Hello Fellow Travelers,
We are looking forward to our Dec 30-Jan 6 first trip to Big Island. We are family of 4 with 2 kids (10 and 15). We love travel and especially enjoy nature, gardens, short hikes, waterfalls, beach and good variety of food. We don't snorkel or scuba as 3 of the 4 in the family don't enjoy that activity (hence some of the must-dos are out like Manta Ray even though it is right where we are staying, may be I will sneak out one of the evenings).
Our air travel and hotels are booked (using points mainly) and largely dictated by what was available through Hawaiian Airlines (air) and Sheraton/Castle Resorts (hotels). This meant our air travel dates were locked (Dec 30-Jan 6). Also based on availability, we have the following hotel booked as well. We have economy car rental through Dollar Rental (I have to check if they will let me drive on Saddle, South Point or not which will alter the itinerary below a bit).
Dec 30-Jan 1 - Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
Jan 2 - Jan 6 - Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa
Below is our 7 day/8 night itinerary that I am thinking of. I would appreciate advice and feedback on things to add/remove/change based on the time of the year and our interests.
Day 1 (Mon): Arrive in Hilo in mid-afternoon, check-in to Castle Hilo Hawaiian and do some late afternoon/evening activity. I was thinking driving to Kaimu Beach Park to see black sand beach and walk to Kalapana Lava Viewing Area. Assuming we get out hotel by 4 pm and reach @ Kaimu by 4:45 pm, will be able to just do a quick visit to the beach and viewing area. I realize sunset is typically ~ 6 pm in Dec right? If this is too ambitious perhaps hang out in Liliuokalani Gardens but I have to check the closing times first.
Day 2 (Tue): Hamakua Coast Day. Visit Rainbow Falls, Onomea Bay Scenic Drive, HTBG & Onomea Falls, Akaka Falls, Laupahoehoe Point and Waipio Overlook. Note we will not be hiking or driving down Waipio Overlook to the beach area.
Day 3 (Wed): HVNP Day. Jaggar Museum, Kilauea Overlook, Thurston Lava Tube, Pu'u Huluhulu Cinder Cone, Chain of Craters Drive, Pu'u Loa Petroglyph, End with Jaggar view in the evening/at dark.
Day 4 (Thu): Drive to West Day via South Route. Punalu'u Beach, Naalehu town, Papakolea Beach, South Point, Check-in to Sheraton, Relax
Day 5 (Fri): Kona Day. Makalawena Beach, Kealakekuwa Bay, Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, Hulihe'e Palace
Day 6 (Sat): Kohala, Hawi Day. Hapuna Beach, Pololu Lookout (no hike), Hawi Drive, Hawi Farmers Market, One of the ranches - Parker or Kahua (horse back ride may be), Mauna Kea Visitor Center in evening and back to Sheraton
Day 7 (Sun): Free Day. Explore various beaches - Waimea, A-Bay, others. Any suggestions here would be great.
Of course, this is just a guideline, we will adjust/tweak as things come to us. We have been to Maui and Kauai, so we know having a plan helps, but we often make real-time changes once there. i.e. linger or go back to places we really fell in love with, and skip things that will remain unexplored for the next visit.
What do you think? I have not yet researched food places, which I will do so in near future and ask questions separately.