Beyond the Lei Greeting and the Mai Tais On the Big Island


MaiTaiYou open up your Facebook page and see a photo of your friend with a hoisted mai tai and an orchid lei around their neck and think-“Oh! They are on the Big Island of Hawaii! Sigh…” Right? That’s the vision most people get from their friend’s trip to the island. I challenge you NOT to be that person posing for that “iconic” shot. Let yourself get beyond the traditional “lei around the neck, find my cocktail” time. Not to say, you shouldn’t enjoy that mai tai (at Huggo’s on the Rocks, Kona Inn, Don’s Mai Tai Bar, etc) but how about going in for the deeper experience of the island while you are visiting? Deeper in that there are so many places to explore and do to help you find something within yourself. Here are a few ideas:

Recharge Your Soul

Put away the selfie stick and go sit in a secluded place near the ocean. Beyond my favorite place at Old Airport near the tide pools (which I just love) you can Koloko-Honokohau Parkfind little coves and spaces to just put down your beach towel and chill, like at Honl’s beach near downtown Kona, or sitting on a rock at the End of the World near Keauhou, or for peace and quiet and some very large turtles, sit/hike at Honokohau Beach to the right of the harbor. These places give you a chance to reflect, mediate, go a bit deeper into a place in your soul that you don’t get to access when you are rushing through your day to day life. Believe me, you need to do this for your peace of mind and it’s a great way to recharge your batteries.

Go Check Out the Lava


Courtesy of Shane Tarpin-Lava Ocean Tours

As you may know, the lava from Kīlauea Volcano has reached the ocean and the viewing area is pretty close to the lava flow in Volcanoes National Park. Checking out the lava is not the same, of course, as doing something stupid as evidenced in this video where visitors are on the edge of the flow. You can take a helicopter ride to view it safely, you can take a lava boat tour or you can walk in. Be sure to check with the Volcanoes National Park or USGS if you are planning on viewing the lava for lava flow updates. I have gotten THIS CLOSE to lava before when it was flowing in 2013 and I can tell you, it is an amazing experience to see Pele creating fresh, fiery land!

Eat Locally Grown Produce

I remember sitting on my lanai, slowly savoring a fresh papaya with lime and practicing the art of being present. I put the fork down after each bite, watched the swaying palm trees and enjoyed the Minah birds hopping about. I am so glad that not only did I sear that experience into my memory, but absolutely enjoyed the heck out of that piece of tropical fruit! Savor the flavor, friends. Mango season is almost over, but get out to a Farmer’s Market as soon as you can and get some local papaya’s, mangos, PapayaPlateavocados, lychee, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. The Big Island is beyond blessed with its bounty of healthy locally grown produce. If you have not had a chance to enjoy a Hamakua heirloom tomato, you have not tasted a tomato before. My friend recently sent me a photo of a tropical fruit plate from Daylight Mind Coffee Company and I started salivating. Here, I’ll share.

Talk Story

SunsetINHawaiiEvery month when the full moon rises, Mauna Lani gets ready for an evening of storytelling and entertainment at the oceanfront Eva Parker Woods Cottage for the “Twilight at Kalahuipua’a”. This monthly event was designed to perpetuate the traditional folk art of storytelling. Although it is held at the Mauna Lani, it is open to the public and is free. The grounds are beautiful, you can bring a picnic with chairs and the “entertainment” changes every month. Check out the YouTube video. (Oddly daughter appears jumping across the rocks in this video from 2013 when we were there that night!) You can get the schedule of times here. This is a special “only on the Big Island” event, so if you can, make the trip.

Do any one of these things and post THAT to your Facebook page! Enjoy!

(For my 365 Things to Do in Kona fans..thanks for reading! JZ)

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at and and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Teri says:

    My ten days on the big island last month was beyond wonderful. But where is that lei greeting. I finally found a plumaria lei seven days after we arrived, and wore it proudly for the day. It would have meant that much more on the first day, but I certainly haven’t seen it any time I have been to Hawaii…Oahu twice and Maui once as well as this trip. Hawaii is a wonderful place to visit and yes, we had a Maitai on the plane just before we landed , but that lei greeting was missing!

    • Sometimes you have to “greet yourself” with the leis! They sell them directly to folks having dinner or you can get them in the fridge cases at the airport! It is always nice to know someone who lives on the island to greet you at the airport with one! You can get them for a great deal at the plumeria farms near the airport off of Kamainaini Road!

    • Gail says:

      Bring back the lei greeting! Julie is right, you can lei each other when you arrive at the airport. Find the lei lady. Or sometimes there is vending machine only, and the lei is just as fine. It is a special kind of wonderful to walk through the perfumed air when you just off the plane, and then carry the perfume in the form of flowers draped around your neck wherever you go until night overtakes you.