Road Journals—It's true that the island of Hawaii, as the youngest isle in the Hawaiian chain, has fewer powdery sand beaches than the older islands. But the Big Island can't be beat when it comes to both diversity of terrain—rain forest to seaside lava fields to the slopes of a snowcapped volcano—and the outdoor experiences you can enjoy there. Here's a quartet of top Big Island guided outdoor adventures well worth a break from the sand.
Scuba divers and snorkelers swim with some of the ocean's most graceful creatures during manta ray night dives offered out of Honokohau Harbor, north of Kailua-Kona, by a number of operators. Powerful lights attract gentle mantas, up to 15 feet across, by illuminating the microscopic plankton they eat. The Kona Honu Divers Manta Ray Night Tour is typical of the excursions, with tour lengths of three and five hours. Prices start at $105 for divers (one tank and weights included) and $89.95 for snorkelers (all gear included). konahonudivers.com.
You'll cover nearly a mile on the Kohala Zipline course of five suspension bridges and nine zip lines connecting 14 platforms in a forest canopy that's part of a 6,000-acre private parcel. The lines range from about 110 feet in length to a thrilling 1,100-foot finale some 75 feet above the forest floor. An add-on option includes picnic lunch, a hike along a nature trail, and a cooling dip in a mountain pool fed by a 20-foot waterfall. Zipline Canopy Tour: $169 for adults; Kohala Zip & dip is $249. kohalazipline.com.
The Native Guide Hawaii Volcano Adventure takes participants on a fascinating hiking exploration of ancient Hawaiian village ruins, lava tubes, native flora and fauna, and other sometimes little visited corners of Volcanoes National Park. The guide is a former ranger and has a background as a naturalist and archeologist. $150 per person for parties of two or more. nativeguidehawaii.com.
The lush, green mountains, waterfalls, and historic sites of a hard to visit, Edenic valley are visited during the Na'alapa Stables Waipi'o Valley Horseback Adventure. The ride lasts 2.5-hours and starts after a steep descent by van to the stables on the valley floor, with guides "talking story" along the way about the culture and customs of the valley's Native Hawaiian inhabitants. $93.75 per person. naalapastables.com.
Photography courtesy of Hawaii Forest & Trail
This blog post was first published in March 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.