I can’t be everywhere to discover new things to do with my kids, no matter how much I wish I could. I’ve asked a few friends to jump in with the spots they love to explore with their kids. Kathleen from LuvLeenie.com has been hiking around the Big Island Hawaii with her three kids and has lived to tell the tale.
As we drive North along Highway 270 on Hawaii, the Big Island, the black, moon-like landscape of petrified lava begins to soften into browns before transitioning into greens. Eventually, the lush vegetation and gangly trees create a rain forrest feel that invite us to drive farther and see more. At mile marker 29, the highway simply stops, but it does not mean the exploring has to come to an end. We park along the road 400 feet above the sea to take in the glorious vista of the Popolu Valley and the Pacific Ocean.
Our goal is to hike down the Awini Trail to Popolu Beach with our three kids ages 3, 7 and 10. It is our first hike on Hawaii and our first ever look at a black sand beach. We are greeted by signs that warn of death and destruction* should we hike down this trail, but we see people returning up the trail just fine and chalk it up to liability. We decide to go for it with our three kids leading the way.
We have a wide range of abilities between our kids with seven years difference between our first and last. I am thankful that, at 3 years old, Liam is full of determination to keep up and not be left behind by his sisters. Three can be a difficult age for a successful hike. He does not fit snug as a bug in a backpack anymore, yet sometimes he does not have the stamina to persevere to the end. My husband Darren carries the kid backpack just in case.
We descend a steep dirt trail with exposed roots and rocks. Liam navigates the trail well and, with a little hand holding here and there, manages the entire descent on his own two feet. As we get closer to sea level the light and perspective begin to change. The variation of the intense greens of the valley, the black sand of the beach and the blue ocean beyond leave me feeling awe struck on day five of our stay on the Big Island.
At the bottom of the trail, the Pololu Valley River almost meets the sea, but is divided by black lava rock, which quickly transforms into the finest black sand as we get closer to the surf. The waves are mighty, but the kids want to get wet, which was not really in the plan. There are only a few other people so we improvise with a naked three year old, some underwear for the girls and Darren in his quick dry shorts. I opt to stay dry and document the moment with my camera. The kids work up an appetite playing in the shore break and the lava rocks invite us to sit down and picnic before our steep hike back up the hill.
Darren and the girls hike ahead; Liam and I take our time. I am surprised by my little guy who complains only a bit and conquers 400 feet of elevation in a very short time. As we get about 25 yards from the top of the hill, Liam whines to get in the backpack, which Darren is carrying. He and the girls are waiting at the top. All it takes is a little reminder of an ice cream reward and he somehow finds more energy to put one foot in front of the other.
We make it to the top where we are greeted by high fives and debate over ice cream flavors.
Our first hike in Hawaii is a family success. It was the ideal hike to start off our Hawaii hiking bucket list because, though it is steep, it is very short taking us only about 1 hour round trip with Liam setting the pace. The rewards are great – the beautiful black sand beach at the bottom, lush vistas and the promise of ice cream at the top. Homemade scoops at Tropical Dreams in the quaint little town of Hawi are always worth the climb. Yum.
*Many of the hikes we encountered on The Big Island and Kauai come with warning signs of death and injury, but we never felt unsafe.
Kathleen Murray Tremblay is a freelance writer and blogger living with her husband and three kids in Fort Collins, Colorado. She documents her family’s adventures from the mundane to the magnificent at LuvLeenie.com.