Top 10 Big Island Spots I send Ohana

Hawai’i Simply Natural Sunday’s Blog Post Six: Best Advice For My Family When They Visit Hawai’i Island. June, 2019

Written and Copyright By: E.J. Sanders


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When I have the time, I’ll make lei for my visitors or if I’m cash flush/time short, I might just pick up some fresh lei at :

  • KTA Superstores in Waimea or Waikoloa village

  • Walmart in Hilo or Kailua Kona

  • Hilo and Kailua Kona Airports

Always open the lei box, smell to check freshness. 

When anyone walks into my restaurant wearing a lei, you can bet I’ll say, “Happy Birthday,” or sometimes, “Happy Anniversary,” if a couple is wearing lei. So don’t be shocked when you’re wearing a lei you received as a gift from the ohana you’re visiting, on any Hawaiian island, and random kama’aina offer you felicitations.

You’ll have to visit Hawai’i Island more than once to have a chance to experience all the sites. This post isn’t long enough rather, just a start. Sign up at the end of the page for more lists of spots everybody should check out and secret spots I hardly tell anybody about.



  1. Kiholo Bay State Park: Excellent for the adventurous family members who can walk long distance along the tiny pebbles, black sand shoreline of the massive cove complete with brackish water ponds to jump in, turtles basking in the sunlight (25 foot State law between yourself and the turtles-leave them alone-if one pops up next to you at the beach then let it be, don’t stress it out-could be a mother needing rest on the sand-thank you for telling anyone you see harassing them, to back off please), azure/green-blue waters, the most breathtaking views of Mauna Kea, Kohala, Hualalai and Haleakala in the distance. NO lifeguard anywhere. Porta Potties available. Camping available in the link above. Take lots of fresh water with you, pack a cooler, even take a beach umbrella and some beach chairs for hours of healthy relaxation. I take my SUP there and enjoy a nice core workout paddling around the huge, cove on a calm morning or late afternoon.

    Local tip: The abandoned, round, wooden, house to the left of the cove, near the camping sites was built by Loretta Lynn, the country star. Eventually she sold it to the county and it sits there rotting for everyone to wonder who built it.

Kiholo Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles, dolphins and shells.

Kiholo Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles, dolphins and shells.

Remember, AT YOUR OWN RISK, jump feet first, light as a feather, let your knees bend, and carefully explore with a dive light.

Remember, AT YOUR OWN RISK, jump feet first, light as a feather, let your knees bend, and carefully explore with a dive light.

2.Lapakahi State Park for the best snorkeling. The history is fantastic and the fish aren’t friendly like they are in more well known spots. This is only for good swimmers. Park, walk down to the shoreline. Mind your own business. It’s a coral beach. Watch out for wana(sea urchins) and launch yourself off the coral beach for an unbelievably good snorkel north or south. Stick along the coastline and enjoy that entire cove. Pay attention to the current and don’t get over tired. No lifeguard. I recommend experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers only.


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Mahukona Beach Park, on the north west side, halfway between Kawaihae Harbor and Hawi town, boasts excellent snorkeling earlier in the morning. You’ll be pleased every time. 

Local tip: skip snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, its overrun and the fish are so used to being lured there by tour boats they’ll chase you. Personally, I don’t like being chased by fish and that’s why I suggested off the beaten path options less populated by visitors. However, you can’t go wrong just playing at any beach with a snorkel and mask. Lord knows, I’ve spent hundreds of hours just floating, watching sand move as a child in Hana, Maui.

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Honoka’ope Bay so fresh and sweet.

Honoka’ope Bay so fresh and sweet.

Honoka’ope Bay, located in the Mauna Lani resort circle is easy to find using its colonial name 49 Black Sand beach. The security shack opens at 7am. Early is best for visibility. Also great for SUP or simply sun bathing somewhere with less people. Showers, secure parking, and NO lifeguard.


The water is so clear and fresh. Definitely top five beach on Hawai’i Island., Bangle bracelets are very popular is Hawai’i. I’m wearing a Maui Island charm and a Tahitian pearl on sterling silver. Always know though that sharks are attracted to flashing things like a watch face(that is why divers hide their dive watch under their wet suit sleeve) and they’re looking for food in the early morning. Don’t be scared though, however, I’d just warn anyone to say leave their jewelry at home. Every morning down at Hapuna beach you’ll see the elder guys scanning the whole beach for lost jewelry. They’re often very serious about it and after talking to them over the years, I know they make a good side cash with it. Just leave your valuables at home unless you’re not worried like obviously, I wasn’t in this picture.

The water is so clear and fresh. Definitely top five beach on Hawai’i Island., Bangle bracelets are very popular is Hawai’i. I’m wearing a Maui Island charm and a Tahitian pearl on sterling silver. Always know though that sharks are attracted to flashing things like a watch face(that is why divers hide their dive watch under their wet suit sleeve) and they’re looking for food in the early morning. Don’t be scared though, however, I’d just warn anyone to say leave their jewelry at home. Every morning down at Hapuna beach you’ll see the elder guys scanning the whole beach for lost jewelry. They’re often very serious about it and after talking to them over the years, I know they make a good side cash with it. Just leave your valuables at home unless you’re not worried like obviously, I wasn’t in this picture.

3. Waterfalls: Akaka Falls is gorgeous and a nice way to stretch the legs on the long drive to the main destinations around Hawai’i Island. Tourists pay $5 per vehicle to visit Akaka Falls. Its gorgeous and worth the stop. Plus, the little town called Honomu you pass through on the way to the falls is smaller than Honoka’a and boasts a handful of shops along a cute, little strip. 

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Rainbow Falls is at the bottom of Saddle Road and you don’t have to pay anything. You just roll up, step out and boom, there is the amazing Rainbow Falls. Don’t let rain deter your quick stop to see it gushing when its pouring. But the best result, when the ‘rainbow’ itself appears in the passing mists.

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4. Nice Drives: Between Hawi and Kamuela, the mountain road connecting upcountry Waimea with Hawai’i Island’s most northern point. Its also the other end of the road to Pololu Valley of the glacier mountains which formed the epic valleys along the north-eastern side of Hawai’i. Waipi’o Valley, of course is the southern edge of these glacier made, deep, claw marks of Kohala Mountain. The top road to Hawi is a beautiful drive at any time of day,( sunset is my favorite), stop at the scenic lookout, closer to Waimea, to see the island from that vantage point is relaxing and a great photo opportunity. Porta potties are often available there as well.

Local Tip: Maui is just off to the north east, look for Haleakala popping out of the clouds if you can’t see it’s coastline on a cloudy day. On an extra clear day, we are exalted to spot Kaho’olawe, Moloka’i and even O’ahu.


Quick tip: Remember to pull over for locals to pass you if you’re in the cruise mode then please be courteous to those in more of a rush.

Onomea Bay scenic drive between Akaka Falls and Hilo town is always a nice time. I enjoy the small streams bubbling, right off the road, quintessential photo opportunities and one of the best parts is stopping by the old store with classic, shave ice treat. The iconic, old store is one of a kind and its across from a baseball court. It has plenty of parking, an ocean view, souvenirs, support local and be entertained by the good feeling of that true touch of old Hawai’i its sure to give you. 

Closer to the Hilo side of the drive, you’ll cross an old, wooden bridge, over a stream fed through a natural tunnel. It is so lovely, you’ll likely want to pull over, get out and take a few pictures. 

Personal experience: Walk down to the pool, if it looks clean, swim across, climb out to explore the tunnel. Take a nice little adventure. 

Quick Tip: Remember: Safety First! Never jump into a pond unless you’ve explored it first by swimming around in it, checking for logs floating under the surface, you can’t see just looking down at the water. Don’t be like the guys who dive in, break their necks because they never checked the depth first. True stories of this my whole life. Just had one headliner in Kipahulu, Maui at Ohe’o Gulch last week. One guy jumped off the fifty foot bridge, straight to his death at 10pm at night and he was a ‘local’. Read it here.


5. Swimholes: My favorite swimhole is a special place. I held my baby shower there and my son’s fifth birthday party there. You’ll have to stay tuned and sign up here to find out that special secret spot because I’m not just posting it for everyone to find because its not popular therefor, its quiet. If you’re interested in knowing me better then you’ll sign up and thats where I’ll release my favorite secret spots. Hope to see you there. 

Clue: Its on the old road about halfway down to Hilo.

Clue: Its on the old road about halfway down to Hilo.

Boiling Pots is a good bet for everybody looking to jump into a gorgeous pond. Room for everyone. Multiple levels for novice or experienced jumpers. Fresh water and deep enough when it isn’t flooding. Obviously, don’t be a jerk and put yourself at danger swimming when it’s flooding. Only swim when the water is calm, clean and you’ve checked the depth first like we talked about earlier  in this post. Please be careful. With that being said, have a blast. Most likely, you won’t be alone so be friendly, laugh and communicate with the locals or other visitors about the depth or any dangers spotted so everyone can be safe together. Never jump on top of someone else. Always look before you jump is an all time rule right. Feet first and make as big of a splash as you can. 

Local tip: Its called ‘bombing’ when you make a big splash. My favorite technique is grab one knee up to my chest, the other leg pointed and when I hit the water I push my upper body back against the surface as I plunge down it also helps me break my fall to not go so deep. I personally, don’t like feeling the bottom of any water body, even sandy bottoms I tend to float because you never know what kind fish is under the sand. When I bomb that way I always get good results. Especially though in the salt water like off a cliff such as down South Point, my bomb would be so big splash everybody. Nah, just joking it’s the big boys and girls who’s splash is the biggest.



6. Laupahoehoe Point is an essential spot to visit for anyone returning or new to Hawai’i Island. Rich in beauty and history, you can also jump off the boat ramp into the ocean, bomb, walk right out the ramp(careful its slippery but 100% possible) and rinse in the fresh water showers. Great place to BBQ(bring your own supplies of course), pits available for everyone’s use, can fish off the rocks or dock, play volleyball if you bring your own ball there is a sandy court, pavilions, several restrooms and lots of room for parking. Also, campsites are available from the State follow the link above.

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Local Tip: Take an unforgettable, meandering, walk up to the Laupahoehoe Train Museum and be blown away by the breezey, raw, unforgettable beauty of the north east side of Hawai’i Island coastline. You can’t go wrong.


7.Day Hikes: Waipi’o Valley refer to this blog post here.



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Pololu Valley, a mini Waipi’o, mentioned earlier is a lot easier than Waipi’o Valley despite it being a muddy trail in the rain compared to Waipi’o’s paved road. Pololu Valley is often windy along the beach. Not a beach for swimming laps. No lifeguard on duty. No cell phone reception or at best one bar for maybe a text to send therefor, be careful not to get hurt. Walk down, hang out on the beach, frolic in the waves but don’t get sucked away by the mighty current or undertow. Explore a trail directly across the river which will lead you to view the expansive marshland of the back of this glacier made valley. Several places to picnic but no porta potties of any kind. Carry in trash and carry it out. 

Local tip: Get there earlier in the day or after three for cooler hiking.

There is a hike here that is a little challenging but extremely rewarding for those inclined to work a bit harder for uninterrupted views looking south. You cross the beach to a trail which will lead you up the valley cliff to a lookout loads of people journey to. Its romantic, often private and safe exploration on the island can’t get any better. That lookot is the end of the trail for everyone, even locals. I’d give yourself a minimum of three hours for Pololu Valley.


8. When my ohana wants to get nuts and spend money on tours the following are my favorites.

Manta Ray night swimming is worth the money usually less than $100 per person. Tell them Honoka’a town oldest restaurant Simply Natural sent you and by golly, they might’ve stopped in for some food post Waipi’o surf session once before.  Search online for Kona Manta Ray Night Snorkel and pick whichever one is available. They sell out quick!

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Body Glove Tours Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i

Well worth the money.


Body Glove boat tours are my favorite. This one here has a slide, snorkeling gear, SUP boards, dive gear and, i’m telling you, they serve delicious local prepped food. This tour I prefer here provides breakfast and lunch with an extra fee for the bar alcohol drinks. Music is good, Captain let my son drive the boat on the return trip for his 6th birthday. 

Local Tip: Be friendly rather than nosey. For instance, when we boarded for my son’s birthday, we went directly to the Captain and introduced ourselves. It was easy to mention why we were there because the Captain was honored to be respected. Consequently, without asking, we were rewarded by an extra unforgettable bonus for my son’s birthday memories. The aloha spirit is a two way street. Its a relationship between people, its a genuine back and forth, kind, friendly banter rather than a bottle product anyone is entitled to. Hopefully, I impart this aspect of true Hawaiiana to my visitors when they leave Hawai’i they’ve learned the true spirit of Aloha isn’t a doormat, corporate mentality. Share aloha to receive aloha.

Reminder: General tip for tours is approximately $20 per person so I tipped a fifty dollar bill to the Captain on our way out. Even if my son hadn’t had that extra special opportunity, I still would’ve tipped the same.


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Body Glove Tours Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i

They put out this comfortable floating mat, so relaxing. The lunch is so good too. The masks were clean.

Horseback rides at Waipi’o on Horseback is always worth the money. For one thing, the drive to the stables, located in the back of the valley, crosses several rivers and streams, an adventure in itself, providing everyone time to ask intelligent, thoughtful questions to your local guide. Please don’t waste anyone’s time with silly questions like, “What is the elevation?” Book your tour here, mention you read about them on our website and hear all the stories of growing up together living the wild Hawai’i, valley life. 


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9. Beaches:

NO SMOKING ON ANY BEACHES IS AGAINST STATE LAW- cigarette butts are among the top five , worldwide, ocean polluters. Don’t use non-organic shampoos or body wash of any kind at the beach! Sand belongs on the beach, leave it there by rinsing off good please.

Hapuna State Beach Park 7am, the gate opens. Free parking for rental cars before the shack begins charging rental cars $5 each.

Look for spinner dolphins traveling north to south before 9am.

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Spinner Dolphins

travel north to south every morning playing in the ocean, entertaining those up early enough to enjoy.

BONUS Look for the tips of manta ray wings they resemble sharks fins. Every morning something to look forward to.

Not for snorkeling unless you want to see sand moving with each wave. Multiple showers available. Handicap parking for easy access. BBQ pits, shade, picnic tables. Snack bar and boogie board rentals.

Personal Experience: My son and I stayed last summer at the Hapuna State Cabins and the gap under the door allowed for endless mice to roam in all night long. Once I caught on to the sound of the mice nibbling snacks through the zip lock bags on the table about 9:30pm, while my son and his friend soundly slept on their air mattress for an hour by then. I ended up staying awake all night for the first time in years protecting our cabin from mice. I was calm and inspired under the full moon that night it was so huge. I wrote in my journal the things I wanted to accomplish and I’ve done a good job following through since then, all because of those nasty mice and the gap under the State cabin door. I tell everyone to keep their suits on, wrap a towel around their waste and beach hop for one day to find out which beach they decide they love the best. Each beach has different grade of coarseness to the sand, could be black, red, green, soft white, course speckled sand with all colors, pebble beaches, or simply coral like Lapakahi State Park. Each beach has its own saltiness in it’s coastline due to whether there are fresh water springs coming up around diluting the saltiness it’ll leave to dry on your skin.

For instance, when you swim at Honoka’ope Bay it’ll feel warm and then suddenly four feet away, the water is chilly due to a spring coming up under you. Many bays have underwater fresh springs and those are my favorite. I personally, don’t like salt dried on my skin. I prefer beaches where the County or State installed showers or I plan ahead and bring water from home and rinse off with it before hopping to the next bay. Once you’ve beach hopped all day then you can decide which one you like. 


10. Shopping: Straight to Waikoloa Queen and King Shops for all your shopping needs from boutique to surf shop to souvenirs to made local. 

Remember plastic bags are banned in Hawai’i.

Honoka’a town is a cute little shopping stop for off the beaten path items and souvenirs like this one here available in our Hawai’i Gift Shop or in our shop, downtown Honoka’a’s oldest restaurant hitting 27 years this coming November!! Mahalo for our supporters and even the haters, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you and of course, read January’s Let’s Talk Story post about one of my secret weapons of success DooDoo Dreams here.

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Hilo Bay front has a wide range of shopping with beautiful Hilo Bay Views.

Waimea town and Hawi town also have galleries and souvenirs, made local, surf shops and cute Hawai’i charms.

Email me with your criticisms or concerns.