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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Watch the landscape change before your very eyes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located 30 miles southwest of Hilo, this is the home of Kilauea volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. The chance to witness the primal process of creation and destruction make this park one of the most popular visitor attraction in Hawaii and a sacred place for Native Hawaiians.

Founded in 1916, the Park encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Here you’ll find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983. The extraordinary natural diversity of the park was recognized in 1980 when it was named a World Biosphere site by UNESCO and in 1987 when the park was again honored as a World Heritage site.

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/ – For daily Kilauea eruption updates


 

Akaka Falls State Park

At Akaka Falls State Park, located along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, you can see two gorgeous waterfalls on one short hike. The pleasant 0.4-mile uphill hike will take you through a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns.

As you follow the paved footpath, you’ll first see 100-foot Kahuna Falls. Continue to follow the loop around the bend, and you’ll discover towering Akaka Falls which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps Hawaii Island’s most famous waterfall. Easily accessible, this hike takes less than an hour.


Coffee Plantations

100% pure Kona coffee is a rare commodity exclusively grown in north and south Kona. The high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil from Hualalai Volcano in the upland slopes of Kona create an ideal environment for harvesting this unique Hawaiian coffee bean.

There are hundreds of coffee farms in Kona, from the small art town of Holualoa to Kealakekua, and many offer tours to the public. Visit thriving coffee orchards and learn about the meticulous harvesting process. Then explore the coffee mills and see how the beans are processed. Some of these farms with available tours include the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, Greenwell Farms, Hilo Coffee Mill (on the Hilo side) and many more. The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival held during November in Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a must-see event for coffee lovers.


 

Hilo

Downtown Hilo is Hawaii Island’s biggest small town featuring centuries-old wooden storefronts — many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places — housing a variety of sophisticated galleries, shops, restaurants and cultural sites.

Start your visit with a stroll down Kamehameha Avenue facing beautiful Hilo Bay and discover a variety of local shops, restaurants and attractions including the modern aloha wear at Sig Zane Designs, the neo-classical Palace Theatre built in 1925, and the bustling Hilo Farmers Market. You’ll also find a variety of art galleries featuring paintings, woodwork, glasswork and jewelry from artists with a unique island point of view. Visit the East Hawaii Cultural Center, the central hub of the Hilo art scene, dedicated to preserving and sharing cultural, creative and traditional arts on the island.

Historic Hilo also has notable museums, some looking into Hilo’s past and others looking toward the future. The Pacific Tsunami Museum chronicles the cataclysmic natural disasters of 1946 and 1960 forcing Hilo to rebuild further inland using parkland as a buffer. The Lyman Mission House & Museum features a historic house built in 1839 by American Christian missionaries. The Mokupapapa Discovery Center brings to life the culture, history, natural science and virtually untouched environment of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

Spend a day in Downtown Hilo and experience the local culture and aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii Island.


Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona)

Located just 15 minutes south of Kona International Airport, Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a lively seaside town in the heart of the sunny Kona Coast. Once a sleepy fishing village and a retreat for Hawaiian royalty, Kailua Village is now a destination for affordable accommodations, great shopping, dining and learning about Hawaii’s rich culture.

Stroll down the main road of Alii Drive and you’ll find a variety of shops and restaurants. But look closer and you’ll also discover some very important Hawaii Island historic spots. Hulihee Palace and the Mokuaikaua Church are both located right on Alii Drive. King Kamehameha I spent his later years living near the current site of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Resort until his passing in 1819. The Ahuena Heiau, located on the grounds of the hotel, is a reconstructed temple rebuilt by Kamehameha himself and is on the register of National Historic Landmarks. Kailua Pier is a great place to watch the sunset and is also the starting and finishing point of the Ironman World Championship (October).

Stay in Historic Kailua Village after sunset to experience the nightlife, Hawaii Island style. Listen to live music as you stare out into tranquil Kailua Bay, fueling up on delicious local food for another day of adventure on Hawaii Island.


 

Pololu Valley Lookout

As you drive north on Highway 270 where the black lava landscapes of the Kohala Coast give way to the flourishing, green pastures of North Kohala, you’ll be rewarded at the end of your journey with an unforgettable view from the Pololu Valley Overlook.

Park your car in the small parking lot that is literally at the end of the road and treat yourself to an inspiring view of the verdant cliffs of Pololu Valley and the dramatic northeastern coastline. Horses graze on the hillside as you look out at the small island outcroppings sitting in the waters offshore and the lovely black sand beach at the mouth of the valley. You can take a steep hike down to the valley floor and the black sand beach, although swimming is discouraged because of strong currents. Along with the Waipio Valley Overlook, which also offers a view of Hawaii Island’s northeastern tip but from the south side, this is one of the most spectacular panoramic views on Hawaii Island.


Hawaiian Heritage Sites

Hawaii has many Historical Parks and Sites as part of the National Park System. Below are a sampling of the sites, go explore the ancient culture than helped make Hawaii what it is today.

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

  • Located on the coast of Honaunau Bay in south Kona, Puuhonua o Honaunau immerses you in Hawaiian culture. This 180-acre national historic park was once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

  • The majestic, stone Puukohola Heiau can be seen off the road, just north of the resorts of the Kohala Coast. This National Historic Site is home to one of the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii and is part of the National Park System. Heiau were sacred places of worship for Native Hawaiians, and Puukohola Heiau was a site built to fulfill a historic prophecy.

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

  • Kealakekua Bay is an important historic location because it marks the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on Hawaii Island. Cook was the first British explorer to establish contact with the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 on Kauai. Only a year later, he was killed in a skirmish with native Hawaiians right here in Kealakekua Bay

 

Waimea

Travel east, inland from the volcanic Kohala Coast to discover Waimea (also called Kamuela), which is unlike any other place on Hawaii Island. Known as paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country this historic area full of rolling, green pastures is still home to cattle, cowboys and ranches.

Waimea is a place where stop signs read “Whoa,” instead of “Stop.” This is the home of Kahua Ranch a working sheep and cattle ranch that allows you to learn about the paniolo lifestyle. Here you can explore the scenic landscapes of Waimea by horseback or ATV. Then visit An Evening at Kahua Ranch to fully experience the best of Waimea’s cowboy country.

To explore the road less traveled, the Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250) leads north from Waimea to the charming town of Hawi. Most visitors miss this beautiful drive, but it’s a scenic way to get from Waimea to Hawi and the stunning Pololu Valley Lookout, which showcases breathtaking coastal views of the Hamakua Coast. But before you go, spend a day or two experiencing the great bed and breakfasts, shopping, culture and activities of Waimea.


The Big Island. Watch the island grow right before your eyes or

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Hawaii Travel Information and Tips

Staying on Hawaii Island
Major resort destinations on Hawaii Island include the Kohala Coast, Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) and Keauhou, both in Kona. There are hotels and accommodations in Hilo and Puna on the east side closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Throughout the island you’ll also find bed and breakfast accommodations, condominiums, vacation rental homes and cottages, as well as hostels.

Traveling on Hawaii Island
While there is mass transit in the for of the Hele On bus, we recommend a rental car for flexibility and ease. We strongly suggest booking before you arrive as sometimes cars aren’t immediately available when you step up to the counter without a reservation. All the major rental companies are found on Hawaii Island. There are also guided tours of every type from bus tours and taxis to private limos.

Rental car agencies are located at the Kona and Hilo International Airports, as well as some resorts. Rental car companies are located just a short distance from both inter-island terminals. Taxis are available curbside.

 

Can I use my valid foreign driver’s license to drive in Hawaii?

Yes. Your valid driver’s license is good for one year from the entry date on your passport.

Can I use my cell phone while driving in Hawaii?

No. You may not use any electronic handheld device while driving. This includes phones, cameras and mp3 players. Holding a phone at a stoplight or while paused with the engine running is considered a violation and you will receive a ticket. Fines vary according to island and can be as high as $150.

You may use a Bluetooth headset or hands-free device with your cellphone.

What’s the speed limit in Hawaii?

The speed limit varies from 10 miles per hour (mph) in tiny lanes and 25 in most residential neighborhoods to 60 mph on some freeways.

What should I do if I am in an auto accident?

If you are in a collision, the first step is to call the police at 911 to file a report or to contact emergency fire or ambulance services. Do not leave the scene until after the police are finished. You may need to contact your rental car company.

What are the helmet laws?

• All riders 17 years old and younger must wear a helmet.

• Bicycles– All riders 15 years old and younger must don a helmet.

• Motor Scooters & Motorcycles– Helmets are required for all riders 17 years old or younger.

Does my child need a child safety seat?

Most rental car providers have child safety seats available for rent.

• All children under the age of four must be secured in a Federally-approved child safety seat.

• All children between the ages of four and seven must ride in either a booster seat or a car seat. Children 4’9” or taller or those riding in vehicles with lap-only seat belts in rear seats are exempt.

Weather in Hawaii is very consistent, with only minor changes in temperature throughout the year. There are really only 2 seasons in Hawaii: summer (called Kau in Hawaiian) from May to October and winter (Hooilo) from November to April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85º F. (29.4 C) while the average daytime winter temperature is 78º (25.6º C). Temperatures at night are approximately 10º F. lower.  The islands are an incredible collection of diverse micro-environments, each with its own unique weather, plants, and animals. As a result of the shielding effect of volcanic mountains and the differences in weather found at various elevations, you can find tropical rain forests, cool alpine regions, arid deserts, and sunny beaches – all within the span of just a few miles.

Water and Surf Conditions

Hawaii’s near-shore water temperatures remain comfortable throughout the year. The average water temperature is 74º F. (23.3 C), with a summer high of 80º F. (26.7º C). Wave action varies dramatically between island coasts and seasons. Summer waters are typically gentle on all beaches. During the winter on many north shore beaches, Pacific storms drive ocean swells towards the islands, creating Hawaii’s legendary big waves.

Wave conditions are often very localized, so if the waves are too big on your beach, you can usually find calmer water at a more sheltered beach. Strong currents can make any beach unsafe at any time during the year, particularly in the winter. Ask your hotel staff or a lifeguard about ocean currents or look for warning flags and posted beach conditions.

Rainfall

Most of the rain falls in the mountains and valleys on the windward (northeastern) side of the islands. It is these passing showers that create Hawaii’s rich, green, tropical environment.

The wettest months are from November to March, but winter rains do not generally disrupt vacation plans, since the weather is very localized. This means that if it is raining where you are, there is almost always a sunny spot to be found around the coast.

Trade Winds

In Hawaii, we are fortunate to enjoy the comfortable weather cooled by the trade winds. Named for the winds that once carried ships around the globe, these gentle breezes keep our island weather just right during most of the year, but can become gusty and dangerous on occasion.

From January through March, the trade winds are less frequent and the islands experience the humid conditions referred to as “Kona weather.” Kona winds is the local term for stormy, rain-bearing winds. Under extreme conditions, Kona winds can cause extensive damage.

Please heed all weather warnings before hiking, swimming, sailing, or participating in any outdoor activities.

Vog

Vog is the local term for “volcanic fog” and it describes the hazy air pollution that occasionally hangs over the islands. Vog is caused when sulfur dioxide and other gasses from Kilauea’s Halemaumau Crater (Big Island of Hawaii) mix with moisture in the air and sunlight. Under extreme conditions—when the volcano is active and the winds carry the fumes north to the rest of the island chain—vog can be hazardous to plants, animals and humans. The most common effects are headaches, watery eyes and breathing difficulties. These effects can be especially pronounced in people with respiratory conditions and young children. It is not advisable to exercise or participate in strenuous outdoor activities when the vog is very heavy. Depending on your personal sensitivity, you may want to learn more about vog before traveling to Hawaii Island and visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Want to know what the vog conditions are around the island? Check your local news weather report.

Not all hazy conditions are caused by vog. If you see a white mist along the coast, it could simply be salt spray hanging in the air. Or if it’s hazy along the mountains in the morning, chances are you’re looking at moisture in the air from the updrafts along the ridges.

Hawaii’s Mountains and Volcanoes

Many visitors are drawn to the natural beauty found in higher elevations. While a light jacket and casual clothes will serve you for most of your trip, you will need warmer clothing if you plan to hike Haleakala on Maui where the temperatures average 40°F- 60°F (5° – 16°C). On Maunakea on Hawaii Island it can get as cold as 12° F (11°C) after sundown. Mountain campsites such as Kokee State Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can also be extremely chilly so check with park officials before camping.

When you’re in Hawaii, everyday feels like Aloha Friday. Clothing is casual, and except for one or two finer restaurants, jackets are not required for dinner. Men in Hawaii have it easy because aloha shirts (casual buttoned down or collared shirts) are appropriate for just about any occasion. Hawaii’s tropical temperatures range from bikini weather in the summer to a light sweater or jacket in the evening. Comfortable shoes or sandals are fine for most occasions.

Business Aloha

This term refers to the “Downtown Honolulu” look and is appropriate for business functions and better restaurants. Men: aloha shirt, slacks and dress shoes. For women, it generally means aloha or business attire.

Outdoor Wear

If you will be hiking or will require specialty clothing/equipment, consider buying your gear before you arrive as the selection can be limited on certain islands. This is especially important if you will be spending a length of time on the summit of Haleakala or Maunakea, or camping in higher elevations such as Upcountry Maui or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. See our climate page for more details.

Ocean Activities

If you’re on a boat, bring  sun protection gear and sunscreen. A light jacket is also recommended for wind and rain. Swimsuits are easy to purchase, and scuba suits and gear can be rented.

Sunscreen, Hats and Sunglasses

Hawaii’s proximity to the sun makes for gorgeous tans and nasty sunburns, even on cloudy days. If you want that golden glow, tan slowly with a high SPF sunscreen. Also, protect yourself with a hat and sunglasses.

Golf Attire

Many of the private golf courses in Hawaii require “proper golf attire” which usually means a collared shirt and dress shorts or slacks, no denim, cargo or sports shorts. When in doubt, it’s best to contact the course or pro shop. There is no dress requirement for municipal courses.

Baggage Claim

Honolulu, Oahu

The baggage claim area of the Honolulu International Airport is located on the lower (ground floor) level of the Main Terminal. You can get there on the free Wiki-Wiki (Hawaiian for fast, speedy) Shuttle, or by walking and following the signs. It’s less than a 10-minute stroll if you want to stretch your legs.

Lihue, Kauai; Kahului, Maui; Kaunakakai, Molokai; Lanai City, Lanai; & Hilo and Kona Hawaii

Directions to baggage claim areas are clearly posted. The luggage carousels are located on the ground floors of all terminals and are a short walk away.

Connecting Flights from Honolulu, Oahu

If you are catching a connecting flight from Honolulu to a neighbor island, look at your baggage claim ticket to see if your luggage has been checked through to your final destination. If your baggage claim ticket reads HNL, your luggage will only go as far as Honolulu International Airport. You will need to retrieve your belongings from baggage claim and check-in your baggage for your connecting flight.

The Hawaii airport codes are:

• HNL (Honolulu, Oahu)

• ITO (Hilo, Hawaii)

• KOA (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii)

• LIH (Lihue, Kauai)

• OGG (Kahului, Maui)

• LUP (Kalaupapa Airport)

• LNY (Lanai Airport)

• MKK (Molokai Airport)

• HNM (Hana Airport)

• JHM (Kapalua Airport)

Airport and Arrival Info

Review information about your arrival experience and what to expect when you arrive at any of Hawaii’s ten (10) airports, including ticketing and check-in, arrivals and baggage claim, intra-airport transportation and ground transportation, and driving directions.

Inter island Travel

Help plan your commute to the neighbor islands with these helpful tips.

Civil Defense

Watches and warnings are prepared for the Hawaiian Islands by the National Weather Service Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. Find out what to do in the event of an extreme weather situation. 

Visitors with Special Needs

The Disability and Communication Access Board (DCAB) from the Hawaii State Department of Health has compiled a comprehensive list of Hawaii Traveler Tips for Kauai, Maui and Molokai, Oahu and Hawaii Island that includes transportation options, equipment rentals, service animals and more.

Kauai – Driving Times from Lihue Airport to:

Fern Grotto: 20 minutes

Haena: 1 hr. 15 min

Kapaa: 25 min

Kilauea: 45 min

Poipu/Koloa: 30 min

Princeville: 1 hr

Spouting Horn: 30 min

Wailua Falls: 15 min

Waimea: 45 min

Waimea Canyon: 1 hr. 15 min

Oahu – Driving Times from Waikiki to:

Hanauma Bay: 30 min

Honolulu Int’l Airport: 20 min

Iolani Palace: 15 min

Kailua: 30 min

Ko Olina Resort: 45 min

North Shore: 1 hr

Nuuanu Pali Lookout: 20 min

Pearl Harbor: 30 min

Polynesian Cultural Center: 1 hr

Turtle Bay: 1 hr. 15 min

Waimea Valley: 1 hr.

Maui – Driving Times from Kahului Airport to:

Haleakala: 1 hr. 50 min

Hana: 2 hr. 30 min

Iao Valley:  25 min

Kaanapali: 50 min

Kapalua: 1 hr

Kihei: 25 min

Lahaina: 45 min

Wailea: 35 min

Wailuku: 10 min

Hawaii Island – Driving Times from Kona International Airport to:

Akaka Falls State Park: 2 hrs 10 min.

Hapuna Beach Park: 30 min

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 3 hrs. 15 min.

Kailua-Kona: 15 min

Kealakekua: 45 min

Keauhou: 25 min

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy: 2 hrs

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park: 1 hr

Waimea: 45 min

Waipio: 1 hr 30 min

Driving Times from Hilo International Airport to:

Akaka Falls State Park: 30 min

Hapuna Beach Park: 1 hr 45 min

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 45 min

Kailua-Kona: 2 hrs 30 min

Onizuka Center for International Astronomy: 1 hr

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park: 3 hrs

Waimea: 1 hr 30 min

Waipio: 1 hr 30 min

Hawaii uses the United States dollar as its currency. Exchanging money in Hawaii is as simple as using an ATM (automated teller machine), however, it’s helpful to exchange some of your currency before you travel so you’ll have money for cab fare and other incidentals.

Recently, U.S. currency has been reissued with new safety features, so there are many different varieties of bills and coins in circulation. U.S. paper bills come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. (Please note that some small stores and fast food outlets in Hawaii will not accept bills over $20.)

U.S. coins include the penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents) and quarter (25 cents). There are also $1 coins but they are not used very often and can be easily mistaken for quarters.

ATMs

Bring your debit card and you can withdraw cash from an ATM. The machine handles the currency exchange for you, and the service fee may be less than a bank. ATMs also accept credit cards for cash advances, but the foreign exchange fees may be higher, so check with your bank prior to traveling.

Banks

If you will be conducting business or making large purchases, many Hawaii banks have international banking divisions.

Shopping & Dining

The majority of stores and restaurants in Hawaii accept cash, debit and credit cards. Checks and travelers checks are accepted at some locations, but it’s best to check with the merchant first. If you are shopping with an international credit card, please check with your financial institution regarding currency exchange rates and international transaction fees.

Tipping

Tips are customary and appreciated for good service. U.S. guidelines are 15-20% on served meals, at least $1 per bag for porters and at least $1 per night for housekeeping.

Bringing money into the United States

If you and your travel companions together are carrying $10,000 or more in cash or other negotiable instruments such as endorsed checks, you must declare it upon arrival. If you do not, it is subject to forfeiture. Your money is not subject to taxation or duty. For more information, download this handy guide for international visitors or click on US Customs and Border Protection.

Hawaii State Tax

Hawaii does not have a sales tax, however we have a General Excise Tax which businesses can pass on to their customers. This GE Tax on goods and services varies by county (island).

Kauai – 4.000 %

Oahu – 4.712 %

Molokai – 4.166%

Lanai – 4.166 %

Maui – 4.166%

Hawaii Island – 4.166%

Hotel Room Tax 

In addition to the 4.712% General Excise Tax, all visitors who stay in hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, inns and timeshares are required to pay a “Transient Accommodations Tax.” This state tax is currently 9.25 percent.

For any person to lawfully marry in the State of Hawaii, a license must be obtained from an authorized agent. Once the license has been issued, there is no waiting period before the marriage can take place. Go to http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/marriage/index.html for complete details.

Marriage License Information: 808-586-4545