After kicking off the trip on the wet side of Big Island in Hilo, Puna, and Volcano, we headed away from the coast to inland to the gorgeous agriculture town of Waimea. Our time in Waimea was short but we made some very special memories exploring this underrated part of the island.
Day 6: Quick stop in Hilo + Mauna Kea cut short + farm stay in Waimea
This day would be our longest driving day, as we planned on roadtripping from the volcano park, up to Mauna Kea (another volcano), back down and finally to Waimea (3.5 hours total). As we mapped out our day, we noticed Hilo was along the way so we decided to stop one more time for brunch. We had such an amazing time in Hilo in the beginning of our trip, and it felt so comforting to be back as we strolled through the familiar streets. I like how Big Island isn’t that big so we are driving through a lot of the same places and it feels like we can really get to know the island over these 2 weeks.
After our detour in Hilo, we headed onto the main sight for the day, Mauna Kea – a dormant volcano that goes up to 14,000 feet (4200 meters), making it the highest point of Hawaii. We were super excited to drive up to the top and see the clouds below, but we hit a roadblock at the visitors center (at 9,000 ft / 2700 meters) as they wouldn’t let us continue up the mountain without 4-wheel drive…womp. We were disappointed because nowhere on any website mentioned this so it caught us off guard! But we decided to make the most of it and took some time to stroll around the visitor center. There weren’t many views at that elevation as we were pretty much in the clouds. 🙂
After our visit to Mauna Kea, we headed to our final stop for the day, Waimea – an agriculture town right in the center of the island known for the diverse farms (coffee, tea, macadamia nuts, taro, chocolate…the list goes on)! First we grabbed lunch in Big Island Brewhaus where we tasted some local craft beers.
Then we checked into our airbnb, which was a farm-stay in Waimea. We felt right at home in our cozy house on the huge property filled with different farm animals. Our hosts were super welcoming as we chatted for 2 hours learning about the farm. Joe and I asked endless questions as we learned why they moved to Hawaii from Alaska, their experience winning over locals in Hawaii as transplants, how built this farm from the ground up, the work it takes to maintain the farm, etc. I was inspired by the life they built as Joe and I are figuring out how to transition our lives to something more chill and sustainable down the road.
Joe sharing his life story with the goats. 😛 He is so good with animals and they all loved playing with him.
These two chickens were SO freaking cute. They were best buddies and always together. We’d find them in random spots around the farm, often times in front of our door waiting for us to come out. They were honestly more like dogs than chickens. 🙂
The rest of the evening was a quiet one as we cooked a simple dinner and watched history documentaries on HBO. 🙂
Day 7: Horseback riding in Waipi’o Valley
The next day was an exciting one as we booked a horseback riding tour to see Waipi’o Valley, a vast valley on the Hamakua Coast filled with taro fields and a handful of locals living down there. We started off at a lookout point at the top of the valley. The view was pretty epic, but we’d soon learn that the real awesomeness would be at the bottom of the valley.
We drove to the bottom of the valley, which was the steepest and bumpiest drive ever! We went down 2000 feet (630 meters) and the scenery transitioned from the blue coast to the lush wet valley filled with diverse fruits and plants.
We got on our horses and started the stroll through the valley. I’ve ridden a horse once before in Colombia, and it wasn’t the best experience as my horse was not well trained and we got into a car accident! Luckily my horsey was super tame this time and we clicked well, so I felt redeemed :). I also gave my horse more space do his thing, which made it go a lot smoother than last time when I basically tried to control my horse like a car.
The walk brought us through a beautiful path through the valley. There were some parts on a hiking trail through the forrest…
…And some out in the open where we had vast views of the farmland.
The horses went in a single file and surprisingly remained in the same order. It was cute as Joe’s and my horses were super aggressive and needed to be in the front of the line. If they ever fell back they would sprint up and reclaim their spot.
There were a few river crossings which spiced things up. I trusted my horse completely as he navigated the water!
We even saw wild horses, including a baby horse that was less than 1 day old. 🙂
The valley was truly epic and my favorite part of Big Island so far. According to our Airbnb host, there are two types of people: some who see Waipi’o valley and say “this is pretty” and others who are completely overwhelmed by its magical beauty. Joe and I definitely fell in the second category. Seeing miles of green diversity surrounded by 2,000-ft cliffs is something I will never forget.
Our tour guide pointed out tons of different fruits around us. We found this cacao fruit (what chocolate is made from) and tasted the fresh seeds. 🙂
Horseback riding in Waipi’o Valley was such a memorable part of the trip. Afterwards, we drove back up the mountain and headed home. On the way, we stopped by a fruit stand and bought an exotic fruit bowl. I never heard of half the fruits in this bowl and loved sampling all these new fruits native to the island. Perfect end to our chapter in Waimea.
Waimea really felt like home to us. The welcoming vibes on our farm along with the epic Waipi’o Valley made this such a special experience. I told Joe I could see us living here down the road!
It’s crazy that our trip is already half way done. In one week we’ve seen so much on the wet side of the island, which provided us peace, rejuvenation, and much needed perspective outside our SF bubble. For our second week, we are heading to the dry side of the island (Kona) for sunny beaches, surfing, and more upbeat vibes. 🙂