Seriously, who doesn’t love Hawaii?  Just say the name and people go aaaah.  While there are so many great tourist attractions on the island that can keep you happily occupied for days, when you get to be privy to some things to do that really only the locals know about, it makes it even more special – if that’s possible.  It’s time for you to feel special.


Hawaii sunsets never disappoint. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

I confess.  I have a real love affair with The Big Island of Hawaii.  So much so that I actually got married on the island 21 years ago!  And my husband and I have been going back ever since.  Most of the trips have been for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, but others have been just pure vacation and dare I say, heaven.  Over the years, we have been fortunate to meet and remain friends with some great locals who have been kind enough to share some island secrets with me.  So, keep them to yourselves.  They are secrets after all!  Here are four great tips they’ve shared.

Kua Bay


The road to Kua Bay. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.


Kua Bay has reportedly one of the best, if not the best, white sand beach with turquoise water on The Big Island.  A friend who comes to Hawaii every year told me it’s a “not to be missed” beach, so while my husband was training for Ironman Kona, I headed off on foot from the Four Seasons.  One and a half hours into my walk in the hot sun surround by lava fields, I realized I was hopelessly lost.  When the nice kid at the activity center told me how to really get there and that it would still take another hour partially walking on the beach, I came back to the hotel, got in my car, and drove!


Enjoying Kua Bay. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

It actually wasn’t much easier to find by car as the access road is not marked.  It is, however, directly across from the West Hawaii Veteran’s Cemetery, so you can’t miss it.  The beach is located in a national park.

When you drive down a bit, you’ll see cars parked along the road. Park where you can and walk down.  Trust me, it will be worth the effort.  It is absolutely stunning.  It honestly seemed to be filled with locals having picnics, tons of kids, and people doing a lot of body surfing.

Mamalahoa Hot Tubs

I don’t know how anyone would find this place unless you were filled in by the locals.  It is so far off the beaten path in Kealakekua and I’m not exaggerating here.  It’s in a residential area and you will really think you’re in the wrong place. But, once you start walking up the path to the spa, it looks like a tropical garden.  Hey, you can always go to a spa at a hotel/resort, but you won’t find anything like this. You’ll slip into a bubbling spring of purified water and then have a message that will literally make you melt.  The only sounds you will hear are birds chirping and waterfalls.


Our hot tub at Mamalahoa Hot Tubs. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

It is a ways outside of Kona, about 11 miles to be exact, but why not explore and enjoy the scenery on your way…You take Hwy 19 (Queen K) going south to St. Johns Road and turn left to 81-1016.  On your way back into town, you must stop at the Strawberry Patch Restaurant; a small roadside eatery that is just so darn cute.  The food is wonderful and they are happy to squeeze whatever fruit is fresh to mix with your champagne, which we of course, just happened to have with us!!!

Kiholo Bay

If you’re itching to see turquoise tidepools, abundant wildlife including sea turtles, less people, and a clear fresh water pool in a lava tube, then Kiholo Bay is your kind of place. I think it makes for an awesome beach day, especially if you want to be more off that beaten path and when the surf is calm, you can swim and snorkel.  Just mind the conservation efforts by picking up any trash and NOT disturbing the sea turtles as they are protected under Hawaii State Law!

Take Highway 19 (Queen K) north to mile marker 82 and the Scenic Overlook – not too far from Kona.  You can stand there and just gape and have a gorgeous view and be happy or if you crave more, you can hike down the long, and at times arduous path to the ocean and be in for a treat. (Dress accordingly for a hike). Cars are not allowed on the beach anymore.

If you’re not up for the hike, you can drive to the dirt access road (pay attention or you’ll miss it) between mile markers 82 & 83 and head to the beach parking lot and then you have a much shorter walk.  You will need to bring everything with you if you go, such as food, water, and sunscreen as there are no facilities and only a portable toilet.


Black sand beach & lava tube at Kiholo Bay. Photo credit Frances Petersen.

The area is surrounded by private property, so make sure to stay on the public access roads.  In fact, if you walk down the coast from the bay (direction depends on where you entered; south if from the Scenic Outlook and north if from the beach parking lot), you will come upon Bali House, which is quite unique in design, completely self-sustaining, and apparently owned by John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell hair products.

Keep walking about 100-200 yards further down the coast and you’ll come upon Queen’s Bath (Keanalele Waterhole). This is a lava tube that is filled with water from a spring.  My family recently found it and obviously, it was to their liking…Water shoes might be a good idea for this activity. You can either keep walking down the beach or head back and continue your journey.  Any way you choose to see Kiholo Bay, you won’t be disappointed.

Visiting Hawaii's Big Island? Get these 4 insider tips from locals to learn about some amazing beaches and breathtaking natural wonders all over the Big Island.

Pololu Valley

The view from Pololu Valley in North Kohala is nothing short of spectacular and I am so happy I made this trek.  The valley has a black sand beach, but the surf is pretty rough, so it’s not recommended for swimming.  You can hike down into the valley, pass the beach, and then go up and over another mountain, where you end up on a bench that seats two at the top of the mountain.


A view from on high at Pololu Valley. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

You can still enjoy even if you’re by yourself.  You can also hike further and then reach a waterfall, if it has recently rained. This is known to be one of the most spectacular views on the island.  Be sure to carry a backpack with goodies to munch on, water, and sunscreen. You will also need sturdy shoes.


Owner Jim at Gill’s Tacos, a must stop in North Kohalo. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

Somewhere along your journey in North Kohala, a MUST stop is at Gill’s Lanai in Kapaau, about two miles past Hawi.  It’s a fish and chips shop, Mexican restaurant, and hot dog joint rolled into one.  The lobster tacos have been described as THE BEST EVER!  It is owned by a friend of my sister-in-law, who fulfilled a life long dream and moved to the Big Island with his wife.  We all think about it, but they actually did it!!  The restaurant is located at 54-3866 Akoni Pile Hwy and open from 11am – 5pm. Oh, tell Jim, the owner, that Teri and the Triathon Traveling Moms sent you….

Stay tuned for more insiders’ tips plus my favorite food and fun on The Big Island of Hawaii!



Aloha from The Big Island of Hawaii. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.