6 Hawaii Big Island Adrenaline-Rush Adventures. Bring the Kids, Too

Active volcano from our helicopter. Looking for lava deep in the crater.

I knew we wouldn’t last long lounging on the Big Island of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches. We’re not a family of loungers – we’re active, ants in our pants. And although a coconut smoothie or local, Longboard beer and siesta here and there are definitely what the doc ordered for some of the time during our Big Island trip, we need to get out and explore.

So we took these six, adrenaline-rush, Big Island adventures out for a thrill-ride. Hang-on!

Yes, we just soared over that massive waterfall on Hawaii's  Honolii River.

Although we are staying on the Kona “dry-side” of Hawaii’s Big Island, we jump in our rental cars and blast over the 1.5 hour drive on Saddle Road to Hilo, on the opposite side of the island, where we meet up with our Zipline operator and are taken via van to a set-up spot deep in the local macadamia nut farms.

Red, beanie, “safety” hats and secure harnesses on, our group of seven and a few others are all wobbling around on rope ladders and towering towers and we literally throw ourselves off…. 8 times 8 towers 8 dual ziplines. Soaring over sweeps of farmland and gorges and waterfalls. Huge hoots and hollers and have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a bird of prey swooping high above the earth below? Now I do. Hooked.

Flying from massive tower to massive tower in a harness 200 feet above a rainforest and over giant, engorged waterfalls on the wet side of Hawaii’s Big Island, I know I’ve hit my happy place.     

Getting ready to swim with dolphins on the Big Island, Hawaii.

We pull into a harbor just south of the Kona airport and are greeted by “Sharky” one of the guides for our trip that morning. Clamoring onto the boat we’re fitted with mask and fins and I take a sec to apply extra sunscreen to the kids. Today is all about soaking in the gorgeous Hawaiian water and being one with the creatures that live in it.

Sharky’s instructions: When I tell you, be 100% ready to GO. Full speed ahead to jump in with a pod of dolphins in the harbors off of the southwestern coast of the Big Island.  And there they are. We leap off the back of the boat and have a few failed attempts. But the third time’s a charm and I have a one-on-one communicato with a 6 foot, grey, gently spotted dolphin as I power through the water, keeping up with his diving movements and spins and playful flips. I am part mermaid in suspended time and my watery year is made.

After the euphoria of swimming with the dolphins, we motor to one of Hawaii’s famous parks – the place where the infamous explorer Captain Cook came aboard the Big Island and also where he ultimately met his demise. He picked a glorious spot for all of his shenanigans as the reefs off of the monument are teeming with a huge variety of tropical fish. I plunge in with snorkel gear from the dive boat, and am instantly one with a glowing school of black, eye-shaped fish with neon white outlines – black triggerfish – and I bob above and dive down into the blue waters with them, feeling as if I am floating in outer space with peculiar, flying creatures.

A hearty lunch with delish extra-crunchy, Hawaiian potato chips is pulled out on board for us to re-energize and we snorkel and dive off the boat, admiring the giant, green cliffs on the shore next to us. I’m coming back here, I feel it in my bones. See you soon, Captain Cook.

Buckling into the eight-seater helicopter, the James Bond theme song starts blasting in my headphones as we lift straight up, careening over the runway, and then bank left towards Kilauea, the active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. We fly over what looks like volcanic Mars-scape and spot an actual Mars training eco-bubble on the ground with possible future astronauts inside. 

Buzzing over to a relatively safe, active, shield volcano near Kilauea - it hasn't blown sky high recently like some of it's neighbors - our pilot circles it from above and we get to see giant blops of red-hot lava burbling from one active spot. GASP! As we bank east, trees are burning from lava flows and we see the flow stopping just short of one tiny Hawaiian town and I think: What would it be like to live with a live lava creep just feet from covering not only my Azaleas but also my front porch?

Our chopper.
We stop to refuel at Hilo Airport and then take off again into the rainforest side of the island. A light rain begins to fall, a shout of Whale! as a humpback plays in the water below us, and our pilot sweeps the heli towards the massive, green cliffs on the east side of the island near the Kohala Forest Reserve. 

Spectacular waterfalls everywhere along the Kohala Forest Reserve area, Big Island, Hawaii.

An intake of breath and the heart-stopping beauty of endless waterfall after spectacular waterfall all plunging from the cliffs down into the Pacific below literally brings us to an almost weepy, nirvana-like state of Awe. This is a once in a lifetime experience.

A live seahorse hangs-out on our finger.
They are growing baby seahorses. So that the species can thrive and survive. There are tanks of little, bitty seahorses, the size of the nail on your pinky fingers – a nursery of sorts – that we walk through and coo at. And then we see dozens of mature seahorse in party and hang-out tanks, all intertwined with one another. 

And, en fin, we get to have a grown-up, 3 inch seahorse hook her delicate, curly tail around our finger, as if we are now a piece of seaworthy coral. And she hangs there for a bit. Until she gets tired of us and our coral-ness. And she floats away to find a better perch. We love our quirky, unusual, almost surreal tour of a Seahorse Farm. Completely authentic to Hawaii. 

6 - End the Day with Shave Ice and Sunsets
Hawaiian shave ice!

Wow. How do we end a day packed with this kind of extreme pleasure? Well, with Rainbow Shave Ice, or cherry or lime or, I don’t know, Pineapple, of course. 

Hawaiian shave ice combined with a spectacular, glowing, orange sunset with waving palm trees in silhouette caps off every single day in paradise.

Go be in it. Adventure. Aloha.

-Outdoorsy Mama

Map of Hawaii's Big Island

Ps. And there’s much more to do in Hawaii, adrenaline-junkies. “Sharky” and I chatted about skiing on top of Mauna Kea. There’s swimming with Manta Rays at night. And of course, Volcano National Park from the ground. 

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