There’s virtually no limit to the adventures you can have on the Big Island of Hawaii. SCUBA, snorkel, watch whales pass in season, take a helicopter flight over the island, or view lava up close from a boat, watching the fiery rivers pop and hiss as they land in the ocean. On the Kohala Coast, many of the resorts offer easy access to some of the island’s most unique activities. For others, well…you’ll need to get a bit more creative.
Kona Village resort offers guests several options for traditional Hawaiian water-sports, including stand-up paddleboarding, through its Alaka’i program. Alaka’i means “ambassadors of the waves” and the staff here really do try to fulfill that role by teaching guests not just about the logistics of each activity, but also about its historical and cultural significance to the islands. The Junior Alaka’i program is geared for kids 10-17 and includes three days of lessons in activities like paddleboarding, windsurfing, free diving, and outrigger canoeing. Guests at the Four Seasons Hualalai can also use the equipment at Kona Village.
Elsewhere on the Big Island, you can rent a board from Hilo’s What Sup Big Island, where daily paddleboard rental is $65, or $75 for a half day with lunch and beginner lesson.
Outrigger canoes, traditional Hawaiian boats, resemble regular canoes that have an added support (called an outrigger) added to one side. These canoes can go quite fast, and are more stable in rough waters than regular canoes. As part of Kona Village’s Alaka’i program, guests can learn to paddle one, and once they have successfully learned to maneuver a six-person outrigger canoe, they are free to use one and two-person canoes on their own for the remainder of their stay.
On the Kohala Coast, the Fairmont Orchid also offers outrigger canoe excursions and Sky Blue Canoe offers lessons and rentals. A 90-minute tour is $65.
It’s practically sacrilege to go to Hawaii and not take a surf lesson. The instructors at Kona Mike’s Surf Adventures are all certified in CPR , First Aid, and professional rescue. Group lessons start at $99 and private lessons are $150 and each lesson includes two hours of in-water instruction.
Hawaii’s Big Island has a surprising number of cattle ranches, all thanks to a few cattle who were gifted to King Kamehameha back at the end of the 18th century. When, a few decades later, those cattle had reproduced and began to be a nuisance, King Kamehameha III recruited some Mexican cowboys, which the locals dubbed “paniolos”, to handle the problem. Today, paniolos still work the ranches, many of which welcome guests for daily horseback rides. Na’ alapa Stables at Kahua Ranch is one of these. Located less than an hour north of Kona, the ranch offers 2.5 hour rides for just under $90. The price is well worth it for the beautiful views down to the ocean from the ranch’s 4000-foot elevation.
Snow skiing…in Hawaii? That’s right. Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano, reaches over 13,000 feet above sea level (and over 30,000 above its base on the floor of the ocean, making it the tallest mountain in the world, technically). The top of the mountain is home to an observatory and is the ideal place to do some serious stargazing all year round. And thanks to the elevation of Mauna Kea, Hawaii actually has snow several months of the year! There’s just one catch to skiing Mauna Kea: there’s no ski resort there. So intrepid adventurers have a friend drive them up the mountain, where they strap on their own skis and snowboards (or just grab a sled…or even a cardboard box) and ski or sled down the mountain. If you want to ski in Mauna Kea, you can sign up with Ski Hawaii, which runs group tours for $250 per person, or rents equipment for as low as $50 per day.