It’s all too easy to pigeonhole a destination when you haven’t experienced it. To lose sight of the nuance that makes somewhere unique. Tayla has six experiences on Hawaiʻi Island that’ll crack your clichés wide open.

It’s one thing to be told ‘Hawaiʻi Island has a heap of outdoor adventures’ and another thing to truly comprehend the bounty of stoke and aloha that this volcanic island offers up.

With a national park that’s bigger than the whole island of Oʻahu; a total landmass that’s over 60% of the entire Hawaiʻi archipelago; and four out of five of Koppen-Geiger’s climate zones, this place is a bonafide bevy of natural wonders.

Matt Horspool, tayla gentle, hawaii

Sure, you can have your mai tai on an exquisite tropical beach. But why not go exploring before said mai tai? That mai tai will only taste more ʻono (delicious) after a day spent cruising ʻGrander Alley’ looking for mega marlin, or post epic hike-venture across ancient lava deserts, or following an arvo on an outrigger canoe with your new local mates.

Hawaiʻi Island’s gorgeous wilds are protected by the traditional principle of mālama (to protect, take care of). So if you’re looking for a real deal adventure, sans crowds, here’s everywhere you need to go on Hawaiʻi Island to fill your stoke cup.

Venture into Volcano Territory

Lava lakes, lava tubes, lava viewings! Oh my! The Hawaiian islands were built by volcanic activity over the millennia, so the opportunity to see a volcanic landscape in action (or in ‘real time’) is bucket list stuff. And there’s no better place than Hawaiʻi Island, which is home to Maunaloa and Kīlauea, two incredibly active shield volcanoes.

While you can’t get too close to Kīlauea (she’s on high eruption alert), the rest of the island is up for adventuring. If you’re fortunate enough to be at Kīlauea Volcano when there’s an active eruption at Halemaʻumaʻu crater, then nighttime viewing of the lava lake is a must-do. If not, there’s so much more to discover in this UNESCO World Heritage site.

If there is an eruption you’ve got a couple of viewing options: either from the Kilauea Overlook or the Steaming Bluff Overlook, both of which are on the Crater Rim Drive and offer world-class views to red lava glowing beneath a full Milky Way. (Kailani Tours are the best option for a guided trip).

If you’re more into lava history and/or geology, a trip to Nāhuku (meaning ‘the protuberances’) lava tube is an eye-opener. A lava tube is basically when lava flow travels underground, into the earth, creating a cavernous wormhole. This one is over 600-feet long, 500 years old and begins in lush rainforest. 

Day 7 - Volcanoes NP, lave tube, Matt Horspool, tayla gentle, hawaii

Tackle the Kīlauea Iki hike

If you’ve ever fancied walking on the moon, the Kīlauea Iki trail is probably the closest earth offers to a moon landing. Why? Because the majority of this day hike is across a solidified lava lake (from an eruption in 1959) on the floor of the Kīlauea Iki volcano crater. No big deal, right? 

The beauty of this hike is you can tweak it to work for you. Looking for a shorty but a goodie? Tackle the trail from the Kīlauea Iki Overlook for a cruisy 5.3km loop. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, kick off from the Devastation Trailhead and explore 9.7km of changing landscape – from teeming rainforest and craggy ʻōhiʻa lehua trees (the first plant life to grow on new lava formations) to the expanse of steaming crater vents.

Day 7 - Volcanoes NP, Matt Horspool, tayla gentle, hawaii lava plain

This is a satisfying, otherworldly venture into volcanic terrain. Hit up Kailani Tours for guided Kīlauea Iki experiences of all kinds.

Chopper Over Valleys and Craters

We don’t often recommend heli tours, but if you’re ever going to jump in a chopper – make it over Hawaiʻi Island. And also make sure you join a crew (like Paradise Helicopters) who are carbon-neutral and encourage all travellers to ‘green their seats’ through tree-planting and carbon offsetting programs. Good things! Green things! 

There are a heap of pockets of Hawaiʻi Island that are no longer, or at least not easily, accessible. Like overgrown volcanic valleys and dramatic cliff faces that fall into churning seas. You can’t hike through these landscapes and you definitely can’t drive – but a helicopter can give you breathtaking aerial insight.

In fact, a good pilot can even weave you through some of those volcanic valleys to see pristine waterfalls that seemingly fall from the sky. 


Day 4 - Heli Ride + Canoe House, coastline, Matt Horspool, tayla gentle, hawaii


You’ll also be able to see Maunakea (white mountain), referencing the snow often seen on its summit. The mountain is also referred to as Mauna-a-Wākea. Wākea is the sky father who, with earth mother Papahānaumoku connect Native Hawaiians to their past and future. Maunakea is a wahi pana (storied/legendary place) and should be respected as such. Geologically, while it’s been 4,000 years since Maunakea last erupted, scientists aren’t ruling out another eruption in the future.

Drop a Line for Deep Sea Fishing

Welcome to the Kona Coast, the absolute mecca for deep sea fishing on Hawaiʻi. Thanks to a mega ocean drop off just off-shore, Hawaiʻi Island’s ‘Grander Alley’ attracts all sorts of big game fish.

So if you’re looking to pit yourself against a monster marlin (in keeping with all sustainable fishing legislation, of course), this is the place. 

But it’s more than the fish – a day on a Hawaiian charter, like the Sundowner, is a lesson in reading the sea. ‘Fishing never ceases to teach me,’ says Sundowner crew mate, Tevin. ‘One marlin never acts the same as another marlin. It’s why we’re always looking for porpoises, because porpoises are a marker for big fish. They’re just up there schooling up the bait.’ 

Fishing charters leave bright and early out of Honokōhau Harbour, just near Kona Airport. BYO spam musubi if you’re feeling peckish. If you’re a serious angler, a day on the Kona Coast is worthy of the bucket list.

If you’re more of a relaxed fisherman/woman, it’s enough to spend a glorious day on deck watching pods of porpoises play in the waves. And maybe reel in a cheeky mahimahi for dinner. 

Brave the Backcountry Keauhou Trail

Craving a more challenging hiking experience? Hawaiʻi Island’s backcountry trails have got you sorted. A doozy of a two-day trip is the Keauhou trail, located in the wildest part of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

Journeying through coastal wilderness, this trail will take you through volcanic fog, coastal slopes, raw lava fields, and scrubby woodland. You’ll be exposed, you’ll be in the elements, you’ll be out there having a rad time. 

Safety tip: Use the buddy system! It’s not recommended to hike in these backcountry areas alone. Solo travel is only recommended for experienced adventurers (and you should still let people know your plans).

The Keauhou trail descends from Mau Loa o Maunaulu Trailhead by nearly 3,000 feet until you end up at Halapē Beach. The ocean is rough and unpredictable here, so swimming is generally not recommended. If you do find a protected cove to dip your toes into, keep an eye out for sea turtles! 

As with all backcountry adventures, check all local and state alerts, make sure you’ve got the right permits (you’ll need one to overnight at the Keauhou camp) and explore safely! 

Paddle Out on a Traditional Canoe

Known locally as wa`a (pronounced vah-ah), outrigger sailing canoes hold a super special place in the hearts of Hawaiian people – as both a cultural practice and a means to navigate the ocean.

A style of celestial navigation just like their ancestors have done since 200 AD when the first Hawaiians followed the migratory bird patterns to the islands. 

Today, outrigger canoeing, ocean navigation and canoe building are in a state of cultural revival, with more and more young Hawaiians jumping on board.

While you’re never going to master the art of the outrigger canoe on your trip to Hawaiʻi Island, going out for a day is worth it.

Day 9 - Mantas, canoe, outrigger, Matt Horspool, tayla gentle, hawaii

Whether you’re snorkelling off the coast with Captain Koka and his Hawaiian Sails family or swimming with manta rays with Anelakai Adventures, you’re never going to regret an outrigger adventure. 

In fact, you’re never going to regret any of these adventures. Full stop. The beauty of Hawaiʻi Island is there’s an outdoor experience to suit every explorer – from the hardest of hardcore hikers to the nature photography fiends. If you’re looking for stoke and good vibes, this is the place.


Want more aloha? There’s more Hawaiʻi to experience, go now.


Photography by Matt Horspool Photography