On our first trip to the Big Island of Hawaii we stopped at the Visitors Center at the Pu’ukohola Heiau. This is the place where King Kamehameha killed his last rival and consolidated his reign over the Hawaiian Islands. We arrived about 15 minutes before closing time and were told that we would not have enough time to see the Heiau before they locked the gate to the parking lot. A young ranger named Brandon offered to show us around if we could wait until closing. He was living in a tent in the Spencer Beach campground just below the Visitor’s Center.
We hung around until his shift was over and gave him a ride to his tent. He had the next two days off and we had a condo with an extra bedroom. We asked if he would like to hang with us for a couple of days and he was glad to sleep in a real bed and cook in a real kitchen. Brandon grabbed a few things from his tent an we hit the road. Our personal tour guide asked what we wanted to see. I said this was our first visit to the Islands and we had no plans and did not know what was here. I asked him to navigate and I would drive.
We drove to the town of Havi and along the way he told us about the Islands, the people, and the folklore. The park at the town entrance includes the original 1880 statue of King Kamehameha. Havi is a just a very small and very pleasant town. The statue was very large and Brandon told us that it was close to actual size. From my research it appears that the King was over 7′ tall.
I booked a helicopter tour for the next day in city of Hilo. On the way to Hilo we stopped at the Pololu Valley. This is a gorgeous valley with a black sand beach and an impressive overlook at the trailhead. On the way to the valley I called to confirm the helicopter tour and was told that we were scheduled for the following day. Well, that was unexpected and inconvenient.
We were on the way to the Hilo for the helicopter tour but now had to find something else to do. Brandon suggested going to the Waipeo Valley. This is an absolutely spectacular spot. In the valley we met some locals and had and incredibly fun time (full article). We had some lunch, played baseball using a piece of driftwood and a happy meal foam ball, we got some fishing lessons, and Brandon got a guitar lesson.
The next day we drove to Hilo, took our helicopter tour, and then went to the spectacular Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Having a personal tour guide for our first trip to the Islands was just tremendous. We learned so much about the island, culture, and history.
This is Brandon and our new friends in the Waipio Valley. This was one of the best days ever!