by Karen Rose
Originally published in the San Francisco Examiner July 22, 2016
Have A Snowball Fight
Towering above sea level, at almost 14,000 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. During the winter months it’s common to find snow on the summit, and adventurous locals and tourists bundled up for a day of playing in the snow. There’s nothing like a Hawaiian snowball fight! Be sure and dress warm, especially if you plan on staying past sunset for some stargazing. Temperatures can drop to below freezing – something most visitors don’t consider when packing for a tropical vacation.
Because of its high altitude and isolated location, the skies over Hawaii are dark and crystal clear, making for some of the best stargazing in the world. Car headlights impede with the telescopes, therefore visitors are allowed only the summit until sunset when they must venture down to the visitor center. As it gets dark, people start setting up telescopes and busting out the hot chocolate for an enchanted evening of stargazing. Be aware that going from sea level to nearly 14,000 can be difficult for some people, so take your time and enjoy yourself!
Visit 8 Colored Sand Beaches
Hawaii is among the most unique of all the states, both culturally and geographically. It’s variety of colorful sand beaches are unparalleled. From Maui’s red sand beach, to the Big Island’s green and black sand beaches, the colors are vibrant and magical.
Kaihalulu Beach at Hana Bay on Maui is one of a handful of red sand beaches on the planet. The beach can be accessed only through a cliff-side trail, but the views are worth it for those who are up for a little expedition. Black sand beaches are found on Big Island’s Punalu’u Beach and Maui’s Wainapanapa Beach. Created from black lava rock that is pulverized into jet black sand, these hauntingly gorgeous beaches are havens for sea turtles (honu) and visitors alike. Awahua Beach and Halawa on Molokai also boast black and white sand beaches.
There are only four green sand beaches in the world – one of them being Papakolea Beach on the Big Island. The green tint is olivine, a common mineral found in lava. Orange sand is found at Papohaku Beach on Molokai.
And last but not least are the beautiful white sand beaches that Hawaii is so famous for. While not technically a color, Kailua Beach on Oahu is one place to find the white dreamy powder.
Visit British Owned Land
US citizens can leave their passports at home when visiting the British owned land thatsurrounds the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. The 27 foot high obelisk marks the spot wear Captain Cook died on February 14, 1779. The monument must be reached by a rugged foot trail, or kayak. Because the property was given to the British government, the British Royal Navy is responsible for maintaining the monument.
Visit Coffee, Vanilla, and Cacao Farms
Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee, vanilla, and cacao. These three exquisitely flavorful crops require the perfect growing conditions, and Hawaii’s humidity, temperature and climate meet that delicate balance. From Kona’s world-renowned coffee, grown only in a tiny area of fertile volcanic soil, to Oahu’s windward coast, (aka the ‘Napa Vally of Chocolate’), to the Hawaiian Vanilla Co. on the Big Island, visitors can see how these tropical treats are produced and distributed – not to mention try some delicious tastings.
There are several factors that make these crops so rare and valuable. For example, the vanilla orchid can only be successfully grown within 20 degrees of the equator. Hawaii makes the cut at 19.5 degrees north. Once the flowers bloom, they do so for only four hours, on only one day of the year! How’s that for temperamental?
Watch the Sunrise and the Sunset Over the Ocean on the Same Day
Regardless of which island you visit, you don’t have to choose between an ocean sunrise orsunset. You can have both in the same day! One memorable location to view the solar inspired beauty is atop Maui’s Haleakala. At almost 10,000 feet above sea level, the two hour drive to the summit is well worth the reward. Early risers will catch a stunning sunrise. Be sure an bring a blanket and grab some hot coffee and malasadas on the way up. It gets chilly with temperatures often in the 40 degree range.
If you’re not a morning person, you can head up to the summit for sunset. The colors are vibrant and breathtaking. Again, it’s recommended to dress warmly, as temperatures plummet when the sun goes down. Plan to stay a bit beyond sunset and watch the sky transform into a romantic starry night.