Monday December 26th
The travelers (from MN): My Husband, my 22 year old niece (her college graduation present), our 2 boys (15 mos and 3 years old) and myself, and later in the week, my husband's aunt (from NE). I have been to the Big Island a couple of times (Kona twice and Hilo for a day on a cruise) but never for any length of time. My husband and I went to Oahu, Maui and Kauai in 2006 so we decided to park ourselves on the Big Island for 10 days. We stayed in the Waikoloa Beach Resort area the whole time. With 2 small children, we had no desire to relocate or travel long distances. We will go back someday when they are older to explore VNP, etc.
We arrived in Kona ahead of schedule not after almost being bumped from our flight from PHX. Another party of 3 decided to take an alternate route as they really wanted to end up in Honolulu and us and another family were then allowed to board. Otherwise, we would have been stranded and sent to San Francisco for the night, then to Kona the next day. Ughhh. That and other issues had us vowing *again* never to fly US Airways again. We broke our previous vow (after a disasterous trip back from Cabo thanks to US Airways) and boy did we regret it. The money we saved was NOT worth it!
After getting our bags and car (we booked a standard SUV back in Feb or March with www.discounthawaiicarrental.com) (savings over $500 compared to Hertz) and ended up with an Acadia from Alamo. My husband was allowed to choose whatever SUV he wanted. We liked this option because of the 3rd row of seats as we were (at times) 4 adults and 2 kids in car seats traveling. It served us well. We brought bungee cords as we knew we would have to tie a few things onto the roof!
We checked in to our condo (unit 5C at Hali'i Kai) and settled in. The condo was fantastic. Besides being a great value, it was so nice having all of that space (2BR/2BA) and a kitchen. I booked it in January to ensure we got the days we wanted. Their pool area is fantastic, too, with a great kiddie pool (one shallow enough for my 1 year old to walk in), one a little deeper) plus a deeper area where older kids and adults hung out. Our boys loved it there. And the views of the sunsets/ocean were amazing.
As the rest of the family settled in I went to the Island Gourmet in the Queen's shops and got some groceries. We ate dinner at the condo and crashed hard early!
We originally thought about going to a beach, but decided before we left to take a little road trip as we knew the kids would be up early (5 am as it was!) and head to the Pololu Valley Lookout. It was a nice drive up 270 and the views were amazing at the Lookout. We stopped in Kapa'au along the way and our boys played at the playground in the Kamehameha Park. A local man also gave us a bag of fresh Tahitian limes he had just picked. Very nice! We decided to drive home via 250 which was also a wonderful drive. It was a little cloudy and sprinkled some but was still pleasant. It was only about 60 degrees at the highest elevation. We saw a lot of cows!
We drove to Waikoloa Village on our way back and rented several baby/kid items from Dorkel's Snorkel: a wagon, a baby backpack, a high chair and a tricycle. Everything was great and served us well. Our condo had a pack and play for the baby but we definitely needed a high chair, too. We had lunch at Dave's Coffee Shack and it lived up to its #1 rating. We all had a lunch special sandwich of some sort and fries- which were to die for! I do not know what they did, but they were so crispy and tasty! The kids had probably the best grilled cheese sandwich they have ever had from a restaurant. We definitely wanted to go back and we did later in the trip for breakfast on our last day. Another YUM!
We spent the afternoon at the Hali'i Kai Pool. We stopped by the Island Gourmet and got fixings for burgers on the grill and had a casual dinner at the condo. Another early night for all of us!
One of the reasons we chose unit 5C at Hali'i Kai was the owners had the golf membership. We could golf the Beach Course for $75 and the King's for $50. My husband and a guy he works with who was on the island at the same time ended up golfing both Wed and Thursday am's so my niece and I fended for ourselves with the kids. Wed. we went to the King's Shops Farmer's Market at the 8:30 am posted opening time and barely any of the vendors were ready. We were told- oh, it opens at 8:30 and it was well past! We had a 10 am reservation at the Sea Horse Farm so we couldn't wait around forever, but managed to buy some Passion Fruit Jam, some candied coconut, a couple of Papayas, an avocado, tomato, onion and bananas before we had to leave.
The tour at the Sea Horse Farm (Ocean Rider) was a lot of fun and informative. The tickets were not cheap but the boys were free at least. My niece got to have a sea horse hold onto her fingers at the end. I was too busy tending to the boys. The owner, Craig, took my 3 year old aside and let him feed some fish and also hold a couple of hermit crabs and a sea urchin, too. It was very sweet. He was too young to 'hold' a seahorse, though
After the tour, we headed back to Waikoloa Beach Resort area and picked up my husband and then had lunch at Island Fish and Chips in the King's Shops. Pretty good, a little pricey IMO.
We spent some time at the pool before my husband and I had to leave for our sunset sail champagne cruise with Ocean Sports out of Kawaihae Harbor. We opted for the free pick-up so we could drink and not drive. We were picked up at 3:10 and the cruise started at 4 pm. They were having a great 2 for 1 (actually $127) special before Christmas if you bought vouchers ahead of time so we got the sunset sail for $127 total and it would have been that price for each of us. We bought 2 more vouchers for later in the week and used them for the AM Snorkel to the Black Sand Beach(another great deal, normally $147 a piece). The cruise was a lot of fun, good drinks, good food and whale sightings! The sunset was also fabulous (as it always is!) Our niece and the boys ate at the condo and watched movies. We brought a bunch of DVDs and our condo had a DVD player in the living room and the kids' room.
My husband golfed again (7:15 am tee time) so my niece and the boys and I went to Kauna'oa near the Mauna Kea beach resort. We got there before 8:30 and got a pass. The nice guy at the gate told us what to do since we told him we were 'first timers'. We parked and loaded up our wagon and trekked to the beach. The path is not the shortest and it is pretty steep. The trip back wasn't fun! It was also pretty windy that day and the kids were not having a good time. My 3 year old played in the water some with my niece and my 1 year old ate sand and crabbed. We managed to get our baby beach cabana set up (that I brought from home) but it practically blew away in the wind. We gave up and headed home about 10:30 am. We tried! It was a pretty beach.
We picked up my husband from the golf course and went back to the condo pool. Had lunch at their Ocean Club restaurant and called it an afternoon. My niece and 3 year old and I then headed south to Target south of the airport to pick up a few supplies before picking up my husband's aunt at the airport. The drive was a lot longer than anticipated due to horrendous traffic jams, due to construction (I think?) We bought her a lei at Target (more expensive than the airport leis) but it was gorgeous. US Airways does it again and they lost her bag (temporarily). So she had NOTHING. A trip to Macy's at the King's Shops later that evening was in order. She saved her receipts and should get reimbursed. She was staying with other family members next door to our condo (unit 6B) but they were arriving a little later in the evening so she went to dinner with us that night and for the most part hung out with us. We went to Tommy Bahama Restaurant at the Shops at Mauna Lani fro dinner (wonderful meal and great service) and then we went to their 6 pm Polynesian dance show, which was terrific. My 3 year old was dancing the whole time and we all really enjoyed it. And it was free!
We reserved spots for the Ocean Sports am snorkel to the Black Sand Beach for the 4 of us adults (using the 2 for 1 vouchers) and the kids (who were free). We had to check-in at 10:15 at A-Bay so we drove over there from Hali'i Kai. The parking for A-Bay is to the left after you turn in to the condos of Kolea. It is sort of hidden. The guys at Ocean Sports clued us in. It was a full cruise but still enjoyable. Good snorkeling. The staff were great and really helped my husband's aunt try to snorkel for the first time (in her 60's). Lunch was good too and so were the drinks on the way home! We also saw several whales, including a fantastic breach!
After the cruise we spent time at A-Bay just relaxing and playing in the water. The water in the ocean was always pretty warm (to MN blood!) so it was nice.
For dinner, I just made a bunch of pupus (including guacamole from my Farmer's Market avocado) and had a casual dinner at the condo. We went to the pool area to watch the sunset, too.
More to come!