We were walking through a tunnel of green. Towering palms, ferns, and other tropical vegetation surrounded us, encroaching on the trail, though in a friendly, non-threatening way. The temperature was a perfect 68 degrees, and birds called out everywhere in the forest.
Colorful flowers broke up the sea of green, and through the foliage, we were treated to occasional panoramic views across a steaming volcanic crater. Hmm… this certainly wasn’t the same Big Island I had seen while watching the Ironman race along the Kona Coast, was it?
In fact, it certainly was. The trail along the rim of the Kilauea Iki crater couldn’t have been more different than the barren lava-encrusted western coastline, but it’s just as much a part of what makes the Big Island unique and perhaps the most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands. The common travel cliché of “a study in contrasts” falls ridiculously short when you’re talking about a giant island that contains 13 of the world’s 14 ecosystems (or something like that).
My girlfriend Sylvia and I had set off to experience the best of both worlds — the sun, relaxation, and hotel luxury of South Kohala on the west coast, with a healthy mix of adventure encompassing plunging waterfalls, muddy hiking trails, rugged coastlines, steaming volcanic vents, snow and ice, and unique boutique lodging stays.
Via a circumnavigation of the island, we planned to start with relaxation, spice up the middle with a dose of adventure and exploration, and end in the lap of luxury.