, earth friendly cuisine, Padma came to realize her true calling for cooking and nourishing others. Urged by her friends and family to follow this passion, Padma came to live and work at Kirpal Meditation & Ecological Center to spread nonviolent and compassionate eating practices to all guests that come to seek spiritual or alternative lifestyles. She always remembers the first ingredient to every great meal, the love and gratitude. Haribol! Please follow her on FB as Girl Gourmand or on Instagram @girl_gourmand
Her name Padma means “Lotus”! It’s her “Puna” name! (Puna is the area in Pahoa where KMEC is). Her name came to her while chanting and the staff at KMEC respected her wishes and indulged in her chosen name. And it suits her beautifully. “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”
Padma describes her name choice in such a beautiful way. “Ever since I’ve been in Hawaii, I felt like a beautiful flower bloomed from the mud that I used to live in…the name suits me well”
Here you will taste some of the most delicious, nutritious meal that you have ever had and I hope that it inspires you to continue with this way of life.
You may have never visited a place like this before and if you feel like it may be a little out there for you- then you are right…it probably will be. But that is even more of a reason to go…that ever so popular saying “you only live once” could be true so take a chance, do something different, learn something new and feel alive again.
If you plan on exploring the volcanoes, then you could stay in the Caldera region to save on travel time. The homely Kilauea Lodge is just one mile away, with comfortable, airy, well-lit rooms accommodating up to four guests that start from $199 per night. The rate includes a daily full breakfast with generous pots of coffee. There’s also a tropical garden area with a hot tub for the ultimate relaxation time.
For a more classic resort experience, the almost Disney-Like Hilton Waikoloa Village has its own monorail connecting the resort’s 62 acres. Rates here start from $229 through mid-August, then drop to $179-$189 through mid-December. Be mindful that there is a $25 nightly resort charge on top of this, which covers Internet, and unlimited movies in-room as well as activities like ukulele, hula and lei making.
Things to do:
1) The glow of a lava lake, concealed palm-fringed beaches, early petroglyphs pecked into hardened lava, and miles of hiking trails through smoking craters, tropical rainforest and desert – what’s not to love about Hawai’i’s number one site? Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park gives an experience and learning opportunity for the whole family. Hawai’i is known for its rapid weather changes so take a look at the forecast before planning your volcano trip, as a cloudy day can really prevent you from seeing one of the most wonderful volcano’s in the world. This is one of the island’s favorite places to experience Hawaiian culture including hula on the crater rim and annual festivals. Don’t miss the opportunity to get some cracking snaps after sunset of the lava glow inside the crater.
If you want to pop out of the park for a quick bite, then the village has a couple of cafes and a fantastic Thai restaurant called Thai Thai.
2) Manta Ray Night Dive: Dive or snorkel with these gentle giants in the open ocean during the night. This is one of the most memorable activities on the Big Island.
3) You will find the tastiest Hawaiian in local shops and farmers markets. Support the Big Island community: buy local! My favourite is Maku’u Farmer’s Market.
4) Whale watching can be done from December through April, but the peak months are January through March. You can watch for whales from the shore or take a whale watching tour.
5) Surf! Hawaii has some of the best waves that the ocean has to offer! Isaac Hale Beach Park is the only place to surf in Puna but there are plenty of other spots around the Island. Check out this surfing site, which has some top tips on where to surf for different levels of experience.
6) Helicopter tour! See the lava flow from above!
7) Picturesque drive along the East coast allows you to view the breathtaking view of some spectacular waterfalls and valleys (Waipio Valley)
Places to eat:
1) Along with alcoholic drinks, food is what usually guides me when traveling — especially farm-fresh, organic eats. On one particular day at the Kirpal Retreat, my husband and I were set to laze around the thermal pools and have a read through some of the meditation books recommended by Alex- one of the work away guys at the retreat. Alex was an inspiration, he had a calming effect when he spoke and to me- he was the meditation guru. I tried to mediate with him a few times, but my busy brain just doesn’t seem to allow it. Anyway, at breakfast Jessica informed us that her favorite place on the entire island for Sushi was the Suisan Fish Market. So we shoved our starfruit-loaded granola down our throats, jumped in the car in and headed northwest. I was contemplating the idea of eating fish for my whole car journey to Hilo but after being Vegan since my stay, I decided to stay strong and keep clear of the seafood but my god, this was clearly the most amazing sashimi I have ever seen in my life. If you are a seafood lover, do not miss this spot!
2) $2 tacos at The Golden Goat! These tacos have to be the best that I have ever had! It’s a little shop front on Pahoa Road with a couple of stools outside. This isn’t actually a restaurant, its more of a quick bite kind of place but a must try place in Pahoa.
3) Ning’s Thai Cuisine located on Pahoa Road was extremely tasty. One of my favorite Thai restaurants I’ve been to. Try the famous paw paw salad- I could eat it every day!
My trip through Big Island was a fantastic mix of adventure, agriculture and scenic drives. A humble place full of humble people, which can bring a new sense of identity to anybody willing to embrace change and culture.