The following is a partial list of activities which are available for you to enjoy...
Wailuku River State Park - Located off Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo. Features Boiling Pots, located at the end of Peepee Falls Drive, a succession of big pools connected by underground water flows that give the appearance of boiling water. Also home of Rainbow Falls, found on Rainbow Drive, named for the colorful arch often formed in the mist of the falls during the morning hours.
Merry Monarch Festival - Held in Hilo each April, the festival calls together hula halau from around the world to celebrate the traditions of hula and vie for top honors in ancient and modern dance. The event is marked by colorful costumes and fragrant flower lei.
Suisan Fish Auction - Local fishermen gather at 85 Lihiwai Street at the end of Banyan Drive to sell their fresh catch Monday through Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. (808) 935-9349.
Lyman Mission House and Museum - The house is arranged much as it was from 1840 to 1880 when the Reverend David Lyman and his wife, Sarah, lived there. The adjacent museum houses collections relating to ancient Hawaii, the missionaries, immigrants, volcanology, geology and mineralogy. Open daily. Admission. 276 Haili Street, Hilo, HI (808) 935-5021.
Mauna Kea - The summit of this mountain, reaching 13,796 feet above sea level, is often snow capped from fall to spring, gifting snow skiers with the only winter activity of its kind in the state. An hour's drive from and 9,300 feet above the Pacific, the University of Hawaii's Visitors' Information Station on the flank of Mauna Kea is the portal for your trek to the heavens. The summit of this massive Big Island mountain is above much of the atmosphere. It's clear and dark, providing optimal conditions for the international-caliber astronomers who staff the nine high-tech telescopes that dot the summit.
The 10-meter (394-inch) Keck I optical/infrared telescope, the world's largest, is so powerful it discerns details no other human or telescope can. Four more telescopes are being built, with the last scheduled for completion in 1999.
It's also got snow. Some years, there's enough snow to enable competitions to be staged. That's why visitors are well-advised to bring warm clothing, headwear and footwear; even though it's balmy at the beach, it can get tooth-chatteringly cold in short order on Mauna Kea.
The Visitors' Information Station hosts free afternoon tours of the 13,800-foot summit of Mauna Kea and free evening stargazing sessions at the center.
Snow skiing on Mauna Kea - Named "white mountain" for the blanket of snow that crowns its peak between January and March, Mauna Kea's summit can be reached by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Route 20, Saddle Road, provides access to the road leading to the summit, where a state-of-the-art complex of observatories provide astronomers from various countries the perfect vantage point for studying the stars.
Mauna Loa - The world's largest volcano stands 13,677 feet above sea level, west of the Kilauea volcano. Mauna Loa has been in an active phase since 1981, the longest single phase eruption in the volcano's history. NASA astronauts trained for lunar missions in 1960 on the mountain's moonlike lava fields.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center - Tour the orchards and processing plant, and visit the Mauna Loa Candy Factory, where you can enjoy tasty samples. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center Gift Shop and Snack Bar. Located 5 miles south of Hilo off Highway 11 on Macadamia Road. Open daily, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Free. (808) 966-8612
Naha and Pinao Stones - Kamehameha I overturned the Naha Stone, fulfilling the ancient Hawaiian prophecy that made him king of the Hawaiian islands. The Pinao Stone was an entrance pillar of the Pinao Temple. Both can be seen fronting the Hawaii County Library at 300 Waianuenue Avenue.
Waipio Valley - This vast valley was a cradle of population in ancient times, and farmers still plant and harvest taro in a cycle that spans the centuries.
Everything seems to be on a larger scale here -- the mist is damper, the raindrops bigger. It is damp here, but the views are stupendous and the surroundings are definitely verdant.
Follow Route 240 from Honokaa, which you can reach from the towns of Hilo and Waimea. The road deadends at the valley -- you'll see why when you get there.
It's fun to drive through North Kohala to the Pololu Valley Lookout where the road ends traveling southwest. Between the two, of course, is Waipio Valley -- and the rest of the Kohala Forest Reserve.
Hikiau Heiau - A large lava structure located on the shores of Kealakekua Bay where Hawaiians once worshipped Captain Cook as the god Lono. A plaque commemorates the first Christian funeral on the island, which Cook conducted. A second plaque honors Henry Opukahaia, an islander educated at mission schools in New England who was influential in educating Hawaiians.
Kealakekua Bay - Perhaps nowhere else is the convergence of ancient Hawaiian and Western culture so stark. Kealakekua Bay, teeming with so many fish that it has been designated a "state underwater park," is also the site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau and a monument to British sea captain James Cook, who died here.
Cook, whose expedition spotted the Hawaiian Islands in January 1778, returned to the Islands that November, and was greeted by thousands of Hawaiians on the shores of Kealakekua Bay. Petty thievery by Hawaiians led to the British taking a high-ranking hostage. The situation escalated into a battle in the shallows on Feb. 14, 1779 in which Cook, four Marines and a number of Hawaiians died.
The explorer's bones were accorded a ceremonial burial in the bay a week later; a monument to Cook was erected in more recent times.
The Hawaiian element of this equation is Hikiau Heiau on the southern shore of the bay. You can approach it closely for an unobstructed view. Travel to the bay by heading south from Kailua-Kona on Kuakini Highway (Route 11); turn seaward on Napoopoo Road (Route 160), which becomes Middle Keei Road (still Route 160). If you'd like, continue south to Puuhonua o Honaunau on Puuhonua Road (the selfsame Route 160) for another few miles.
Mokuaikaua Church - The oldest Christian place of worship in the islands was built in 1823 of lava stone and koa wood. The 112-foot steeple is a landmark and symbol for Kailua town. Located on Alii Drive. Open daily, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Hostess on duty from 10 a.m. - 12 noon and 1 - 3:30 p.m. (808) 329-1589.
Parker Ranch Visitor Center and Museum - Part of the 250,000-acre Parker Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the United States under individual ownership. Includes a slide show and memorabilia detailing the life of the paniolo or Hawaiian cowboy.
Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve - Self-guided walking tours of 1.5 miles are offered daily on the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort. (808) 885-6677.
Puuhonua o Honaunau - Translated from the Hawaiian, "Puuhonua o Honaunau" means "place of refuge at Honaunau," and before the traditional kapu system that governed every facet of life in these islands was overthrown, a place of refuge was a very important place indeed.
Breaking a kapu could be a death sentence, because violating a rule would enrage their gods, who would vent their wrath -- most likely in some sort of natural disaster.
However, if the person who broke kapu could reach a puuhonua before being caught, a priest would perform a ceremony absolving him of blame and allowing him to return to his village and resume his life. In times of war, noncombatants and defeated warriors sought the sanctity of a puuhonua, for once within its walls all were safe from attack by either side.
Puuhonua o Honaunau is the last refuge of its type. It became a national park in 1961 and visitors can see this important relic of traditional Hawaii for themselves. The park includes reproductions of traditional Hawaiian houses and other displays.
One of the most impressive sights is a massive wall that separated the place of refuge from the grounds of the palace that used to exist nearby. The L-shaped wall was built by hand without the use of mortar. It is 10 feet high, 17 feet thick, and about 1,000 feet long. It has stood for four centuries.
Neighboring Hale o Keawe heiau is guarded by a row of fierce and forbidding images, fitting sentinels for a place the ancients accorded supreme respect.
Puuhonua o Honaunau is between mileposts 103 and 104 on Mamalahoa Highway; the turnoff onto Highway 160 is clearly indicated. That road descends steadily to the sea; the drive is about 4 miles. Also well worth a visit is scenic and historic Kealakekua Bay, just a few miles north on Highway 160. 808/328-2288.
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site - This "Hill of the Whale" was the focal point of a dramatic confrontation between Kamehameha and his rival and first cousin, Keoua Kuahuula. A prophet advised Kamehameha success would come if he built a high temple to Ku at this site and sacrificed an important chief. Hundreds of Hawaiians constructed the massive temple platform measuring 224 feet by 100 feet. Located a mile above Kawaihae Harbor, off SR 270. Open 24 hours a day. Information building open daily, 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (808) 882-7218.