On the agenda for today: a helicopter flight around the Big Island.I took the three-hour Volcano and Valley Landing tour from ParadiseHelicopters ($433.35 per person, paradisecopters.com),located at the Commuter Terminal in Kona International Airport. It'soffered daily, in the morning and afternoon. If you can afford to spendthe dough, this is a great way to take in the island. And if you'd liketo do more than just sit in a heli, you can go for a zipline tour (aValley one for $414.09 or an Island one for $582.62).
On mytour, I got to see Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea as well as lavaflows and plumes of smoke rising from Kilauea. Adjacent to the lavafields is the rainforest, and the stark contrast between the two isonly evident when you're way up high. I had the good fortune to sitshotgun, so I had a wide open view, for which I was very grateful whenwe flew over the Hamakua Coast with its green cliffs and longwaterfalls.
But the best part of the tour is the stop in asecluded valley along the northeast coast. The helicopter lands on thegrass, and you step out into, as the pilot called it, something thatlooks like the set of "Jurassic Park." The scenery is gorgeous, and youhike to a stream where you can hang out for about an hour. I waded in,sat down on a rock, and ate a couple of ripe guavas that I picked fromthe water. A fine moment. After we got back in the helicopter, theother passengers and I were quiet for the rest of the flight. I thinkwe were awed into silence by being in the valley. It also helped thatour ride was super smooth. A nice way to end my stay on the Big Island.
I hopped on a flight to Oahu that afternoon, and checked in tothe Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki (rooms from $159/night, outrigger.com).This island has a very different vibe. It's crowded and busy, which wasa bit jarring, having come from Kona, which has a lovely, small-townfeel to it. I felt like holing myself up in my room, which wasn't a badplace to do that because I had a nice view of the beach and DiamondHead. Still, I do miss Kona tonight.
The most popular annual Ironman event will take place at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii Saturday, October 10. Outside Online'sAileenTorres will be covering the big day, and she's also writing anaccompanying blog, "Hawaii Adventure," for tips on what to doand where to stay if you're planning to visit.