Find a Scenery You Love on the Island of Hawaii, from travel writers

By Victor Block

Some vacationers soak up the sun on beaches with white or black sand. Not far away divers prepare for a deep dive to get up close and personal with a variety of deep dwellers. Others view a surreal lunar landscape of hardened pitch-black lava, then hike through a lush tropical rainforest.

If this sounds like a continent-wide selection of activities, that’s because the island of Hawaii (as the locals spell it) somewhat resembles a miniature continent. It is almost twice the size of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Visitors will find an environment that includes virtually every type of landscape. Arid desert dotted with cacti sits alongside lush rainforests. Barren lava fields contrast with waterfalls cascading down green valleys.

The people of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park encounter the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, and the most massive active subaerial volcano, Mauna Loa. It has erupted 33 times in the last 75 years, most recently in 1984.

Most recently, Kilauea erupted from 1983 to 2018. During the 2018 eruption, lava flows added more than 875 hectares to the island, creating a black sand and pebble beach.

Visitors can see the billowing plume of gas and steam from the latest eruption during the day and bask in the reflection of the glowing lava deep in the crater after dark. The hours from 10pm to before sunrise are the best times to avoid large crowds.

The mighty mountains of the island of Hawaii have yet another claim to fame. From its base on the ocean floor to its summit at more than 13,800 feet, Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest. Because of their elevation, the peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are intermittently covered with snow during the winter.

Several attractions welcome people taking the Crater Rim Drive through the national park. The Kilauea Overlook offers an impressive view of the Kilauea Caldera, the collapsed center of the volcano, and Halema’uma’u Crater. Ha’akulamanu is a thermal area where volcanic gases deposit colorful sulfur crystals and other minerals. The aptly named Devastation Trail travels through an area buried under a blanket of ash during a 1959 volcanic eruption.

People driving in the park are cautioned to look out for the Nene, Hawaii’s state bird. This is the world’s rarest goose species and is listed as threatened because it is only found in Hawaii. Visitors are warned to drive carefully and not to feed the birds.

Aside from volcanoes and the usual sun-and-sand vacation activities, there are many other reasons to visit the island of Hawaii. For fishermen, the waters off the Kona Coast are known as the best in the world for catching giant blue marlin. An annual international billfish tournament attracts anglers from many countries.

Much larger marine life passes by during the whale watching season from December to May. While humpback whales have the best prices, it is also possible to see sperm and melonhead whales.

Those who prefer to stay on solid ground will find a wide range of hiking options, ranging from easy nature hikes to challenging treks. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park alone offers 150 miles of hiking trails.

For history buffs, the island’s history is as fascinating as what awaits visitors today. The earliest settlements were founded by Polynesians who arrived in large double-hulled canoes after a long and treacherous sea voyage. Estimated dates of their arrival span hundreds of years, from the fourth to the eighth centuries. Evidence of the lifestyle of the ancient Hawaiian civilization abounds. These include remains of villages, heiau (temples), agricultural mounds, and other archaeological remains.

Some relics such as B. Royal fishponds built to satisfy noble palates and petroglyphic lava rock carvings have been preserved and incorporated into the hotel grounds. The etched images feature people, birds, and other recognizable shapes, as well as indecipherable lines and dots. Their exact meaning is unknown, but scientists believe they record births, deaths, and other important events, and may contain astronomical symbols.

One of the more intriguing sights is the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, a reconstructed royal complex. Known as the “place of refuge”, it served as a sanctuary for people who broke the kapu (sacred law). Transgressors who could reach this holy place could seek safety and forgiveness. The complex includes temples, tombs, petroglyphs and other reminders of antiquity.

Another chapter of the island’s history comes alive in the Waipi’o Valley, a 6-mile by 1-mile canyon inland fringed by 2,000-foot cliffs over which numerous waterfalls cascade. The meandering river they create gave the valley its name, meaning “curved water”.

Also known as the “Valley of the Kings,” it was once home to many of Hawaii’s rulers and contains remains of important temples. Visitors can see the valley from a small vantage point.

Contrasted with the panoramic view over a deep valley is an opportunity to gaze at the stars like few people have seen. Due to the clear skies and without the interference of city lights, the stars resemble a sparkling glitter that has been scattered across the sky. While the spectacular light show can be enjoyed from sea level, tour operators offer the best stargazing opportunities at 9,200 feet atop Mauna Kea.

Being able to look at the stars in a way that few people have is not the main reason most people visit the island of Hawaii. It’s just one in a long list of attractions that appeal to diverse interests well beyond the beaches, no matter the color of the sand.


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Visitors to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Kauai enjoy the natural attractions. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

(SETIMAGE2) tad061222bdAP.jpg (ENDBILD2) (SET CAPTION2) A visit to the island of Hawaii might include sunbathing on a black sand beach. Photo courtesy of Victor Block. (END SUBTITLE2)

    The Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii features a light show at night.  Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

The Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii features a light show at night. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read contributions from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

The Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii features a light show at night. Photo courtesy of Victor Block.

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