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Is this too much for one day?

Virginia
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Is this too much for one day?

My family (me, hubby, daughters 14 & 8) will be on the Big Island in early July for 7 full days (8 nights) based in Kona. That much I cannot change.

During our week, we will travel to VNP and spend one night at Kilauea Military Camp (I read all the warnings not to drive back at night). We would depart Kona early with minimal stops along the way so we have most of the day to explore VNP. The following day we plan to leave VNP mid-morning and stop at Ahalanui Park, Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls before going to Mauna Kea for star gazing at the VIS. Is that too much to tackle in one day? Our kids are good travelers, so I'm not concerned about that. We could do VIS another night, but it's 2 hours each way from Kona, correct? I'm trying to minimize time in the car and hoped it could work to do it after VNP. I am open to suggestions. Thanks so much -- this forum has been so helpful!

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Island of Hawaii...
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1. Re: Is this too much for one day?

I wouldnʻt do the VIS at the end of a long day like that. Also, Akaka Falls is well along your way home if you were taking the Hamakua Coast route, and doubling back isnʻt efficient.

I donʻt recommend Ahalanui. Not only is it a bacterial soup, but the theft problem there is about the worst on the east side. Also, if youʻre going there, youʻre basically doing a tour of Lower Puna, as itʻs way down south of Kapoho. Nothing wrong with a tour of Puna, but then I would add more interesting stops and wouldnʻt just do it for the dubious warm pond experience.

I wouldnʻt put the kids through so much altitude change in two days. People do get altitude sickness at 9000 feet.

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2. Re: Is this too much for one day?

I am not great with itineraries, but I would recommend going to the zoo in Hilo while you are on that side if you have time - it's free and besides the animals/birds, etc., there are orchids everywhere! :)

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Hilo
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3. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Good suggestion, much better place to go than Ahalanui. :)

Virginia
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4. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Hmmm - so if I drop Ahalanui and stay on the Hamakua Coast route after Akaka Falls, what other interesting stops do you suggest on our route back to Kona -- Waipio Valley lookout? Gardens? Beaches? I truly am open to suggestions. It will likely be the only day (during this trip, anyway) that we will be on the Hilo side.

Also, thanks for your input on altitude - I wasn't thinking about the altitude changes. We can go to MK VIS another evening.

ETA - Posted before I read the comment on the zoo. Other suggestions welcome!

Edited: 03 April 2013, 04:36
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5. Re: Is this too much for one day?

I also enjoyed the botanical garden north of Hilo, but doubt most kids would really enjoy that . . . I think most kids would have fun at VNP since there is so many cool things to look at! :)

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Hilo
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6. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Yep focus on Hamakua Coast sites north of Hilo. Maybe start out at Ken's Pancake House in Hilo for a very early breakfast. Skip lower Puna and Alahanui unless you have another full day to explore. You could probably also squeeze in quick stops in Hilo to the Japanese Gardens and Rainbow falls short side trips.

To me the Hilo zoo is great for kids and boring for adults. I'm thinkng if you stop there it will really slow down your day so you be the judge.

Hamakua Coast sites heading north of Hilo should def. be Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens, then maybe short stop at What's Shakin for smooties, then north to Honomu town and Akaka Falls, then further north to Laupahoehoe Point is really dramatic shoreline, then farther north to Waipio Valley overlook (maybe walk down the road/trail a couple of switch backs for better camera angles), then back track to Honokaa town for late lunch or early dinner or over to Waimea for dinner.

Edited: 03 April 2013, 18:16
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7. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Waipio Valley Overlook is just a short detour from the main road and worth a stop.

If you want a taste of the Botanical Gardens without investing a lot of time and money, then you might consider the Onomea Bay Scenic Drive and Trail. The drive is a well marked road on the makai side of Hwy 19 about 4.5 miles north of Hilo. It is narrow twisting two lane road with several one lane bridges, so please watch your speed. The trailhead is about a mile up this road on the right - there is a tiny turnout (just big enough for 2-3 cars) immediately after a hard left curve, with a nice view of Onomea Bay to your right.

The trail descends sharply down to the water, and actually skirts the back side of the Botanical Gardens. There is a nice side trail that leads to a lava rock spit that has a small blowhole at the end. The trail ends at a stream after about a half mile. It is possible to cross the stream and continue back to the road on the Donkey Trail, but I would not recommend it, since the area can be prone to flash floods.

A WORD OF WARNING - the trail can be very slick (especially after a rain), and the waters of the bay are *very* treacherous. Footing can be a problem, especially on slick lava rock. We were there on a dry, sunny day, and I actually walked the short distance out towards the blowhole, but still stayed well back out of concerns over slipping on the wet rock. I would not take children out there - if the waves are rough, then I suggest you restrict your viewing to just what you can see from shore.

Another interesting (free) place to stop is Honoli'i Beach Park just north of Hilo. This is a popular surfing spot and there will usually be few folks out catching some waves. The road to the park is narrow and parking can be a challenge. We parked on the street at the top of the hill and walked down, but you actually get a better view of the surfers from up on the road.

If you are interested in Hawaiian culture, then you should consider Pu'ukohola Heiau on the Kohala coast. This is an extremely important area in the pre-unification history of Hawaii, and is preserved as both a historical as well as a religious site. It is the location of the last major Hawaiian temple, or "heiau". Admission is free, and it is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.

Note that we did not do all these in one day - we visited Rainbow and Akaka Falls, Honoli'i Beach Park and Onomea Bay on the morning of one day, then drove the next day from Hilo to Kona via the Hamakua Coast (stopping at Waipio Valley Overlook and Pu'ukohola Heiau along the way). I think it *could* all be done in a day, but you would need to start early and budget your time carefully. It's probably best to choose your options, prioritize them, and then see what you have the time and inclination for as you are driving.

Note that the only one of these activities that requires any kind of fee is Akaka Falls, so it's not a bad way to spend a day for a family on a budget.

-JimG

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8. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Theodore Jay, I wish you'd stop saying the Hilo Zoo is boring for adults. That's just your opinion, certainly not mine or, I'm betting, many other adults. No, there are no elephants or gorillas, etc., but there are lots of interesting birds and other small animals.....plus a tiger who lives in park-like surroundings and there is lots of interesting vegetation.

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Hilo
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9. Re: Is this too much for one day?

Thanks Bob & DI - I liked the zoo - not really fond of zoos overall, but I liked the displays and the fact that they keep it free for everyone. I think I spent about an hour there - not a really long time, but it was a nice relaxing stroll. :)

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10. Re: Is this too much for one day?

I like the zoo for the tiger Namaste and the wonderful plants. Orchids, tropical rhododendrons, red jade vine, lipstick palms, other specimen plants, peacocks on the paths. Meanwhile the kids enjoy the low key unusual animal exhibits. I like it better than the Botanical Garden because it is open and airy instead of in a gulch.

It sounds like Jim had no issues, but the Onomea Trail parking has at times been a hot spot for car break ins. Be sure you do not leave anything remotely valuable visible in the car.

Thank you BobandDi for defending our gem of a rainforest zoo. :)

Edited: 03 April 2013, 21:05