The Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most picturesque and unique islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Because it is so
big, however, many visitors take guided tours of the island in order to see as much of its fantastic sites as possible. It
could easily become a trip you’ll take over and over again.
Begin your trip in Kailua-Kona on the western side of the island. In fact, many guided tours will have you stay the whole
time there and use day excursions to allow you to see the rest of the island. Kona itself is a quaint little village in
which you can enjoy a luau, fine dining, a picnic on the grass by the ocean and many small shops located along Ali’i Drive
in downtown Kona.
Adventurous guided tours of the Big Island will take you on saddle road, preferably in a four-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a
desolate road with many twists and turns; the volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa will flank you on either side. Your
first stop, if you’re feeling brave, is Mauna Kea itself.
Most guided tours of the Big Island will discourage you from taking the trip up Mauna Kea alone as rental cars often can’t
handle it. Instead, let them use their own vehicle to take up, back and forth along switch back roads for nearly an hour,
until you arrive at a small museum at about 9,000 feet that will give you information about the observatories on the volcano.
Many guided tours of Mauna Kea won’t stop there, however. You’ll continue up until you reach approximately 13,000 feet.
In the winter, there may be snow on the ground and driving can be tricky. At the top, however, is a breathtaking view of
the entire island and you’ll find that the clouds are below you. The telescopes and observatories stand out like shining
globes on the otherwise desolate landscape.
After you descend the volcano, many guided tours will continue along Saddle Road and allow you to grab lunch at a restaurant
in the city of Hilo, on the eastern side of the island. There is shopping, and even a shopping mall, for those who want to
grab some souvenirs.
After lunch, guided tours of the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens are available. Set near the shoreline in a jungle-like
atmosphere, your guide will show you some of the rarest plants in the world. Walk among the creeks and waterfalls and
enjoy the lush beauty of the place.
By far and away, most guided tours of the Big Island will not go back the way you came and will take you along the Hamakua
coastline, a magnificent area where drivers drive on switch back roads through lush gorges and small villages. Waterfalls
and creeks are everywhere and you’re not far from the ocean.
Lucky travelers will stop along the way and take one of the guided tours of the Waipio Valley, also called the Valley of
the Kings. You’ll take a rugged vehicle down inside the valley and enjoy taro fields, a wild view of the ocean and will
see glimpses of the wild horses living in the valley. Bring your camera as the views are wonderful.
On your way back to Kailua-Kona, you’ll go through Waimea, the “cowboy area” of the Big Island. Some guided tours will let
you stop at one of several places where you can ride on horseback and you’ll see many ranches in the area. Enjoy the ride
and head back to your hotel in Kailua-Kona.