Everyone on this forum was so helpful when I was planning! I hope that this review will help some of you.
The Big Island (7 nights)
We flew from Maui to Hilo on Hawaiian air. We rented from Avis again and had a Chevy Cruise. This car was much more comfortable than our previous cars in Maui. We drove from the airport to our hotel, the Kilauea Lodge.
Kilauea Lodge (2 nights)
The Lodge is small and charming and we had a great stay.
Room-We stayed in the honeymoon deluxe room and I was pleasantly surprised. It had a comfortable king size bed, a fireplace, a nice shower, and a private balcony with a beautiful view of the rainforest. We are very hot natured and did not use the fireplace or heater. But we did not need air conditioning either.
Food- We had the breakfast included with the room and it was quite good. We also had dinner here one night and it was delicious.
Other restaurants- we also ate at Lava Rock Café- we had burgers that were ok. I bought some lilkoi bread from the adjacent store and it was just ok as well. We had dinner at Thai Thai which was good food, but on the expensive side.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach- We drove about 45 minutes from our hotel after checking in to visit this beach. It is very picturesque and there was a turtle relaxing on the beach too.
Volcano National Park-
On the evening of our arrival we went to see the glow of the volcano at the Jagger Museum after dinner. It was stunning and worth a visit. We had originally planned to watch the sunset there too, but it was a cloudy, overcast day, so we skipped that.
The next morning we drove to different overlooks- the Jagger Museum, the steam vents and others. We did some short hikes and walked through the Thurston Lava Tubes. We had just gotten back to our hotel so my husband could leave for the lava hike with Kalapana Cultural Tours and they called to cancel the tour due to weather. My husband decided not to reschedule for another day since we were leaving the area the next morning. We had hopes of going back and doing the Kilauea Iki hike since his hike was canceled, but instead we were lazy and relaxed on our balcony and room for the afternoon.
That evening after dinner we went back to have one last look at the glow and we couldn’t see anything because of the clouds. I was so glad we were there to see it the day before.
On the way to the Mauna Lani (5 nights)
The next morning we made our way to the Mauna Lani, making stops along the way. We stopped at Rainbow Falls and at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, which were the most beautiful botanical gardens I have visited. Next we visited Akaka Falls which I thought was stunning. We had a good lunch at Fish and the Hog in Waimea—but the day we went they did not have any fish!
We had planned to visit Pololu or Waipio Valley this day, but it was very cloudy and hazy so we didn’t think there would be a good view for them.
Hotel- Mauna Lani-
We booked a garden view room, but were guaranteed at booking an upgrade to an ocean view room. Additionally we had a large credit and free breakfast each morning in our package.
Room- in the first room they gave us, one of the sinks was filled with a black liquid that did not smell good. We opted for them to give us a different room, even though the view from the new room wasn’t quite as good and it was one floor lower. We still had a view of the ocean over the fish ponds. I was surprised at how large the terrace was. The room overall was comfortable (I really liked the sofa). The bed was the least comfortable of our trip, but not awful.
Service was friendly and efficient at the restaurant, beach and pool areas.
Beach- the beach directly in front of the resort was pretty, but we only spent one afternoon there. I liked that the cabanas were included free of charge, but I feel like they don’t provide as much shade as umbrellas. But we had a solution for that—just choose one that’s already under a tree for more shade. The beach (in fact the whole resort) was not crowded at all.
Pool- the pool was nice, but we only spent a little time at the pool bar. Those lava flows are delicious! Again, there were no crowds to be seen.
Food- we were not wowed by the food, but it was typical resort food. I did love the banana bread at breakfast. We ate more meals here than I would have liked (we usually like to branch out more), but we had the resort credit to spend. I found the lunches and dinners at the Terrace to be typical resort food—except the brownie with macadamia nut ice cream was delicious. We did enjoy a lunch at Huli Sue’s—great grilled chicken and hamburgers. We also dined at the Canoe House one night. The place was gorgeous with such a wonderful ambience. We enjoyed the lobster cake, then my husband had the beet salad and a lobster special for his meal- he liked that as well. But I had the steak and it really was not good—it was not at all tender and had a strange flavor- I expected more given the cost too. The mac nut ice cream helped make up for me not eating much of the steak though!
Our favorite thing about the Mauna Lani was the easy access to Makaiwa Beach. Fanstastic snorkeling! I went three times. It was the calmest place that we could find to snorkel on the island. It was about a 10 minute walk or the resort shuttle would drop you off (we did it both ways). The coral starts very close to shore and there is a lot more to explore than it looks.
Snorkeling- we were disappointed in our snorkeling opportunities in general—but what we did see blew our snorkel experience in Maui out of the water. Makaiwa was my favorite place. Wai’alea had lots of fish and coral. The first day we went it was way to murky to see much of anything and the current was strong. We went back the next day and it was a much easier swim and less murky, but still not clear enough for my photos to come out. I imagine it would be wonderful when the water is clear—there were SO many fish! We also tried snorkeling at Hapuna, Kauna’oa, and Kukio—but all of them were just too murky. Those beaches are beautiful – I thought Hapuna was the most beautiful beach I saw on the Big Island. (I was stung by a jellyfish at Kauna’oa, so I think that soured me a bit on that beach—even though it was just a small sting!) We were also going to try Honaunau, but when we got there it was packed with cruise shippers, so we decided to skip it. Unfortunately, we never made it back down that far south. We also attempted Kahalu’u that day, but again it was just too murky.
Manta Ray Night Snorkel with Big Island Divers- my favorite activity of the trip! This was an amazing experience. I wish we had done it twice! I believe we saw around 8 mantas that night. The Big Island Divers crew were great. I had contemplated not wearing a wet suit because I am not one to get cold. But I am so glad that I did- if not I probably would have needed to get out of the water early. We liked that is was a smaller group on the boat (about 20 people- half snorkelers and half divers). Here are a couple of videos from our trip-
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau Historic Park- We enjoyed our stroll through this park—the only annoyance was that we chose the wrong time and the cruise shippers were there in full force. I knew I should have woken up my husband earlier that day! It is definitely worth a visit to learn some of the history and it’s also very picturesque.
Waipio and Pololu Bay Overlooks- we visited both of these scenic overlooks. Just stunning scenery! We had considered skipping these because my husband was tired of driving, but I’m so glad that we didn’t. I thought they were both worth the drive, even though I didn’t do any hiking. (My husband did hike about halfway down to Pololu.)
For restaurants outside the resort--
We were pleasantly surprised at the food court restaurants in the Queen’s Shops. I never go to food courts! But the rotisserie chicken at Ippy’s was fantastic and huge- more than enough to feed both my husband and me. My husband said that Lemongrass was also delicious.
We enjoyed the pizzas at Merriman’s and Café Pesto (although service was quite slow at Café Pesto).
We enjoyed roadside barbeque chicken and pork sandwiches at Big Jakes’ Island Barbeque—and they had great lemonade too.
One afternoon we stopped by Beachtree at the Four Seasons. The ambience is wonderful and we enjoyed watching the waves crashing on the beach. The lave flow and a hot fudge sundae with mac nut ice cream were delicious.
Overall, the Big Island was our favorite island that we visited and I hope that we can return sometime soon!