There's no place like Hawaii! My plan is to visit a different Hawaiian island every year until I've been to them all. I traveled to Oahu last year. Going to the Big Island this past February was my 3rd time back to the wonderous state and I used a new online travel guide service called Localfu to navigate my way around like a local.
If there's something you should know about me it's that I avoid tourist traps at all costs! I like to uncover the healthiest and most active things going on in the places I travel to, and I always prefer to go off the beaten path. I'm a curious cat, which often gets me into the thick of things.
That's me picking a noni fruit...unaware that they're the most disgusting of Hawaiian fruits to eat raw. It was a sour experience unlike the rest of my trip. What follows are my Big Island, Hawaii chronicles with Localfu...
The way that Localfu works is really quite simple. You create an account and then enter your travel location. It helps if you make it very specific and include the cities you'll be visiting. In my case, I knew I was going to Hilo and Kona on the Big Island. Once I entered this information, I was matched with a Localfu (a real, live local living in that area) named John. John's profile gave me some insight on his knowledge of the area and so I decided to order 2 itineraries from him for the low cost of $5 each. When you do your own search you might find that you get several Localfu matches and if you're wondering which one to pick, I advise reading the reviews they've been given from past users.
John ended up getting a 5-star review from me because he asked me about my personality and what kinds of things I was looking to do. I, of course, told him that I was a fitness enthusiast and was looking for places to score healthy treats for my travels along with sightseeing adventures that would make me feel like I got some exercise.
At the top of my 1st itinerary from John, my Localfu, was Island Naturals Market in Hilo. I was thrilled to discover that it was a healthy market selling a lot of local goods but also stocked up on the specialty foods that I buy in New York.
There's hippy, homegrown vibe to Island Naturals Market that I love and equate to a grocery store I used to shop at called Wild Oats that Whole Foods ended up acquiring years ago. While I was here, I shopped for crucial ingredients I needed to prepare my favorite breakfast on earth: acai bowls.
I scored some gluten-free granola (to sprinkle on top of the acai), Maple Tahini cookies to munch on in the car and some locally made passion fruit butter (Liliko'i is what the natives call it) that I licked off the knife it was so good.
My Localfu sent me hiking to the Volcano National Park. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite as looming or mesmerizing as the active volcano there. John recommended I start off hiking in the daylight. So I did that and checked out the various steam holes on the grounds, which don't smell too good but are indicative of all the natural gases coming from the fiery hot volcano source.
At sundown, he recommended that I head to the caldera viewing area near the park's museum to catch the magnificent glow from the lava below. It was incredible! The darker it got, the better the view! The picture below gives you an idea of how far away I was from the active volcano.
Supposedly, years ago, the viewing area was much closer. But now the park operates under much stricter safety precautions in light of how "angry" this volcano has gotten. This is the type of thing you have to see in person to really feel its magnitude. I'm so thankful my Localfu highly recommended this adventure.
Rainbow Fall & Boiling Pots were the other 2 spots in Hilo my Localfu thought I'd like. And boy was he right! I'm a sucker for waterfalls and the one at Rainbow Falls is pure beauty. You can't really tell from my photo but this waterfall is 80ft tall and about 100ft in diameter--not something you'd want to fall off of, right?
So you can imagine my shock when I spotted a few hikers near the rocky base of the Falls (very close to where the water pours out). I was freaking out! I wouldn't dare go near that hiking path or anywhere else I can't safely take a selfie.
This pic was taken a few seconds after I spotted the hikers and became so nervous I had to turn away. Do any of you have acrophobia?
Boiling Pots is a hike-able and swim-able park riddled with enclosed natural pools also known as lava pots. It's only about 1.5 miles away from Rainbow Falls. When the connecting Wailuku River rises and overflows, water becomes turbulent within the pots and makes them look like they're boiling.
The day I visited, none of that was going on. Just some good ol' cannonball action. If you live in Hilo, this is your backyard pool.
On my way to Kona, I checked in with my Localfu and told him I'd like to go shopping there and score some of the beach town's best acai. Localfu John sent me to the Kona Farmer's Market on Ali'i Drive. It doesn't look like much from the outside but inside I found many gems. The vendors within this market have little booths set up under rain-proof tarps but you'll still get wet if it's raining. It's nothing fancy...but the pineapples and roasted macadamia nuts sure are!
This market is where I found the best "necklace" EVER! The woman you see in the photo handmade it for me as I watched.
And while it might seem super touristy that I bought a lei, I enjoyed observing the craft and feeling like it was a gift when she put it on me, not a souvenir soon forgotten on a shelf.
I wore it to the pool. But let's pretend that wasn't touristy either ;)
Thanks to Localfu John, Basik Cafe for Acai was on my schedule and exactly what I was craving. Near the farmer's market on Ali'i Drive, Basik specializes in making acai bowls of many varieties. From the street, it looks like a tree house and you'll wonder if anything is really up there. I climbed my way up to the top kitchen and bar and thought I reached nirvana when I got there! Because here's what I found...
It was so hard for me to decide on a bowl but I finally picked the Puna Bowl. The peeps at Basik Cafe even customized it for me making it gluten-free by substituting almonds and coconut shavings for the granola.
This is "LOVE", I tell ya! They also have smoothies there but if you ask me, bowls are the way to go.
Because you can't leave the Big Island without seeing a Lava Tube, my Localfu suggested I head over to the Puukohola Heiau National Park and stop by the lava tube "that's large enough to drive a car into". That's something I just could not miss! So I headed over with my crew and yes, we could've driven through it.
At first, I didn't quite understand what a lava tube was but after seeing the active volcano earlier I began to visualize what happens underground that leads to these gaping holes. It's just very hard for me to put into words as a non-scientist slash non-environmentalist. So here's what I copied and pasted from Wikipedia:
Lava tubes are a type of lava cave formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. (source)
This was a moment to be remembered. And while I can't tell you just how amazing it felt to be up there with my hair blowing in the wind and all my worries silenced by this beautiful natural island--because you have to experience it yourself--what I CAN tell you is that I'm so happy I chose Localfu to help me find and make all my Big Island memories. I didn't have to carry around or sift through a travel book. All I needed was my iPhone to access the itineraries John made for me.
It was so easy, convenient and carefree. If only there had been more time to check out all the places John recommended. But like I said, I'm going back to a different Hawaiian island next year and will use Localfu to explore once again.