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Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Victoria, Canada
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Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

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.

29 replies to this topic
Bellingham...
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1. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Okay, I'll go first and ask the question others will no doubt ask as well: how open are you to changing your accommodations? I know you're hoping to get specific advice as to what to do, but where you're staying is not necessarily conducive to what many here advise ~ and people with more knowledge on the matter are going to ask if the places you're staying are in fact legal lodgings. (Can you provide links?)

Ideally, with 11 nights, I'd stay in two locations. A couple-few nights on the east side, in HIlo or Volcano, and the balance on the west (I prefer the Kohala Coast). Especially with a family, I wouldn't pick up and move three times.

Where your staying isn't going to allow you to maximize experiences like snorkeling and beach time. And while you mentioned exploring "north" while in Kailua-Kona, you aren't staying anywhere or doing anything that allows you to take advantage of the Kohala Coast.

All that to say, very awesome that your family has a Big Island trip on the horizon ~ but I'd go back to the drawing board for the fundamentals.

~ Colleen

Washington DC...
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2. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

The better beaches and shore snorkeling are up north of KOA airport. So unless you change your lodgings, you are going to want to go to those places the first 3 days while staying in Kailua-Kona. There are really tedious poorly timed traffic lights and the drive is at least 60 minutes, sometimes 90.

You are likely to wake up early your first morning. Good! Get going up to a beach. Manini'owali is not a sure thing in January. Sand may be gone and there is likely to be a wicked shore break. No snorkeling even if you got outside visibility would be poor. Go to Mauna Kea or Mauna Lani Resorts, or Waialea Beach in Puako for public beach access. Mauna Kea Resort limits the numbers of cars but if you are early you may luck out. Hapuna is next door but it also has a winter shore break. Snorkeling from shore is just iffy in January. We have been going for 25+ years and the dice roll erery few days.

Get your groceries on the way back, not killing the morning because your time near good beaches is so short.

Day 2 try some other beaches! While up Kohala if day 1 or day 2 are beach busts because surf is up, go see Puukohola National Historic Site up near Kawaihae and the Puako Petroglyphs in Mauna Lani Resort.

I am going to let others discuss dolphins and Pahoa.

I just commend a few things to your attention:

Dolphins https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29217…

Petroglyphs

https:/…Petroglyphs.html

3. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

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Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Yeah, I’m not going to really dig into this until I find out if you can change your lodgings because I would absolutely not recommend staying in Kailua Kona, or Pahoa, or Captain Cook. In fact they’re three of the least recommended places to stay I could come up with.

Captain Cook has almost no legal vacation lodgings. And Pahoa is almost certainly not where your other lodging is. A lot of places have Pahoa addresses that aren’t actually there. So I would want links to lodgings to help further. Pahoa isn’t really near Kapoho. I would not let my children anywhere near the Kapoho tidepools, either.

If you rent kayaks yourself to go into Kealakekua Bay, you can’t land them. Most people don’t have the skills to do deep water entry and exit from a kayak, I don’t see your 7 or 9 year olds being able to safely do this. Also I don’t recommend the Bay at all anymore, since the constant dolphin harassment is killing our dolphins. Kamana Charters is a major dolphin harasser. All the best whale watching is best done up north.

No, you would not want to visit Mauna Kea or Waipio from lower Puna.

Basically I’d start over. I would spend 8-9 nights on the Kohala Coast and 2-3 in Hilo.

Phoenix, Arizona
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5. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

We snorkeled in Kealakekua Bay, near the Cook Monument.

We rented a kayak. The depth of the water was not an issue for wife who cannot swim; she wore a flotation device.

She also did not have any issues with re-entering the kayak; but, you may want to assess if this would be an issue for your kids.

Kona Boys - Kayak Rentals

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-…

Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-…

Victoria, Canada
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6. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Thanks so much for the info. I love the idea of the backup plan in case of a bad beach day. Petroglyphs sound cool and definitely up our alley.

Thanks for the info on the kayaking. I was pretty confident my kids would have no trouble with the deep water entry/exit from the kayak, but might be more challenging if there’s a very strong current. Given that your wife is a non swimmer and was able to manage it, I am now much more confident that the boys will be fine. That’s really helpful info.

Thanks to others for alerting us to the harm that can be done to the dolphins by too much human contact. We will be responsible and respectful of them in their habitat even if it means forgoing the chance to see them up close.

Any advice on the route to take from Kailua-Kona to Hilo. We will have a solid 5 hours to fill between check out and check in. Any advice on the route to take back from Kapoho to Captain Cook? Again we will have a good 5 hours to explore.

Oh and no we cannot change our accommodations.

Thanks everyone.

Bellingham...
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7. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Well, my sense is that you didn’t really take into consideration the comments above. I’d encourage you to read some past discussions about the issues raised.

I’d drive from Kailua-Kona to the east side via the Hamakua Coast, and take the southern route from there to Captain Cook.

~ Colleen

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

One thing you can tell me, OP, that would help me be more constructive for future questioners, is the rationale for picking lodgings, locking in, then asking about details and activities after the fact. You probably had really good reasons for that. Not knowing those, I tend to get baffled with what on the surface appear to be suboptimal lodging choices for the desired activities.

Many many people do that. My least favorite but frequent question on the DC forum is "My family including small children have booked X, is it safe?" and in fact the answer is "NO you better take cabs or Uber after dark and watchnyour kids snd lock your windows" or "well, it is pretty seedy an a busy highway and you may run into s€x workers."

Edited: 16 November 2017, 14:41
Bellingham...
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9. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

That's a good point, Honu. The "book first, ask later" posts always present a challenge. I suppose many people approach vacation planning as a parts-to-whole process: book flights, book lodging, then connect the dots. That works fine for some destinations, less so for others. As you say, maybe there's some rationale I'm missing, but in general it can't hurt & may help to run the big picture by others first before setting things in stone.

I'm wondering ~ and don't have enough experience to offer suggestions ~ how Bridget's family can make the most of their time, if in fact they can't/aren't willing to make any location changes. When would it make the most sense to go the MK observatory, for example? I mentioned above that they aren't making time for the north part of the island. I guess while they're staying in Captain Cook, they could do a North Kohala day trip (Hawi, Pololu Valley). Just trying to think how they can minimize what seems like will be a lot of driving around.

~ Colleen

Victoria, Canada
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10. Re: Big Island 10 day itinerary for fun fit family of 4

Yes. Here is why we “book first” and ask questions later.

Everything is awesome!!!

No matter what you search, pretty much everything has 4 1/2 to 5 stars. So you search for what you like. I searched stuff like best snorkeling in Hawaii and best place to snorkel with kids in Hawaii. Guess what was top of the list? Captain cook monument and the Kapoho tide pools.

So tried to figure out which would be best and I found posts about staying on both sides of the island. People say spend a few days on each side. Ok sounds good. Where should we stay? Well I guess it’s back to searching the internet. What can we afford? What’s important to us? Do I need a five star resort with a big fancy pool and some captive Dolphins. No thanks. I’ll pass. First of all I can’t afford it, and second, I don’t want to. I’d rather stay in a modest rental with a kitchen and laundry.

Meanwhile I have to find flights I can afford too. Oh shoot the flight I can afford gets in pretty late. Not sure I want to drive a long way. I probably want to stay close to the airport and have restaurants near by. So that narrows things down for the first location. Thankfully there are many with five star ratings.

Now I do a bit more research and find that Hilo is super rainy and still a ways away from the volcano. But Kapoho is less rainy, has the tide pools that are at the top of the list of awesome places to snorkel and it’s closer to the volcano. And there are tons of rentals in that area with good ratings. Perfect.

But there’s also the snorkeling at the captain cook monument I still want to do. And that’s much closer to the airport. Seems like we should end our vacation on that warmer side of the island not the rainy side. So let’s see what we can find. Oh look another rental and it has five stars.

So the dates work, the flights work, the budget works, let’s book it. Don’t forget to book a rental car. Phew! Ok I can relax. I’ve got everything organized.

Fast forward a couple months. Ok let’s start looking at tours and let’s bookmark a couple other things to see. Looks like there are a couple nice beaches to the north, oh and a valley. Oh hey manta rays and whales and an observatory. Cool. I’m not in a hurry and there’s so much to sort through. Some of the forums posts are really old. Maybe I’ll just ask for help. I’m sure the friendly people of Hawaii will want to help me.

Et voila!

And thankfully I got a little help. So that’s great.

And hopefully now I’ve done my part to help you too.

Aloha

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