We visited the Big Island from April 5 – April 11. This is my first post after lurking for over a year. I appreciate all the help and insight from all the posters, as this was the first Big Island trip for myself, wife, son (12 y/o) and daughter (8 y/o). I loved reading other posters trip reports, and while I know my writing style is not the most entertaining, I thought future travelers might appreciate my experiences.
Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful time on the Big Island. We spent 5 days on Oahu before heading over to the Big Island. It was a nice mix of activities and relaxation, which was perfect for the kids. I wish we could have done more, but I think we did enough.
Some general notes. In my opinion, the roads are in very good condition and I don’t have any complaints about driving around the island. Weather was a little overcast and windy most of the time there, but other than our days at the Volcano, we were in shorts and flip-flops, so I guess I can’t complain. All the people we encountered were very nice and friendly (except for a grumpy moped rental company worker in Kona). Also, please understand that we are not very adventurous eaters, especially our kids, so you won’t see many food insights here, but what can you do.
Arrived at Kona Airport and got to our car around 12:30 p.m. We drove the south island route toward the volcano. We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s and later reached the Punalu’u Bakery, which had some delicious masaladas. I wish we would have bought more of them. We then made a stop at the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach and saw 5 turtles sitting on the beach basking, which the kids really liked. We arrived at the Volcanoes National Park (VNP) around 3:30 p.m. and checked into the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC). We stopped by the visitor’s center and some steam vents, which were pretty neat, and then took a look at the Halema’uma’u Crater. For dinner, we headed out to the Volcano Village and ate at the Kiawe Kitchen, which had some really good pizza. Then it was back to the room for bed.
We woke up early and headed out to the Thurston Lava Tube after a quick breakfast around 7:30 a.m. It was great because we were the only ones there and had the Tube all to ourselves. We walked through the lit portion, and then headed on to the unlit portion with the flashlights provided by the KMC. We then headed out on the Kilauea Iki Crater Hike. We took the trail in a counterclockwise direction, so we spent the first half of the hike walking through rainforest with numerous views of the crater on the way. We finally made it down to the bottom of the crater to walk across it. It was pretty awesome walking in the crater. We only saw a handful of people on the hike, which was great and made the place feel more desolate. The hike ended up taking about 2-1/2 hours and was a little rough on my daughter on the way out of the crater, but we made it and it was well worth the effort. We headed back to our room from there to clean up and rest. Then it was off towards Hilo. We stopped for lunch Jack-in-the-Box and then off to the Hawaiian Tropical Gardens. This place was very pretty with lots of waterfalls, crazy looking flowers and trees, and it was right on the ocean. After spending some time there, we headed out to Akaka Falls, which was pretty impressive and flowing great. From there, we head back towards the Volcano to see the lava flow. We got there at dusk and stayed there about 30 minutes and were able to see the bright orange lava entering the ocean for a while. We then got back in the car and headed back, getting to KMC around 9:30 p.m. Long day for everyone, but definitely a great experience.
Woke up early and checked out of KMC. Before leaving the volcano, we did some shopping and then drove down the Chain of Craters Road. Made it to the end of the Road, where lava flows had taken over. Spent time here checking out the lava and the sea arch. After this, we headed out via the north route towards the Hilton Waikoloa Village (HWV). We stopped at Hilo Hattie and picked up souvenirs along the way and stopped for lunch at KFC. We then headed up the coast, which is absolutely beautiful. After a quick detour to the Waipi’o Valley overlook, we were back on the road. We ended up reaching HWV around 3:30 p.m. Check-in was a little slow, but we finally got our room in the Palace Tower. Not the best location with kids since the pools are near the other towers, but the room was nice. After settling in, we had dinner at the Macaroni Grille at Queen’s Marketplace, which was pretty good. We headed back, walked around the resort for a while, then crashed for the night.
Woke up and headed out to the pools after a quick breakfast. The pools are huge at the HWV and the kids (and Dad) had a blast. We swam for a couple of hours and rented a kayak and floated around the HWV lagoon for a while. We saw a bunch of fish and turtles swimming around the waterfall in the lagoon. After cleaning up, we stopped by the Queen’s Marketplace food court for lunch and headed out to Kona. Everyone enjoyed all the white rock messages along the road to Kona. Finally made it to Kona and did some shopping. Had to stop by Donkey Balls and the ABC Stores to pick up some souvenirs. Then we went to Scandanavian Shaved Ice where my son had to get a large Hawaiian ice, which ended up being about the size of his head. People were stopping by taking pictures of him while he was eating it, which he just loved. After a bit more shopping and walking around, we headed back. We stopped at the Queen’s Marketplace again and watched some little girls put on a hula dancing show, which my daughter loved. We ate dinner at the food court again and then headed over to the Island Gourmet Markets and picked up breakfast for the next day.
Wife and daughter spent the morning at the HWV swimming in the pools and just relaxing and wandering around while my son and I woke up early and headed out for a snorkel cruise with Dolphin Discoveries, which was a lot of fun. On the boat ride to Kealakekua Bay, we were able to hear and see a humpback whale. This was a bonus for us since we weren’t expecting to see any whales with the season being about over. The coral at Kealakekua Bay was amazing and there were a ton of fish to see. We also saw a pod of spinner dolphins as we headed out to the Two Step location. Two Step is deeper and appears to be much larger. My son saw a reef shark and we both saw a turtle. The boat headed back and we headed back to HWV. We ate lunch listening to live Hawaiian music at the HWV Lagoon Grille. We then went swimming for a few hours after lunch. Lots of fun for the kids (and Dad) on the waterslides, but it was a little cold since it was so windy. We then went back to the room to clean up and back to the Queen’s Marketplace food court again for dinner. After dinner, we picked up breakfast at the Island Gourmet Markets again and headed back to the room for the night.
We had breakfast in the room and walked around the HWV a bit and called Grandma back in Michigan to see at us on the HWV webcam. We then headed out to Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Honaunau). This was an very interesting place, but I think the kids were a little tired and we did not end up staying there very long. So we headed back and stopped for a few souvenirs along the way. At this point, the wife and I were a little tired of the fast food thing, so we found the Aloha Theatre Café to eat lunch at, which turned out to be pretty good for all of us. Then it was back to the HWV for one last round of swimming, which lasted a couple hours. Then it was pizza from the Queen’s Marketplace for dinner in the room while we started packing.
Last day of vacation. Ate breakfast in the room again and walked around the HWV one last time. Wife and kids decided to make a couple flower leis before we headed out while I packed the car up. After checking out and finishing up the leis, we stopped by the Queen’s Marketplace food court one last time for lunch. Wife and I ate at the Island Gourmet Market, which really turned out to be a nice little spot for us on this trip. Then it was off to the airport to catch our 2:00 p.m. flight.
The KMC is great for anyone who is eligible to stay there (military, etc.). Nothing flashy or glamorous, but gives you what you need. Can’t beat the location if you want to see the Volcano.
The HWV was very nice. We are used to staying in more “value” type hotels when we travel, so this was a step up for us. Check in was a little slow and we didn’t get the tower I wanted (I think because there was some kind of State Farm convention going on), but it worked out fine in the end. The grounds are very wide spread and absolutely beautiful. For someone like me who is always in a rush, it can be a pain at times waiting for a tram or boat, but as long as the wife is slowing me down and making me relax and enjoy where we are at, it works out fine. I would recommend this resort for anyone staying with kids.
Budget was very slow getting our car. After finally getting our full size car, the trunk was too small. So back inside for another car. Finally worked it out after about an hour. Car ran fine and return was not a problem, but I am not sure if I would use them again.
This was a trip we will never forget. We all had a blast and wish we could be back there right now. We felt like we did a lot, but there are so many things that we didn’t have time to do. Gives me a reason to plan another trip. :)
Thanks again to everyone for all the helpfule hints and insights.