Clients can stay in Hawaii’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. // © 2015 HomeAway
Feature image (above): Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea volcano is an ideal spot for stargazing. // © 2015 Mike Sessions
Hawaii Island is teeming with beautiful beaches and resorts and exciting outdoor activities. But the island goes beyond these expected comforts, offering a handful of unique and surprising gems that visitors will love.
From the country’s southernmost bakery to a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed vacation rental, the following treasures make for a one-of-a-kind Hawaii Island visit.
A Waterfall From Above
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters offers daily flightseeing tours that traverse the island, with pilots doubling as excellent tour guides. The aerial perspective is breathtaking, thanks to the destination’s volcanic landscape, but an additional perk for fliers is the number of waterfalls visited on every tour.
The most popular cascade, Waiilikahi Falls, turns nearly every Hawaii Island visitor into a shutterbug. While reaching it by foot is possible, seeing it from above is extra special.
America’s Southernmost Bakery
Arguably one of the most frequently visited bakeries in the state of Hawaii, Punaluu Bake Shop has been serving up delicious homemade goods since 1991. Folks go wild for its famous Hawaiian sweetbread and malasadas (Portuguese donuts), and free samples lure in guests.
The shop’s big claim to fame, however, is the fact it’s the southernmost bakery in the U.S., located 19 degrees (or four minutes) north of the equator. It sits on a lush and exotic 4-acre estate, home to tropical palms, gardens and a pair of gazebos.
Should guests wish to sightsee nearby, Punaluu Black Sand Beach and Mahana Beach are both an easy drive away.
Stay in a Home by Frank Lloyd Wright
The only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home built in Hawaii is set near the upcountry town of Waimea. Built in 1995, the 3-acre, three-bedroom private residence and vacation rental is an architectural gem. The oasis embodies the famed designer’s principle of architecture, blending right into the environment.
Completely secluded, the home offers plenty of privacy and views of three volcanoes. It also comes with a full kitchen, a deck, floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor lava-rock hot tub.
The state of Hawaii touts some of the world’s clearest skies, but Hawaii Island is the ultimate stargazing location. Set at 9,200 feet on dormant volcano Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest sea mountain, Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station offers a free nightly stargazing program, complete with a documentary about the peak and telescopes for viewing globular clusters, planets and more.
Currently under construction on Mauna Kea is the world’s largest telescope, slated to debut in 2024.
View or Snorkel With Manta Rays at Night
Seeing manta rays during the day is thrilling, but it’s a different story at night. Visitors can watch the graceful animals at two properties — Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay — thanks to powerful spotlights on the water. Both areas are hot spots for plankton, which attract the rays, and each property offers special viewing platforms.
Monday through Friday, Sheraton Kona also partners with Eka Canoe Adventures to provide a manta ray snorkel experience.
Tie the Knot on a Volcano
While Hawaii Island is full of wedding-friendly resorts, couples can dare to be different and get hitched on a volcano. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been home to romantic ceremonies at various sites. Forested areas and locales with views into Kilauea Caldera or Kilauea Iki Crater have served as the most popular venues.
Couples must register their event with the National Park Service, which helps coordinate the wedding.