When one thinks of a traditional Hawaiian vacation usually beach time, playing in the surf and fruity drinks come to mind. Though the Islands of Hawaii welcomes over 7 million visitors each year, the diverse culture, history, ecology and agriculture makes for an ideal vacation that stands out from the customary tropical escape. The Big Island has adventures awaiting families, retired explorers and young adults searching for a unique way to discover Hawaii.
The term eco-tourism is a relatively new idea to the travel industry. Eco-tourism doesn’t just mean getting acquainted with the wilderness, it is an education in the indigenous flora and fauna, the challenge to their existence and what guests can do to help cease the extinction and increase the sustainability of the environment. Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native plant and animal species of any place on the planet. The Big Island has many organizations and businesses that offer eco-friendly activities like hiking, biking and volcano tours. Mauna Lani Resort has in fact been named one of the World’s Top Earth-Friendly Getaways by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
Horseback Riding & Paniolo Ranches
A short distance from Mauna Lani Shores are the two most popular ranching areas of the Big Island, Waimea and North Kohala. Hawaiian Cowboys called Paniolo have a rich history of grazing, raising, and wrangling cattle and horses. Local ranches host guided tours either by horse-drawn carriage or by ATV or you can participate, hands-on in a cattle drive. Either way you will learn the fascinating history of the Paniolo in Hawaii.
The Kona and Kohala Coasts are filled with historic locations such as King Kamehameha’s birth place and the site of Captain Cook’s death. You can visit sacred temples, called heiau at Puuhonua o Honaunau and Puukohola Heiau National Historic Parks. In Kailua you will find the first Christian Church built on the Big Island and the summer home to Hawaiian royalty, Hulihee Palace. To learn about the ancient history of native islanders and the varied immigrants that shaped the current multicultural ethos of Hawaii, tour the Lyman Mission House and Museum in Hilo.
Hawaii has become a mecca for foodies in the last few decades. The large amount of epicurean visitors, the mixture of various ethnic foods and cooking techniques and the growth in notoriety of some of our most iconic local chefs has made Hawaii and the Big Island a very popular culinary destination. Hawaiian Regional Cuisine is known for its use of locally-grown produce, sustainable products, humanely-raised meat and non-farmed fish. The quality of the ingredients and the commitment to ecological practices have raised the bar for this native gourmet cuisine. Some of the stand out restaurants and farms are Merriman’s in Waimea, Roy’s in Waikoloa and the Kahua Ranch on the Kohala Coast.