My piece on vegan eating on & exploration of the island of Hawai’i (a.k.a. the Big Island) is in the March/April issue of UK publication Vegan Life.
I am always excited to road trip the Big Island & visit places familiar & new. To spend a week there with a deliberate focus on exploring vegan food was great.
From my perspective, there can always be more plant based options everywhere! But it’s wonderful to see communities where vegan options are easily found as well as delicious. And of course, I could never tire of photographing the amazing and diverse landscapes of Hawai’i Island!
The largest island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island has incredibly diverse landscapes and climate zones, from the densely tropical terrain of the Puna region to the arid and stark lava rock fields of the Kohala coast. The relaxing vibe of Hilo on the eastern coast, one of the rainiest cities in the United States of America, is contrasted with the sunny, breezy atmosphere of Kona in the west. Lush ranch countryside can be found in the North Kohala region, while the southernmost region of the island, Kau, has expansive, changing landscapes including lava rock fields, coffee farms & lush green pastures. An incredibly scenic route is nestled into the the beautiful Hamakua Coast and is one of several road trips to be incorporated into any Big Island journey.
The number of climate zones on the island reflect a great local diversity of landscapes and ecology. The island of Hawai’i is home to 4 of the 5 major climate zones of the world- Humid tropical, Arid and semi-arid, Temperate and Polar. According to the Köppen climate classification system, Hawai’i then has 8 of the 13 climate sub-zones represented.
The grandeur of the mountains is a defining feature of the island and a main draw to visitors. Hawaii Island is home to Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on the planet and Mauna Kea, the planet’s tallest mountain as measuered from base on the ocean floor to summit. Kilauea Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, is also found here and it’s features and eruptions are a draw to visitors from all over the globe.
Whenever I visit the Big Island, I love to explore the food options, combining daily road trips with an exploration & appreciation of local cuisine. Road trips are part of the daily adventure of enjoying this expansive island. With proper research ahead of time and alertness on the road, there are always great stop off points to explore a town’s charming local main street or sample some local foods and flavors before driving on. In fact, entire days can certainly be spent exploring the island this way.
In late Summer of 2014 I visited the island as a transitioning vegan and found it not only easy, but also affordable and delicious to travel and eat fully vegan there. So on my most recent trip in January 2015, I decided to devote energy and plan routes to exclusively exploring some of the island’s vegan offerings.
My journeys took me from Hilo to Waikoloa, across the Saddle Road, backbone of the island. There are three routes between west and east and they are all interesting and beautiful in their own right. The changing landscapes to view along Saddle Road are alone worth the drive, but combining the route with a visit to either Kailua Kona in the West or Hilo in the East is deserving of a day trip. Both towns have vegan friendly options to explore and on an island abundant with farms, options often feature the richness of local produce. The Hamakua scenic route on the northern coast of the island is lush and stunning. A stop off in Honokaa is a perfect way to combine a rest stop with a delicious local vegan meal and explore rich local designs in shops along main street. Puna is the region I stay in when I visit the island and this dense, tropical region can certainly be an interesting place for a traveling vegan to pass through or stay. Restaurants in quirky Pahoa town tend to be vegan friendly and planning one’s trip to this region on a Wednesday is a good idea in order to visit the very lively and unique Kalapana Night Market.
Vegan options can be found in Volcano Village as well, a cozy stop off point before or after one enters Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Like anywhere that may require a lot of time on the road though, I would recommend taking time to visit any of the island’s natural foods stores, most of which have a rich array of many delicious vegan ready-to-go dishes that you can enjoy along the way, enjoying the road, the landscapes, and the scenery of this expansive and beautiful Hawaiian Island.