Surrounded by powerful oceans, lined with black and white sandy beaches, and covered in vibrant green flora, Hawaii is easily labeled paradise. Beyond the known escapes the island has to offer, there remains the untamed. Adventure is provided only to those who are willing to explore overgrown paths, hike hillside trails high above steep valleys, or wade through dark tunnels (natural or manmade) to find it. With a bag full of cameras, rock climbing shoes, bathing suits, and camping gear, I headed out to meet friends and explore my favorite islands in the Pacific. Dive into a few of my favorite hotspots below throughout Maui and on The Big Island.
1. Venus Pools
The ocean fills a small bay with teal blue water. Block cut slate-grey rocks and palm trees surround the bay. This space has a magical element to it, mirrored in its name. Visitors use two tall rock ledges as diving boards, one 15 feet high and the other 25 feet. Immediately, my friend and I strip to our swimsuits, head for the 25-foot cliff and hurl our bodies into the sea, cheered on by several tourists who are lying on the neighboring rocks. A rush that ends quickly with a soft catch from the warm ocean water. Exhilarated by the jump, we quickly climb out and do it again.
Visiting the dormant volcano, Haleakala, meaning “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, calls for a pre-dawn wake up. The ascent to the summit, at 10, 000 feet, was a simple car ride up winding hills. We watched the landscape change from lush to lifeless as we climbed the steep grade. At the summit, a blanket was necessary as the wind was strong and brisk. Standing at the edge, I wasn’t able to close my eyes or so much as a blink as the sun peered over the clouds. The deep, dark red crater was stunningly vast. Clouds rolled over the rocky peaks, unveiling the great volcano slowly. The sun rose above the clouds and warmed the Earth, welcoming us to stay a while.
3. Plenty Kiawe
Shaded by Kiawes (pronounced Ki-a-ve), a thorny tree known for pricking your feet through the soles of your shoes, and bordering the ocean, the perfect rock wall sits with newly acquired bolts. Well-known climber, Jeff Jackson, had recently established rock climbing in Maui, and we had to check it out. Plenty Kiawe spanned nearly 300 feet across with sport routes that reached 50 feet in height. The dark, porous, lava rock of this wall was sticky on the skin, but dull to the touch thanks to time’s smoothing effects. This was perfect rock for climbing. I harnessed into the rope and began to climb, clipping into quick draws as I went. The air was warm as I ascended the rock. From the top of the climb I could hear my heart beating in succession with the sound of the rocks tumbling into shore at nearby Nu’u Bay.
The Big Island
1. The Flume
A hidden and local gem, The Flume was once used to carry sugar cane from the tops of the hills surrounding Waipio Valley. Cement slides and tunnels have been built into the cliff sides, where water runoff would rush the cane downhill. Though it’s no longer used for such work, water still runs into the conduits. About 3 miles from the road, up a private access trail, a section of the channel runs at a 45-degree angle. To get to the top of the slide I had to climb it, using only a rope with knots tied intermittently, with water rushing past my feet. The slide was encased in a thick blanket of ferns on all sides. As I reached the top, behind me was a dark tunnel. In front of me, 30 feet below, was a small rectangular pool. The landing. It took every ounce of courage I had to ride down the steep concrete chute (note-bring shorts!). Unable to wipe the terrified smile from my face, I shot down at incredible speed, falling safely into the deep pool below. Again and again and again.
Located outside of Kona, down an insanely rough 4-wheel drive road, sits the most beautiful beach on the island. Makalawena, otherwise known as “Maks” to the locals, is a white sand beach surrounded by endless lava fields. Maks boasts great surf, fishing and camping. The lack of signage from the highway and the rocky road into this spots deters many tourists, so the beach is left fairly empty. The waves roll into shore with a playfulness that begged me to swim and jump through them endlessly. Kiawe trees line the sand and created shade, perfect for lying under between sets. Rope swings hung from several branches over the water. It was the perfect place to spend several days camping, swimming, and getting in as much surfing and SUPing as I could pack into my trip.
3. Pololu Valley
Just past the towns of Hawi and Kapa’au sits Pololu Valley. Pololu means “long spear” which is quite fitting for the 650 foot deep valley that shoots from the surrounding cliffs into the ocean. A massive black sand beach spans the valley from cliff to cliff. The 1.5-mile hike down is steep and dogged, but worth it. At the base of the valley, pine trees surrounded us, hammocks were strung up, and tents could be seen at the campsites in the distance. The ground was completely covered in a low, vibrant green plant, and sun was pouring through the trees, diffused by the salty air, dreamlike and serene.
Photo Credit: Caydie McCumber | www.caydiemccumber.com