Most of our volcano expeditions include transportation to and from the volcano, but if you’re driving yourself to Volcanoes National Park from Kona, there are several beaches, bakeries and coffee shops you won’t want to miss. Here are some of our favorite pit stops, in order of appearance:
This is one of our favorite spots for spotting dolphins. Stop for a snorkeling adventure and explore some of this area’s sea caves and lava tubes. The Captain Cook monument is another great photo opportunity and historically significant landmark.
The Coffee Shack
This coffee shop and restaurant is just south of Kona and right along the bluff with amazing ocean views. It’s a great breakfast stop that also serves lunch (sandwiches, pizza, salads) although we recommend starting your drive early to have plenty of time for stops along the way and still reach the national park before sunset. Grab a cup of Kona coffee, take in the first of many sweeping ocean views you’ll see today, and let’s hit the road.
We consider this a must see simply for the opportunity to say you stood on the southern most point of the entire United States. Stand along the cliffside edge or jump in, if you dare. This spot is a popular cliff diving spot for adrenaline junkies and does have a ladder down to the water to climb back out. The drive down is also a unique experience. With high winds and empty fields, you may feel like you’re driving to the edge of the earth. Keep your eyes peeled for Shaka Restaurant, the southernmost bar in the U.S. This small dive bar has some decent fish and chips and kalua pig.
Green Sand Beach (Papakolea)
Green Sand Beach requires a little bit of a detour. To get to this beach requires either a 2.5-mile hike each way, a four-wheel drive vehicle, or a little bit of cash (about $15 each round trip) to get one of the locals to shuttle you down there. This is a smaller beach, but a great place to wade into the water, boogie board in the waves, or enjoy any picnic lunches you brought along.
Punalu’u Bake Shop
(Restrooms, snacks, souvenirs)
If you haven’t tried a malasada yet, swing by this bakery on your way to Volcanoes National Park to grab one of these Portuguese-inspired, fluffy, filled donuts. The bake shop also carries other things to satisfy your sweet tooth, like macadamia caramel bars, Kings sweet bread, ice cream, frozen drinks and hot cups of Kona coffee. This is also a great place to grab a CD of local, Hawaiian music as radio reception can be very spotty in this area.
Black Sands Beach (Punalu’u)
This beach is right off the main highway and is a prime spot for green sea turtles to nap on the beach – a true rest stop! The black sand retains heat well and will keep you warm as you lay under palm trees and enjoy a snack or beverage before continuing on.
(Restrooms, snacks, souvenirs)
Wine sommeliers may not be impressed by the wine quality (volcanic ash and sulfur fumes do not exactly produce ideal conditions for growing grapes) but how often can you say you went wine tasting next to a volcano? This cozy winery was the first commercial winery in Hawaii and offers a flight of 8 samples for $8, which includes unique macadamia nut and tea-infused meads. This is also a great way to celebrate reaching Volcanoes National Park – you’re less than 5 minutes away!
Squeeze in just a few of these pit stops and you are sure to add some memorable experiences to your drive to Volcanoes National Park. You can always hit the ones you missed on the way back or, after seeing all the island has to explore, you may be ready to start planning your next trip back to the Big Island of Hawaii.