Forget revenge when it comes to holidays this year, what we all need is a sunny place to Rest. May I suggest the Big Island of Hawaii? It’s a little more locals-only than Maui, and its microclimate offers rainforest on one side of the island and sunny beaches on the other. We recommend staying at least four days to really hit the mix of adventure and relaxation – after two days of cabins and cocktails, a waterfall hike is just the thing. Below, the very GTC things to eat, do and see on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Where to go
One of the Big Island’s most famous waterfalls, Akaka Falls and its smaller neighbor, Kahuna Falls, are on the Hilo side of the island, which means they are located in a lush tropical forest. A quick half-mile loop takes you through both falls, making for an easy stop and general crowd pleaser (especially if you have eager kids in tow).
Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden
A 10-minute drive from Akaka Falls, the Bioreserve is an incredibly special piece of land along Onomea Bay that serves as a sanctuary and living seed bank. The approximately mile walk includes a breathtaking array of flowers, trees, and plants, as well as waterfalls and ocean views.
Manta Ray Snorkeling
Everyone knows the snorkeling in Hawaii is unmatched, but don’t skip the night snorkeling with 1,000-pound manta rays (no, they’re not dangerous to humans). As a bonus, GoPro cameras are also available to rent for the experience of some serious social media bragging rights.
Hilo Farmers Market
Hawaiian fruits are legendary and rather than being confined to a restaurant plate, explore them for yourself at one of the island’s farmers markets. In addition to produce, you can score local coffee, honey, and Hawaiian treats like mochi and malasadas. Every town probably has a market, but Hilo’s is open Wednesday through Saturday and has over 200 vendors, so it’s easy to work into a travel itinerary.
Between hiking and ziplining over waterfalls, it can be easy to forget to take a day or two to simply soak up Hawaii itself. This white sand beach is a great place to swim and sunbathe on several occasions.
Where to eat
The ocean views, tiki torches, and sunset watching make for an experience that would be memorable no matter what, but the Japanese-inspired Hawaiian menu is also incredibly addictive. Led by husband-wife team executive chef Matt Raso and general manager Yuka Raso, CanoeHouse is inventive and elevated without being stuffy. Order the corn ribs, radish salad, grilled Kona Kampachi and fried rice off the menu, trust.
Over 90 percent of the menu at this small Hawaiian chain is locally sourced and we especially like it for a casual lunch, though the prix fixe dinner is no slouch either.
Enjoy a kona coffee experience at this small organic farm. Make an appointment in advance, prepare to go off the beaten path and have an authentic experience. Leave buzzing, with a few sachets of coffee to go.
Where to stay
It’s no small feat for a resort to authentically balance the surrounding culture while offering the luxurious amenities that conjure up a picture-postcard tropical paradise. At Mauna Lanai, the two blend perfectly. A series of tiered pools, which seem to blend into the ocean and are the perfect place to spend an afternoon, cocktail in hand, are also adjacent to former royal Hawaiian fishing ponds that were restored to showcase ancient Hawaiian engineering. Guests can hang out with Uncle Danny Akaka, a resident historian who plays the ukulele and shares Hawaiian folk tales, view ancient rock-carved petroglyphs on the property…or play a few games of pickleball or tennis on the nearby courts. Daily activities also include morning sunrise canoe paddles – part exercise, part meditation – snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding and swimming with the resident dog, Mika. Customers can dine at the upscale CanoeHouse (above) or grab a sandwich or spam musubi at the market. The concierge can also arrange rental cars or group travel to other parts of the island, but perhaps the only downside to Mauna Lani is that you may never want to leave.
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