Hawaiian Sea to Summit Road Trip

Drive the Big Island loop in Hawaii—and make time for long hiking or paddling trips, plus awe-inspiring face time with volcanoes, manta rays, and starry skies.

Nature's own truly thrilling pyrotechnic display: the Kilauea Crater.     Photo: David Moskowitz/Tandem

Play in the waves and summit a snow-covered volcano in the same day on this 300-mile tour of paradise.

Packing List: Snorkel and fins, swimsuit, SkyView iPhone app 

Highlights: Start in Kailua-Kona and rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle at Harper Car and Truck Rentals (from $735 per week), which will let you go from sea level to the 13,796-foot summit of dormant Mauna Kea. Kick off a weeklong tour by renting a paddle- or surfboard at Kahaluu Bay Surf and Sea and play on the reef break at Kahaluu Beach Park (surfboard, $100 per week; SUP, $250 per week).

  Photo: Brandon Sawaya

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ($10 entry), choose from 150 miles of hiking trails and eat ahi tuna at the newly reopened Rim restaurant while overlooking the fiery plumes of Kilauea Crater. Crash at one of ten spartan one-room cabins in Nama-kanipaio Campground ($80). 

At Hilo, head west on Highway 200 to Mauna Kea for a sunset tour of the summit and arguably the best stargazing on earth ($212). Double back to Highway 19 and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area to hike the 15-mile coastal-loop trail, stretch out on the quarter-mile-long white-sand beach, or surf the many breaks nearby. Book a beachside cottage at the Lava Lava Beach Club (from $450, minimum two-night stay), where you can toast to good living with a Bombay Sapphire–infused Sandy Toes cocktail. 

Wrap up the trip with a nighttime snorkel off the Kona Coast alongside ghostlike manta rays as they feed on glowing plankton ($109).

The route.

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