It’s a brilliant morning in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a vast preserve that includes Kīlauea and Maunaloa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Hiking from the park’s Kīlauea Visitor Center, I meander past Ha‘akulamanu, a rocky outcropping turned yellow by sulfur-rich volcanic gases, and then through a grassy expanse where steam billows from subterranean vents. When I reach the trail’s end, near the summit of the 4,091-foot Kīlauea, I gaze into the colossal Halema‘uma‘u Crater. I’m left awestruck by the power of Pelehonuamea, the goddess who is said to reside in the mountain’s depths.
Back at the visitor center, I hop into my Buick Encore—a smart little SUV that’s far roomier than its profile suggests— and take the Māmalahoa Highway to Nā‘ālehu, near the island’s southern tip (which is also the southernmost point in the U.S.). I need a little fuel after the hike, so I stop at the Ka‘ū Farmers Market, where I buy a bunch of endearingly petite and startlingly tasty bananas.
Newly energized, I zip west, then north along the rugged lava-rock coast to Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, a national historical park that’s one of the most sacred sites in Hawaii. The ancient Hawaiians built a great wall here, and in the refuge behind that wall people who had broken kapu (sacred laws) would undergo a spiritual rehabilitation that absolved them of their misdeeds and allowed them to return to society. I take a few minutes to wander among the thatched-roof hale buildings and kii protector statues; when it’s time to get back on the road, I’m thankful that, unlike in the old days, I don’t need a priest to sanction my departure.
Next, I head into the foothills of Hualālai, a volcano that last erupted in 1801, releasing a lava flow that engulfed several villages on its march to the Kona Coast. In the small community of Captain Cook, I stop for dinner at Shaka Tacoz, where I devour tangy tacos stuffed with sustainably fished wahoo at a table overlooking the blue Pacific. It’s a perfect place to take in the sunset, and once the sky has turned dark I make a beeline north for the Kohala Coast and a night at the secluded Fairmont Orchid resort.
At sunup, I cross a manicured lawn to a sheltered cove, where I watch impossibly vibrant fish swirl and dart beneath the waves. After a breakfast of banana and macadamia nut pancakes at the Orchid Court restaurant and a lesson in the fundamentals of Hawaiian pronunciation from one of the resort’s cultural ambassadors, I continue along Route 270 to North Kohala, just around the island’s northern tip. From the Pololū Valley Lookout, I navigate a precipitous trail to a magnificent black-sand beach that feels as if it’s at the very end of the earth.
Heading inland, I find myself in Waimea, a town surrounded by grasslands that gave rise to the island’s colorful paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture. Fixing for a bite to eat, I sidle up to the bar at the new restaurant FORC and order a crisp Kuleana Rum Works rum agricole, made from Kohala-grown heirloom sugarcane, along with a zingy fiddlehead fern salad, fried abalone, and a grilled ahi steak with a miso-peppercorn sauce that takes my breath away. Weaving among these flavors is the unmistakable taste of aloha, which makes me feel effortlessly, deliciously at home.
2022 Buick Encore
Roomy enough for a family of five with luggage (and leis), yet efficient enough for the most eco-conscious solo traveler, the Buick Encore offers a perfect mix of sport, utility, and comfort in a remarkably compact package. Powered by a 1.4-liter ECOTEC engine, the 155-horsepower Encore cruises up mountain slopes with turbocharged ease, and sips fuel so sparingly (up to 32 miles per gallon on the highway) that you’ll be able to fit in all the stops along the Hawaiian coast that your heart and eyes desire.
From $24,600, buick.com
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