We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Which side of the Big Island?

Level Contributor
435 posts
48 reviews
Save Topic
Which side of the Big Island?

We will be on the Big island for 6 nights, Dec 9-15. We like to do site-seeing, going to places that represent the local specifics, nature, etc. I do not know which side to look for a place to stay at. Our preference would be an apartment or small house instead of a hotel. I do not want to have to move (if I can avoid it) from one side to another. I suffer if it is hot (or even warm) at night and I cannot sleep. Most places I looked at on the East side (near Hilo) do not appear to have A/C. Is the East Coast cooler? If so, that could be a reason for me picking the East side. Is it less humid on the West Coast? Any advice would be appreciated.

Canada
Level Contributor
9,268 posts
43 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

Choose the west side of the Big Island in December....without hesitation.

All of the condo units in South Kohala have central air conditioning....no worries. It is sunny , warm with a breeze, little rain...perfection....some of the best weather in all of the Islands at that time of year.

The east side is likely to experience cool temperatures(especially in Volcano), be damp and rainy. In Hilo....torrential rains are not unheard of at that time.

A day trip to the east side would probably allow you to take in some of the sights you desire.

What is your nightly accommodation budget?Look to Waikoloa Beach Resort or Mauna Lani Resort.....lots to choose.

You should be able to still find a desirable property, as your visit is just before the extremely popular Holiday season....when just about everything sells out ...and usually booked a year in advance.

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
27,911 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

I would probably spend one night east. December can often be rainy and cloudy on the east side. There is a lot to love about it, but I presume you're not coming to Hawaii without wanting at least some ocean time, beach and sun, and that's all to be found on the west side.

Please do read through the Top Questions on lodging and things to do.

Condos are your best options for lodging on the west side, particularly those located on the Kohala Coast for the reasons Wanderlust mentions. This will also be the best location for early season whale watching.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 03:02
Level Contributor
435 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

Thanks a lot for the very quick and helpful replies. This is all I needed for now. Shame on me, I wasted a lot of time looking at properties on the East side .... I should have asked this question first as I know that I can always count on a pointer in the right direction and good advice. But at least it was only my time. I did read some of the Top Questions but obviously not all of them.

Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
38,919 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

Yes, we do not expect you to read all the Top Questions, for sure. The ones on lodging though, should be skimmed to give you an idea of what types of lodgings are found where. The Big Island does not have small houses or apartments near the best locations, and it is a tough one for people who want the little cottage with character near the sea, near local style eats, away from resorts. (This is something I like myself when it works, but it doesnʻt work here.)

I can see the day trip suggestion as a way to avoid bad weather. The problem though with cross island day trips planned around the shortest days of the year, is you only have 11 hours of daylight even leaving at dawn, and the drive alone is five hours ... and you can caught in very bad weather.

The plus of a day trip is you can plan it or can it according to the weather, whereas with a reservation you are committed to that day. That day might be a real bust, while another part of the week might be nice.

I personally did not even try to visit Hilo and Hamakua in the winter when I visited. One time we drove to Hilo and had perfect weather. Another time, Hilo was underwater from flooding and we stayed far away. The volcano can be accessed via the southern route if there is a rain storm, unless it is a Kona storm (from the south).

Volcano will be frigid, but Hilo is cool enough in December. The east side has few condos. Condos are the units that tend to have A/C, as they donʻt have good air flow. Houses are sited for the cross breezes, and are cooled with ceiling fans and open windows. Just make sure there are good windows and the house is sited well, not in the middle of trees or in a low spot.

We could use a nightly budget and more specifics about what you plan to do. Iʻd suggest getting your list of sights together so that you can actually map them. Your likes in your top post are simply too vague for me to come up with a suggestion.

Donʻt leap on putting down a deposit until you have done enough research. You do want to move fast, but you also want to get it right.

Level Contributor
435 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

I appreciate the time you took for sharing your experience. I will revisit the idea of the day trip when we will be there depending on how full our days will be on the West side. I do not want to cram too much in the 6 days. I would like to keep the budget to about $150/night if feasible but to a max of all inclusive $2,000 for the 6 nights. We prefer a unit (condo usually) with a kitchen and want an A/C unit in the bedroom. Since we plan to explore the island on most days, being able to sleep well is most important. Not being on the ocean is not essential but would be nice. I started looking at what's coming up at VRBO for a 1 bedroom apartment and locations such as Hawi, Kamuela, Kapaau, Kohala Ranch, Mauna Lai, Puako, Hali'Kai are coming up. If I could narrow down the locations to look at that would be great. In terms of activities I do not yet have a daily plan but we would like to explore the coast line, visit a coffee and vanilla plantation, explore naturally beautiful places, etc. I would like to reserve a place before it is too late and then worry about the details which right now I cannot get too. Thanks again for the help.

Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
38,919 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

OK, so a few details to help you get the island living differences.

You want central air, not a bedroom unit. Window coolers donʻt work well in humid environments, or as we used to call them, swamp coolers.

You wonʻt need A/C in a house in December. By December, Iʻve pulled out my warm comforter for the winter. You can expect it to be about 65 degrees at night, and people donʻt run A/C at 65 degrees. 68 degrees is the national standard for turning off the heater to save energy.

All condos have kitchens, so saying you want one with a kitchen doesnʻt narrow it down.

We donʻt have apartments for visitor rentals. We have condos, individually owned units. Apartment buildings have one owner for the whole building. So the term apartment is not useful here.

A second unit here, like a mother in law, is also called an ohana unit. These will often not be legal rentals, depending on the zoning, and when they are not legal, oftentimes you will see a "kitchen" without a stove, because a second kitchen on property is illegal. You may see a hotplate or similar trying to get around that. (It is still illegal to cook in second units unless the area is zoned for second units.)

There is no town called Kamuela. The right name is Waimea. Kamuela is the post office address. Kamuela post office covers a large area of addresses from ocean to mountains, so it is important to have a physical address of which community it is in.

Hawi and Kapaʻau are on an isolated peninsula, and to stay there will increase your gas costs and drive time significantly. You should only stay there if your plans are to stay in a fairly small radius in your exploration.

Coffee plantations are generally in South Kona, which is a day trip.

The vanilla plantation is in Paʻauillo, on the Hamakua Coast. There is only one. Itʻs about 30-40 minutes from Waimea and is an OK drive from the Kohala coast.

Kohala Ranch varies in elevation from low and dry to high on the mountain, wet, and cold. The key for that area is knowing the elevation. It is a gated community and kind of elitist.

Puako is the one community you mentioned that could be hot in winter, unless you are oceanfront. There is a stand of trees that blocks the breezes from the second row of houses.

I understand your desire to reserve first, but "naturally beautiful places" is no help at all. The island is beautiful. At least take a couple hours and review a guide of the island and get your bearings, or you could make a big mistake.

Are you not planning to do any swimming or snorkeling? That is important to know.

Iʻm sorry to keep saying that your wish list is not helping, but if you think about it, you say "explore the coastline," and it is an island, so there is coastline wherever you are.

It really only takes a short time to orient yourself on a map and read about the areas, probably could be done in less time than it has taken me to type these responses to you.

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
27,911 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

IMO, you should be in a condo on the Kohala Coast, either Waikoloa Beach or the Mauna Lani. Hawi, Waimea, Kapa'au will not be good choices given your time frame and time of year. You will need a/c on the Kohala Coast, but all the condos there have it.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 06:34
Level Contributor
435 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

I am feverishly reading and soon hopefully I will know better what we want to visit. In the mean time I am also looking at what's available, now being able to askip some of the out-of-the-way, too warm or cold locations. No place that I looked at provided the info for "filtering" all of these places. When you start looking as a first time visitor and so much unknown comes up, all claiming that they are the best and the nicest (which might be true for some people, it becomes overwhelming. So I understand why one has to define their own interests. Thanks for straightening out my terminology, it helps when one calls things by their proper name, each place has their own. Yes, we do plan swimming but do not care to sit on a beach, in full sun for hours. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
3,568 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

"The island is beautiful."

Yes, but it should be understood that the contrast between east and west is dramatic. Unless first time visitors know what to expect, it might be a little off-putting flying along the south Kohala Coast into KOA, where much of the surrounding landscape is lava. To give you an idea, Suzanna, I took this shot when we were on Hawaii last month: http://www.pbase.com/smg9774/image/152703622

Level Contributor
435 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Which side of the Big Island?

I think I made up my mind. It will be a beautiful one bedroom condo at the Palm Villas. It is at the upper end of my budget but based on comments about Palm Villas in general and the specific unit I think that we will be happy there. Anything in particular that I should double check before making the reservation?

Thanks a zillion for everyone's help, it has been invaluable.