Since we learned so much from these forums before our trip, I promised myself that I'd report in after our return. So here's what we experienced:
1. Saturday evening arrival at Alamo was a disaster. We waited in line for over an hour--it was like a TV commercial.
2. Waikoloa Beach Marriott was just fine--staff was very helpful and friendly. View from the partial ocean view rooms was a little bleak, but with Marriott Rewards card and some whining, we were upgraded for free.
3. There has been some controversy here about the berm on the beach along A bay, but we did not see it as a visual or physical impairment.
4. We did some shore fishing, and as hawaiidan has suggested, we did not have any luck.
5. Trip to Volcanoes National Park was a tremendous thrill. Thurston Lava Tube is an amazing and short hike. But the hike from the end of Chain of Craters road to the active lava flow is a brutal experience. It is a long way, the ground is very rugged, and for a good portion of it there are not even trail markers. Even though it is much more spectacular in the dark, the trip back in the dark would be brutal. It took us over an hour and a half to get out to where we could see, and we started back before it got dark, so we only had to do a little bit in the dark. Still an amazing experience.
6. We rented kayaks and padddled to Captain Cook Monument. Getting launched was a bit of a challenge, but the paddle across the bay was not too bad. Snorkeling around the monument was spectacular. Trip back was uneventful, but we did not see any spinner dolphins. The site seems like a very fragile environment--I urge everyone to be very sensitive to this precious resource.
7. We visited a couple of coffee plantations--Greenwell was pretty interesting and informative, but Kona Joe had the best t-shirts.
8. Went whale watching with Captain Dan on April 9th. We saw a lot of pilot whales up close, and were not really expecting to see any humpbacks other than possibly a straggler mother and calf. But we saw 4 or 5 humpbacks at a distance. Even then it was very exciting to think about their size.
9. It rained when we were in Hilo, but I guess that it does all the time. The farmer's market was fun, although much of it was a total mystery to us Minnesotans.
10. The road to South Point is fine. Narrow but not any problems. If you're passing by, it is definitely worth the trip.
Our thanks to everyone who contributed to our preparation, and we hope that this helps others.