Editorial: Your Guide To Spring Break

How students can plan a fulfilling week

Science and Travel Writer/Photographer Alyssa Grace

Sleeping monk seal at Poipu Beach on Kauai

Spring Break at UH Hilo starts on Monday, Mar. 20, and officially lasts until Friday, Mar. 24. This is a great time for active traveling, volunteer work, or just relaxing at the beach. If you need inspiration for your fast-approaching break, you’ve come to the right place.

Travel:

Staying on island may not seem like a huge traveling adventure for some people, but for students transportation to areas further than Hilo can be a hassle. This is partly why we have programs like the Outdoor EdVentures at the Student Life Center. Unfortunately, this program is not offering any trips during Spring Break.

So here’s a few places on Big Island for the adventurous spirit and low on resource types:

Volcano National Park is great for many reasons. It has great hiking spots with spectacular views like Kilauea Iki which takes you down into a 50 year old crater with steam vents. For those with a car, I would also recommend driving down to the ocean in the park and seeing the naturally formed sea arch. From there you can hike along the ocean on the Chain of Craters road for about 5 miles to the active lava flow running into the ocean. This trail can also be accessed from the Kalapana lava fields as well.

Last but probably the most visited, is the Halema‘uma‘u crater and the Jagger Museum lookout point. Within this crater is a lava lake that sometimes varies in depth but always provides a spectacular red glow, especially visible at night. On clear nights you can even see the Milky Way. It’s walking-distance from the park entrance and you pass the sulphur vents on your way.

Volcanoes National Park is about one hour away by bus and 45 minutes by car. The Hele-on bus costs $1 one-way for students and runs Monday through Saturday. Entering the park is $10 per individual if you’re going to walk or bike in, and $20 per car if you drive. If you want to get the full experience of the park, you’ll need more than one day.

Volcano House is a sort of hotel within the park but will probably be too expensive for most students. Camping within the park can range between $10 to $15 per night. My favorite spot is the cabins at the Nāmakanipaio campgrounds. These are super comfortable cabins with one full bed and two twin sizes with community locked showers and bathrooms on site. It’s $80 per night, but split between as many people as you can fit in there, the cost is really quite cheap for the experience you get. Halema‘uma‘u crater is also within walking distance of these campgrounds.

For all this information and more, visit the Volcano National Park official website https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm and http://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/accommodations/cabins-and-campsites/ for accomodations.

If you’re not too worried about money, I would highly recommend traveling to another island. One of my favorites is Kaua‘i. Kaua‘i is a great island for students to visit because it’s small (about seven times smaller than Big Island), filled with camping spots around the entire island and very beautiful. My absolute favorite place on Kaua‘i is Waimea Canyon.

The best camping spots are beaches along the coast like Anahola Beach Park, Salt Pond Park, and Ha‘ena State Park. It costs $7 per night. As for transportation, flying from Hilo to Kaua‘i costs as low as $237 round-trip. Public Transportation by bus is available around the entire island, with the exception of the Na Pali coastline.

Volunteer:

If you feel like making a difference in your community, use some of your spare spring break time to do volunteer work. The Mauna Kea Visitor Center accepts volunteers every day for their nightly stargazing event! No experience is needed, just an interest in Astronomy and a willingness to learn. Volunteers help to set up telescopes used by visitors to look at space objects like planets, nebulae and globular clusters.

This is a great program for students to try as the Visitor Center offers rides from their Hilo offices at 177 Makaala St. to the Visitor Center on the mountain at 9,200 feet, 4,000 below the summit. When you first arrive, you get a free dinner at Hale Pohaku which is the lodging for Astronomers using the telescopes. The best part to me besides the amazing views through the telescopes is the unlimited ice cream and hot chocolate.

Visit http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/volunteer-program.html for more information.

Want to combine volunteer work and traveling? It’s not as hard as you may think! The service project program on Haleakalā is great because it gives you free lodging in exchange for volunteer work mostly consisting of removing invasive species.

Visit https://www.nps.gov/hale/getinvolved/supportyourpark/group-service-projects.htm for more information.

Lastly, it’s too late to apply now but a great on-campus resource for volunteering during Spring Break is the BreakThru Adventures program! This program takes 12 students on a volunteer trip to outer islands like Kaua‘i or Lana‘i. Visit https://hilo.hawaii.edu/campuscenter/service/BreakThruAdventures.php for more information.

Relax:

My low-effort relaxation suggestions include: visiting the long stretch of beaches in Keaukaha, enjoying the scenery around Lili‘uokalani Park and Gardens, or visiting the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

Among the many beaches in Keaukaha there is Onekahakaha which is great for finding miniature sea life like sea slugs or brittle stars. Carlsmith or 4 miles is my own personal favorite because it has a stair entrance, lots of grass to lay down in, and lots of fish and turtles to snorkel with.

Richardsons is also a popular spot because it’s one of the few if only beach in Hilo with sand (black sand particularly) and great snorkeling. At the very end of the road and further down a dirt road full of potholes is a popular spot for locals, King’s Landing. Once you’ve gone as far down the dirt road as possible, you have to walk even further through the grasses and trees following the coast before arriving at multiple small pools encased in lava rocks.

These beaches are super easy to get to by car at 15 minutes from campus. And a bit longer by bicycle at 20 minutes. The Hele-on bus also runs down to these beaches.

If you’re looking for some statistics on what to expect this Spring Break as far as crowding on the beaches, the County of Hawaii’s Tourism department calculate incoming tourists every month. For example, their data says that the amount of tourists coming to Hawai’i island has not increased very much, but the amount of time these people stay has. Kona especially has experienced an increase in visitors and Hilo had a small decrease.

Last year’s March set a record against the previous year’s increase in visitors to Hawai’i. And January was a very busy month for tourism in Hawai’i despite speculation that Trump’s presidency has decreased the amount of visitors to the United States.

Here’s what some other students are doing:

“My plan for Spring Break is to be practical with my extra time by balancing some work, adventuring, and relaxation here on this very special island of Hawai’i. I look forward most of all to spending quality time with my extremely talented and beautiful girlfriend, Felicity Cross.” - Nick Ackerman, environmental science and philosophy major

“So far my plans for Spring Break include camping for about three days at either Waimanu or Makalawena, but that’s flexible.” - Mel Carretero, astronomy major

“Me and my closest friends are traveling to Europe! We are going to Amsterdam, Geneva, Paris and Rome. I am excited to go to CERN and see particle physics in action!” - Jasmin Silva, physics and astronomy major

“I’m having some friends from O‘ahu come over to visit so we’re gonna adventure around the island and maybe have some camping and beach action anywhere from Ka’u to Kawaihae. Maybe even Makalawena, Green Sands or Pololu.” - Ashley Romero, biology major

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.