Hawaii is a land of many unique wonders and vistas. Vivid color palettes make up the landscape of this chain of Polynesian isles. Verdant green mountains, black volcanic lava fields, golden beaches and turquoise waters find their way into every outdoor Big Island excursion.
Hawaii’s marvels are best exhibited on The Big Island, Hawai’i. Keep reading for the best Big Island hikes to be found during your next Hawaiian stay.
As a general rule, the Big Island’s jungle hikes can be found on the east side of the island, whereas your beach treks will be centered around the Western Kona coast. General hiking concerns such as poison ivy and snakes are not a great concern in Hawaii. Lava, however, can make for some treacherous walking conditions. Always be sure to observe and heed all posted warning signs in park areas and respect “No Trespassing” signage in private areas.
Kilauea Iki and Crater Rim Hike
Starting point: Crater Rim Trail, Pāhoa, HI 96778
Distance: 3 miles
Feel the earth bubble beneath you as you trek across the lava fields of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea Iki’s last eruption in 1959 left the crater filled with hot lava that steams to this day. The rising steam and surrounding jungle make this hike a testament to the raw strength of nature. Be sure to stay close to the marked trails to avoid breaking up the thin trail crust.
Mauna Ulu Hike
Starting point: Napau Crater Trail, Pāhoa, HI 96778
Distance: 2.5 miles
Translated, Mauna Ulu means “the growing mountain” in Hawaiian. Delicately stacked rocks outline the path through the lava fields caused by the Mauna Ulu’s ongoing eruption from 1969-1974. Stay within these rocks to avoid treacherous ground while uncovering the aftermath of one of Hawaii’s most dramatic eruptions. Lava flows the size of Niagara falls dotted the landscape in the initial 7 months, leaving behind molted trees, unique surface patterns and large fissures in the ground. You’ll be in awe of mother nature after this volcanic hike.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach Hike
Starting point: S Point Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772
Distance: 5.6 miles
Green beaches are a very rare geological feature. Papakolea Green Sand Beach got its emerald green hue from a mineral found in lava called olivine. Walk along the shores of the southern Big Island Coast while enjoying ocean views, ancient temples and views of the cinder cone responsible for the unique nature of the beach. Do not disturb the temples or natural features you encounter on this hike. Although this hike is longer than the aforementioned volcano hikes, you’ll be hiking at less of an incline.
Waipi’o Valley Hike
Starting point: 48-5546 Waipio Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
Distance: 3.8 miles
Welcome to “The Valley of the Kings” otherwise known as Waipi’o Valley. This valley was once the permanent home of Hawaiian royalty until the late 18th-century. A tsunami in 1946 would erase all other signs of civilization in this lush grove, save for a few small communities that still call it home. This hike includes scenic ocean views from the cliffside, waterfalls and a hike along a black sand beach. Just below the parking area you’ll find Kaluahine Falls, a beautiful waterfall that drops directly into the ocean. This hike is perfect for travelers looking for the perfect Instagram moment.
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
Distance: 15 miles
The longest trail on this list belongs to the Ala Kahakai trail which actually covers 175 miles of Big Island, running through ancient Hawaiian sites and villages. A condensed 15-mile roundtrip trail starts at Spencer Beach Park and runs to the Mauna Kea Resort area. Pass through beautiful beachfront trails and ancient Hawaiian culture on this hike. Although, this is the longest hike, it is relatively easy to get to and requires little climbing.
These hikes barely scratch the surface of all the hiking opportunities to be found on Big Island. Be sure to visit the National Park Service website to view some maps of Volcanoes National Park and other popular Big Island hiking destinations before your trip.
Interested in discovering Hawaii from a whole new perspective and conquering a Big Island hike?
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Sorelle Amore, THIRDHOME‘s Best Job On The Planet winner, hikes Spain’s most dangerous hike, El Caminito del Rey. During her trip she stayed at THIRDHOME property El Nido.
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Guest blogger and THIRDHOME member Lawrence Grossman shares his must-do activities in San Francisco. He just came back from a trip to San Francisco in which he stayed at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through his THIRDHOME membership.
They had me at the 24-hour-a-day cookie box! Located in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Destination Club in San Francisco was a wooden box filled with 5 kinds of fresh baked cookies. Our friendly concierge Mark gave us our welcome cookie and explained that humidors were not just for cigars anymore, but were the perfect holding tank for cookies. He then sent us up to the swanky 12th floor guest lounge for a complimentary California wine tasting. Following our tasting, we entered our 2-bedroom residence and found a bottle of sparkling wine to assist us in celebrating my friend’s birthday. In 45 years of vacationing I can’t remember a better opening hour. It was shaping up to be a really good week in San Francisco.
This was my second stay at a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence through THIRDHOME and like my stay in St. Thomas, the customer service was unmatched. Our residence had everything necessary to really relax and be comfortable after a day of sightseeing. The location in downtown San Francisco was perfect: It was an easy walk to numerous restaurants and 3 blocks from Trader Joes allowing us to stock up on food and adult beverages. They even had a state of the art exercise facility to work off some of the Ghirardelli chocolate calories we packed on all week. Additionally, the staff were extremely helpful in sharing dining and transportation options.
This Ritz-Carlton Destination Club residence was the perfect base for exploring all that San Francisco has to offer. In a 1999 Special Edition, National Geographic Traveler named “50 Places of A Lifetime” to visit and explore. Included were 10 cities, only 2 of which are located in the US: New York and San Francisco. There’s a good reason San Francisco made the list and we were determined to fully understand and appreciate this choice before our week ended. Of course we “cable carred” on the Powell-Hyde Line, we “Fisherman Wharfed” at Pier 39 and we “Anchor Steam Beered” at the Anchor Brewery, all of which were iconic picture-perfect experiences. We biked through Golden Gate Park, toured the Castro district and experienced Haight Ashbury during the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”. We biked to a San Francisco Giants baseball game and took our picture in front of the Willie Mays statue.
But our Top 3 San Francisco activities were our self-guided bicycle tour over the Golden Gate Bridge, our magical walk through Muir Woods and our ferry ride and tour of Alcatraz Island.
1: BICYCLE TOUR OVER THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Cycling through the Presidio, over the Golden Gate Bridge and coasting downhill to the town of Sausalito was an absolutely exhilarating experience. The views from the top of the bridge of San Francisco were sensational on an unusually clear day for the Bay area. Dozens of people were out enjoying the day walking and biking across the 8,891-foot span of the bridge and most of us stopped at the highest point to take out our cameras and record the experience. After a curvy and scenic downhill ride we ended up in downtown Sausalito, a historic waterfront community with loads of cool shops and waterfront watering holes. The marina featured several houseboats and legend has it that Otis Redding wrote his famous “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” while living on one of these boats. An unexpected treat suggested by locals was ice cream at Lappert’s ice cream shop featuring giant scoops of Kona Coffee and Kaui Pie in a waffle cone. It was well worth the ride.
2: WALK THROUGH MUIR WOODS
Our second “don’t leave San Francisco without experiencing it” adventure took place 30 minutes north of the city in Muir Woods National Monument. Everyone should experience the mystical nature of hiking underneath a canopy of coastal redwood trees. It is hard to believe this beautiful park is so close and accessible to a major city. The sheer majesty of these giant trees makes one talk in hushed tones and use an indoor voice. We entered the park with our map, water and camera and 3 hours later exited feeling humbled, tired and awed by this magnificent place. The only disappointing thing for me personally was when my friends informed me that Caesar and his ape friends and family from the movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” didn’t really live there as portrayed in the movie. They politely suggested I stop calling out Caesar’s name as we strolled through the park. I was gratified to read later that park officials attributed a recent increase in attendance at the park to the movie’s release so I clearly was not alone in my hope to run into the apes.
3: TOUR OF ALCATRAZ ISLAND
Our third great San Francisco adventure was the ferry ride to and the tour of Alcatraz Island. I’m old enough to have seen Clint Eastwood’s “Escape from Alcatraz” and Charlton Heston’s “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, which both spark curiosity to visit the island and walk the grounds. The exceptional self-guided tour of the prison included headphones and narration from former prisoners and guards complete with sound effects and compelling storylines related to prison riots and escape attempts. As the ferry left the dock to return to San Francisco I could picture the 3 escapees entering the Bay on their improvised raft to try to get to the mainland. To this day the fate of these men is unknown adding to the intrigue of Alcatraz.
To summarize the week, National Geographic Traveler had it right, San Francisco is one of the great cities of the world and any traveler who has the opportunity should pay it a visit. Just don’t forget a good pair of walking shoes!
Take a hiking trip to these beautiful destinations with THIRDHOME:
Whether you are an advanced hiker or like a leisurely stroll, you can pick a trail based on your preferred difficulty, scenery, wildlife or distance in these desirable locations. Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen, and get excited to explore these hiking destinations by THIRDHOME properties for your next trip!
With more than 320 miles of well-maintained trails in the Greater Phoenix Area, vacationing in Phoenix is a hiker’s dream. Phoenix has a range of trails catering to both the intermediate hiker and the veteran hiker. Climb the red-hued butte at Papago Park, see gorgeous views of Scottsdale and Phoenix at Pinnacle Peak Park or hike the famous Camelback Mountain for a more strenuous workout. Stay in the THIRDHOME property Paradise Valley Camelback Country Estate, which is a 6,000 square-foot home with a pool and minutes away from great hiking trails.
Serra Geral National Park is a breathtakingly-grand bedrock-carved canyon in Brazil. With a number of endemic species, you might come across some unique critters on your hike. Once you are back from the hike, take a waterfall bath or relax in one of the many hammocks at Villa Paraiso.
With more sunny days than Phoenix and over 30 hiking trails to explore, Bend is a wonderful hiking destination. With mountains, waterfalls, lakes and caves at your fingertips, central Oregon has some of the most incredible hiking trails in the country. Notable spots include the Green River Basin, Black Butte, Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls. Stay at the Pronghorn Residence Club and enjoy the outdoor terrace, mountain views, and cool Northwestern climate.