Must-do activities "Only" in Big Island, Hawaii

There are a ton of activities that you can do in the Big Island of Hawaii, but there are a couple of them that you cannot do anywhere else in the US of A. Which is why we recommend them as must-do activities while you are there.

1) Lava viewing: 

I never imagined I would get a chance to see new Earth being created right in front of my eyes. It is a sight that is difficult to describe. It is as raw and pure a vision of Earth that you could ever get. And it is overwhelming. 

Imagine this. You are standing on fresh Earth created a few days ago. It is dark, crisp and brittle. As if it got baked for too long, unchecked. And all of a sudden, a few feet from where you are standing, the surface cracks open, and red hot lava begins to flow. It is a thick viscous liquid that begins to solidify almost instantly, forming new Earth just like that. You are blissfully unaware of all the action that occurred below the surface but you witness the spectacle in awe. It feels like a mom giving birth to a baby. Perhaps, that is why we refer to it as Mother Earth. You can hear people squealing around you. But you know not what to say. And then it begins to rain as if to celebrate the occasion. It feels like you are in a sci-fi movie. Except this is for real. You can feel the heat on your face. And the raindrops on your hair.

We carefully walk around. Almost on our toes, not wanting to exert too much pressure on the new Earth, unsure how much it could take before it breaks. Never have I wondered before how much could Earth take before it breaks. May be, we all should. You can see red hot lava underneath, through the cracks, waiting to burst open anytime. You hope it won't be when you are on top of it. Looking at our expert guides from Lavaland and seeing them remain so calm and confident is what kept us going. The $99 per person fee that we paid was totally worth it just for this reason. Anyone can hike or bike to this area on their own as it is open to public, though with caution, but you should know where to go, how to detect the fresh Earth and figure out where not to step. Especially after it gets dark. After much research, we took the 'Hike and Bike tour' of Lavaland Hawaii and we were glad we did at the end of the 4 hour tour. 

We met up with them at the Hawai'i County Lava Viewing Area parking lot in Kalapana at 4:30 pm. We collected our bikes and did the 3-mile bike ride on the gravel road to the viewing area along with a group of people. It was a smooth ride for the most part as we were going slightly downhill and I only realized how much more strength I needed on our way back. We first went to a vantage point where we can see the hot lava meet the cool ocean. It was a meeting of two great forces of Nature and they made a lot of fumes as they collided. You can see more of the fumes in the evening and more of the lava flow during the night from the same spot. We then began our hike to see the surface lava flow and were lucky to spot several of them in the area.

We were that close and it was damn hot!
We spent a couple of hours exploring several surface lava flows and hiked back after it got dark to see the lava meet the ocean once again before we began to bike back. By this time, it was raining real hard and we had to go slightly uphill at times and the bike ride did not seem as easy or fun anymore. We made it, however, fully drenched in water and dirt in about 30-40 minutes (honestly, it felt much longer than that). 

I planned this tour for my husband's birthday but got the tickets only for the day after (as the Lavaland team took a day off on my husband's birthday). Needless to say, if you are in Big Island and there is a lava flow during that season, go for it. It will feel like a miracle unfolding in front of your eyes. May be it is.

2) Manta-Ray Night Snorkeling: 

Well, Travel Channel says "its one of the top ten things to do in your life time." What more can I say? While there is no way to tell if there will be a surface lava flow or not when you visit Big Island, several snorkel and dive tours will give you a manta ray guarantee i.e. if you don't see one during your night tour, you will get to go again. Sounds excellent, right. However, I debated quite a bit whether I should go for this tour or not (while I was 100% sure about the lava viewing tour). I have terrible seasickness (I am guaranteed to throw up if I am in water continuously for more than 10 minutes) and this tour entails staying in deep sea waters for 45 minutes using flotation devices. I decided to give it a try and armed with seabands and dramamine, I just about made the 45 minutes in the sea and am glad we went for it. 

We saw 3 manta rays dancing happily as they ate the plankton which rose to the surface of the ocean, attracted to the light source attached to our float. They are huge, gentle and playful creatures and they came so close that they lightly brushed against us as they moved around. It was fun watching them feed and play in their natural surroundings, though I am not sure they enjoy us being there. 

There are several options for the night manta-ray snorkel tour and Fair Wind cruises seems to be the most popular option. Given its popularity, it attracts big crowds and I was looking for a tour with a much smaller group. So, I booked the Moonlight Manta Ray snorkel tour with SeaParadise. We boarded their big beautiful white trimaran around 6 pm along with 4 others while a nice captain and his first mate welcomed us with some fresh pineapple and hot chocolate. The boat was big enough to allow us to sit/lie down in different areas and not bump into each other. We settled down in the bow area near the net. As I lay down facing the ocean, watching the sunset and feeling the fresh breeze on that beautiful evening, I wished I could live there forever, from the bottom of my heart. There is some magic in the air. And water. In Big Island. 

We arrived at the Manta Ray village in about 10 minutes and donned our wetsuits and got ready for our night adventure. The crew was super helpful in making us feel at ease and led us to the flotation devices that they set up close to the boat.  We had fun with the Manta Rays for the next 45 minutes as they playfully swam around and got back to the boat safely, just as I started to feel queasy. The flotation devices that we hung onto allowed us to adjust our masks in between, breathe easy a few times and to just stay in place in those deep sea waters. I couldn't have done this without those devices, the dramamine and the seabands and the helpful crew of SeaParadise. I highly recommend them.

I do not have any pictures to share but can attest to it being a memorable evening. Enjoy your trip and make memories that will last forever!  Like we did :)


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