16 - 28 October 2012. Filed under category Travel.

Hawaii is renowned for its hospitality, so I thought it would be rude to cross the Pacific Ocean without stopping by for a brief visit. I’m glad I did. The two weeks I stayed there was packed with awesome, and I’d like to share it with you in this Hawaii guide! Aloha!

Small print: These experiences are perfectly personal. Your perceived levels of awesome may vary. If they drop beneath fun, then you have only your boring self to blame as Hawaii offers everyone equal opportunity for awesome.

The Varied Nature of the Big Island

I spent my two weeks in Hawaii on the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian islands, ingeniously names ‘The Big Island’. It is actually the tip of a huge mountain, starting from the bottom of the sea and rises 4200 metres above sea level.

The island is divided into the wet east, which gets all the rain, and the dry west, which gets little to no rain. The temperature varies from a tropical heat at the beaches to a freezing snowy cold at the mountaintop. These two gradients give rise to an astounding variation of climates. In fact, the Big Island has eleven of the thirteen climate zones on Earth, only missing the Arctic and Saharan.

The Big Island is breathtakingly beautiful. The endless blue ocean is visible from almost everywhere. Rolling waves crash against black lava stone cliffs or rolls in over sandy beaches, many so private that you can strip off naked and walk around with the sun stroking ever part of your skin. The tropical jungle calls out to you from the throats of a thousand frogs, chirping as brightly as birds. Hike through shaded forest paths and discover the many waterfalls. If nature is your thing, ignore the crowded tourist beaches of Honolulu and go to the Big Island!

Lava Walking

Brave little vegetation, starting the long process of turning lava stone to soil.

Brave little vegetation, starting the long process of turning lava stone to soil.

From a geological time perspective, Hawaii is one huge explosion. Mother Earth is in the middle of giving birth to a new island, and one of the coolest things you can do is walk to the trembling edge of her dilated vagina and see it happen!

It starts with a two-hour hike across a moon landscape of black lava stone. Amazing patterns of swirls, ripples and waves are frozen into crisp rock as the lava cooled here not long ago.

You then reach the part where the lava seeps out of the ground. There is something spiritual about seeing the new earth be born right in front of your eyes. The relatively cool black rock heaves upwards under the enormous pressure from deep within the earth and turns brighter and brighter, forming a bubble of hot magma. When it bursts, bright hot lava flows forth in a slow-moving stream, twisting into the strange shapes you walked across to get there.

It is spiritual, but not sacred, so while you are there, grab a long stick, find one of the fresh lava bubbles and poke it until it bursts! The heat when the magma comes ‘rushing’ towards you is incredible. If you can keep at it for long enough without burning off your eyebrows, you can get some of the lava stuck on your stick before pulling out, and make yourself a lava-rock souvenir!

The other thing you have to do is run across baby-lava. If you have a crazy guide (I did) have them point out lava that is about an hour old. It is then cool enough that you can run across it. You can’t walk as it is still so hot it will melt your boots, and for god’s sake, don’t fall!

Mauna Kea

The second ‘must-do’ thing in Hawaii is visiting the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in Hawaii. You can drive all the way up there with a four-wheel drive, so you can safely leave your hiking and climbing gear at home. Just don’t rock up with flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt; at 4200m, it is bloody cold up there!

This is where the famous Hawaii observatories are located. These huge white domes, like silent sentinels looking out into space, add to the beauty of this amazing view. Time your visit right so you don’t miss the splendid sunset from this mountain top, the red light blazing off the white observatories.

A short way down from the top lies the visitor centre. They put out telescopes after nightfall for the public. The view from here is supposedly amazing. Unfortunately, it was a full-moon night when I was there, so I didn’t really see that many stars.

Volcanoes and Lava Tubes

If running over hot lava is too much for you, then you can make a safe trip to the Volcano National Park. This is the sacred site of a huge volcano crater. Hidden in the centre is a roiling magma pit, but you won’t get anywhere near that. Still, it is a nice view.

The lava doesn’t flow over ground from the volcano to the sea. Instead, it flows through underground lava tubes. The lava tube remains once the magma runs out. It looks like something left behind the sandworms of Arrakis. Some of them are lit and open to the public, and they are well worth exploring!

The Sand Worms of Arrakis

Arrakis, also known as Dune, is the desert planet where melange is found. Harvesting this ‘spice’, important for interstellar travel as well as being one hell of a party drug, is tricky as it is guarded by enormous sand worms. They’ll eat an entire harvester in one big swallow if you aren’t quick to run a few worm-fodder troops in its way. This is all detailed to death in the 23 Dune books. Or save yourself the time, install an old DOS emulator and play the excellent Dune 2 game, the first ever Real-Time Strategy game to see cyberspace.

Travel Updates

I’ve spent the last week settling into New Zealand and sorting through all the work I ignored while in Hawaii. The weather is cool but spring is in the air, and I’m excited to be here!


What would you most like to do in Hawaii?

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  1. crys klier-hoffman says:

    are you kidding? who wouldn’t want to be on the edge of Mother Earth’s trembling dilated vagina? hot lava poking, yay. the most exquisite part of this whole post is you running up the mountain and then your outpouring of lust for life and beauty and freedom and all the rest of what you experienced as you gasped for air. in case I haven’t said it before, THANK YOU for all this. it makes me smile, it makes my heart happy and my soul sing.

  2. Tobias says:

    Fantastic timing! I’m just planning my Hawaii vacation for late January; will probably stay on Kaua’i and Big Island. Maybe you can give me more in person tips when you’re in Sydney 🙂

  3. Allan says:

    For certain I would most like to go naked paddle boarding!

  4. Daredevil says:

    You ran over baby lava? Hats off dude!

  5. brother Henrik says:

    What i would like to do most i Hawaii is propbably the same thing you have done explore the iland

  6. Liv Lyckvall says:

    Go swimming in the sea and sunbath at the beach 🙂
    And go surfing with Lilo and Stitch! 🙂

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Hey everybody! This is my (surprisingly English-literate) niece!

  7. Matt says:

    where did you stay while in Hawaii ?

What would you most like to do in Hawaii?

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