Hawaii, an Island of Beautiful Vistas
Explore off the beaten path
Happy Black Friday! I hope your Thanksgiving followed by your day of celebrating unbridled consumerism went well.
Two days before Thanksgiving, my wife and I returned to Denmark from our honeymoon in Hawaii. I am a national parks buff just like President Jed Bartlet, so we had to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as well as the National Historic Site and the two National Historical Parks. I am trying to get all of the stamps to complete my national parks passport. It will probably take me my whole life, but the program has convinced me to go to smaller and more out-of-the-way sites run by the National Park Service.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is completely otherworldly. Chain of Craters Drive — the lighter-weight road in the national park on the map, above — passes through lava flows that were as recent as 2008. The stark black volcanic rock with almost no vegetation was unlike anything that I had ever seen. In the hour's drive, you drop 1232 meters (4000 ft) as you head to the ocean. At several points, you can look mountain covered in black streaks from past eruptions and then turn around and see where the lava met the water. At the end of the road is a trail to a natural arch.
Traversing across the island to the lesser-known NPS sites forced us to see views we would not have seen otherwise if we had just stayed at our resort near Kailua-Kona and gone to the national park. At the Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, the ranger mentioned that you could see Maui from the high road (HI-250) on a clear day. So, we drove up Kohala in our rental car. We saw Maui, but the best part of the drive was on the other side of the mountain. The view of the valley below was absolutely spectacular.
If you get the chance, go. The views were worth the 6-hour flight from the mainland. When you are there, leave Kona or Hilo and head for the lesser traveled parts of the island.