I was fortunate enough to be invited to further my Hawaii Destination Specialist designation with an exclusive opportunity to attend an in destination Master Island Certification training experience to the Island of Hawaii, hosted by Hawaii Tourism Canada and the Island of Hawaii Visitor's Bureau. With this trip, we were able to experience the best of the Island of Hawaii offers, many of which are likely bucket list experiences so it was a huge privilege and opportunity for me to overcome many of my own fears!
Since the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in May, the island has been forever changed in a way that people may not understand until you visit and see it for yourself. As the youngest of the Hawaiian islands, the island of Hawaii is still growing and changing because of the activity of the active volcanoes.
A visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the number one tourist attraction to the island of Hawaii. But since the eruption of the volcano, the park was closed for safety reasons and only reopened to the public in November. Though some parts of the park remain closed, different areas are slowly reopening so guests can see up close the changes from the lava flow and volcano eruption.
We had the exclusive experience to view the Kilauea Caldera and the Halema'uma'u crater from different angles, and see the impact and changes since the eruption in May.
The best way to view the landscape of the island is with a helicopter ride to see things from above. We enjoyed the helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. The Circle of Fire and Waterfalls Adventure gave us up close and personal views of the beautiful landscape of the island.
Hiking and Waterfalls
Exploring the landscape in a private nature reserve, Hawaii Forest and Trail took us in an offroad adventure for us to experience the Kohala coast, enjoy a quick swim in the waterfalls, and completed with a private picnic with the most amazing views!
Exploring Kona coast with Fairwinds Cruise aboard the Hula Kai, gave us a luxury snorkel cruise experience with two snorkelling locations. The smaller ship moves faster in the water, which allowed us to go deeper along the South Kona coast. FairWinds offers several different boats, both for all ages, beginners to advanced snorkelers. They also offer snuba diving experiences (combination of snorkelling and scuba diving) for those looking for an entry dive experience without diving.
Yes, I did go snorkelling! Twice....in the ocean!! Because if you know me.....I know what you're thinking...."What??!!"
Shocking....I KNOW! Huge wins for me here on all those accounts.
My previous attempts at snorkelling in the past did not go over very well so I wasn't initially very keen on the idea of snorkelling in the ocean. First of all, I'm not a very strong swimmer and have issues with treading water so I don't like the feeling of my feet not touching anything solid. Second, I'm much more of a pool person (because I can see the bottom, and also the edges of the pool are never too far away) rather that the vast ocean of nothingness. Swimming in the middle of the ocean has never been on my list of things "to do"!
I also get motion sickness sometimes so the bobbing up and down in the ocean isn't something that sits well with me. And of course I allowed myself to enjoy the experience, to forget that I was in the water and just enjoy the moment for what it was. And it was beautiful! (We won't talk about the rest of the experience as the motion sickness malady did hit me for the rest of the excursion). But I was so proud of myself for doing it anyway in spite of my fears!
Black Sand Beaches
Black sand beaches are a MUST to see when in Hawaii! The black sand is so different than other types of sand. Generally, the colour of the sand is based on the age of the beach. The lighter the colour, the older the beach. So you can imagine how old some of the gorgeous white sandy beaches might be!
But the black sand, created from volcanic and lava minerals creates this equally gorgeous sand that is shiny and feels amazing! Punalu'u Beach is the most famous black sand beach on the Island of Hawaii, but there are others you can enjoy. We were also fortunate enough to see 9 green sea turtles lounging around during our visit!
Just as gorgeous as the black sand beaches is the white sandy beaches of Hapuna Beach, the largest and favourite beach on the island and consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world!
The second most popular tourist attraction on the island (following the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) is the Pu'uhonua o Honoaunau National Park, a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians who broke the law, or for defeated warriors to visit and seek refuge in times of battle. Now you can wander around, enjoy the peace and serenity, and step back in time to honour the land.
You can't NOT visit a coffee farm or something coffee related when visiting Kona! It's Kona coffee and it's one of the most expensive coffees in the world, as is cultivated in the North and South Districts of Kona on the Island of Hawaii. Be wary of the "Kona blends" coffee as these coffee blends contain only the minimum amount of Kona coffee (10%) with other coffee beans. 100% Kona coffee is a really treat and perfect for the coffee lovers.
We visited the Ueshima Coffee Company to roast our very own Kona Coffee blend!
Did you know that Hawaii has cowboys?? In fact, the paniolo (cowboy) culture is very strong in Hawaii and most people do not think about cowboys in Hawaii! Up in the town of Waimea is the famous Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in America. We toured Anna Ranch Heritage Center, the former home of Anna Lindsay Perry-Fiske, the original Hawaiian Cowgirl & the First lady of Ranching whose legacy to the history and community of ranching helped shape paniolo life as it is today.
Hawaiian Culture - Do the Hula!
- King David Kalakaua
Over at the Four Season Hualalai, we were introduced to the hula and walked away with our own little hula dance!
A luau experience in Hawaii is the best way to experience Hawaiian culture, food and entertainment. And it doesn't matter if it is your first luau, or if you have been to one before, the experience is always entertaining! On our first full night in Hawaii, we enjoyed the Haleo Luau at the Sheraton Kona, with stories unique to the Keauhou Bay Area under a gorgeous Kona sunset.
The nightlife in Hawaii is not your typical nightlife scene. When someone mentions nightlife in Hawaii, they are usually referring to one of two experiences: Stargazing or Night Snorkelling with the Manta Rays.
The Island of Hawaii is the best place in the world to watch the stars with or without a telescope. The location of the island provides dazzling views of the Northern Hemisphere skies and most of the Southern hemisphere skies.
We had a land star gazing experience with Star Gaze Hawaii, where they brought the telescopes and the equipment to set up a private/semi-private small group tour to explain the night sky to us in detail. We alternated between two telescopes and were able to see comets, stars and constellations. It was a very educational and eye-opening experience to see the beautiful stars, from our hotel.
Night Snorkelling with the Manta Rays
This was one of the other highly anticipated excursions of our trip, but sadly, the tides were very strong so the manta ray snorkelling tours were cancelled for safety reasons. We still attended the talk to learn more about the "gentle giants" of the ocean and watched them swim from land. The Manta Ray Moonlight Swim Experience is a bit different than other night snorkelling experiences in that this one is good for kids ages 10 and above, and starts from land. So anyone who has hesitation about swimming in the ocean....and in the dark (hands up here!) can put some anxiety to rest as the guests are walked into the water and swim a short distance where the manta rays come to you.
We'll just have to save that experience for next time!
Aloha aku no, aloha mai no. I give my love to you, you give your love to me. 💞
Hawaii....you had me at aloha! I am so honoured and privileged to experience this week, to have the opportunity to continue my Hawaiian Destination specialty to become 1 of 7 Island of Hawaii Master Certified travel agents in Canada through Hawaii Tourism Canada and the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau.