Hawaii – Beyond the Beaches

I recently spent 8 days in Hawaii, on ‘The Big Island’. I’ve been to Maui and Oahu many times before, but this was my first time to this Hawaiian island. As I like to do when traveling, I uncovered some super cool activities to do, that beat laying on the beach every day. (I can handle a day or two of complete relaxation, but then my pseudo-ADD kicks in and I MUST. DO. SOMETHING. 🙂

I’ve summarized the highlights of my trip below, hopefully this inspires you to try something new on your next tropical vacation!

First off, the flight to Hawaii is LONG. Like almost going to Europe long, so be prepared! I wrote a blog post for Sunwarrior on ‘Healthy Travel Hacks’, that you can check out if interested, it really makes a difference on flights longer than a couple of hours.

We landed in Hawaii around 4pm, so once we got our rental car and made it to the hotel, it was about 6pm. Perfect timing to grab dinner, drinks, and adapt to the time change to prevent any jet lag.

We stayed at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa… we were there on business, so we had no choice in choosing the hotel, but it was a nice hotel in a good location, with awesome sunset views overlooking the ocean!

Hawaii sunset

The restaurant in the hotel, Rays on the Bay, had fabulous food and was our favorite place to watch the sun set.

Rays on the Bay

Also, anywhere to sit and look out over the ocean is a great place to meditate! Luckily there was a spot just outside our hotel room, that I could start most days off mindfully. It was pretty easy to focus on gratitude with the sight and sound of the powerful ocean waves in front of me!

Hawaii meditation

The island is full of cool spots to see, like a black sand beach, where the sand really is an inky black.. I had fun exploring the coastline

Hawaii black sand

During the trip, we did some really cool activities… I highly recommend trying at least one of these on your trip:

Volcano Park in Hawaii

volcano park

This was about a 90 minute drive from our hotel, mostly along the coastline so it was really enjoyable.

It was really interesting to see an active volcano so close, especially with my background in geology and geophysics… seeing the stuff that I’d studied for so many years was way cool!

Hawaii volcano park

Then we did a little hike through the rainforest, to see the lava tubes. This is one of the most lush rainforests that I’ve ever seen!

Hawaii rainforest

It was raining on and off that day, so it was nice to be in the cover of the trees, and then underground in the lava tube, which reminded me of a big cave that would make a fabulous wine cellar! 😉 

Hawaii lava tube

Helicopter Tour in Hawaii

Hawaii helicopter

Ok – this was AMAZING!! We drove to Hilo, through a horrendous rain storm, the drive took about 2 hours but it was worth it for this incredible helicopter tour – do it with the doors off if you have the option. We chose the Volcanos and Falls tour, and did it ever deliver!


We took Paradise Helicopters, and our pilot used to fly for the air force… he was so skilled at handling the craft that we were able to get so close to the lava that we could almost feel the heat!

Our pilot took us over an active crater – see the orange glow of the magma inside the earth? Once of the coolest things I have done – ever!

hawaii volcano tour

We also saw ‘windows into the earth’ … active lava tubes where we could see right into the bright glow of the magma inside the earth. I was speechless at this point.

hawaii magma

And then seeing a real lava flow – during the day it is silver in color, we could see the orange glow around the edges but the photos didn’t really do this justice.

hawaii lava

With the unsettled weather, we even saw a spectacular rainbow over the Hawaiian coastline.

hawaii rainbow

Great tour – smiles – and lots of unforgettable memories!

Zip lining in Hawaii

hawaii ziplining

What tropical vacation is complete without flying through the air, above waterfalls, in a harness? Lol… another trip to Hilo, this time for a completely different kind of adventure!

hawaii zip

Clipping on to the wire and then jumping off the platform to soar over waterfalls and lush rainforest – was incredible!

hawaii waterfall

Swimming with Wild Dolphins in Hawaii

hawaii dolphins

At first I was hesitant about this tour, as I don’t like the idea of dolphins in captivity – but this tour actually involved taking a boat and finding the dolphins in the ocean – and then swimming with them! The tour company we chose, is led by a biologist who studies the patterns of dolphins and their first motto is to keep them safe and not disrupt their natural patterns.

So off we went on our kodiak – a big inner tube boat that can go FAST – as in, hold on to the ropes so you don’t fall in!

hawaii boat

We found the dolphins – hundreds of them, and even seeing them from the boat was spectacular!

wild dolphin

Then it was time to jump in… jump in to the ocean when there are fins swimming all around the boat – this part was a little intense to say the least! Can you see the fin in the water right ahead of me?

dolphin swim

Once I got over the initial shock of huge animals with fins swimming around me (I could almost touch them!)… then it got really cool.

I even attempted an underwater selfie with the dolphins !

scuba selfie

I found one of the best discoveries in awhile.. a magnetic bag to keep my iPhone waterproof for up to 100 feet. It worked perfectly, allowing me to take lots of fun photos and video of the dolphins! 



After our adventures in the water, the crew had a yummy tropical fruit platter waiting for us to snack on – we’d worked up an appetite swimming with dolphins!

hawaii fruit

Other fun activities in Hawaii


Watching the sunset was more magical every day!

hawaii sunset

Kayaking – it’s a little different in the ocean, especially when we realized how far from land we were! Great shoulder and ab workout though!

hawaii kayak


Grabbing a pina colada at the Four Seasons beach bar… truly paradise!

hawaii four seasons


Making new friends – somehow Canadians always seem to find each other (maybe because we’re known for our friendliness?!)

hawaii canadians

Going for a run overlooking the ocean – running at sea level makes it much easier because of the higher oxygen content in the air – geeky fact of the day 🙂

hawaii run


Working – the fact that I can write while I’m in a bikini overlooking the ocean – one of my favorite parts of all about our trip to Hawaii 😉

hawaii work

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