Toward the end of our time on the Big Island, we went on an outing with Hawaii Forest & Trail. The company is one of the biggest adventure operators on the isle and offers a number of different excursions—from volcano treks to coffee plantation tours. But we had another focus entirely: waterfalls.
It’s funny that much of the island is volcanic rock, then you arrive on the far northern coast and BOOM! Lush rainforest, gushing waterfalls. Another interesting thing to note about the Big Island is that it has 20 of the world’s 22 climates (only lacking desert and Arctic), so while where we were staying on the Kohala Coast never rains—one resident said, “it might rain two days a year here…if that”—obviously, this isn’t the case in the north, where the waterfalls flow freely.
But first: We had to get there.
The company picked up all 12 passengers at our various resorts, then transported us to the small town of Hawi. From there, we boarded our new mode of transport: a 6WD Pinzgauer. (Don’t worry, I had never heard of such a contraption either until I went in one. SVV probably had, but then again, he’s a geek when it comes to dude stuff like cars, planes, space and Pinzgauers.)
Here’s where I made a huge mistake and decided to be the last one to board. (I’m severely claustrophobic and try to be as close to an escape route as I can get, always.) Well, the back of the bus had no handrails to hold onto, so I was bouncing around freely—just one seatbelt strap containing me from flying out the open window—as we made our way through fields and sugar cane roads to the departure point of our hike. I’m glad I took Bonine before we left: Bouncy rides are so much more fun when you’re not the one vomiting out the back! (As was the case on our recent whale-watching excursion out of San Francisco.)
We walked through fields of taro and sweet potatoes (my favorite), along rivers and ravines. One of our fellow trekkers was even a fellow Vol fan—from Australia, at that! Anyone sporting Big Orange is someone with whom I’d like to be stuck in a rainforest.
We hiked a total of two miles round trip (in a three-hour period). And hike was an overstatement. It was more like “a leisurely stroll through the forest with a few sloping inclines.”
There were bridges to cross over—including a suspension one (who doesn’t love suspension bridges? other than my acrophobic mother, of course)—and we visited six waterfalls throughout the trek.
Two of them we could swim under. One of them we could jump off.
Er, not that one. Though I would have tried if they’d let me!
Rather…this one! When our guide paused and said “it’s swim time!” SVV and I were the first ones to strip down to our skivvies and launch ourselves off of the ledge and into the water. Eventually, one other man joined us, but the rest of our group members were wimps. It was cold, but then again, it’s not every day you get to swim in waterfalls in Hawaii.
By the second swim stop, however, my teeth were chattering, so SVV manned up and went in solo.
(I posed for photos instead.) But the most scenic part of our day was yet to come.
We arrived back at the Bouncemobile after roughly three hours “in the wild,” climbed in and bounced back to the main highway. We bounced over through a gate onto private property. We bounced through fields of wild…donkeys. (Did I mention our ride was bouncy?) And then we stopped—just at the right moment, too, as we’d reached a cliff.
Hawaii Forest & Trail has exclusive use to this plot of land and takes some of its tour groups here for a post-hike picnic. Not shabby, right? REI actually shot the cover of a recent catalog in this very spot! I can’t help but think it reminds me of the dramatic South African coastline.
Can you think of a better setting for a spot of lunch?