Big Island Itinerary

Bean,

You recently went on your first Pan-Pacific flight, and you did freaking amazing! 🙂 More about you and your first trip at some point.  For now, I’m going to share an email I sent to a friend outlining our Big Island itinerary.  Hopefully someone will find it useful some day….maybe even you! =)  I can only hope that this beautiful destination is just as pristine when you’re an adult.

Pictures to be added latah!

Scroll down for the itinerary…. WAAYY DOWN. This is a long post =)

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My friend Jennifer went for a week and felt she didn’t have enough time.  We went for about four days after Oahu.. also felt like we did not have enough time!  We ended up taking it slow and lounged around the hotel grounds and hotel pool more than I thought we would.

New Parent Travel Thought: You’re not going to travel as fast as you did as a solo or no-child traveler.

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General Recommended Activities as curated by our friend Jennifer

  • Snorkeling with Dolphins in the open ocean.  Go with Dolphin Discoveries, they have good reviews for being not invasive with the dolphins and really gauge whether it’s safe and also whether the dolphins are being curious with the boat and tourists before letting you in the water. Just make sure you don’t get sea sick or take Dramamine ahead of time. It can get bumpy: http://www.dolphindiscoveries.com/

  • Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays in the open ocean.  Same thing about getting sea sick but otherwise it’s quite the experience. They come right up to you at night and you basically float on top of the water and watch them for like 45 mins in the water. We went with Sea Quest: https://www.seaquesthawaii.com/ But you can also go with Dolphin Discoveries.

 

  • Snorkeling in general:

    • Hapuna Beach –> Beautiful beach overall by the Prince hotel. We stayed there, it’s lovely: https://www.princeresortshawaii.com/hapuna-beach-prince-hotel You can see sea turtles here right off the beach!

    • Captain Cook –> If you do the Dolphin Discovery tour they will take you here to snorkel, you an see dolphins too! Otherwise it’s hard to get to.

  • Green Sand Beach. It’s the south most point of the US. You drive there, park and pay $15 bucks a person to go off roading to get there. Don’t try to hike/walk it. It’s Far! If you go, just fork out the $15 bucks for a round trip ride. Visit on your way to Volcano National Park.

  • Punalu’u Beach (Black Sand Beach). Easier to get to and you’ll likely see sea turtles beached/laying out. Super cute! Also go on your way to Volcano National Park.

  • Volcano National Park. Spend at least 1 full day here and spend a night or even two. There is a lot to see and do. We stayed at the Volcano House: http://www.hawaiivolcanohouse.com/. Service was great and it was very convenient. First thing you want to do is stop by the visitor center so you know what’s happening with the lava flow. Then go up to Jagger to see the lava glow at night and be sure to look through the telescope to see it bubbling. Quite neat. We checked out the Sulfur Banks, Steam Vents and Lava Tunnel (these are pretty quick). We also did a half day mountain biking excursion to see the lava flow into the ocean. But before you do that, ask the ranger whether they think you’ll see the flow cause it’s quite a trek. You’d have to drive down to Kapalana (1 hr) and then mountain bike 8 miles round trip. It’s worth it and if you go with one of the tour companies that will give you a lift to avoid it a few miles it’s not too bad.

Food

 

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Now for Mama’s notes!!!! 🙂
  • Loved our Kona Air BnB – has everything needed for families including two bathrooms, kid/baby plates, board games, in-suite laundry, first aid kit, etc. Right next to Sheraton and where we left for manta rays! Could be bad if you want to stay closer to the popular side of town.
  • New Parent Travel Tip: Where possible, why not Amazon Prime stuff to your destination?  Sure beats having to lug it in your suitcase!
  • New Parent Travel Tip: Sometimes it’s great to stay at an Air BnB type home mid-way through the trip so you can do laundry and what not!  Saves on how much you pack.
  • New Parent Travel Tip: Personally, I love at least ending my trip at a hotel over an Air BnB because of the convenience of simply leaving the hotel (semi in whatever condition it’s in..which I promise isn’t bad but perhaps not always as tidy) and having concierge / easy access to transit
  • Kona – There’s a convenient plaza with Target, Safeway, Costco, and Walmart
  • I wouldn’t recommend staying in Hilo very long if at all. Heard Volcanoes National Park is a good place to stay
  • We personally skipped Kona Brewing Company (although multiple people recommended)
 
 

Time for the itinerary!!! 

Day 1 — Kona

  • Arrival in Kona. Bags and rental car.  Small airport; rental car is on-site but still a short <5 minute shuttle ride (unlike Hilo where it’s on-site and across the street from the terminal; so <2 minutes)

  • Lunch at Broke Da Mouth Grindz.  Ordered everything pretty much.

  • Greenwell Coffee Farms.  Thought this would be a short visit. Ended up being closer to an hour. Not a bad stop; would recommend if no amazing wild expectations

Day 2 — Kona

  • Brunch at Sun Dried Specialties. Ordered fish of the day and lobster cake; poke; lilikoi cheesecake (yum!). Recommend.

  • Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.  Recommend.

  • Randy’s Chicken and Ribs.  Not recommended.

  • Luau at Royal Kona Hotel.  Had never been to a luau and my parents wanted to experience.  That ate up most of our time.

  • Night Manta Ray Dive. Recommend. Went with Hawaii Island & Ocean Tours

Things I wish I did in Kona but we didn’t have time.

  • Mauna Kea Summit!!!

  • We didn’t visit beaches because it wasn’t really an interest for my parents.  However, here are ones we had bookmarked. See Jennifer’s notes =D

Day 3 — Kona to Hilo

  • Kaumana Caves.  Wish we went here but we didn’t. No gear/shoes.
  • Akaka Falls.  Didn’t visit because we forgot. Would’ve gone there first
  • Rainbow Falls. Super short visit! Checked out the falls from top and bottom plus the banyan trees < 35 mins.
  • Hilo Farmer’s Market

Day 4 — Hilo

  • Early morning lava tour by boat.  We tried to go sunrise; tour cancelled. Ended up going at 8 AM.  Would recommend sunrise or night (but not night if you get seasick per our captain) so your view of the lava is even more crazy.  If you go with this, there’s a popular farmer’s market on the way back from Pohua to Hilo.

Hilo Food

  • Kawamoto Store – Make your own box.  Quick meal/snack, cheap, go early
  • Cafe 100 – Quick cheap loco moco; filled with locals.
  • Don’s Grill – Like Norm’s; typical diner
  • Suisan for poke!
  • Mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen (also available at the supermarket)
  • Two Thai Restaurants for my parents 😀 Hilo Siam (Recommend) and New Chiang Mai (Not recommended)
 

Things I Wish We Did in Hilo/Volcano (see Jennifer’s notes)

  • Visit Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park to see lava from a hike!!
    • Decide whether it’s kid/baby friendly or not (VOG)
    • Our original plan was Jaggar Museum, Sulfur Banks, Steam Vents, Lava Tunnel / Thurston Lava Tube
  • Visit Black Sand Beach – Punalu’u Beach
  • Visit Green Sands Beach
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