Monday, December 25, 2017

Trip Itinerary - Hawai'i - Big Island - 7 day/6 night

Aloha! We visited the magical island of Hawai'i during December '2017. Below is our trip plan for 7 days 6 nights we spent on the Big Island. We traveled with our 5 year old son and totally enjoyed the well deserved break after a busy year! It was an awesome way to end the year of 2017.

Day 1:
Landed in Kona International Airport around 12 PM. Rented a full size car at Enterprise Rent a car. The service was really good, and we were really happy. It was a nice day with little bit of clouds, and our plan for that day was to head to Hilo. But the person at the car rental did mention NOT to take the HW 190, though it was 40 min shorter, as the drive would be really tough. They suggested to take the HW 19, which would be a roundabout route but more scenic and safer to drive. We followed their advise and took the HW 19 and thoroughly enjoyed the drive.

Stop 1:We had packed lunch from home, and stopped at Kekaha Kai State Park for a picnic lunch. There were no picnic tables there, but we enjoyed the lunch with the view of the ocean.

Stop 2: Waikoloa Village - KTA store, which is a local chain of supermarket, to pick up some essentials like water, fruits, breads etc for breakfast.

Proceeded on to the HW 19 to Hilo. We were lucky enough to spot beautiful rainbows on the way due to the clouds and moisture in the air.

Stop 3: Reached our destination - Hilo Hawaiian hotel, our place of stay for the next 2 nights. Hilo Hawaiian is on the Banyan Drive , a very beautiful place and we thoroughly loved it. The lady at the concierge desk was very friendly and helped us out with all our questions. We went to our room, settled down and after a cup of hot Kona coffee, we headed for a stroll.

Stop 4: Coconut Island, which was couple of minutes walk from the hotel. It is a small tiny island filled with coconut trees. Good for a short stroll. The view from the back of the hotel was very beautiful.

We went back to our room and had a nice hot dinner and turned for the day. It was a long day after the flight and drive and we needed rest to head out the next day!

Day 2:

We had a nice breakfast in our room - some Hawaiian sweet breads that we got the previous day along with some fruits and yogurt. Headed out at 9 AM to the Volcanic National Park. It would be cold there, so be sure to dress in layers and take come winter jackets.

Stop 1: Reached the Volcanic National Park Visitor Center at 10 AM.
Collected the information on all the short trails and hikes.

Stop 2: Jagger Museum - the place to see the active volcano. It was majestic! We had a sense of divine power after seeing the red lava, it was just so powerful. Spent around 30 minutes and got some information from the Jagger Museum.

Stop 3: Steam Vents

Stop 4: Thurston Lava Tube

Stop 5: Chain of Crater Road - Sea Arch
We had some Hawaiian Moku Pop Popsicle here. They were delicious!

Stop 6: Petroglyph - ~1 hour walk on the dried lava.
I would say, it was not worth the 1 hour+ walk on a windy day. if you are out of time, you can skip this stop.

Stop 7: Punululu Bake Shop - The southern most baker in United States as they state it!
They are known for their delicious sweet breads and other goodies. This was a deviation of around 10 minutes from the black sand beach, but the locals said not to miss this spot. And good we listened to them as it was truly a local delicacy. We stocked up on the sweet breads for breakfast, and also had a Coconut cheese cake, Apple Turnover, Garden Burger. All of them very just delicious and very economical! It was more of a late evening lunch/early dinner or should we say Lunner ?!?

Stop 8: Black Sand Beach - Known for the fine black sand and the hawaiian sea turtles. It was a nice beach, a to see place. We enjoyed the sunset at this beach.

Stop 9: Jagger Museum - We thought to drive back to the Jagger Museum to have a night viewing of the lava. It was much more divine to see the lava at night. A must to see sight. It was very cold, so make sure you carry your winter wear if you plan to visit this spot at night. The Jagger museum closes by 8 PM, and it was crowded!

We started from there around 8:30 and reached the hotel by 9:15 PM.

Stop 10: Hotel - Good Nights' rest.

Day 3:
It was a sunny day and wanted to have a outdoor breakfast.

Stop 1: Liliuokalani Gardens - We took some of the goodies we had bought from the bake shop, had a nice breakfast at the gardens.  It had some nice ponds and my son enjoyed running around playing there for sometime.

We packed our things, and checked out the hotel. We had a great time and I recommend to stay at this hotel, the staff were really friendly and the rooms were clean.

Stop 2: Rainbow Falls - 15 minutes from the hotel. Can see the fall from the parking lot. No hike required.

Stop 3: Onomea Bay Trail - 20 minute walk in the rain forest.

Stop 4: The Shack - was a highway eatery where we stopped for a quick drink - coconut water and some lemonade. It was a hot day!

Stop 5: Akaka State Falls - 15 minute loop trail. Got some beautiful views of the Akaka State Falls and Kahuna Falls. There is a $5 car parking but it was worth it. There were picnic tables here, where we had our picnic lunch.

Stop 6: Mana's Aloha Fruit Stand - This was just outside the Akaka falls, and we got some yummy coconut water. They were nice enough to cut open the coconut to slice out the tender coconut flesh. Yummy!

Stop 7: Laupahoehoe Train Museum - My son is crazy about trains and we just had to stop here! There was no one in the building, i think it was not even operating but my son had to see it for himself. We too some quick pics from the outside and continued our way.

Stop 8: Waipo Valley Lookout - It is a beautiful scenic lookout to view the valley. We did not take the trail, but spend a good 30 minutes in the lookout point.

Stop 9: Marriott Beach Resort Waikoloa  - our hotel for the remaining of our trip.

We checked in, relaxed and took a stroll around our resort to see what they had to offer. we were really happy with the resort, they had a nice access to the Anaeho'omalu Bay. And also had lots of swimming pools, kids sand pool, water slide and our favorite was the infinity pool.
There is a daily parking fee of  $18 and a resort fee of $30, but for the fee they do offer many free activities and 1 hour free snorkel gear rental for 2 per day. This was the only hotel on Waikola which had easy access to the sandy beach, as all other hotels were near rocky beaches.

Day 4: 
This was our relaxing day, we did not wander out of the hotel. Spent the full day at our resort, enjoying the beach, sun, pools and the water slide. Later in the evening we took a small stroll around the Waikoloa resort area.
There was a free hula show at the lobby that evening.

There is a trolley which takes you around the area, but is not free. Its around $1 a ride per person. We did not use that, just our legs!
There are many shops at the Queens Market which are economical and pretty much get everything you need.
Sunset at the beach.

Day 5:
We planned to do the southern part of the island this day. Grabbed some breakfast, and packed picnic lunch and set out for the day.

Stop 1: Walmart @ Kona - to grab some snorkel/fins and sand toy set for my son.

Stop 2: Pu'uhonua Honaunau National Historic Park - $5 parking
We were there just in time for the Ranger talk, who briefed us about this location. This is an healing place, where the hawaiians had to spend time in case they committed a crime. They had to swim to this location, spend a couple of days and get the blessings before they swam back home. This gave us a nice feel of how the life was lived the olden days.
Spent around an hour.

Stop 3: Just outside the park is a great snorkeling spot. Couple of minutes walk outside the park. The bay was kind of rocky, so not suitable for beginner snorkelers. My husband spend some time snorkeling at this place and said the underwater life was very beautiful.

Stop 4: Lunch inside the park. A quick drive inside the park takes us to a picnic area. Had a nice picnic lunch by the beach.

Stop 5: Painted Church

Stop 6: Kealakekua Bay - This spot gives a nice view of the Captain Cook Statue. The only way to actually reach the captain cook statue is by boat or a strenuous hike and with a 5 year old we opted out of that one. We did get a glance of the statue from this spot.

Stop 7: Greenwell Coffee farm - We were there for their last tour @3:30 PM. The lady who gave us the tour was very friendly and informative. We took a walk in their farm and saw how the coffee was picked, dried and processed. The tour was free. They did have some free coffee tasting and coffee for purchase. But there was no sugar or milk at the coffee tasting. We grabbed just one packet of coffee as we are not coffee lovers.

Stop 8: Magic Sand Beach - This is one of the best beaches on the island. It is very sandy and kid friendly. We spend the rest of the evening here, my son played in the sand and water till his heart's content. Enjoyed the sunset in this beach.

Stop 9: Dinner @ Kona Pizza & Brewary - they had the best pizza!
Since the waiting time to dine in was around an hour, we just grabbed some pizza and appetizers to go and headed for our hotel.

We drove back to the hotel, enjoyed our pizza and hit the sack! Too tired for the pool.

Day 6:

Northern part was on the itinerary for today.

Stop 1: Hapuna State Park - beautiful sandy beach we spent a good 1 hour here, playing in the water, building sand castles and enjoying the sun.

Stop 2: Kohala Coffee Mill - stopped here for some good coffee and delicious home made fudge. Worth a stop in this small town.

Stop 3: Pololu Valley Lookout - a wonderful valley lookout place. There is a long steep hike which takes you the bottom of the valley. My son and I turned back half way but my husband did the full hike and he claimed it was such a beautiful view. This would take 1+ hour.

Stop 4: Fresh of the Grid Kohala - this is a off the road farm stand, which was the best so far! The lady at the counter was so friendly. We had some coconut water with coconut and Mango Madness ice cream. We also stocked up on the small Hawaiian bananas, oranges and lemon. They were the most delicious fruits and we enjoyed them every bit! be sure to stop at this place.

Stop 5: King Kamehameha Statue - On the way photo stop.

Stop 6: Mahukona Beach Park - Another known stop for snorkelling. We were able to see lots of fishes from the shore itself. My husband spent some time here snorkeling.

Stop 7: Lapakahi State Park - This was an hawaiian settlement village, and they have preserved lot of their structures. We spent around 40 minutes.

Stop 8: Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory - Lots of variety of Macadamia nut, available for tasting. They also had free coffee tasting with milk and sugar. We were able to have a self guided tour through the factory on how the nuts were processed.

Stop 9: Back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the evening at the hotel, enjoyed the evening in the beach and pool. There was a Luau that was happening at the grounds of Marriott and we were able to see the show from the pool. Relaxing end to the day.

Day 7:
This is was our last day at the hotel and we had to checkout at 12 PM. Since we were Marriott Elite members, we had a late checkout.
Marriott offered its guest with a complimentary photo shoot by Blinnk Photography, which I had scheduled for that morning. All of us got dressed up and went to the lobby for the photo shoot. After that we had a relaxed breakfast and coffee by the beach. We still had few hours till we had to check out and wanted to spend some more time in the pool.
Spend couple more hours in the pool, came back to the room, had lunch and checked out around 1 PM.
Our initial plans were to go in the Atlantis Submarine for the afternoon and then head to the airport for our 10 PM flight. I had called the Atlantis and they mentioned that there were many seats available for the afternoon and booking the seats were not required. So we just drove over to Courtyard King Kamehameha hotel in Kona, from where the Atlantis departs. The lady at the counter said they were booked. I was so angry, since we had promised our son to take him on the submarine. She did not even have the courtesy to say sorry, in-spite of me telling her that I called. She just said it must have been a mistake. What a bad ending to a good trip. My son was heart-broken. At least the lady validated the parking ticket so we were able to park our car at the hotel for $2.
We convinced our son and went for a stroll in the Ali'i drive, this street is best known for its shopping.

We visited the King Kamehameha palace Museum ($10 per person), they have preserved many of the artifacts used by the king and his family. Then we headed to the Scandinavian Shaved ice to cheer up my son. It sure did cheer him up! We had the Mango - Guava - Strawberry ice with mud pie chocolate ice cream. It was so yummy and refreshing!

We took a stroll down the drive and did some shopping - chocolates, t-shirts and other memorabilia.
We then walked into the Kona Hotel which is one of the historic hotel sites, had a Grande Nacho and munched on the snack with a ocean view.

Once we were done with the stroll, we walked back to the Courtyard King Kamehameha hotel where we had parked our car, and drove to the airport drop off. Dropped our car and went to the airport.
The Kona airport is very small. We were waiting for our flight back as I jotted down all the things we did on the trip.

Overall we enjoyed our vacation and it was a fun trip!