I’ve found there are two types of travellers to Hawaii. Those that go to a beautiful hotel and spend their vacation relaxing within the resort and those that get off property and explore. In case you haven’t guessed, our family is the latter. While we had an amazing time at the Kona Village Resort, we knew there was so much more to do on The Big Island, especially visiting Volcanoes National Park.
After leaving Volcanoes National Park, you can either drive back the way you came, spend a night in Hilo, or continue your drive to loop through Waimea back to Kona. While there is plenty to see in Hilo, we weren’t planning on staying the night and didn’t want to do too much driving in the dark, so we headed north to explore more of the Big Island on our way back to the KVR. First up was a quick stop at the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory, about 20 miles north of Volcanoes National Park. There wasn’t much of a tour happening during our visit since it wasn’t yet the harvesting season for macadamia nuts, but we did get a peek into the sorting and packaging process.
The real highlight was the three-mile drive into the visitor centre through the orchard of macadamia trees. Of course, a trip to the visitor centre isn’t complete without tasting the ten varieties of macadamia nuts. The chocolate coconut covered nuts were dubbed our “Scooby Snacks” and brought with us for the rest of the trip.
Another 15 minutes north of Hilo, we stopped at Akaka Falls in Honomu. By then, our tired legs were rested, and we were ready for another hike for a chance to see a waterfall up close. It isn’t hard to get to the falls. The trail is a .4 mile loop of easy to moderate difficulty through lush vegetation to the big payoff — the 442 foot Akaka Falls and the cascading Kahuna Falls.
After taking about an hour to explore Akaka Falls, it was time to start heading back toward the KVR. Along the way, we saw magnificent views of Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii and three times the size of Mt. Everest when measured from the ocean floor. You could barely make out the observatories at the peaks.
As it started to get dark, we stopped at Merriman’s in Kamuela. It is a beautiful restaurant, and the food was outstanding. They source most of their food from local ranches, farms, and fishermen. My only regret was not bringing a change of clothes and a brush to freshen up before heading inside. Despite our tired and slightly bedraggled appearance, they welcomed us warmly, and we had a fantastic meal. After leaving the restaurant, night had fallen, and the rest of the ride through Waimea was dark and winding. We were happy to finally get back to our hale at the Kona Village Resort.