We’ve done a pretty decent job over the years here at Speed:Sport:Life covering the Speed and Sport aspects of things. This site initially started because a few of us were car lovers with a passion for racing. We were in our late 20s, and our life revolved around car shows, race tracks, and anything else automotive.

Eventually, though, things happen in life that changes how we approach our passions and hobbies. Some of us focus on careers, family, and other aspects of life beyond those passions and hobbies. I’m no exception to this, and these things are why I more or less let this site go dormant over the last couple of years before recently getting back at it.

While I never lost my passion for speed and sport, I chose to put more focus on the life aspect of things. Focus on life included having more experiences that involved travel and quality time with my family. So here I am, having just turned 40 in February, ready to share my vacation photos and experiences with others. I’m officially an old man, but I hope that sharing some of these travels can help others enjoy the life of travel as much as we have. We’ve got a few lined up, from the Hawaiian Islands to German Christmas markets, to where to find the best BBQ in the state of Texas.

My first trip report on Speed:Sport:Life focuses on the beautiful Island of Hawaii, better known as the Big Island. 2019 marked our third year in a row to the Big Island just because we fell in love with it so hard during our first trip in 2017.

Where to Stay

When researching where to stay on the Big Island, you’ll often hear people refer to the Kona side or the Hilo side. You might find yourself splitting time between these two sides to make visiting all the sights easier on your itinerary.

Resorts Along Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona

Kailua-Kona Side

The Kona side is the resort dense side of the Big Island and has a variety of hotels to cater to all price ranges and needs. Visitors will find lots of breweries, restaurants, and pubs situated waterfront on Ali’i Drive, and is the perfect place for visitors who want to be in the middle of the action. Kona also features a flurry of recreational activity from Manta Ray night dives, luaus, and a few decent beaches.

Sunset from the Sheraton Kona Keauhou Bay Resort

Island Lava Java on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona is one of our favorite breakfast spots. The food and views are some of the best we’ve ever had for breakfast.

I enjoyed the Island Lava Java Luau omelet with Portuguese sausage and brown rice with a huge cappuccino most mornings.

The Coffee Shack in Kona is another one of our favorite spots for breakfast. There are stunning views of the lush Kona region all the way down to the water. The owners say you can see 26-miles of coastline from the dining area.

Hilo Side

The Hilo side, in comparison, has fewer resorts and is more of a place that actual Hawaiians live and work. There aren’t as many beaches or nightlife spots in Hilo as in Kona. What it is suitable for though is seeing the day to day life of actual residents, as well as putting visitors close to Volcanoes National Park, and a couple of beautiful waterfalls. It is important to note that after the lower Puna eruption of 2018, the Kilauea volcano finally went dormant after 30 years of continuous eruption. More on that later.

Visible lava bubbling in the now dormant Kilauea volcano at the Halema’uma’u Crater on June 2017. I took this photo from the now-closed Jagger Museum in Volcanoes National Park. The Jagger Museum was damaged beyond repair by the 2018 lower Puna eruptions.

Where We Stay

We prefer to stay on the Kona side of the island, and this was our third year in a row at the Sheraton Kona Keauhou Bay Resort. The resort is a full-service resort in a beautiful and quiet location. There are plenty of pools for the kids and families to enjoy, as well as beautiful grounds to relax in. The resort also provides plenty of activities at night with movies by the pool, Manta Ray educational talks, and games like giant checkers to play. While the rooms are getting starting to show their age, the rest of the resort has undergone a massive renovation in the last 24 months. We love the value and service that this resort provides.

View from the Sheraton Kona Keauhou Bay

Beaches & Snorkeling

Let’s get this one out of the way right now. The Big Island isn’t where you go if you are looking for the picturebook idea of a white sandy beach. While there are beautiful beaches on the Big Island, they are much more sparse than are found on the other islands like Maui. Here are a few of our favorite swim and snorkel spots.

Spencer Beach Park

Spencer Beach Park on the Big Island’s northwestern coast has fantastic swimming and snorkeling conditions, along with ample shade trees. The best part about it is it never feels crowded! There are full bathroom and shower facilities available to use, as well as picnic tables.

Carlsmith Beach Park

Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo is one of our favorite places to snorkel and swim on the island because it is protected by lava rock and reef. The park is also one of the best spots on the islands to snorkel with the local population of Honu, or sea turtles.

Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo offers the perfect snorkel and swim spot for all ages thanks to its clear and calm waters.

Carlsmith Beach Park is also one of the best spots on the islands to snorkel with the local population of Honu, or sea turtles.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park is located just north of Kailua-Kona and is an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling. There are three main beaches accessible from this park – Maniniʻowali Bay, Makalawena beach at Puʻu Aliʻi Bay, and Mahaiʻula Bay. There are bathrooms, but no water fountains.

Our visit to Kekaha Kai was extra special thanks to these two Hawaiian Monk Seals. Speaking to the volunteers on duty, these two are brother and sister born one year apart. They have no recognition that they are siblings, but they are two of seven Monk Seals living in the waters of the Big Island. It was extraordinary to see two of these endangered creatures playing.

Anaeho’omalu Beach

Anaeho’omalu Beach or A-Bay sits in the resort area of Waikoloa. A-Bay has beautiful beaches, palm trees, and clear snorkeling conditions. It worth knowing that it gets crowded as a result of being in the middle of the resort, so pack your patience along with your beach chairs.

Anaeho’omalu Beach is a great place to catch the sunset from between the palm trees.

Things to See & Do

Where the Big Island lacks in miles of sandy beach shoreline, it more than makes up for in natural beauty.

Pololu Valley Lookout

The Pololu Valley Overlook is located in North Kohala and is a stunning place to view the Kohala coast. Once parked at the overlook, there is a taxing hike to the bottom of the valley, but well worth the effort if you are reasonably fit. Most websites say this is an easy hike, but the trail has experienced significant erosion over the last year and is incredibly slick with uneven terrain. You might hate yourself once you get back up the trail, but the views from the bottom are worth it.

A black sand beach greets visitors who make the trek down to the bottom of the Pololu Valley. Swimming is strongly discouraged here because of the strong currents and large waves. It’s still a relaxing place to sit and listen to the waves crashing.

Polished lava rocks accompany the view of the Kohala coastline from the bottom of the Pololu Valley.

The Pololu River meets the sea at the bottom of the Pololu Valley lookout.

Waipio Valley Lookout

Located along the Hamakua Coast, the Waipio Valley was where King Kamehameha I lived as a boy. This valley has significant cultural and historical meaning to native Hawaiians and is considered to be sacred. The view from the top of the lookout is beautiful, but brave souls with a 4-wheel drive low equipped vehicle can descend one of the steepest roads in America to the valley floor. There isn’t much to see down there without a long hike, so it’s best to visit the valley floor with one of the many tours that operate there.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls, near Hilo, is an 80′ waterfall that is known to produce rainbows after a period of rain. Our visit came during a relatively dry time with minimal flows. Don’t let this fool you, as these falls can be raging with water.

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls State Park is located along the Hilo Coast and features two gorgeous waterfalls. There is a short half-mile hike through a rainforest with bamboo, ferns and wild orchids to get to the waterfalls. If you park in the small lot at the park, expect to pay $5 for that privilege vs. paying nothing for parking along the road a scant 100′ away. Entry is $2 per person.

Summiting Mauna Kea

Summiting Mauna Kea at sunset is a mindblowing experience. At 13,803′ in elevation, the summit of Mauna Kea gives visitors one of the most unobstructed views of the night sky in the world. It’s no wonder there are 13 observation facilities located in the Mauna Kea Reserve. I want to point out that while you can summit Mauna Kea on your own, you definitely shouldn’t do it on your own. Instead, leave the driving and heavy lifting to tour operators like Hawaii Forest and Trail. Hawaii Forest and Trail use 4×4 vans to get to the top and provide visitors with parkas (it was below freezing even in June), hot cocoa, a full meal, and expert tour guides.

Cinder cones on the slopes of Mauna Kea, or Pu’u as the Hawaiians call them.

The summit of Mauna Kea is one of the clearest spots on earth to get a view of space.

Mauna Kea Observatories at sunset.

A beautiful sunset illuminates the slopes of Mauna Loa in the background.

A seemingly endless number of stars are clearly visible from atop the Mauna Kea summit.

Get On A Boat

The Big Island is home to one of the best Manta Ray viewing areas on the planet. Each night the waters of Keauhou Bay come to life with several boat charters. The boats take snorkelers and divers to swim with these gentle giants of the sea. The bright lights help attract plankton, on which the Rays feed. I took this from the balcony of our room at the Sheraton Kona.

Typically, creatures of the dark, it was interesting to see a juvenile Manta Ray swimming during the day in Keauhou Bay.

There are plenty of boat tour operators if you’d prefer to snorkel during the day. We chose Fair Winds Cruises and their 5-hour Deluxe Kona Coast Snorkel & BBQ Cruise.

See Old Lava Flows At Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park was a very different place when we visited the Big Island in 2017 than it is now. Kilauea was still erupting, and the lava was clearly visible from the Jagger Observatory in the park.  In 2018, Kilauea went dormant after the 2018 lower Puna Eruption. The eruption caused parts of the Puna region to be taken over by lava flows and eliminated several neighborhoods in their proximity. The Jagger Museum and Observatory was also damaged beyond repair and remains permanently closed. The lava lake inside the Halema‘uma‘u crater also disappeared. The photos below depict our 2017 visit prior to the eruption last year. It is worth noting that the park is still very much open and still has fascinating things to see. Please check the National Park Service website to see all the sights and closures around Volcanoes National Park.

Steam emanating from the Halema‘uma‘u crater lava lake as seen from the Jagger Museum in 2017.

The Kilauea Iki Trail offers up great views of the Kilauea Iki Crater in Volcanoes National Park.

Paths of the historic lava flows are clearly visible from the crater to the sea throughout the park.

A trip to Hawaii is never complete without a drive up to the lava flows in a Jeep Wrangler rental.

Visit the Southern Most Point in the United States

There is a misconception that the southernmost point in the United States is located in Key West, which is the most southern point in the Continental USA. The most southern point in the entire USA is located at South Point (creative, huh?) on the Big Island. There’s not much to see from South Point, but it is worth visiting to say you’ve been. If you are feeling adventurous, there are spots for cliff jumping. I’m going to tell you that you’ll never ever find me jumping off those cliffs, as the waves were massive. It’s also extremely windy, as evidenced by the way the trees are growing. I wouldn’t go out of your way to get here, but it’s a short detour from Volcanoes National Park if you are interested in being able to say you’ve been here.

The cliffs of South Point attract thrill-seekers looking to jump into the waters below. This is one activity you’ll never see this old man doing.

Seashell notes on the lava formations at South Point

The wind is constantly blowing at South Point as evidenced by the way the trees grow out there.

We Love the Big Island

We’ve visited all the Hawaiian Islands multiple times over the years, and as mentioned previously, this was our third trip to the Big Island in three consecutive years. This post is already way too long as it is, but there are more places to visit on the Big Island that I didn’t cover in the post. We’d go back every year if we had that luxury. We love everything the Big Island has to offer, from its incredibly fresh food to its breathtaking landscapes.

Most importantly, we love the people and culture. Everyone is so genuinely friendly and willing to share the stories and lore of the island with you. Of all the islands, the Big Island is the one that has you feeling the Aloha spirit the second you walk off the plane. If you want to escape to paradise, make sure you make the Big Island part of that escape. As with every trip to Hawaii we make, it’s never goodbye to the Islands, but rather A hui hou – until we meet again.

The charming open-air terminals at the Kona International Airport.

All Photos Copyright Zerin Dube

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Zerin Dube