Our family of four is visiting the big island at the end of January. We are staying 3 nights in Kailua-Kona, then we head over to the other side of the island to stay in Pahoa for 4 nights, and then back to stay in Captain Cook area for 4 nights. We would love to get some advice on a good itinerary that will maximize our time.
We love to swim, snorkel, kayak, fish - anything involving water, but we are also very excited to see the volcano, and go to the observatory at mauna kea. And we do like to have some down time, where we can just read and doze on the beach or in a hammock.
We will be staying in vacation rentals with kitchens, and we've rented an SUV. Boys are 7 and 9, they are full of energy and have no trouble keeping up. We do plan to do a night snorkel with manta rays at some point, and we are not opposed to doing another "tour" if it makes sense, but we don't want to break the bank.
While we are in Kailua-Kona I expect this would be the best time to explore north. We arrive late at night, so our first full day will probably involve sleeping in a bit and grabbing some groceries, but I suspect we will want to get out and explore after lunch. I'm thinking Manini'owali Beach looks good but I'm open to other suggestions. Might hit the Kona Brewing Co. for dinner.
Day 2 will be wide open for exploring, but we will definitely want to have some beach time. I would love suggestions.
Day 3 will be a travel day to get to Pahoa. We could use advice on best route and any stops to make. Should we do Mauna Kea and the observatory en route to Pahoa, or should we drive up to Waipio Valley and maybe do a bit of a hike. Mauna Kea is a must at some point during the trip.
While in Pahoa, we will be close to the Kapoho tide pools and will have access to a golf cart to get down there. I can see us exploring the tide pools for an hour or so each day. Is it better in the morning or the afternoon, or is it all the same? We will definitely want to head to the volcano one day. I think morning is better (cooler) right? Should we do a tour or explore on our own?
I'm thinking we should head up to Hilo for lunch one day. Any other "must do" activities we should add to the itinerary while on the east side of the island? We love pretty much anything involving animals and nature.
Would welcome advice on best route to take to Captain cook side of the island. While we are there we will definitely rent a couple of double kayaks and we will kayak over to Captain Cook monument to snorkel. If we love this we might even do it twice. We really do love to snorkel, and I think the kids will be eager to see spinner dolphins. We will also be sure to do our Manta ray night snorkel while in this area too. We have been considering the idea of a whale watching tour as well. It is certainly the right season. Did a sailing tour in Mexico last year that the kids really loved, so was looking at Kamanu Catamaran tour. I see they have a whale watching tour on a catamaran, but no reviews and no real description. Any advice is most appreciated.
We are on a red-eye flight home, so we will have a lot of time after we check out of our place in the Captain Cook area to squeeze in last minute fun. Any advice here. I'm thinking one of the hotels near the airport might check our bags for us, even though we aren't staying there. Suggestions on a really good place for dinner on our last night?
Thanks in advance for any advice you can give us.