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Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Illinois
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Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Hi,

We are staying at the Hilton Waikoloa and will have a car/suv. We are arriving in December the 26 and will depart the 30th. We have 5 people two kids 8 and 10 and would like to plan a day trip to VNP. What would be the best way to drive? Where would be the best place to go to in VNP to see the most types of Lava and possibly it flowing?

Also, enjoy Food Trucks so if you know of any in the area of the Hotel or VNP let us know.

Thank you for any help in our planning.

California
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1. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

From Waikoloa, the fastest way is the north route via Waimea to Hilo and then into to VNP. Drive time is about 3 hours without stopping so it makes for a long but doable day trip. Viewing any live lava flows requires a much longer drive/hike into the park and will make your drive going home much later than you want in the dark. As long as you stay in the park headquarters/Crater Rim Dr. area you should be fine for a day trip time wise.

Ann Arbor, michigan
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2. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

We have often driven to the park in the early morning via the Saddle Road from the Waikoloa area. Some of the road is not so good, but some of it is the best on the island. It saves about 20-30 minutes getting to the park rather than going along the Hamakua coast. We have rarely stayed long enough to drive home in the dark as either way can be treacherous depending on the rains, although the Saddle Road has lots of feral donkeys to avoid as another danger. We have never travelled the Saddle Road at night, and understand it's not a good thing to do. The Hamakua coast is lush and scenic, the Saddle road is a bit like going through Mordor, although it has its own beauty.

There are so many great things to see in the park, great hikes, wonderful sights, just take some time to plan what you would like to do using a good guidebook, or with help from TA. It is a great place even if you don't see any lava flows. It is unlikely you will see flowing lava at this time, but check the threads. Seeing flowing lava is a whole different ball game than just visiting the park.

Big Island, Hawaii
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3. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Saddle Road is quite a bit faster from Waikoloa than going through Waimea on Highway 19, usually by at least 30 minutes, sometimes as much as an hour. There are speed traps on both routes, so be careful. Both routes can encounter torrential rains, mudslides, wind, and other stormy weather, particularly in winter. Volcano will likely be quite chilly so pack accordingly.

I would strongly encourage you to double book an overnight in Volcano. You do not want to be driving back to Waikoloa at night, and that is even true in winter, and so you'll miss all the nighttime action and lava viewing possibilities. That time of year the days are shorter so if you do a day trip, you'll have to leave very early and really have no time for stops if you want to have enough time in VNP and then head back by 3pm to avoid the dark, and that time frame will put you in afternoon traffic if it's a weekday.

If you stay overnight you can leisurely drive via Highway 19 and, weather permitting, stop at all the waterfalls, overlooks, etc along the way (allow about 6 hours with stops and lunch), then have a night in the Park, explore for half a day the next day and then head back via the Saddle.

Big Island, Hawaii
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4. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Re: food trucks, there are only a very few here and none of then are special, IMO, with very inconsistent hours and locations.

Re: lava flowing, you aren't likely to see any lava action during the day. it's hard to say what the situation will be like when you get here, but right now the only way to get close to lava flows is a several hour hike unsuitable for most children. That could change of course. A helicopter tour might be a preferable alternative.

Edited: 3:10 pm, September 18, 2012
Chicago, IL
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5. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

We booked Hawaii Forest and Trails-they do all of the driving for you. Feed you and give you some great info. They will pick you up right by the Hilton. Check out their website. We are doing the night tour in December

Chicagoland
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6. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

VNP is in a rain forest. It will be extra wet in winter. I would seriously consider not exhausting yourselves by driving over from the Kohala area, but taking a helicopter tour out of Kona.

OR...plan to fly in and out of Hilo; stay two nights in Volcano.

Four nights is simply not 'enough' for Big Island. Where *else* are you staying in Hawaii? Possible to make changes?

boston
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7. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

We are also a family of 4 staying at the hilton from christmas till new years day - also staying at the Hilton. We are driving to VNP early in the morning - doing the park - staying the night in Hilo for $120 - and then taking a helicopter tour in the morning. The helicopeter tour from Hilo is so much cheaper than the one from Wakoloa (to se lava flow via air). It will save us $1,000 - and won't be rushed either day.

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

If people have already booked their flights and hotels, I am not sure telling them they made a poor choice is that helpful, will just make them feel bad about their trip. Maybe OP still has flexibility, but some tact always helps.

An alternative to taking the saddle road is to go the north way down and the south route back, stopping for a bio-break at Punaluu Bake Shop (nice things to buy) and getting into Kailua-Kona for dinner and sunset. We do this and leave VNP around 4. There are some slow spots in traffic but it's not arduous and what one sees is very different...gives a sense for the raw new lands that make up the Mauna Loa/Kilauea areas. That means you do drive home in the dark, but it will still be fairly early and it's under an hour.

It's a way to get a look at the town, which you might not otherwise have a chance to do.

We always do the long day trip to VNP from our base in Mauna Lani./ It is 13-14 hour day, but not unenjoyable.

Things to do in VNP include stopping off first at the Visitors Center to get maps, see the educational exhibits, talk to rangers about what's best for you that day. Wearing or bringing layers is good--the Visitors Center area can be cooler and wetter than the parts of the park down Chain of Craters Road, which can be quite hot but have some short walks such as to see petroglyphs. How you spend the 3-4 hours you have at VNP depends on your interested--cruise and view, cruise and view less and do a hike, etc.

Edited: 11:09 am, October 18, 2012
Big Island, Hawaii
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9. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Pinacolada's plan is a good one, double booking in Hilo or Volcano and then doing the helicopter tour out of Hilo the next day. Just by taking the Hilo heli tour instead of the one out of Kohala you more than cover the cost of one night's accommodations on the east side, plus it makes for a much more leisurely trip, and the big bonus, enables you to stay at night to see the Halema'uma'u lava lake action.

Illinois
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10. Re: Staying at Hilton Waikoloa Plan trip to VNP Help.

Thank you everyone for your suggestions. We will use these in planning our excursions. I love the suggestions for places to stop for fun things to eat/buy that are unique and different.