By Brad Liski

SnorklingFair Wind Big Island Ocean GuidesOver the past 15 years I have spent a lot of time travelling the United States, and I thought I knew it well. I must say, though, my first trip to Hawaii, the Big Island was exceptional – and unexpected. A pure state of calm is the best way to explain it. Whether you travel alone, with friends or with family, the island presents many ways to decompress.

Our journey to relaxation started on the Kona side on an afternoon snorkel and snack tour with Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides. The three-hour excursion took us along the west side of the island with ample time to swim among the vibrant sea-life. The captain continued our ‘Hawaiian time’ journey by slowing the boat to watch dolphins in the bay and stopping to give the humpback whales right-of-way as they crossed the bow. Fabulous food and what a view! A short game of glow-in-the-dark golf and an unbreakable gaze at the blanket of stars above finishes was the perfect wind down to a perfect day.

Next up was a drive to Hilo along a newly paved single lane highway with straight stretches that rival Moose Jaw to Calgary, and beg for passing – but no one does. The locals warned me “we drive at the speed of the car in front of us”. Within minutes, I fully understood and respected this peaceful drive from lava hardened Kona through the paniolo (cowboy) country of the north to a rainforest as lush as any seen in the Pacific Northwest. Crossing the ‘singing bridge’ in Hilo is the welcome to a whole new speed of life. Kona was relaxing, but Hilo is pure ahhhhh.

Hilton Waikoloa VillageHilton Waikoloa VillageThere is no better way view Hilo than by helicopter. Pilot Roger, a Canadian from Ontario, flew the Blue Hawaiian helicopter with ease and grace. Not only were we blessed to actually see the liquid rock in action, but hearing the recent stories of ‘Jack’s House’, a b&b recently overtaken by the lava, made us realize that this is truly an active volcano. After a few more sideways turns around the steaming vents, we were off to the seemingly endless line of waterfalls in Hawaii’s rainforest.

We were warned that it always rains in Hilo, and it did rain. The rains however, resemble an oscillating sprinkler on a hot summer day. You see the clouds coming with plenty of time to decide if you want to run through it and enjoy the refreshing drops or step aside and wait for it to pass. As a Vancouverite, I will take that type of rain any day of the week.

A quiet stroll on the black sands and a tour of Banyan Tree lane in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel are great ways to unwind. You are drawn into the history of these stoic trees, the beautiful park and then Coconut Island; the pinnacle of peace and calm.

On the plane home with time to spare, I sat back and fully appreciated the last few days. Hawaii, the Big Island is an exceptional destination – an active volcano, black sands, great waterfalls, beautiful seas and endless stars; what more could you want? My only regret is not spending five more days on this remarkable island. I guess I will just have to go back.