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The author kisses a dophin at the Dolphin Learning Center in Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii. Photos by Connie Westergaard, except as noted.
The author kisses a dophin at the Dolphin Learning Center in Waikoloa Village on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii's Big Island: Lava, Love and Luxury

[Big Island – or Hawaii Island - is the largest of the eight Hawaiian Islands and still growing with the consistent lava flows. Although often referred to as just a big volcanic rock, the dramatic landscape, love stories of the past, luxurious seaside hotel resorts and beautiful sunsets are all the ingredients you need for your own romantic Hawaiian getaway.]

After a stop on Oahu we arrive by air at Big Island. The landscape looks barren and rough at first sight, covered with black petrified lava, and the snow-decked mountain Mauna Kea rising above the clouds. There is no public transportation around the island, so you will need to either rent a car or have a shuttle bus or taxi pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel resort.

World of luxury

There are two airports on Big Island, one in Kona – famous for its coffee - and one in Hilo. We arrive in Kona and head to Waikoloa Village – a concentration of seaside hotel resorts and exclusive shopping on the west coast.

We check in at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and enter a world of luxury. Everything you need for a romantic getaway, honeymoon or dream wedding. Mind you a lot of people bring the whole family as this is a kid-friendly resort. The resort is like nothing we have ever seen before. And we have seen a lot.

We take the tram from inside the lobby to our hotel tower. We could have taken the boat, but with the luggage the tram just seems easier. Our mouths drop wide open, but this is just the beginning.

Relax by one of the many pools at Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Relax by one of the many pools at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

From our balcony we have a view of the ocean, swimming pools with bridges and waterfalls and a lagoon with live dolphins. The Hilton has a number of restaurants, bars, shops and museum exhibitions as well as its very own built-in beach with saltwater, fish and green sea turtles, Honu as they are lovingly called in Hawaiian.

Here you can relax in the sand, or go paddling or snorkeling with the turtles. If you fancy tying the knot in Hawaii, the Hilton has its very own wedding chapel overlooking the sea. We go for an evening swim while the sun sets.

Kilauea volcano adventure

Next morning we are picked up by the tour company Hawaii Forest and Trail. Big Island is famous for its active volcano, Kilauea, with frequent lava flows into the ocean.

According to Hawaiian mythology the goddess of fire, Pele, lives inside the crater. Last lava flow was three months ago. Big Island is big, so it is a long drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Luckily our knowledgeable guide, Christina, does all the driving, making stops now and then, while filling us in on the history of Big Island and its landscape.

On a lucky day you can see the volcano Kilauea explode.
On a lucky day you can see the volcano Kilauea explode.

When we reach the volcano we walk to the rim, where signs warn us about poisonous volcanic fumes, and just as we turn our back on the massive smoking crater, we hear a loud noise from inside the volcano.

An explosion is making its way to the surface, and the next minute we see dark gray fumes rising towards the sky. No lava, but this is the next best thing. And just as we thought Big Island was all rock, our guide makes a stop at the rainforest, where we walk through lush green bushes, bamboo trees and a lava tube.

A Hawaiian love story

All around Big Island we see an ugly-looking green plant with beautiful red flowers on it. It is the red Pua Lehua or Ohi’a Blossom, which is the official island flower. The story of the plant and flower is the tragic love story of the handsome young man Ohi’a and his beautiful young wife Lehua.

According to Hawaiian mythology the goddess of fire, Pele, wanted Ohi’a for herself, but when she saw that Ohi’a only had eyes for Lehua, she became furious and turned him into an ugly tree. Lehua cried and begged her to turn her into a tree also, so she could be with her husband. But Pele refused.

The story of the red Pua Lehua or Ohi’a Blossom is a tragic love story.
The story of the red Pua Lehua or Ohi’a Blossom is a tragic love story.

However, the other gods took pity on Lehua and turned her into a beautiful red flower and placed it on the tree. From that day on the Ohi’a tree has blossomed with red Lehua flowers. The story goes that if you pluck a flower from the tree, it will rain like the tears of Lehua, who can still not bear to be apart from her husband.

Spa treatments with local products

Next day back at the Hilton Waikoloa Village we wake up to the sounds of the ocean waves and the dolphins outside our window. Today we treat ourselves to a spa treatment. When you enter Kohala Spa, you naturally leave all your everyday stress and worries behind. The atmosphere is tranquil and almost meditative.

After a day on the move, this is the perfect way to relax, recover and do something good for your body and soul. There are lots of treatments to choose from for men and women. We go for a Hawaiian Coffee Fruit Facial and Lehua Sugar Honey Scrub and Wrap, both using local Hawaiian skin products, like Malie. We leave feeling utterly refreshed and relaxed.

Kohala Spa leaves you feeling refreshed and relaxed. Photo by Kohala Spa.
Kohala Spa leaves you feeling refreshed and relaxed. Photo by Kohala Spa.

Do you want to kiss a dolphin today?

We head down to the Dolphin Learning Center lagoon, a two-million-gallon saltwater habitat for bottle-nosed dolphins, where we have signed up for a dolphin encounter. This is one of the highlights of our trip. There is something very touching about meeting a dolphin nose to nose, maybe because they are so intelligent animals and human-like in their behavior.

Considering myself an animal friend, I have always disapproved of sea worlds and large wild animals in captivity. Thus I am glad to find out that Dolphin Quest, located at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, is a marine preservation program, protecting rather than exploiting the dolphins. The proceeds go to the preservation of dolphins and whales, and the encounter is completely up to the dolphins whether they feel like meeting you.

We must have made a good first impression, because as our small group enters the saltwater dolphin lagoon, Hua the dolphin swims over to say hello. It makes sounds, blows air and poses for pictures with us.

At the Dolphin Learning Center Lagoon you can meet bottle-nosed dolphins.
At the Dolphin Learning Center Lagoon you can meet bottle-nosed dolphins.

“Do you want to kiss a dolphin today?” our guide asked us. She must have seen the sudden light in my eyes and let me go first. So what is it like kissing a dolphin? Wet and wonderful.

Hawaiian sunsets

Sunsets are romantic by nature, and there are many ways to see them on Big Island, from land, sea or on the back of a horse. If you are a country boy and gal at heart or even just a city slicker, go for a sunset ride with Paniolo Adventures in the cowboy town of Waimea. Ride out in the late afternoon and see the sun setting in the horizon of the Pacific Ocean.

On our last night on Big Island we opt for a sunset sail with Ocean Sports. They pick us up at the hotel resort and drive us to the harbor, where we board a catamaran. As we sail out sipping our Mai Tais, we see a humpback whale showing its dorsal fin in the distance. While the sun sets we enjoy a local dinner buffet, topped off with a glass of champagne.

Our trip to Big Island was conducted with the assistance of The Big Island Visitors Bureau.
For more information about Big Island go to:
www.gohawaii.com/bigisland

Getting to Big Island

Go! Mokulele www.iflygo.com
Hawaiian Air www.hawaiianair.com

Top things to do on Big Island

Hawaiian sunsets add a little romance to your getaway.
Hawaiian sunsets add a little romance to your getaway

Hilton Waikoloa Village
Web: www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com
Tel.: 808-886-1234

Kohala Spa
Web: www.kohalaspa.com
Email: info@kohalaspa.com
Tel.: 808-886-2828

Dolphin Quest
Web: www.dolphinquest.com
Tel.: 808-886-2875

Hawaii Forest and Trail
Web: www.hawaii-forest.com
Email: info@hawaii-forest.com
Tel.: 808-331-8505

Ocean Sports
Web: www.hawaiioceansports.com
Email: information@hawaiioceansports.com
Tel.: 808-886-6666 Ext. 103

Paniolo Adventures
Web: www.panioloadventures.com
Tel.: 808-889-5354

 

Connie Maria Westergaard

 

Connie Maria Westergaard is a freelance travel writer living in Denmark.

 

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories by Connie Maria Westergaard:

Hawaii, Elvis-Style: Tracing the Footsteps of The King

Hanging Loose in Hawaii: Maui is Unparalleled

Belfast, Northern Ireland: From Blast to Bloom

Inis Mór: As Irish As It Gets

Granny Goes to Greenland

Route 66: The Main Street of America

 

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