Hawaii Big Island Day Three : East

Good morning everyone!  I'm back today to share part three of my Big Island recap.  This was definitely a busy day- starting out with a race and ending on top of a mountain.  This was also our final full day on the island, before heading over to Oahu.  Read on for what we did and where we ate!

Kona Quarter Marathon

One of my 30x30 goals is to complete a race on each birthday (starting at 25).  I turned 28 while we were in Hawaii, so I knew I had to find a race!  Luckily, there was one nearby, in the resort area of Waikoloa Village.  I ran in the quarter marathon, but there was also a full, half, and 5k.  With so many races going on at once (and different start times) I was really impressed with how organized everything was, and we started right on time!

The race itself was ok- we ran a loop around the resorts and then had an out-and-back on the highway.  The weather was beautiful, sunny, and hot, so my goal for the race was to just enjoy it!  I was still sore from doing a bunch of hilly hikes the previous day, so my legs were definitely not ready to race anyway.  I was surprised to check my results later and find out that I won an age group award, but luckily they were able to send it to my hotel in Oahu since I missed the award ceremony!  If you're ever on the Big Island, I would definitely recommend this race (unless one of your requirements is an ocean or jungle view).


After the race, I got cleaned up and refueled, and we made our way east to the town of Hilo.  Fun fact about the Big Island- it is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world, with 8 different climate zones.  Hilo is a tropical rain forest climate with lots of rainfall, so unsurprisingly we got to see some rain on our daytrip!  It was interesting too, because it would be sunny and warm one minute, then the next there would be a downpour.

While we were in the town, we stopped at Conscious Culture Cafe for lunch.  This is definitely a hipster, crunchy granola type of place (which of course meant that Dan and I loved it!).  There were so many vegan options on the menu, and they make their own kombucha.  I got the tempeh street tacos, which were super filling, and some kind of kombucha mocktail.  Perfect lunch!

Akaka Falls

One of the main stops I wanted to make in Hilo was to Akaka Falls, which are supposed to be the most beautiful falls on the Big Island.  There is a paid parking lot at the trail head, and after a short hike in the jungle you are able to view the spectacular falls.  The entire area is so beautiful, so we spent some time here just walking around.

Lili'uokalani Gardens

In the heart of Hilo is a garden- the largest ornamental Japanese garden outside of Japan!  Everywhere you go in Hawaii, you see influences of Japanese culture, and this is no exception.  The park was named in honor of the last reigning monarch in Hawaii- Queen Liliuokalani, and was dedicated as a tribute to Hawaii's first Japanese immigrants that worked in the sugar cane fields on the Big Island. 

The park is over 20 acres, and has ponds, banyan trees, structures, and lots of pathways to explore.  Like many of Hawaii's other botanical gardens- this one is free to explore!

Coconut Island

After walking around the gardens, we ventured across a pedestrian bridge to visit Coconut Island.  There were lots of families on the island, enjoying the beautiful day and having cookouts.  There were lots of places to sit and relax and swim.  Dan and I enjoyed taking pictures of the waves crashing against the walls of the island and taking a minute to relax and enjoy a bit of sunshine!

Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots

While we were making our way out of Hilo, we stopped at a few more waterfalls.  The first was Rainbow Falls- aptly name because you can see rainbows in the waterfall when you visit on a sunny morning.  Since it was later in the day and not sunny, we didn't get to see any rainbows, but enjoyed the view all the same!  We also explored a few paths that took us through a massive banyan tree (I might have actually enjoyed that even more than the waterfall!) and a view from the top of the falls.

We also quickly stopped by the Boiling Pots, which is further upriver from Rainbow Falls.  This area isn't as much of a waterfall, but more of a stream with ponds of "boiling" water collecting in the eroded lava tubes.  We didn't spend much time here, because it started to rain really hard, and we had to make it to the top of a mountain before sun set!

Mauna Kea

Our final stop of the day was visiting Mauna Kea, which is a huge dormant volcano between Kona and Hilo.  A lot of people visit for stargazing because of the amazing views, and there are a ton of telescopes set up at the summit (including some of the largest in the world!).  Before making our way to the top, we first had to stop at the visitor's center to acclimate to the elevation.  We also put on more layers, since it gets below freezing at the top!

We slowly made our way up the treacherous roads (you have to have a four wheel drive to get past the visitor's center) and were soon above the clouds.  It was so beautiful at the top, and we spent plenty of time walking around and exploring.  We also took a short hike to Lake Waiau, which is the highest lake in the Pacific Basin, and the only alpine lake in Hawaii.

I have one more special post to share about the Big Island, and then it's time for more adventures in Oahu!  

Have you ever gone star gazing?
Do you like to run races for special occasions?


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