Armed with a boogie board, skis, sunscreen and a 4WD, one can travel the summit road for a morning of skiing on deserted slopes and end the day boogie boarding along the Kohala coast. And, I bet you thought it couldn't be done...
Beach Access Road off Highway 19
(Two miles from Kawaihae)
Big Island (Hawaii), HI 96743
Day 1 - Big Island (Hawaii)
There is a lot of adventure in this activity-packed day. It takes a bit of preparation, since you can go from the summit and shore in one day (one that you will remember forever!). Remember that snow on the summit is not unusual between the months of December and March, but your best bet for getting a good base (as good as can be expected) is in January or February. The snow can be as deep as a foot but more often than not tends to be just a few inches. It’s important to arrive on the summit as early as possible since the tropical sun will melt whatever has fallen by lunchtime.
Start with a call to the summit weather information line at: (808) 935-6268. It is recommended to call the night before and then once again before you head out just to be sure. From Keahole –Kona airport, expect the drive to be about 2 hours. Head north to Waimea and turn off onto Saddle Road (Highway 200) and just after the 28 mile marker turn left onto Mauna Kea Access Road. The visitor information center is located about six miles up the road and is open daily from 9am-10pm. Stop to acclimate to the altitude and for further directions, conditions and restroom facilities before proceeding. There is also a solar telescope at the center that is worth a quick stop, and tours that start around 1pm. Remember to follow the advice of the rangers, and be advised that there are no ski lifts, snow patrols, cafes and the like on the summit. Also be aware that the elevation is way over 9,000 ft. Those who are physically limited should take precautions and SCUBA divers should refrain for at least 24 hours after the last dive before attempting to ascend.
Next it's time for a lunch break at the Harbor of Kawaihae. Expect the drive to take about 105 minutes from the summit. The award winning Café Pesto is one of a long time favorite of island residents and visitors alike. To get there descend the summit via Mauna Kea Access Road, turn right onto Saddle Road and then take a right onto Highway 190 – Hawaii Belt Road past Kamuela Airport and then right onto Kawaihae Road. Café Pesto is located in the Kawaihae Shopping Center and free parking is readily available. Choose from tasty hot kalua pork sandwiches, made to order pizza and more.
End the day with a trip to beautiful Hapuna Beach Park - a perfect spot to shake off the snow and wiggle your toes in the sand. From Kawaihae harbor, turn right onto Queen Kaahumanu Hwy and then right onto Hapuna Beach Road. The drive should last a mere 10 minutes. Once at the park you will find free parking a wide stretch of white sand beach with restrooms, picnic pavilions, picnic tables, drinking water and more. Remember to check with the lifeguard before entering the water. Be sure to set aside a full day to do this itinerary, since snow and beach conditions may vary and the leisurely pace will allow time for unexpected exploration or stops along the way.
P.O. Box 936
75 Aupuni Street, 204
Big Island (Hawaii), HI 96721-0936