After 5 fabulous days in Maui, our honeymoon continued with a quick flight to the Big Island, where we experienced two of our favorite excursions.

We flew into Hilo, on the east side of the island of Hawai'i. We locked our stuff up in our rental car at the airport, and walked back over to the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters desk -- it was time to check out a volcano up close!

Kilauea is the Big Island's active volcano, and we were told it had been particularly active for four days leading up to our tour, so we were likely going to see some lava -- I had NO idea what I was about to see!

In this case, the pictures really do no justice to the experience. We saw a lot of flowing lava as we approached the mouth of one of the smoking craters, and then, with dramatic music playing in the background, the helicopter circled over one spot where you could see a ton of lava rapidly flowing underground and occasionally erupting up. I was so mesmerized that I didn't get many photos of it, but it was one of the most incredible and terrifying things I've ever experienced. I seriously felt like I was in a movie!

After flying over Kilauea, we also flew over some beautiful waterfalls before heading back to the airport. Seriously unbelievable.

We then stopped for lunch at Ken's House of Pancakes in Hilo, on a tip from a restaurant worker. It had the feel of a legit Jersey diner, which made us feel right at home! We ordered entirely too much food and all of it was delicious (and cheap!) It was here I discovered my love of the Hawaiian dish Loco Moco -- two scoops of rice, topped with seasoned hamburger patties, brown gravy, and two eggs. Clearly not health food, but so frickin good, and I don't know why we don't eat it here!

After lunch, it was time to head over to our hotel on the Kohala Coast, on the west side of the island. We could have cut straight across and gotten there in an hour, but that's no fun! Instead, we took the scenic route, and spent 3+ hours driving through Volcanoes National Park, down past the southernmost point in the U.S., through Kona coffee country, and up to The Fairmont Orchid in Puako.

The hotel was fabulous, and the whole island is incredibly unique. We were enjoying it so much that we decided to stay there an extra day before heading to Oahu. (This is the point where I was super thankful that I used a travel agent to book the trip...I called my girl Sally at Travelsmiths in Point Pleasant and she and her team handled the whole thing -- changed our flights, rebooked the hotels, extended the rental car. I didn't have to do a thing. Amazing.)

On night two, we went up to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest volcano in Hawaii. It reaches 13,802 ft. above sea level, though most of the volcano is underwater. If measured from its base on the ocean floor, it would be more than 33,000 feet tall, making it easily the tallest mountain on Earth.

Mauna Kea is dormant, which is good news, because it's home to some very cool scientific equipment -- it's one of the most ideal spots in the world for astronomy. Good news for someone like me who loves stargazing!

After watching the sunset in nearly frigid temps at 14,000 feet, we were driven a few thousand miles down the mountain to watch the stars come out. Blown away doesn't begin to describe it. You see so many stars your brain starts to play tricks on you. Because Hawaii is so far south, you see other parts of the sky, and constellations that you can physically never see here. We even got to see Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn through a telescope. #nerdalert in full effect. It was SO. COOL.

With the extra day to spend there, we got plenty of time to relax by the pool and watch another fabulous sunset from an oceanfront hammock. Incredible... Then it was time for our final stop: Oahu!