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Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

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Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

So, Husband & I are planning a trip in December to Hawaii. I have only been to Hawaii once in my life & that was to Kauai about 10 years ago. I truly loved it there & have been wanting to go back. Husband has never been to any island.

Since neither of us have been to the Big Island, I had considered going there instead of Kauai, this time. But, Kauai was just so magical, I'm having a hard time deciding. So, here I am, looking for input. I'm also wondering if we go to the Big Island, whether we should stay in Kona or Hilo (or split the week half & half).

Some additional background on us:

1) I'm 44 & Husband is 48.

2) Regardless of which island we go to, we would like rent a house as opposed to stay at a hotel.

3) We do not like resorts or crowds & neither of us surf.

4) We don't tan.

5) We prefer activities like hiking or snorkeling to just laying on a lounge chair on a beach (see #4).

6) We love cocktails, music & good food.

Any advice or opinions = greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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1. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

Hmmm, that's a tough one. First of all I assume you know that the Big Island looks nothing like Kauai for the most part. Our dry, sunny, "beachy" west side is mostly barren lava rock except the shoreline, resorts, and town. The gorgeous jagged lush green mountains plunging to the sea that Kauai has omnipresent do not dominate our landscape. Our best beaches are all on the Kohala Coast and almost all of them have resorts on them, except Waialea Bay (more on that in a minute).

One major area where we are superior to Kauai is snorkeling, diving, and swimming. Our island has the best in the state. Read the Top Questions which talks about snorkeling locations and seasonality. Winter isn't the best time, but you can almost always find a good spot and work around the surf.

One area I see as a possible problem is the rental house requirement. We do have them but not nearly the inventory and price range you'll find on Kauai or Maui, and your beachfront options are extremely limited to the handful of rentals on Waialea Bay or several thousand of dollars per night villas. Puako is a possibility, it's a small oceanfront community on the Kohala Coast of mostly vacation rentals and some residents, close to all the beaches, but no restaurants or bars in the community itself.

If you don't mind being an hour or so from the best beaches and staying in a town, your best bet is probably Kailua Kona rentals on Alii Drive. These are direct oceanfront. They will not have beaches or ocean access, and they for the most part are all right next to each other and are on a road, but ocean waves and walls and landscaping provide buffers with the best ones. You will have easy access to the cocktails/nightlife portion of your "wants". It is cloudier in Kona than on the Kohala Coast, but you might appreciate that given your OP. The best snorkeling nearby will be in South Kona at Honaunau Bay, about 30 minutes south. Town has Kahaluu Bay for snorkeling, some people love it, I'm not a big fan, but there's lots of fish.

With a week, I'd spend a night or two on the east side, Volcano or Hilo. It will likely be very wet that time of year on the east side and chilly in volcano.

Edited: 21 September 2012, 03:27
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2. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

Thank you, Shea! Very helpful info.

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3. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

We pretty much have the same discussion whenever someone who wants Kaua'i starts looking here. It's just not the same. Houses near beaches are really expensive, and if you go outside the "resort" area and find a house rental, there won't be any restaurants within walking or anything in the way of infrastructure other than rentals. You'll have to drive to everything.

If you stay in town, your snorkel spots will be very busy and limited choices.

The "resort" look is rather a good thing near the beaches, or else you are in brown desert landscape.

There are also houses in three subdivisions north of Kawaihae: Kohala by the Sea, Kohala Estates, Kohala Ranch. Two are gated; one is mixed nice and not so great (Kohala Estates). The views are great there if you are lower down. Again, you will be in car to go out to eat.

Lots of whales off the coast there.

I realize I'm not making it sound too appealing, but it really is very nice and the weather is better than Kaua'i. I don't tan either. Some beaches have natural shade. Lots of shoreline hikes. Beautiful ocean.

It may be you should both go back to Kaua'i, just consider the winter weather. I mean it's been ten years, and you know you love it, and your husband hasn't been. But snorkeling may not be good there is there has been a lot of rain and runoff.

Not having a crystal ball to predict Kaua'i weather makes it tough.

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4. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

Winter snorkeling on Kauai's south shore will be OK. The best beaches have no rivers, so no runoff.

Whatever you decide, you need to move pretty fast. December is high season. Lodgings and rental cars will get booked up quickly.

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5. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

I don't think you want either one. It's not a good season for Kauai -- you're rained out on the beautiful north shore. Big Island is *nothing* like Kauai on its' sunny-side!

How about Maui? (Stay south of Napili.)

Early December is the least expensive time of the whole year to visit Hawaii -- right up to the Christmas holidays, when it suddenly becomes the most expensive time to visit!

Take a look at some resort condos in South Kihei and Wailea in South Maui: www.mauiownercondos.com Most offer everything a hotel does except room service.

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6. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

I'd ask your question again on the Maui board...there can be good snorkeling there toward the south in winter (most snorkeling sites are seasonal on all the islands) and there are more opportunities for less-expensive beachfront rentals.

If you stayed in the Kaanapali area of Maui you could walk to some good food and drink, or take a short drive to Lahaina (busier but charming). If you are in Kihei/Wailea/Makena you will drive to most meals althoug some places may be walkable depending where you stay. Again, those questions are better answered on the Maui forum.

If what you liked about Kauai was the lush greenery all over, I wonder if Hawaii Island might be too much of a shock at first. Save it for a third trip where you go to Hawaii Ialand and then maybe back to Maui or Kauai in the summer.

Edited: 21 September 2012, 15:50
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7. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

I agree with ChiSue....try Maui in December

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8. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

Love Kauai & Big Island very much.......have visited both many many times for extended periods of time.

My vote would be a trip to the South Kohala region on the Big Island during December.South Kohala experiences some of the nicest weather of all the Hawaiian Islands during that period of time.

What is your nightly accommodation budget? Would a condo/villa work ...over a Hotel/house?Will this visit be over the latter part of the month?

The south Kohala area ...while a rather desirable destination(weather, beaches)...... and contains 2 primary Resort areas.....the vibe is entirely different...and significantly less crowded than you will experience elsewhere.

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9. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

Thanks to everyone for their opinions. I think that, in the past, I always avoided Maui because it seemed like where college friends went on spring break or was really "timeshare-oriented."

But, maybe I just haven't given it a proper chance. Some friends of ours just got back from there & the photos are gorgeous.

We are trying to stay around $125 - $150/nt MAX for this trip. We're using airline award miles for the airfare. I went to Kauai last time in late October and it was pretty rainy, but I still loved it.

I appreciate all of the responses, honestly & have a lot to think about!

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10. Re: Big Island vs. Kauai & Hilo vs. Kona?

I think your instincts about Maui are not particularly off, and that you would prefer the atmosphere of Kaua'i or Hawai'i Island, just from what you say.

If it is important to you to drink cocktails at bars that are oceanfront, you might prefer Kona where you can get less expensive drinks. A cocktail at an oceanside bar up north is going to be in a resort and it will run you #13-15 and up.

I guess they have specials around Kona. I don't drink Mai Tais so I don't pay any attention to that and don't find the bar scene in Kona interesting at all, but some visitors do. The food isn't that good there either, but it is cheaper.

The cocktails and food part of your wish list does sound Maui, but the rest of your wishes don't.

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