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Last minute help.

Houston, Texas
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Last minute help.

We will be in Kona in three weeks (Marriott Waikoloa), staying 1 week. We are a family of 4, 2 adults 2 kids (10&12). I have not been able to plan an itinerary or list of things to do, or make any reservations beyond air/car/hotel, as we have been consumed with dealing with an ailing parent for the last 6 weeks. I started researching and looking at the archives today, but became overwhelmed. Can I call on the good people of this forum for some help? I will break this into several posts and want to start with the most confusing piece for me and that is a trip to VNP area. We will drive and can spend one night. Driving route with scenic stops and things to do (including restaurants) are welcomed. We prefer an easier driving route if there is one. Recommendations on where to spend the night too. I am thinking at this late notice, I am going to have a hard time with accomodations. Prefer Volcano, but open to suggestions.

Additionally, we are not experienced hikers.

I am reading there is little opportunity to see active lava flow with out a helicopter tour or long hike. But then somewhere else I read about surface lava flows and not to miss the night glow. Confused.

I am so very appreciative of your help!

California
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1. Re: Last minute help.

Start off early and make the day trip from Waikoloa to VNP via Waimea and stop off at Hawaiian Style Cafe for breakfast. Along the way to VNP stop off at Akaka Falls for a quick 30/45 minute visit to the falls. You can easily get to VNP by lunch time and spend the afternoon there doing "most" of the basic sites not including hiking down to the lava flows. Not everyone spends the night in Hilo or at the park, just depends on how much time you wish to dedicate to the park.

It's a full day but very doable, we just did it last month without any problem.

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Last minute help.

Many people do day trips, but it is different for people who've been here many times as they do not feel it is their first last and only chance, and will not feel overwhelmed.

If you can spend a night, you can catch more side sights, feel more relaxed, have more flexibility if it rains there, and see the glow from the crater without the potentially harrowing drive back to the Marriott in the dark.

The "glow" is at the summit crater and seen from the Jaggar Museum Lookout.

The surface flows can "maybe" be seen from Kalapana, which is a whole other area an hour away from VNP.

I feel for you on the inability to plan, but you should go to the park website (google NPS HAVO). There is a section that tells you about lava viewing. Also review the top post and the last few posts in the Lava Viewing 2012 topic. (Put that in search bar and it pops up.)

You should start a separate topic to catch the eyes of people who can help with lodging. 1 Night Volcano Lodging for family of 4 or suchlike. There is so much up there, but there are fewer places that don't have a 2 or 3 night minimum. Still you should be able to find one. If not, you can try Hilo.

The Orchid Tree just north of Hilo is a B&B with a suite unit. Then there is always the Castle Hilo Hawaiian hotel if you can't find anything at this late date. Also look at Dolphin Bay (motel style in nice setting).

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: Last minute help.

Driving route:

Hwy 19 (Hamakua coast), unless it is raining hard, then take Saddle Rd.

Your rental car drive guide will actually suffice for this trip, as the places to stop are fairly few.

I recommend you pick up a Lonely Planet Big Island guide and have that as your travel companion. There are a number of guides, the controversial one is Big Island Revealed and I would say steer clear.

A guidebook is still indispensable in this digital age, and just having it can instantly compensate for you lack of time to plan ahead.

In a day trip, you really don't have time to do sightseeing along the way, so you would need a second day to really explore Hamakua. Akaka Falls is as Clint mentioned typically the one stop to fit in on a day trip.

If spending the night,

Waipi'o Valley Lookout, Laupahoehoe Point, Akaka Falls, Onomea Scenic Route, stop in old downtown Hilo (food, shave ice), stretch the legs, maybe Liliu'okalani Gardens/Coconut Island for a picnic or walk.

You still don't want to dilly dally so much that it's the end of the day when you arrive at VNP, as you are driving home the next day.

The road back around the south is long and few stops. Better to do the west coast down to Honaunau on a day trip from the Marriott, IMHO.

I'd suggest returning via Hwy 19 or Saddle Road. Returning the way you came will be less stressful as you have been on it already. The Saddle is the easiest of all routes in the middle, but demanding on the way up and down, and has no facilities on it. Scenery is different, moonlike, good look at Mauna Kea.

Places to eat -- well, there are a lot of them in Hilo.

Ken's Diner is popular with kids AND easy to find AND no worry about reservations. While not the best healthiest food, it could work.

I am not a fan of the Hawaiian Style Cafe and its huge heavy portions, but a lot of guys seem to love it, and teenagers. I personally don't think a big heavy breakfast is ideal before tackling the winding road to the other side. I think it is better to eat lightly and eat a hearty lunch in Hilo.

PS. I love the village of Honomu below Akaka Falls, and recommend a stop at the bakery, at minimum.

Edited: 30 June 2012, 23:27
Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Last minute help.

Thank you for breaking up your questions, it makes things easier.

Re: accomodations in VNP, just jump on vrbo and start looking. The biggest problem you'll have is many places have a two night minimum, but you should be able to find something that will fit, there are lots of options in Volcano.

The "glow" is drive up, and is much more impressive than it sounds, but no, you are not likely to be able to see any surface lava flows without a tough, guided, 5+ hour hike, although you can see the distant glow from them after dark very far away from the bottom of Chain of Craters Road.

I would drive the Hamakua Coast (Hwy 19 route) there, stopping as KK suggests, and drive back the next day via the Saddle.

West Palm Beach,FL
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5. Re: Last minute help.

When you look at the places to stay in Volcano on VBRO, be sure to look for a place to unpack your stuff (even though you will be travelling light). Also look for how far the rental is from VNP. Finally, see if it is on an unpaved road, and if so, inquire about the condition of said road. We stayed in a rental in Volcano that was a 10 minute drive away, had craters for potholes on the unpaved road, and the "bedroom" was *just* that-a room with a bed in it, no dresser or place to even move around. There was no luggage rack...we slept on the fold out futon (shudder shudder) what a ripoff. There are plenty of nice places to stay, just look for these little things, they will help.

Michelle

Island of Hawaii...
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6. Re: Last minute help.

Michelle,

that sounds awful, too bare bones for me.

What was the name or number of it?

Good advice ... Volcano Village rentals cost more, but the roads are more civilized.

Houston, Texas
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7. Re: Last minute help.

THANK YOU everyone. I will pick through this info today and try to organize something, and possibly ask additional questions. I am never, ever in such a position going on a trip :(

I love TA forum and think its just awesome that you take your personal time to help us all!

West Palm Beach,FL
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8. Re: Last minute help.

Here is a link to the place where we stayed KK www.hawaiivolcanovacations.com/index.php… . It was beautifully decorated, and has a hot tub on the covered lanai. Did not know it would be windy, rainy, and in the low 50's in JUNE. Too cold for us to use the hot tub. One of the reasons we picked rentals all around the island was for ease of use. Easy in and out. This place was not easy to get in and out of with the stairs and horrible road. There are lots of nice rentals in Volcano, just keep your eyes peeled, know what to look for and you will do fine. Everyone here will help you. Despite our issues with the rental property, we had a most AWESOME day at VNP that we will never forget.

9. Re: Last minute help.

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