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Kauai or the Big Island?

Chicago, Illinois
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Kauai or the Big Island?

I also posted this question in the general forum, but I thought I might have more luck here, so here it goes.

I'm in the beginning stages of planning a week long trip to Hawaii and am trying to decide on an island. To me, it seems that Kauai has everything...in other words, it seems like it is the one island that will look like the Hawaii postcard I have in my head, in other words lush and dramatic, with lots of varied terrain and natural settings while feeling somewhat remote ( I REALLY don't want to stay at a resort and would much prefer a bed and breakfast).

However, my biggest issue is that I am also quite obsessed with seeing the lava flow on the Big Island and it is very difficult for me to imagine going so far and NOT seeing it.

So, I suppose my big question is, is the volcano worth it? And the next question is, would it be too rushed and not relaxed enough (and I definitely want some down time) if I were to spend a couple of days on the Big Island for the volcano and then travel on to Kauai for the rest of the trip?

Any thoughts? Thanks! I don't see myself returning (famous last words), so I hope to get the best Hawaii has to offer in this trip.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

Aloha! Well, of course we who love Kauai will tell you Kauai. :) But on a more practical note, you can't always see the lava flowing on the BI - so while you might go to the Big Island, you may not always see what you are hoping for. And to only spend 2 days on the Big Island would really not allow you time to see much there, as it is the biggest island - lots of driving to explore things.

Since you already feel that Kauai has what you want, I would just visit Kauai for the moment. It was exactly how I pictured Hawaii, so I do know what you mean - Kauai did not disappoint me. Good luck with your decision. :)

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

Thank you! I didn't even think that the volcano may not actually be erupting. How terribly disappointing would that be!

Yes, I think Kauai is the winner then.

I was on the fence a bit about Hawaii...thinking that maybe I should go to Europe instead (which I'm pretty sure would have been a far less expensive trip), but when I started looking at lodging in Kauai and saw that you could stay at bed and breakfasts with lush jungle all around you, well, that was it! I thought I MUST go to Hawaii. I must admit, too, that the thought of hiking through scenes I've seen in South Pacific is pretty appealing to me. Maybe I'll even hang out at the beach :).

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3. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

We went to Hawaii last year for 12 days. (8 Kauai, 2 Waikiki, 2 Big Island) My husband felt the same way about the volcano as you did so we took a flight and stayed a couple of nights just to see the volcano. And it was definitely worth it. Like the previous poster said, you may not see lava, we did. It was a risk we were willing to take. (Maybe you could add a extra day or two to your trip?)

Kauai, Hawaii
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4. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

best to check on the BI board...as to the lava flow, and what they are expecting.

You will not be next to the flow, even if you can see it.

We took a special guided volcano tour, hiked out on to the lava field, and only saw steam as the small flow at the time entered the ocean.

We all have different attitudes and feelings about things...Erica loved the volcano park and area, and the idea of new land to walk on. For her it was an event.

This was my second trip to the volcano, the first with Erica. To me it was very interesting, and informative, due to the narations of our excellent guide. We went with Hawaii Forest and Trail, and it was much more than just the volcano. I think we were touring, and seeing the BI for about 12 hours...it is after all, a big island, and highly recommend Hawaii Forest and Trail.

However to me, I was left with the same feeling about the volcano area...DESOLATION...personally , I like green.

I like the jungles, and tropical forests, as well as the super fantastic snorkeling, and the people, and had a ball. We had fun !

Others go absolutely ballistic over the volcano area, but be advised, even if a flow is running, you will not be up next to it like you see in the TV documentaries, so do check it out what is occuring.

When we visited the BI, and did the volcano, we spent a week on the BI, and then 2 weeks on Kauai.

We were in the process of making a decison as to which island we would move to on a permanent basis.

Our first morning on Kauai, we sat at Joes on the Green, having breakfast, overlooking the golf course and the mountains.

Erica said to me...OK, decision time. Big Island, or Kauai for our home.

I paused for just a couple of seconds, and said.

" We had a great time on the Big Island. The snorkeling was great, much better than here."

"We have our friends there, and I could have a job skippering and managing operations for their company, Capt. Zodiac."

"We had fun, and met neat folks."

But........" My heart is here, on Kauai. "

The decision was made, and we began looking for rental property, found a Lou at Island Rentals to locate something for us, and the plan was finalized to move to Kauai in a few months.

Our story, two different attitudes on the volcano, with both of us liking the BI, and we hope to get over there later this summer for some SCUBA diving and snorkeling and seeing our friends.

Entirely your decision....do what you want...and what is important to you...it is your vacation.


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5. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

I understand completely about your thought process. After going to Kauai year after year we decided we wanted to see the volcanos of Hawaii. Our family spent a ton of money to take the helicopter tour and all we could see was some smoke. Denny is right. The narration and history is fabulous and I know other people who have been lucky to see big eruptions, but it didn't do a thing for me. The BI is so much more than the Volcano Park. You will not do the island justice by just going there. Can you extend your trip to 10 days or 2 weeks? If you are only planning on a week I suggest sticking to one island.

The North Shore of Kauai certainly will remind you of the Hawaii postcards you have seen. When are your travel plans?

There are not too many great B and B's (but there are a few) but staying in a little cottage might work out for you. Read the reviews on B and B's as they vary quite a bit. After March 15th the cottages and homes need to have special permits, so make sure that is in place.

Also check out Waimea Plantation Cottages near Waimea Canyon. It's not the green lush side, but very old Hawaii. Might be fun for a few days.

For cottages here's a website to check out:


I love Anini Beach area too. Kimocat can help you there.

Ocoee, Florida
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6. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

Well, if the lava is entering the ocean, there is a great way to get close to it. Look here:


Those photos and videos tell it all, especially the video that shows the up-welling on the water's surface. The water was not boiling hot, just very warm. But the steam eminating from the surface gave it a surreal look.

Those were all taken back in April 2008. Yes, it can be dangerous getting that close. But life is an adventure, and adventures can be risky. My wife and I say that it was worth the risk. We used Lava Ocean Adventures for that trip. But there is also Lava Roy who does similar trips out there. Both of these companies do night trips - which we really wanted to do - on certain nights of the week, but our stay and timing on this side of the island prevented us from partaking.

The day we went on that boat trip, the land viewing spot, accessed from Kalapana side, was almost 1/2 mile from sea entry. We got within 50 yards on the boat.

For us, each of the islands has its own personality (we have yet to see Lanai or Niihau) and each harbors its own highlights that draw us back time and again. It's tough to choose. So all I can suggest is that you try not to cram too much into one trip. Just resolve to return to see more of what you missed on the last trip. This frame of mind has served us well - and has been a great incentive for us to plan our budget accordingly.

Good luck,


Moorpark, California
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for Kauai, Catalina Island
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7. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

I wanted my kids to see the volcano so we took a day trip in 2006 from Kauai to the BI (Hilo), rented a car and spent the day at Volcanoes National Park. It was a great side trip and I'm glad we did it BUT the lava flow was not visible on our trip. We could see the steam of the ocean where is was entering the water but from about 1 mile away. They were not letting visitors get any closer, at that time. we spent over 2 weeks on Kauai so the side trip was great. But if you make the trip to the BI expecting to see the lava flow, you may be disappointed. The flow changes daily so you might want to check with BI forum.

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8. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

I would like to reply to the person who recommends a boat trip to the lava. In my opinion taking a boat close to the lava's ocean enterance is dangerous and I not a person who is afraid of risk.

I have hiked numerous times to the flow and it is spectacular but as any geologist can tell you the land by the ocean is very fragile. I am not talking a few rocks here, I am talking 200-300 feet of new land can collapse at any time. In addition there are toxic gases that are unleashed.

Obviously, i can't tell you what to do, but please be aware of the risk.

Here is link that explains the process.



Chicago, Illinois
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9. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

Thank you everyone for your input! I have just purchased a couple of travel books-The Big Island Revealed and Kauai Revealed--so, hopefully they will help cement my decision, although I have a feeling Kauai for a week will be it (there is no way I can take more than a week off from work, unfortunately).

The volcano sounds amazing, erupting or not, and I certainly will be careful if I end up going to the Big Island!

Chicago, Illinois
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10. Re: Kauai or the Big Island?

Jebett--I am planning to travel in August. I would imagine this is not the ideal time, but I think that's how it will have to be for my schedule. I am wondering how the weather is...is it pretty miserably hot in August?