The Cessna flight from Kahului (Maui) to Kona (Big Island) was the least fussy I’ve ever been on. In fact, on this miniature 9-seater plane, the pilot’s dashboard was within spitting distance. I loved that each of us was weighed with our luggage in order to calibrate the amount of jet fuel required and that the staff were chatty and oh so relaxed. For the 30mins we were in the air, I could not peel my face away from the window, ‘is this view for realz?’ pretty much sums up my amazement.
Our first home-base was a sunny cottage in the mountains, just outside of sleepy Hawi. The town is quaint but be warned, it pretty much shuts down after 6pm. Like most of the islanders you will probably find yourself on a clock based on the sunrise and sunset (6 o’clock respectively), rising and going to beard eeeeearly. That did help keep us on a very similar clock to Toronto, so the jet-lag was almost non-existent.
So what to do in Hawi before dark? Taste some delicious sandwiches at The Lighthouse Delicatessen (and stock up on a great selection of meats & cheeses) or befriend the locals at the Kihala Coffee Mill. We had a great chat with the town’s celeb tattoo artist Roland Pacheco who chose to re-settle in his hometown after a stint in ‘unfriendly, traffic-riddled’ LA.
A car in this area is pretty essential, especially since driving along the Kohala Mountain Rd. is one of the most beautiful rides one could imagine, let alone experience. Go at ‘magic hour’—that golden, sun-dappled time just before dusk. The tourist-riddled beaches feel a long way away here. Instead, fill your eyes and hearts with endless green fields and the occasional wildlife. In fact, my favourite parts of the Big Island look nothing like I ever imagined tropical Hawaii would; they are lichen-covered barren mountains, black lava fields and deep gorges.
Definitely take an evening to drive up to the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. “The White Mountain”, which is snow-capped in winter, is one of the most sacred spots in Hawaii. Ancient law allowed only high-ranking tribal chiefs to visit its peak, but today the site is one of the world’s best astronomical observatories. As your car struggles to make the 13,000ft climb to the top at dusk, you’ll notice the landscape change rapidly and the light take on a mysterious quality. At the summit the air is thin and piercingly cold, so put on a chunky sweater and then find a comfortable spot to look up at the stars.
Additional photography by Simo Grünberg