Big Island: Surprises Off the Beaten Path

The Big Island has an abundance of big surprises in store for visitors who take the time to explore beyond the beaten path, according to Lisa Sherwood, concierge supervisor for the Orchid at Mauna Lani.

"There's a guided excursion offered by Hawaii Forest & Trail that I've gone on and loved, but not many people know about it because it's not your standard basic tour," says Sherwood.

The tour goes deep into the Pololu Valley, near the northern tip of the island, through hidden private roads, some of which are gated and require a key to get into, she says.

"There are sheer cliffs at some points, with drops of about 200 feet."

Highlights include a lush tropical rain forest, a beautiful lookout -- perfect for shutterbugs -- and five waterfalls.

"Everyone goes under the last waterfall and takes a dunk," says Sherwood.

The tour is mostly on foot, and is escorted by a guide who brings along water, equipment and snacks.

Sherwood also has a tip for clients looking for that perfect, hideaway white-sand beach.

"It's a little beach that's just south of the public beach at Anaehoomalu, near the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Facing the ocean, you have to walk to the left along the main beach, until you come to a turnoff which leads to a trail. If you follow this trail, eventually you'll come to a beautiful sandy beach that's very quiet and uncrowded, unlike the public beach."

For a special dining experience, Sherwood recommends Edward's at Kanaloa, a "little secret spot," on the ocean in Kona.

"It's small and intimate, with a casually elegant candlelit atmosphere, and very romantic," says Sherwood, "but because it's out of the way, in a condo complex, it's not the sort of place most tourists would know about."

Prices are rather upscale, but reflect the quality of the excellent Mediterranean-style cuisine and the fine wines that accompany dinner, she says.

Clients seeking a different kind of shopping experience should head for Holualoa, a small artists' village in the Kailua-Kona area.

"There's a road here filled with little art galleries featuring the works of local artists," says Sherwood. "The galleries themselves are an attraction because they're located in quaint old buildings dating from plantation days."

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