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Trip Report - 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

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Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

First, The Constraints

I. Finances:

I am a single parent of a 9 year old little boy (he turned 9 during the trip, which was his present), and while we manage to travel every summer, our budget is seriously constrained by many factors: 1) I am in academia/education (we don’t make a lot), 2) there is only my income (I am not divorced, his father passed away, without leaving anything behind), 3) I pay a mortgage and a car note, and 4) he is in private school. So basically, if we go outside the continental 48, plane tickets get paid for out of my tax check, and we save for lodging, car rental, and spending money throughout the year in the same way they did in the movie “Up.” If we can’t go somewhere for at least 2 weeks, it is not worth it to us. But based on what I was able to put aside for the last 11 months, we were constrained to an average of 85 bucks a night for lodging (before taxes), or we could not have made two weeks work. Our budget is our budget, as defined by reality, as opposed to choice, and there is no wiggle room. I am not trying to be cheap. I would prefer to have a much bigger budget than I do. Sadly, I have to work miracles with what we have. Actually, not sadly, because that we had that to work with was already fortunate. We had way less last summer.

II. Interests:

Our main interest is archaeology – if that’s not there, we don’t go, because the bucket list just with that is incredibly long. This year, my son got to pick between The Big Island (cheaper tickets/expensive accommodation), and Peru (more expensive tickets/lots of cheap, safe accommodation). Both places met the archaeology requirement – the Volcano became the deciding factor. Peru doesn’t have Kilauea.

III. Lodging Preferences:

We live in an overcrowded, dirty, extremely hot and dry city that is going through a drought. I wanted to stay in places that were lush, green, and rural, had a higher probability of rain and wind, without too many people around. Given this, resorts, hotels, and condo complexes were all out automatically, pricing aside, simply because lots of people stay there – I just would not have felt able to relax. So we were looking at either a) Bed and Breakfasts (talking to people at breakfast is fine, but no matter how cleverly and beautifully designed they are, or how private they are made to appear architecturally, condo complexes/subdivisions make me feel like I’m living in a hive, even though the unit itself is private), or b) vacation rentals that were not part of a complex (Airbnb preferred over VRBO) - with TWO beds (we could have shared a bed if necessary, but he tends to kick people in the ribs in the night). My preferences are certainly not everyone’s, and other preferences are certainly valid, but this is what I needed in order to be able to enjoy my vacation.

Was this possible? Happily, yes, it was! We were able to see and do a nice chunk of what we wanted (not everything, though), and find SAFE accommodations that were both within our budget and fulfilled all my housing preferences. I am sure there are travelers whose financial constraints are worse than ours, and that even more of a shoestring is possible, but for those folks with resources and commitments similar to ours, and for single parents, and for folks who might share some of our interests, I thought a trip report might be useful. It is very long, so I will post it in three chunks: Volcano & the East Side, Captain Cook, and Hawi (our three bases), and will post each chunk in the relevant specific forum also.

Thanks to the folks on TripAdvisor who gave me some good tips, public and private, as well as to my Hawaiian friend from college, and to former University of Hawaii Hilo faculty (who are now in L.A. - particularly for their advice on hiking in HVNP with nine year old boys, and snorkeling with nervous children). I was lucky to have been able to bounce information from many perspectives off many minds.

Cheers.

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1. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Leg One – Volcano & the East Side

Day One, Tuesday 6/25: We flew into Hilo in the late afternoon. Since our lodgings in Volcano preferred folks to check in prior to 4:00 p.m., and since my son was likely to be tired from the flight and would have just wanted to eat and crash, we stayed in Hilo for the first night. We reserved the cheapest car possible through http://www.discounthawaiicarrental.com, and including all taxes, it cost us 417 bucks (I don’t know about other folks, but we did a lot of stuff, and we did NOT need a 4WD vehicle at all – our little Ford Fiesta was plenty good enough), and picking it up was a breeze. Then, my son wanted pancakes, so we stopped at Ken’s and then checked into our digs – 70 bucks before taxes at The Lotus Garden/Sugar Shack in Hilo – nice folks, well-reviewed on both Tripadvisor and Airbnb – had a queen bed only, so I got kicked in the ribs, BUT, they were a block and a half away from the Hilo Farmers Market, so…

Day Two, Wednesday 6/26: First, Hilo Farmers Market. Goal: To pick up enough fruit and other provisions for most meals for the next 5 days. We LOVED the farmers market. They had all this fruit I grew up with in the Philippines – they had Chico fruit, and lychees, and mangoes, and rhambutan, and even fresh mangosteen! Between the farmers market and the KTA, we headed up to Volcano stocked with Punalu’u Sweet Bread, organic peanut butter, lilikoi jam, mango jam, goat cheese (for me), and six days worth of assorted fruit (we spent about 65 bucks). Then, we checked into My Island B & B, into their Ki’i Room (85 bucks a night, with TWO beds), which would be our base for five nights. This place is great. The former innkeeper, Gordon Morse (now 86 years old, so his daughter Ki’i Morse runs the place) has 8 decades of stories to tell about the Big Island, and we never tired of talking to him. They also had a refrigerator for guests where we could stash our food. They let us check in early, so we were able to spend time at the park – we went to the Visitor’s Center, did part of the short Sulfur Banks hike (when it started to smell too sulfurous, we turned around – they have signs about the fumes and kids, and even though he’s not a small child, I figured why risk it), and checked out the steam vents, went to the Jagger Museum and got our first look at Halemaumau Crater from the overlook during the day, and then went to Nahuku, the Thurston Lava Tube. Afterwards, we headed back to My Island, ate, relaxed, and went back into the park after dark to see the glow at night – gorgeous. We went back to see that glow EVERY night, because we could, so why not?

Day Three, Thursday 6/27: Major VNP Hiking Day (the individual hikes weren’t major – just on the long side when added all together). After breakfast (which is plentiful at My Island – fruit, homemade breads, jams, pastries, and yogurt – yup, even the yogurt is homemade), we went on the Kilauea Iki hike (perfectly fine for a very active 8/9 year old, provided you wear hats, use a lot of sunscreen, wear hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, STAY ON THE TRAIL and not act like pure fools, and hike down the steeper side, and hike up the more switch-backed side, which puts you back at the Thurston Lava Tube – it’s easier for kids to hike out of the crater on this side because the ascent is gentler – some folks with kids who tried to hike it the other way ended up turning back and hiking out the same way they climbed down – be aware, however, that this is a two to three hour operation, so if your kid isn’t fit – mine does 8 to 10 mile hikes pretty regularly – well, let’s just say that whether this would be OK for your kid should be assessed on a case by case basis. Afterwards, he wanted to go through the Lava Tube again, since we were there, before we had our picnic lunch that we had made. After lunch, we drove down Chain of Craters Road, and did two more hikes. First, we went to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs (he was in heaven). Then, we drove to where you can park close to the end of Chain of Craters Road, walked to where the old lava flow cuts the road off, and hiked on the lava until we found the wonderfully ironic road sign reading “Road Closed” sticking out. Again, the walk to the end of the road is longish and hot (and very windy on our day), and anyone (especially kids) should not clamber around on lava in flip flops and shorts, because the footing is treacherous and you can get scraped up pretty badly if you trip (a lot of kids were, and I don’t know what their parents were thinking), so be prepared with sunscreen, hats, water, and the right shoes (you can buy drinks at the kiosk before walking out there). It is suitable for a fit 8/9 year old if you do it right. Afterwards, we went back to My Island, made food, went back into the park for our glow ritual, and then turned in early.

Day Four, Friday 6/28: Minor VNP Hiking and Scenic Drive Day. Today, we decided to hike only in the morning, and to spend our afternoon in a more leisurely way. First, we went back to Chain of Craters Road and did the Pu’u Huluhulu hike, which was a couple of hours long, max, and was pretty neat – we got a few sprinkles of rain, but not much, my son got a real kick out of his first encounter with lava trees (which are more clearly visible and startling on the walk back), and because visibility was very good that day (the clouds that sprinkled us were not on that side), we were able to see Pu’u O’o from the top! We liked it up at the top, so we chilled up there with our binoculars for a while, and ate the sandwich half of our lunch, and met some folks who kindly took a rare picture with both of us in it at the same time, before heading back to the car. Again, fine for hiking with a fit kid if you are sensible – hats, sunscreen, lots of water, stay on the trail, be mindful of fumes (nary a whiff that day – oh, and incidentally, the Rangers here are extremely helpful and knowledgeable, so please talk to them about safety concerns – we sure did, daily, and they helped us make sure our visit was both fun and safe) – luckily, the rangers and our hosts were able to talk to us about the peculiarities of all the hikes we took, including this one (the turn left to go up the cone is not as clear as it could be, so you could make a mistake and end up on a longer hike than you wanted, but our hosts warned us in advance, and so we found the turn with no problem). In the afternoon, since we wanted a break from hiking, we decided to go on a scenic drive through Puna - from the 11, we took the 130 to Pahoa, the 132 to Kapoho, and the 137 (The Red Road, which should be renamed The Most Beautiful Road on Earth) to Kalapana - from there, we caught the road back to Pahoa and drove back to Volcano. During this excursion, we stopped at Lava Tree State Park (which we thought was beautiful, and a nice extension to the lava trees we had seen in the morning), the Ahalanui Hot Pond (we didn’t swim, because everyone’s warnings about bacteria levels kind of freaked me out, but we stopped to look – nice place, pity about the issues), and Mackenzie State Park (which was beautiful, but WEIRD – there was no one there but ourselves and a very elderly, friendly local couple who were holding hands and watching the ocean together in their deck chairs, but sound under the ironwood trees is very muffled, and it’s creepy there in a “Place That Is Just As Real, But Not As Brightly Lit” way, for those who get the reference – we had the rest of our lunch there and left the goose bumps behind). We capped the day off at the Kilauea Military Camp, of all places - vacation cabins in the national park that families in the Armed Services can rent – only because they had a free Friday night Hula show. The food was of the stodgy buffet variety, but it was a break from PBJs and fruit, and my son enjoyed the show (surprisingly) because they had Keiki Hula with a little boy, and so he clapped really loud. Then we went to see the glow again, of course.

Day Five, Saturday, 6/29: Hamakua Coast Day – Hilo to Waipi’o Valley Overlook. Today, we wanted a change of pace, so we decided to do this drive, particularly since the weather in the morning was sunny (part of the impetus behind staying in Volcano, in addition to easy night time park access, was I wanted a more rural, cooler, rainier experience, but the weather was sunny – mostly anyway - the whole time we were there – go figure). It was a great drive. Our first stop was Onomea Bay and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden – absolutely beautiful – and my son loved the parrots, who said “Aloha,” “Hello,” “Hi, Birdie,” and “Bye.” Then, we picked up smoothies at What’s Shakin’ and headed first to Akaka Falls and then Laupahoehoe Point. The weather did not hold for much longer, though. Ten minutes before we got to Honokaa, it started to pour, and by the time we got to the Waipi’o Overlook, the valley was shrouded in mist, so we stopped at Tex Drive In for malasadas and headed back. Before heading up to Volcano, we went to both Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots (it was cloudyish, but we had left the rain behind), where we picked up a bag of lychees from a vendor and hung out for awhile. Afterwards, we headed back to My Island, made a picnic dinner, and took it to the overlook at the Jagger Museum for the glow that we never seemed to tire of.

Day Six, Sunday, 6/30: Adventures to the South. Even though we were to head south the following day on our way to our next base, because I was worried about long stops with our luggage in the car, we decided to do a South day while we were still staying in Volcano. It was lovely, and leisurely. After breakfast, we headed down there. It had been part of our plan to hike the bit of the Ka’u Desert Trail that gets you to the footprints, but we had to forego that because I had given myself a blister on the Pu’u Huluhulu hike (kinked sock, didn’t notice, dumb), and since we had hiking planned at the back end of the trip, I thought I had better not aggravate it further, so instead, we made a picnic, and spent most of the day at Punalu’u Beach. Even though it was calm, it did not strike me as a good place to swim, but we did wade, and play in the sand, and sit in tide pools that had been warmed by the sun, and we were fortunate enough to see three turtles sunning themselves and an additional 3 or 4 swimming. After several hours, we drove on to Na’alehu to check it out – a very cute town, I thought – and we stopped at the Punalu’u Bake Shop to pick up more sweetbread and malasadas (not as good, or as fresh, as the ones from Tex’s). On the way home, we went to Pahala (also pretty) and I tried some Ka’u coffee – I thought it was better than Kona coffee, but what do I know? Even though I was bummed that we had to miss the footprints, I think the day was more fun for its slower pace. My son was fascinated by the black sand, and had fun. Since it was our last night in Volcano, we made sandwiches, bundled up, and went to watch our glow one last time, until he got sleepy and it was time for bed.

Some thoughts: Even though we allocated six days to the East Side, the first day wasn’t really a day at all, and we still did not do everything we wanted there. Although I am sure that it is possible to do the highlights in less time, we are happy that we had this much time available, and if my son had been old enough to hike to the surface flows, I would definitely have wanted to allocate two more days to the East side of the Island, which is beautiful and rich with possible experiences. Again, all a matter of taste, but for us and our particular interests, it was barely enough time, and had he been older, it would not have been enough at all. Oh – total food cost for 6 days (including Ken’s, Hula Friday at the military camp, smoothies, malasadas, sandwich fixings, fruit, and two cases of bottled water) was 125 bucks – not bad. Getting accommodations with a full kitchen would have ended up costing us more in the long run – the fridge at My Island B & B (along with the really good breakfasts – the monkey bread was to die for – we were lucky to be there on monkey bread day) really helped with the cost cutting. Perhaps if we had been a bigger family, a more expensive place with a full kitchen might have made more sense, but for just the two of us, this was more economical. Oh, and we topped off the gas tank on day 4, down the mountain, before the Puna drive – it was 4.27 a gallon, but the Fiesta got good mileage, and it is cheaper than up in Volcano – pricey, but we spent so much time in the park itself that we didn’t use that much gas even with our longer excursions. Between HVNP fees (ten bucks), and parking fees at Akaka Falls, and admission fees to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (20 bucks total), we spent around 35 bucks for other stuff – also not bad, and by being frugal on the front end, I was able to buy us more restaurant freedom later on (which I figure was fine, since the restaurant choices up in Volcano Village are not exactly plentiful anyway). FYI, even without the budget constraints, My Island B & B was an exact right fit for us. It was beautiful, we loved our hosts, we loved the food, and the other guests (luck of the draw, I know) were just our sort of folks – one guest was even another Filipina educator in from Oahu, who was about to move to Tonga in the Peace Corps, which was really kind of neat, because I work with a lot of Tongans (half the kingdom has moved to Los Angeles, it seems), and so we got to talk about Tonga in Tagalog over papaya and monkey bread. Good times. I definitely want to stay there again (although if budget was not a concern at all, I would also love to check this place out: http://volcanotreehouse.net/)

Milwaukie, Oregon
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2. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Looking forward to reading about your stays in Captain Cook and Hawi, which for me are two of the most appealing areas on the Big Island.

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3. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Thanks for the interest! Running into a glitch, but will post the rest as soon as the glitch is resolved.

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4. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Great TR, looking forward to the rest. We leave in less than a week and I'll be with my 12 y.o. son, so it's interesting to me to read about your son's experience, although it sounds like your son's attention span is much longer than my son's!!

K

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5. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Coming soon!

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6. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Waiting for more! Great report!

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7. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Leg Two – Captain Cook

Day 7, Monday, 7/1: Transition Day. After breakfast, we headed towards Captain Cook in South Kona. We chose that location because it is on the rural side (with so many chickens! I thought I was home! Of course, I love chickens – folks who might find them annoying should know in advance that Captain Cook is chock full of chickens), green, and cloudy in the afternoons (it was also cool, every day we were there except the first night). Since we couldn’t check in to our next place until 3:00, we headed straight for Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. We expected to have to pay a fee to park, but there was no charge that day. Also, it was very nice out. The park ranger was an older woman who was very helpful, and she suggested that we put off touring the park until later on, and directed us to change into our suits and go to Honaunau Bay and get in the water. We didn’t have any snorkeling masks with us (we could borrow them from our next base, but we had not yet checked in), but we both had goggles, and that was just as well anyway – my son is a very strong swimmer – he’s on a USA swim team – but he had a bad breathing experience using a snorkeling mask in Akumal, MX when he was six, and has not yet fully overcome his claustrophobic freakout, so we just swam. Despite his considerable swimming skills, though, I am not yet fully comfortable with him swimming in the ocean – he’s not used to it, tends to first get overconfident, and then panic, and the middle of the Pacific is not the same as California or the Caribbean (heck, even in the Philippines, swimming on the South China Sea side is vastly different from swimming on the Pacific Side) – so I made sure he stuck with me, and we stayed out of the open bay – we stuck to the area close to the boat launch ramp on the left, and used that ramp to enter the water rather than the “two-step” entry – thankfully, there were enough interesting fish over there (plus another little boy that became his swimming friend for the morning) that he didn’t get too mad at me for being overprotective. It’s not like he wasn’t having any fun. Afterwards, we had a picnic lunch (again), walked back to our car, dried off, threw on dry shorts and t-shirts and explored Pu’uhonua O Honaunau. It was amazing, and beautiful, and he was fascinated. By the time we were done, it was time to check in to our next base – a place called A Beautiful Edge of the World B & B. It had not been our first choice (our first choice was booked for the dates we wanted), but it suited our needs and worked out better than I had expected at the outset – they served good, filling breakfasts, and they had a comfortable room with TWO beds (no kicking) and a private bathroom (in the hallway, but still private) for 89 bucks a night – 4 bucks a night over budget, but the first night in Hilo was only 70 bucks, so really, if you average everything out, it put us one dollar over our lodging budget - lol. Also, they let us do our laundry for free, twice, and they let us borrow snorkeling equipment and towels and coolers with ice for free as well – no fridge, but the cooler was still sufficient for our fruit, bread, and jam, and the ice packs were endless. It was also very clean, had a stellar view, had an outdoor cat that liked my son, was located on a coffee and macadamia nut farm, so we could crack and eat as many raw macadamias as we wanted, and they had a selection of kids DVDs that we could watch before bedtime (the family that owns it were out of the country, but I gathered they have a little girl, hence the good selection of age appropriate viewing). At first I was nervous, because I read a review on TripAdvisor that mentioned a harrowing driveway, but even for someone afraid of heights (I sure am – parts of Chain of Craters Road made my palms sweat) driving a Fiesta, the road in was not hard, either to find or to drive. The two women who were handling things during the owner’s absence, Amber and Satomi, were very helpful and efficient, and the other guests, a honeymooning couple from Spain, and a couple of hikers from Germany, were very pleasant. We checked in, picked up some takeout from a place called Super J’s (which was scrumptious and cheap), watched Ratatouille, and passed out.

Day 8, Tuesday, 7/2: My Son’s 9th Birthday. Today was all about my son, and what he wanted to do was try to relearn to snorkel, spend the whole day at the sea regardless of whether the snorkeling part was successful, and eat nothing but hot dogs, shave ice, burgers, and chocolate. So, that’s exactly what we did, and a good chunk of his requirements were to be found at Kahulu’u Beach Park. Now, let me begin by saying that there are far better snorkeling sites out there, on the BI and elsewhere (I’m from the Philippines, so I’m spoiled, and biased in that direction, although to be fair, given my son’s snorkeling issues and the lack of a babysitter, the snorkeling I could do here was severely restricted – welcome to single parent land – it was majorly fun regardless, so I can’t complain) – but this was just perfect. The fact that there was a lifeguard there gave him the confidence to try to snorkel again, and the fact that the site is so easy for nervous kids, and that there is an immediate payoff since fish come all the way to shore practically, all made it non-threatening and fun. Plus, there was a snack truck there with hot dogs and shave ice. It was festive, chill, and perfect. We spent the day there, went home to shower and change, and since he wanted a burger plus chocolate, we went to Annie’s Burgers and Beer – he had a burger and chocolate pudding, and I had a poke cake burger with cucumber aioli which was pretty good. Then we went back to our lodgings, watched Mulan, and turned in.

Day 9, Wednesday, 7/3: A Day at Our Favorite Beach of the Entire Trip – The beach inside the Ai’Opio Fish Trap at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. An explanation as to why this is the best beach ever seems totally superfluous. We are archaeology nuts. We also like the beach. What could be better than a lovely, sandy beach INSIDE the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian fish trap? There are no words. The very nice “Park Ranger Lady,” as my son called her, stopped us from trying to walk there, and sent us and our PBJ’s and fruit to the park entrance by the parking area at Honokohau Harbor, which was much closer. We spent the entire day there – it was practically empty - the only other folks close by us were a local family giving one of their daughter and son-in-law a send off because he was about to move to Colorado. After spending most of the day there (until 2ish), we went into Kailua-Kona, got lucky with street parking, checked out Hulihe’e Palace, and picked up some more shave ice. Then we headed towards home base, and finally stopped at this park he kept commenting on every time we drove by – Harold H. Higashihara Park – which had a truly awesome play structure, and he ran around there for awhile while I did some reading. Finally, after stopping at our B&B to clean up, we had dinner at the Manago Hotel – pork chops, which were splendid – before going home and watching the Tale of Despereaux before bed. If I had had more money, I would have bought a Manago Hotel t-shirt. I love places like that.

Day 10, Thursday, 7/4: Fourth of July. This day was the only day that was kind of a pain in the rear. I wanted to stay as far away from Kailua-Kona as possible, because I thought it would be a zoo, and I didn’t want to go there for fireworks, because I didn’t want to drive back to Captain Cook at night, possibly in the rain (turned out it did rain), with a bunch of holiday weekend drunks and stoners on the road, so I gave my son a choice – Turtle Independence Day at the Mauna Lani or the Rodeo at Parker Ranch in Waimea, because they would start, and end, early, even if they were a drive (and a frustrating drive at that, since we were moving to our next base – IN NORTH KOHALA – the very next day – Gaaaaahhhhhhhh). Anyway, the turtles won. We got there at 9:45, in time for a free valet parking spot, and he had as much fun as he expected, and I had more fun than I anticipated. It was a great event. Former Senator Daniel Akaka said some words (I really like him), I enjoyed a group from Waimea who performed traditional songs and dances, and my son enjoyed the turtles and (help) the hot dogs and shave ice. Afterwards, since we were there, we saw the fishponds, and then we drove over to the Fairmont Orchid and went to see the Puako Petroglyphs (which were awesome – we still cannot decide which was better, this place or Pu’u Loa). After that, though, I could not wait to get out of there. We were not prepared to go in the water that day (I figured all beaches would be too crazy on the 4th), and down by the coast over there, if you are not in the water, and you are not being air conditioned, and there isn’t a breeze, it is oppressively hot (for me). Thankfully, part of the trail to the Petroglyphs was shaded, but even so, Jeez Louise. It was such a relief to get back to Captain Cook, because there was cloud cover, and it was cool, and it drizzled. So we whiled away the late afternoon by going down to Kealakekua Bay and staring at the water, and then when it started to pour for real, we drove to the Painted Church (we were the only people) and hid in there from the rain (with the Big Orange Church Tom Cat who woke up from his nap on his pew to come to our pew and cuddle with us) and ooohed and aaahed over the whimsical paintings, and I fantasized about a green house for sale across the road right down the street from the Painted Church, but I gave up on my fantasy quickly, since I am no longer a practicing Catholic, so I wouldn’t walk to mass here anyway. Then we picked up some Spam Musubi at L & L (Filipinos are Spam freaks too) to go with our fruit (we were sick of peanut butter, finally), lit the three sparklers that our hosts gave my son out on the lanai, packed, and called it a night.

Some thoughts: Captain Cook really suited our tastes, and our accommodations were safe, comfortable, and fit our budget. The Manago Hotel would have fit our budget even more, I suppose, but unless I’m just passing through on a road trip, I just don’t like hotels or motels or resorts or any other kind of place where many people stay all at once – too bad, because this would have stretched our budget even more. We would definitely stay in this area again, and four days was just right. The last full day was only a pain because of the timing. However, folks who prefer a sunnier, less rural area might not like it, especially if they don’t like chickens. For us, it was perfect, and lovely, and we liked the chickens (and the donkey the next property over – we liked the donkey – oh, and what’s up with the zebra that we saw driving towards Captain Cook from the south route? Somebody’s got a ZEBRA in a paddock down there – I thought I was having hallucinations!). Oh, since we went out a bit more, and didn’t grocery shop other than to pick up a little fruit, the food costs for four days came to about 120 bucks – still pretty good. We filled up on gas at Costco on Kaloko-Honokohau day. However, if budget were not an issue at all, and we were to stay in this area again (actually, a little north, but still high up and lush and out of town), one place I would love to check out would be: http://www.holualoainn.com/. We drove around up there, and I liked the area.

Leg Three - Hawi

Day 11, Friday, 7/5: Transitioning to Hawi. Because we had to leave South Kona yesterday morning to go to the Turtle Independence Day thing, I didn’t get to go to the Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary, which I not only wanted to go to, but kinda had to go to on behalf of a friend’s errand, and they had actually been open on the 4th in the morning, before closing up shop when no one came by, but such is life. So we spent the morning there, and it was great – we love gardens in general, and the vibe here was just neat, particularly the Galaxy Garden designed by Jon Lomberg. Wow. After that, we headed North, stopped at the Goodwill over by the Costco to pick up two 99 cent beach towels and a 4.99 snorkeling mask that just happened to fit him, had lunch at the Pine Trees Café, and headed for the beach at Waialea Bay (which was BEAUTIFUL, our second favorite beach – a close second, for sure, but we felt that it still couldn’t beat a beach INSIDE the ruins of an ancient fishtrap for pure coolness, despite the awesome snorkeling opportunities at Waialea). Finally, we checked into our digs in Hawi – an extremely nice retired couple’s backyard Ohana cottage that we rented through Airbnb for 78 bucks a night. It was perfect. It had a full size bed for me, a day bed that they made up for my son, a bathroom with a tub, a kitchenette with a microwave, a fridge, a coffee maker, coffee, kitchen and dining necessities, a breakfast nook inside, a patio eating area outside, a TV, DVD player, Monty Python movies, a Box Set of Peter Sellers Pink Panther flicks (I introduced these to my son, and we bonded in the evenings over them, and now he’s running around doing Clouseau quotes every which way), and get this, A PRIVATE, OUTDOOR SHOWER, ENCLOSED IN A CASING OF PLANTS, IN THEIR BOTANICAL GARDEN. Now, before I move on – why Hawi? Budget-wise, I can’t afford the resort areas of South Kohala. My budget is 85 bucks a night. Period. Plus, there is far too much sun and heat there, and not enough lushness. I would not stay in Waikoloa Village even if it is more affordable than the coast, because I would not like going home – that whole beehive neurosis and what not, although I hear there are wild turkeys there, which could ameliorate the other thing, I suppose – but even that would not have taken me down to 85 (although I might have been able to squeak into Paniolo Greens – I just would not have been happy, so why). Waimea would have been nice, and not too far from the beach, but it was still too expensive (there were economical hotels, but I don’t like hotels – for a one night stop on a road trip, fine – not as “home” for four days), and even though it was a shorter drive to the beaches, it was not a convenient drive to either the North Kohala archaeological sites that interested us, or Pololu Valley, which also interested us (driving the Kohala Mountain Road once to take in the gorgeousness was fine, but heights make me a little nervous, so I did not want to drive it repeatedly). A Hawaiian woman that I went to college with and am still friends with has a lot of great things to say about both Hawi and Kapa’au, and I can see why. Hawi is only a 25-30 minute drive to the beaches we wanted to visit, and it was green, and breezy, occasionally rainy (although not overly so), and cooler there (Kapa’au, even greener, and even more beautiful, and only two miles further North - maybe next time). This is not a drive that fazes me – I like to drive, I hate to commute – during the academic year, I commute three hours a day, through the traffic and the smog and the road rage, and come home with numb legs worried that one day I’ll give myself an embolism – 30 minutes with no traffic on the gorgeous 270 with my son smiling in the back seat, headed for a beautiful beach with a view of Maui in the distance outside the passenger seat window is not a commute – it’s a drive, not only painless, but blissful. And as far as gas prices go, no biggie, budget or no budget. Gas in L.A. is four bucks a gallon right now, and with my commute, I spend way more on gas in Los Angeles in two weeks than I did the entire time I was in Hawaii. Hawi was paradise, for 78 bucks a night (and might have been 42 bucks a night, had a “tiny house,” ala the “tiny house movement,” for those who are familiar, owned by a reputable person, not already been booked for our dates). Maybe not the right choice for some, perfect for us.

Day 12, Saturday, 7/6: Beach and Ruins. We wanted to get an early start, because we prefer to hit the beach early in the morning, during low tide when things seem more calm, and free up our afternoons for other things closer to home. But today was farmers market day in Hawi, in the center of town under the Banyan trees, so we walked over there from our place at 8:00 p.m. to pick up lunch for the beach – some fruit and a breakfast burrito, cut in half, cooked by a really friendly fellow, from Sacramento, who also cooks at the Hawi BBQ (on the corner of the 250 and the 270), which is only open from Friday through Monday. I liked this farmers market just as much as the Hilo one (although I hear the Waimea one is also great). Then, we headed to Hapuna Beach with our food, got there at 9:00, swam and played and chilled until 12:30 or so, then made it home by 1:00, and changed for our afternoon hike, which I had been looking forward to for the whole trip (and actually, for the past 28 years, ever since I wrote a paper on the place back in college), to Mo’okini Heiau. This hike is not difficult. It’s just long and hot as heck, with no shade to speak of, and a lot of wind blowing dust in your eyes. The trail is actually a four wheel drive access road that runs from the Hawi Airport south along the coast to the Heiau and beyond, but our Fiesta wasn’t doing that, so we came armed with hats, 100plus SPF sunscreen, and a ton, I mean, a ton of water (doing it in the morning would have been cooler, but it was more important to us to be able to swim at low tide). It was a heck of an adventure, and we were pretty solemn during our visit, although we didn’t stay for a very long time as a) the energies there were a bit negative, even though they were certainly impressive, b) we wanted to keep going for a bit to Kapakai Kokoiki (the legendary birthplace of Kamehameha I, which was not as formidable, but still very impressive, and less negative in feel), and c) it was HOT, and even though I am happy to put up with HOT if there’s an actual point, I wanted us to get cooler soon. Afterwards, we drove the length of the 270 to the Pololu Valley Overlook – we were not going to hike it til the next day – we just wanted to see it before dinner. At this point, I splurged and took us to Sushi Rock, and here’s why – the only expensive tour thing I wanted to be able to afford, if he was ready, was a Manta Ray snorkel. Today, he said that even though he’s starting to feel better about snorkeling again, he didn’t feel ready to snorkel at night around so many people, with the fact that we had paid for it pressuring him to not freak out. Sigh. Oh, well. He wants to come back when he’s 12 and hike to go see lava anyway, if there’s still lava when he’s 12, so I figured we could see Mantas then, and go out for Sushi now. It was pretty good, and since we could walk back to our place from there in under 4 minutes, I even had a couple of drinks, for the first time since we flew into Hilo – certainly a treat, after all that heat, and a treat in which I would not have been able to indulge if we had gone up to Merriman’s in Waimea, or to a better restaurant over at one of the resorts, so Sushi Rock it was, in the interest of drinking without driving. Finally, Pink Panther movies and bed.

Day 13, Sunday, 7/7: Beach, Ruins, and Pololu Valley. Today, we revisited our second favorite beach, since our favorite beach was too far South now for me to want to drive there. We went back to Waialea Bay, and this time, we got there at 7:30 in the morning. By this point, he had basically said “to heck with snorkeling,” so he gave me the snorkeling mask (which fit me too – a Christmas Miracle!), and stuck with goggles. I snorkeled, he swam with me, and we saw a lot of fish. Then, we just relaxed and messed around there until around 11:30, stopped at Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site (super cool – he was especially taken with the idea of the submerged shark heiau in the bay there, Hale O Kapuni, which they said would peek out of the waves at low tide up until the 1950s, but hasn’t been seen since – shifting or something I guess (?) – anyway he wanted to stay and see if he could spot shark fins, even though the information we read said this was the wrong season for them to come and breed there – we also played a game of Konane, and he won), and headed home to change for more hiking. First, we had ribs and a burger at the Hawi BBQ on the corner, with the same cook from the farmers market, who chatted with us for a bit, since we were the only customers at 2:30. Then, we hit the road and spent an hour a Lapakahi, a 600 year old fishing village, before driving out to Pololu and hiking down into the valley. So beautiful. I took waaay too many pictures (even though my son weirded out on me and pretended to be a zombie in all of them – thankfully we had taken some normal ones at the overlook the previous afternoon). We walked on the beach (some dumb people were swimming, including some teenage girl who had hiked down in a bikini, fallen, and was bleeding from multiple abdominal scrapes, but yet kept getting in the water, which looked pretty rough – yikes), and even found a big fossil rock, with the impression of a trilobite in it! We had to take a break or two on the way back up (gasp, wheeze), but it wasn’t really that terrible. Home, Pink Panther, bed.

Day 14, Monday, 7/8: Beach, Scenic Drive, Window Shopping, Minnie’s. Today, we left for the beach at 7:00 again, and got to Kauna’oa Bay via the Mauna Kea public access parking by 7:30. This beach was more manicured than the one at Waialea Bay, so I didn’t like it quite as much, but it was still a great swimming beach, and it was super calm at that hour (we actually swam across it a few times, because he felt like swimming “laps”), and then he swam with me (while I snorkeled with the 5 buck mask from Goodwill) on the left side, and we saw eel, and a little octopus, which was cool. We stayed until 11:00, went home to shower and change, and took the Kohala Mountain Road to Waimea. It kind of stressed me out (in terms of heights), but it was gorgeous – it reminded me of Western Montana, which I really love, but with an ocean view in parts. We had a late lunch (really, second breakfast) at the Hawaiian Style Café, looked into some shops and galleries, swung by Parker Ranch, and then headed back to Hawi, because he wanted ice cream. We window shopped and strolled around some more, first in Hawi, then Kapa’au, and then ended up at Minnie’s in Kapa’au for dinner. We liked Minnie’s too. Finally, we headed home, packed, and crashed.

Day 15, Tuesday, 7/9: Back to Hilo to Fly Home. The night (and morning) were so incredibly windy that I got us up, showered, and checked out by 8:00. Even though our flight wasn’t until 6:20 p.m., I wanted to get us across the island fast, because I was convinced the wind would blow trees down on the road and we’d miss our plane (I’m not kidding, that wind made me think we were about to wind up in Oz any second – the outdoor shower was hilarious under those conditions – my son kept chasing the water around, squealing, and collapsing into giggle fits – oh, that was funny). He wanted to get more malasadas at Tex’s anyway, so I used that bait to get him into the car fast – oh, and I skipped the Kohala Mountain Road – not in that wind – we drove to Kawaihae, then up to Waimea from there, before proceeding to Honokaa. If possible, I swear the wind was even worse over there. I was relieved to get to Tex’s, and we actually sat there and had a full breakfast because I wanted a driving break. Since we were so early, though, we were able to stop at the Laupahoehoe Train Museum, which we had not seen, and which he enjoyed (I like trains – he’s actually a train nut, and if we had more money, would be a traction club train nut). We both fantasized about what it would have been like to take that train, and then drove straight through to Hilo. Since it was only around 12:30, we decided to spend the afternoon at the Imiloa Astronomy Center (a GREAT place – if we lived here, I would buy a membership immediately). At around 3:45, we left, picked up a pizza, filled up the gas tank, returned the rental car (so easy at this airport, you just walk across the street), went through TSA, bought drinks in the gift shop, and ate dinner while we waited for our flight.

The End.

Some thoughts: Where we might have stayed in Hawi had budget not been a concern: http://www.hawiplantationhousebandb.com/ (I was told there was a recent management change, don’t see very many reviews, but I thought the place was lovely). Where we might have wanted to stay had we decided on Waimea: http://www.jacarandainn.com/. Generally speaking, we loved the BI, and despite the two weeks that we had, we still did not get to do everything we wished we could have, particularly in the caving department (heck, we never even made it to the Lili’uokalani Gardens even with all that East Side time we allocated – sigh). Even though we typically do not vacation in the same place twice, we will definitely be back here.

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8. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Hi, thanks for your detailed report. I will be staying at My Island B&B with my 9 year old son next month so I was very happy to hear that it worked out well for you guys. I am looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventures.

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9. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Thanks for your interest. Hope it was useful. Looks like your post and my post finally made it in at the same time, now that the glitch has been fixed. Sure not everyone's preferences (adult or kid) jive with ours, but if anyone finds anything we experienced of use or interest, I am happy to have helped. Also, for folks whose interests are polar opposites to ours, hopefully our TR will prove useful by providing enough details to let you know to avoid one of the places or attractions we visited if it's not for you. There are a million acts under the big tent, and I am sure that the Big Island has something for everyone. We had a spectacular trip, and hope everyone else does too. Peace.

Edited: 14 July 2013, 21:54
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10. Re: Trip Report – 2 Weeks on The BI on a Kinda Sorta Shoestring

Thanks for taking the time to provide so many details. Really helpful to hear about places that don't get as much discussion on this board. We also stayed in Hawi and loved it, even though I know some people consider it a waste of time.