Pali Hale – Day Trips Suggestions

Aloha! Below are some ideas for some easy “day trip” activities you can do from Pali Hale. Drive times and estimated stay times for stops are noted. These are our favorite “Day Itineraries” and where we will usually bring friends and family visiting the Big Island. Please visit with respect and Aloha.

Suggested Area Day Activities (drive times are from Pali Hale)

Volcano National Park – 30-45min drive (full day or two/three days – plan 4-8hrs per visit – your park ticket is good for 7 days and free entry ater 7:30pm)

  • Visit Volcanos National Park during day – Spend time at the visitors center learning about Kilauea and planning your day (Don’t miss!)
  • Walk the Steam Vents and Sulphur Banks along the north rim of Kilauea. You can reach the Steam Vents via the Crater Rim trail starting from the Visitors Center or the Volcano House, or drive to and park at Steam Vents. The Sulphur Banks trail starts across the road from the Steam Vents and ends back at the Visitors center. (Don’t miss!)
  • Hike the Halema’uma’u Trail descending thru the rainforest down to the Kilauea crater floor. 1.8m round trip, descends 450ft. (If you’re able and up to it, Don’t miss)
  • View the Halema’uma’u Crater in Kilauea Caldera from most vantage points around the Kilauea rim.
  • Walk thru Thurston Lava Tube. (Don’t miss!)
  • Hike the Kilauea Iki Trail if you’re up for a moderately steep but very tropical hike down into the Kilauea Iki crater and back up.
  • Walk the Devastation Trail loop trail and view the Kilauea crater from the south rim vantage point (a favorite vantage point!) and see the Keanakakoi Crater along the way
  • Hike the Manu Ulu Shield Cone / Pu’u Hulahula loop and see the amazing landscape created by the 1969-1974 Mauna Ulu Flow. 2 mi round trip walk with a 1/4mi hike up the Pu’u Hula-hula cinder cone, if you aren’t able to walk/hike to and up Pu’u Hulahula you can just view the incredible 1969 fissure and Tephra Field just to the right of the trailhead a short walk from the parking area (Don’t miss!)
  • Drive the Chain of Craters Road and stop and visit all the incredible past eruption vents & craters (Don’t miss!)
  • Walk out to the ancient Hawaiian Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, off the Chain of Craters Road an easy 1.5mi round trip walk.
  • View the Holei Sea Arch at the end of the Chain of Craters Road
  • Stay till dark (or return in evening) to view the Halemauma’u Lava Lake and active eruption. Viewing conditions change daily, but as of December 2021 the eruption continues and is spectacular to view at night. There are currently several vantage points around the Kilauea Caldera to see the eruption directly. The best vantage point currently (as of Dec 2021) is Keanakako’i Overlook. Bring cameras and binoculars. We recommend to park at the Devastation Trail Head Parking lot, head past the restrooms and walk out to the Keanakako’i Overlook. It’s about a mile walk to the overlook from the parking lot. Map (Don’t Miss, maybe one of the coolest things to see on the planet!) The park has also created a great new website for the eruption with viewing tips and maps.
  • Lunch or Dinner at Volcano House Rim Restaurant. Halema’uma’u Kilauea Caldera view during the daylight hours. Reservations at least several days in advance are usually required for Rim Restaurant. Request a view table. If seating or reservation at Rim Restaurant is unavailable try Uncle Georges also in the Volcano house, casual bar/restaurant with same view as Rim.
  • Wine Tasting at Volcano Winery – 35 Piimauna Dr, Volcano, HI 96785 – Fantastic Hawaii inspired wines and fruit wines, many blended with local Jaboticaba Berries. Tell them Mike and Bo from Pali Hale sent you. 
  • On your way or back, make a stop at Koana Coffee for specialty coffees and chocolate – voted by Food & Wine Magazine, 2022 best coffee shop in the state of Hawaii. Koana is half way between Pali Hale and Volcanoes National Park – 18-1325 Old Volcano Road, Mountain View, Hawaii 96771 – Open till 2:30pm M-SA (808) 209-4432

Kau Beaches – 1hr-1.25hr drive (half to full day)

  • Punaluu Black sand beach – most popular black sand beach in Hawaii. Often turtles nest/crawl onto the beach. Super easy to get to, just park and walk onto the beach. You can bring snorkeling gear and swim here. (1hr-2hrs)
  • Papakōlea Green sand beach – one of only two green sand beaches in the world. Warning: it is remote and a bit of a trek to get to. Usually there are trucks at the parking lot that will take you on a very bumpy ride in the back of a pickup to the beach for $20. Else it’s 45 minute 2mi walk/hike to green sand beach from end of road/parking lot along the coast line to the Papakōlea bay (we usually walk it). If you walk/hike go early in the day, you don’t want to be walking back from the green sand beach in the dark. Bring plenty of water, and flash lights if you go in the afternoon (just in case the sun goes down on your walk back).
  • Lunch or Dinner at Hana Hou Restaurant – No frills restaurant with great Hawaiian style food. 95-1148 Naalehu Spur Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772
  • Depending on the time of day, you could continue another 58 miles (90min) to Captain Cook and South Kona Coffee Coast from Kau for a full day trip. If going to Captain Cook, we recommend Greenwell Farms Free Coffee Plantation Tour and Kona Joes Coffee Farm and Tasting (the best Kona coffee and incredible views). I often take the long south route to Kona just to stop at Kona Joes and get a cup of their amazing trellis grown Kona coffee 🙂

The 2018 Lower Puna Eruption

In 2018 after almost 25 years of predictable continual eruption at Kilauea’s Halemaumau lava lake at the summit and Pu’u’o’o vent to it’s south where lava crept across the land and into the ocean for decades – Kilauea erupted along it’s south east rift 30 miles east of the summit under the residential area of Leilani Estates.

The eruption was about 11 miles south of Pali Hale, and 2 miles south of Pahoa. Although we could see the lava fountains in the distance from the Lanai and the glow lit up the sky for months, Pali Hale is not in the Kilauea rift or lava flow zone, we’re in the northern most corner of the Kilauea zone, which is a 700 to 1000 year flow zone, the last flow occurred here 400 years ago, from which the beautiful cliffs were formed and our immediate rainforest has since reforested into the beautiful rainforest we enjoy today. 

The 2018 eruption was unprecedented in modern times and lasted from May until August and destroyed and covered hundreds of homes, rainforest, and ecological features in lower puna, including the entire village of Kapoho, the Kapoho tidepools, the Ahalanui Hotpods, and the Pohoiki boat ramp and bay. These features no longer exist, they are now memories under 60ft to 80ft of hardened lava or black rock and sand as is the case in Pohoiki.

The 2018 eruption emerged along Kilauea’s long eastern rift, and drained the lava reservoirs from under the summit, and Pu’u’o’o vents, ceasing any visible active or flowing lava for more than two years.  Due to the 2018 eruption, we’ve updated our Puna Area tour, omitting covered areas such as Kapoho and Ahalanui, but we added new stops you can drive over, and see the massive scale and impact of the 2018 lava up close. See and touch the 2018 flows including the much talked about newly formed “black sand beach” coast line at Pohoki.  We lost some treasured places, but Pele also built new land and features to see and experience. 

After the 2018 eruption ceased in August, Kilauea remained quiet, with no activity or lava from August 2018 until December 20th 2020 when Kilauea Erupted at the summit just before Christmas, and the Halemaumau Lava lake has refilled with molten lava, and the glow is visible from the all around the summit caldera. The best views are from the Kilauea Overlook. Best to view the glow at night after dark, and dress warmly. If the lava lake continues to rise, the lava will soon become directly visible from the crater rim) I’ve also included some USGS maps of the 2018 lava flows in the Puna Tour in Printed House Guides so that you can see where they flowed, as well as how high they were. They were massive. Please enjoy Puna and viewing this historic 2018 flow up close with respect and Aloha, in addition to visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and all Kilauea has to offer inside the Park.

Lower Puna Tour – 15min drive to first stop (see Puna Area Tour Guide in the Printed guide for details) (Half day)

  • Pahoa Village – 9mi (15min) – food/drink
  • Lava Tree Monument – 4mi (8min)  –  short .7mi paved walk (30min)
  • Leave Lava Tree and continue on for a few hundred feet to the intersection. In front of you is where the 2018 Lava Flow created a 30 ft high Lava River which cut off Hwy 132. Turn left here onto the reconstructed Hwy 132 and drive on top of the lava river all the way to Green Mountain. This was all dense lush rainforest before the 2018 eruption. Take a look at the lava river during the eruption which you are now driving onto. 
  • Drive over new Hwy 132 section over 2018 lava flow to Green Mountain. Turn left out of Lava Tree Park, and turn left at the intersection, you will start to drive up onto the 2018 flow over the newly constructed Hwy 132. As you drive up and onto Hwy 132 look to the right and back, you can see the Fissures of the 2018 eruption and the hardened massive lava river that flowed 24/7 for months in 2018. The new 132 road will end at Green Mountain. Green Mountain used to have a lake inside prior to 2018, but is now filled with hardened lava. Just around and in front of Green Mountain is where Kapoho Village, Kapoho Bay and Tidepools, and Vacationland existed before the 2018 eruption over ran the village and bay. Beyond Kapoho is where Ahalanui (Hotponds) park existed, which was also overrun. Kapoho and Ahalanui no longer exist and are buried under 30-60ft of hardened lava.  Just beyond Ahalanui is Issac Hale/Pohoiki Beach Park, which you can visit from the Red Road coming from Hwy 137 from other direction later in our tour.
  • 2018 Fissure 8 – end of Leilani Ave in Leilani Estates – turn left on hwy 130 go to end of road. Please respect residents and signs. View the fissure only from the road behind the barrier, and do walk onto any property or the hardened lava field. Leilani Ave is a private road and it is a private neighborhood. Take a look at Fissure 8 during the eruption
  • Leave Leilani Estates and continue down Hwy 130, notice the metal plates patched over the road where it separated, you are driving directly over the 2018 Rift. Notice the Lava Steam – (Look only, please DON’T STOP) 
  • Uncle Roberts Market 12mi (18min) from Lava Tree – food/drink
  • The Red Road – Starts at Kalapana on Hwy 137 – scenic drive (30min to 2hrs)
  • Secret Stop – 5.6mi (11min) from Uncle Roberts – beautiful stop just before Nalu Pl
  • Makenzie Park – 3.4mi (6min) Last point on Red Road before 2018 lava crossings
  • 2018 new Lava crossings
  • 2018 Eruption Fissures view from distance when driving over the new lava crossings
  • 2018 Lava Flow crosses road (largest flow, covered Kapoho Village and Tidepools)
  • Pohoiki Beach Park – 2.2mi (6min) – new black sand beach created from 2018 lava
  • Uncle Roberts Market – food/bar/smoothies during day – Wed Evenings free live entertainment, many food, art and craft vendors, etc

Hawaiian Paradise Park – Places to Walk/Hike in our neighborhood from Pali Hale

Puna Trail Hike to Haena Beach / Shipman’s (3.5mi or 2.5mi walk/hike) 

    • Haena (aka Shipman’s) is a secluded sandy tropical beach about 3.5miles from Pali Hale and the coastline hike is one of the Big Island’s best kept secrets. You can walk/hike there by heading north (left) 3.5miles along the epic lava cliff coastline directly from the Pali Hale all the way to Haena Beach. Or you can drive and park at the rainforest Puna Trail trailhead, and walk/hike the Puna Trail from the trailhead parking lot at the north end of beach road about 2.5 miles to Haena Beach.
    • You may see green turtles and monk seals sunbathing on the sand or in water

Maku’u Point (60min walk/hike)

    • A beautiful point and tide pools – a 2 mile walk from the house, on the south end of Ala Heiau Rd in Hawaiian Paradise Park.  If you look out at the bay from the house, looking the right, Maku’u Point will be just past the last houses you can see along the shore line across the south side of the bay.  Locals like to relax here, fish here, and wade here when the water is safe. Don’t go in the water if there is a swell or waves, and be careful on the rocks if there is any large wave action. Always keep an eye out for rogue waves.
    • From the house you can walk along the coastline to Maku’u Point, or you can walk or drive down Beach Road, left on Maku’u, and right on Ala Heiau Rd, and Maku’u Point is just 250ft past the end of the road. You will usually see some people fishing off the rocks or relaxing near the tide pools.

North Hilo/Waterfalls – 30min drive to first stop  (half to full day)

  • Rainbow Falls at Waikulu State Park / and Pe’epe’e Falls near by (30min)
  • Lava Tube Caves at Kaumana State Park – Bring flashlight and Shoes (30min)
  • Scenic Drive – Old Mamalahoa Hwy turn right at Papaikou (15-20min)
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens (also access Onomea Bay Trail at end of Botanical Garden walk) (90min-2hr) $15 adults/ $5 children, under 6 Free
  • Onomea Bay Trail (you don’t need to hike down the Onomea Bay Trail from the road if you visit Botanical Gardens) (30min)
  • For some refreshments after Botanical Gardens/Onomea Bay Trail – What’s Shakin’ at 27-999 Mamalahoa Hwy for Smoothies and Low Deli at 28-1097 Old Mamalahoa Hwy for Hawaiian local dishes, burgers, excellent Shave Ice, and more
  • Akaka Falls – the most famous falls in Hawaii. (1hr)

Hilo/Hilo Beaches – 30min drive to first stop  (half to full day)

  • Liliuokalani Park and Gardens & Coconut Island – 30-acre park with Edo-style gardens, koi ponds & a Japanese teahouse. Walk the bridge over to Coconut Island with some nice wading ponds. (1-2hrs)
  • Carlsmith Beach Park (1-2hrs) swimming, snorkeling, green turtles  (alternative to Kapoho Tidepools)
  • Richardson Beach (1hr-2hrs) swimming, snorkeling, green turtles
  • Hilo Farmers Market – food, crafts, clothes, Hawaiian souvenirs

Waipi’o Valley – North – 90min drive  (half to full day)

  • Waipiʻo Valley – epic views, trail hiking, horseback riding, tours, black sand beach
  • You can hike down or hire a tour. Only 4×4’s can get down into the valley, and it’s very steep. Some car rentals companies do not allow it.

Waimea – Northwest – 100min drive  (full day)

Kona – West Side of Island – 90min to 2hr drive (one or two full days)

For the Little Ones

  • Panewa Rainforest Zoo – a small but really nice zoo built in the rainforest. Close to Pali Hale. Free Admission. You can get to the Panewa Zoo on the left side (mountain side) of hwy 11, headed toward Hilo after turning onto hwy 11 from 130.
  • Mauna Loa Macadamian Nut Farm and Factory – The world famous Mauna Loa macadamian nuts are all grown in groves close by, just north of Pali Hale, on the other side of the Shipman estate. The Shipman estate sits between Hawaiian Paradise Park (our neighborhood) and the Mauna Loa Macadamian Nut farm. You can get to the Macadamian Nut factory on the right (ocean side) of hwy 11, headed toward Hilo after turning onto hwy 11 from 130.

Off the beaten path – for the adventurous:

Mermaid Ponds