July 31-Aug 9, 2007
I received so much good info from this site that I vowed I’d take the time to write a trip report. Here it is:
We stayed at the Marriott at Waikoloa--first time in HI and a resort so took awhile to get used to the resort lifestyle. The staff was very nice (and many travel by bus from Hilo everyday!) and we got the room we requested (top floor). We were on a reduced rate for govt employees, so we expected no view and were surprised to find we had a partial view of the ocean. Room was clean and had 2 doubles, as requested, and more room than we expected (we prepared for “crammed”). Hotel was at 60% occupancy. We didn’t decline the now $20 resort fee (does not include self-parking), but we would next time. We rented fins once (we had our own gear) and we made a point to get the “free” drinks and watch one “free” movie. But, we could have done without all of those. We didn’t care for the weak mai tais or pina coladas...so we switched to smoothies for the kids. Sometimes they were full of flavor, sometimes not.
The beach is right out back and we enjoyed snorkeling. Please don’t touch the turtles (I yelled at the idiot who did). There are 3 pools and it is a lovely setting, but only 10 umbrellas and they go before 6 a.m. (that was our big complaint). We four went through over 3 oversized bottles of sunscreen during our stay! Best item we brought with us were rashguard shirts with UV protection. Saved us from some nasty burns. Still, we all got a few burned spots where we missed with cream. Oh, the pool side walkways will burn your feet if you don’t put some sandals on. The slide was fun and the pools were the right temp and clean. There are bathrooms right there too.
The last 3 days we could not enjoy our lanai as there were smokers nearby and the smoke was blowing onto our lanai.
We only had a few glitches. One morning we discovered the maid didn’t leave us a coffee packet. The next morning, we had a new coffee maker and it made the worst tasting coffee ever. The tub didn’t drain upon our arrival, but was quickly fixed. We didn’t care for the plush beds. I found them to be a cover for a poor mattress. No construction noise.
We brought food with us (no kidding) and shopped K-Mart for the rest (including beer) upon arrival. So we ate in our room every morning and did some PB&J lunches to save money.
We ate at the hotel 3 times. Two breakfasts (the buffet, you might as well eat enough for two meals) and one “sunset dinner”--recommend dinner. It’s $25 for a 3-course meal and if you use your “free drinks” even better deal. But you know your perspective is askew when you say “Dinner for 4 was a deal at $125 including tax and tip” and you didn’t buy drinks.
We ate away from Waikoloa most meals:
Harbor House–grilled ono sandwich and huge beers. Friendly staff.
Roy’s–okay, this was our anniversary dinner and we splurged. We had an awesome meal, great service, and the noise didn’t seem too much for us. Our girls are 9 and 13 and very adventuresome in their eating–so we got to try a lot eating off each other’s plates. Make reservations far in advance!
Rocky’s Pizza--We had planned to go there and then we got a coupon from our snorkel trip! Score! I’m originally from NYC so pizza anywhere else is never as good. We were hungry, it was pizza, we ate it happily. Friendly staff (and we got our photos done at Longs while we ate).
Quinn’s-- We had the fish & chips. I’ll agree with everyone on big portions, fresh fish, etc. But it’s fish & chips. I’m not much into fried food so not an expert. But the patio was very nice and I would recommend it.
Hilo Bay Café–Food: excellent. To find it, look for Wal-Mart shopping Center and it’s to the left by the food court.
Thai Thai–good Thai (we’ve had better), we got there just in time. Line formed and hungry people stared at us as we ate. And stared. And stared. I ate as fast as I could, people!
Tako Taco–very good and cheap eats. Just what we wanted. But my 9 year old said: “If their speciality is burritos and enchiladas, why are they called Tako Taco?” Get the black beans–yum!
Merriman’s Café (Waikoloa)–we weren’t starving and didn’t have reservations (bad us). So we went late and my husband and I split a mini pizza and each got salads. Younger daughter got kids’ pasta and 13 year old got adult pasta. Expensive, but we kept it in line.
Teshima’s–my husband loved his lunch plate (#2) and I enjoyed the lunch special chicken terriyaki. But our older daughter had the fried rice which looked and tasted awesome! Very local feel, friendly staff.
Subway–no kidding. Adults still full from Teshima’s so hubby took girls to King Shop’s Subway for quick dinner. They were happy, we were happy. It was our only “fast food” eating. We don’t normally eat fast food. We supplemented with white pineapple from farmer’s market.
We skipped local plate lunches as our diet doesn’t like so much starch.
As we tallied up what we spent on groceries, meals out, I found we averaged $36/pp/pd. Not bad. And that includes our bottle of wine at Roy’s!
I used to be a Naturalist and led tours so I am more critical on some areas.
We did two snorkel trips, the first with Sea Quest, then with Dolphin Discoveries. Both were morning trips to Capt Cook and Place of Refuge. The reefs are awesome and between the two trips we saw sharks and turtles. Sea Quest was a smaller boat, but same number of people were on both our trips. I had wanted to do a kayak trip until I read about damage to reefs, which I saw firsthand at Capt Cook and I’d like to say someone should do something about this soon! Back to SQ, our guide gave good info and his assistant handed out gear. Their safety talk was well, “Let’s go!” We did get to see some spinner dolphins and some caves (but after you see one, you’ve seen them all). We did 45 minutes at each site. I felt really bad for the people at the first site who asked if they were going to teach them how to snorkel. They didn’t get much support. We took our daughters to the local pool a few times to teach them and to work out equipment issues (hubby and I are both scuba cert). I have a degree in Marine Biology and there was no way I was going to have my kids stand up on coral. We saw so many people floundering in the water or kicking their fins like they were in the Olympics. Our motto for the trip was, “Stay far away from people with noodles.” On the way back, the Capt made a point of dramatically hugging the coast, a bit too close to those rocks for my comfort. I know he knows where the rocks were yesterday. But as a person who used to drive tour boats, I knew people were on my boat because they weren’t from the area and if we wanted a thrill ride, we’d be at Six Flags.
But then we went with DD. The cover on the boat makes all the difference! Our Capt was friendly and his assistant was a marine science student who used every opportunity to interject interesting information about what we were seeing. They did the USCG required safety talk (let’s face it, most of us know how to put on a PFD), but one kid on board asked a nervous question, so you never know. We went right to Capt Cook and we were the only ones there! We had a blissful hour, until the hoards invaded. Then, we went onto POR. Only one other boat was there. Capt gave a very serious talk about leaving dolphins alone. Again, a nice dive and on way back we ran into some bottlenose dolphins and a manta ray!
Dolphin Quest–okay, I’ll admit our girls did this and with mixed feelings from me. I worked at an aquarium and I know much conservation money comes from people who may have only seen that species in a zoo or aquarium. So no speeches please. Our girls really wanted to do it, since they have friends who have. After, my 13 year old was disappointed, as she thought she’d get to swim with the dolphins and not just pet them. My 9 year old LOVED it and spouted dolphin facts for the whole week. My husband and I were appalled at what a racket it was that they purposely position the kids so you can’t get your own photo and have to shell out big bucks to get their’s. We declined the DVD. In hindsight, I probably would have skipped DQ, but then the photos arrived today and my girls loved them, so....:::sigh::::
Bird Watching with Hawaii Forest & Trails: We really wanted to see the endangered birds, being bird watchers (all of us). I highly recommend this tour if you are too. We went on the Saddle Road to two different sites. Our guide knew the calls and where to find them. You get breakfast and lunch. Worth the price. Only problem I saw was the lack of a safety talk. We thought we were going into a more lush rain forest and it wasn’t the shade we thought we were in for. We were prepared, but thought guide should have insisted others carry more water (or at least some water and not just a can of Coke) for the 3 hours out there. It was a hot day! I always assumed people aren’t prepared and doubt many on this trip lived at that elevation. Just because they are adults, doesn’t mean they know how to be safe outside the city. Also, if you have your own gear, bring it and use it even though they provide it.
HAVO NP: I wish we had 2 days here. The debate over whether to spend the night still lingers. I didn’t want to pack up room and unpack at new room. I probably would suggest do at end of trip and fly out of Hilo or vice versa. We did the Crater loop and some shorter hikes, including the dark part of the Thurston Lava Tube (I brought flashlights). The stench of pot smoke–someone should tell them it doesn’t have anywhere to go (and how desperate are you to smoke dope in a pitch dark lava tube?). We wanted to come back to do some more, but the trip wore us out and my husband didn’t want to do the drive again unless the lava was visible going into ocean (we checked update every day). On the way there we stopped at Waipio Overlook (worth it), Akaka Falls (we live in an area of many dramatic waterfalls–so we probably could have skipped this one), and Laupahoehoe Point (worth it).
This is a good point to say you need more than 10 days to do everything on the BI and still find days to just lounge (which we did too).
We did a drive to North Kohala and hiked down to Pololu. We couldn’t believe people going down in flip flops (or the guy in his NY Yankees hat running down who is probably wondering how he wrenched his back). Wear sensible shoes! We also snorkeled/swam at Hapuna early that morning, before the crowds and wind arrived. Wow! Beautiful beach.
Our major “didn’t get to” was South Point, but that just means another trip.
The traffic at Kona was unexpected. Realizing we had to plan around “rush hour” forced us to change some of our plans. Basically, don’t drive south into Kona from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Just don’t.
We learned that school starts around August 1, which meant lots more open parking at local beaches. Made a note for future plans.
The only bad moment on our trip was the local woman in the Hilo shopping center parking lot that sped up, honked her horn at us so we had to run out of the way, and looked at us with so much hatred it stayed with us for the rest of the trip. And then the lunch discussion started with our kids asking why she did that. And having to explain what racism and prejudice was. Which just goes to show kids aren’t born hating, they learn it from adults. We decided next time to skip Hilo.
Give yourself lots of time to go through all the inspections. Use the curbside attendant so you don’t have to take your bags through all the lines (3). And be prepared for delays. Delays are the norm. They don’t apologize for them either, nor tell you how long they will be. I can’t imagine island hopping and having a long morning at the airport to interrupt that relaxed feeling I had the whole trip.
Never took a vacation where from the moment we arrived we talked about “next time.” I can’t wait to go back. Again, great board and thanks for all the help.