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Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Sunnyvale...
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Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Dear TA community,

I have been studying our itinerary for our 17-day trip late Jan thru early Feb. We will be on the BI for 11 days. Our base is at Kohala

Judging by the forecast on accuweather.com, I am betting on good weather on the east side 1/29-1/30 and have booked a 6 hour afternoon lava hiking tour on 1/29.

After researching on the BI forum, I have formed two proposals and I'd like your input which one would work out better

Option 1. Start out early (6AM) from Kohala, drive thru and visit the south point (those trees), the punalu'u beach (turtles!), arrive at VNP at noon. Spend 2hr in VNP, start driving to Kalapana where the tour starts. Upon completion of tour, drive back to VNP to spend the night, tour the park more next day till noon time. Drive up to Hilo (visit farmer's market as it'd be Wednesday), drive back to Kohala thru Saddle. Total amount time we will be spending in VNP ~7hr. We will cover the other Hilo sites (the falls, the tropical botanical garden in a separate day trip)

Option 2: Start out early (6AM) from Kohala, drive to VNP thru Saddle and arrive around 9AM. Spend 5hr in VNP, start driving to Kalapana where the tour starts. Upon completion of tour, drive to Hilo to spend the night, do the Hilo sites (farmer's market, banyan drive, akaka, scenic drive, botanical garden), return to Kohala thru Belt HWY

It sorts of boils down to how many hours does it take to tour VNP? Since we will be doing a 6-hour hiking tour, we don't feel like hiking extensively in the park. Would like to visit the Jaggar museum, Thurston lava tube, drive the chain of crater rd, and see the other pieces that doesn't require too much hiking/effort

And two other questions: Is the farmers' market in Hilo better than the one in Kona (we love fruits and exotic food); Other than Punalu'u beach, where else do we have a good chance seeing turtles?

Appreciate in advance for your input!

Canada
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1. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

The Hilo farmer's market is one of the best in all of the Islands.

Today is Jan 12th......a weather prediction for the 29th & 30 of Jan.......is as far from accurate as you could get.....especially for East Hawaii. Certainly you can hope for good weather..but it truly can change from moment to moment.

Personally, my favorite route to get to East Hawaii is via the North Route Hwy 19.....especially from South Kohala.....great views, decent roads

Big Island, Hawaii
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2. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

I think it sounds bloody miserable to drive from the Kohala Coast to South Point, Punaluu, and to VNP on a deadline. South Point and Punaluu are really not must sees IMO, and that's an exhausting day. Also it really doesn't make sense to do the Hilo Hamakua coast separately. I would skip that option altogether.

The lava hike is very different from the other hikes in VNP, like Kilauea Iki (which includes Thurston Lava Tube) and the petroglyph trail down chain of craters. I'd allow about 4 hours, so you could do option 2, then leave VNP at 1pm to get to Kalapana by 2pm, then do lava hike, and fall into bed in Hilo :-) Drive 19 back to Kohala, stopping at Alaka Falls, etc on way back.

Yeah, no weather forecast is good that far out, cross your fingers. Hilo farmers market is better than Kailua Kona ones. Waimea is fun on Saturdays, two farmers markets, huli chicken roadside stands, food trucks.

Turtles everywhere. Kukio Bay is the most consistent, but also Anaehoomalu.

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Correct, you can't plan the weather two days in advance. It is what it is. In the Bay Area meteorologists predict the weather; here they report on the weather that is here, and speculate on how long it might continue. ;-) Seriously, they can see fronts developing and pressure areas, for big weather systems, but most of our east side winter weather is stuff blowing in off the ocean that isn't what you'd call a system or a front.

I would do the lava hike rested, not after the long drive, but I guess you only have the one night. So then, keep your drive over short and without stops. Hiking over lava is exhausting and requires mental focus, so if this is your big thing of the day, conserve your energy for it.

Lastly, I wouldn't advise leaving at 6 AM when sunrise is not until 7AM.

1) The caveats against driving at night also apply to pre-dawn. Dark is dark, and it's often a rainy time on Hamakua coast.

2) Lots of people commute for work from east to west, many for a 7AM shift though not all. You will be driving in the dark against a solid wall of headlights, and it won't be pleasant. Take off at sunrise.

We only get 11 hours of daylight in winter.

Washington DC...
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4. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Under your first option, it would be hard to do all that and get to your hike appt. on time. You could add another day...have you read forum posts describing the South Point road/hikes? Be sure you know if your rental car contract allows South Point Road.

Denver, Colorado
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5. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Where it's always possible to do a day trip from South Kohola to Volcano it never makes sense to me. That's 6 to 7 hours of just driving not including stops. Also, Volcano National Park (VNP) is easy to explore on your own w/ the free map they give you and a little information at the Visitor Center to get some hikes for the day picked out.

With 17 full days you have ample time to loop the island and see all of the sites. In that case allow at least 4 days/3 nights in Hilo or Volcano depending on your direction of travel will allow you to do Captain Cook sites on your way south and Punaluu Black Sand Beach as a leg stretch stop on your way into Volcano, allow one full day to explore VNP plus a sundown stay over at Jaggar Museum to see possbile crater glow, then one day do a scenic drive of lower Puna, and then one full day to see Hilo and Hamakua Coast sites beyond.

South Point and Green Sand Beach are sites you can afford to miss but probably an easy day trip from Volcano should you choose to add some time there. I would not do those as side trips on the same day as VNP.

The problem w/ only leaving one specific day for Volcano is that the weather could be really rotten......based on one of my visits to VNP in June the fog and visibility meant you couldn't see anything from the Kilauea overlook other than fog. Allowing more time on the south east part of the island allows you to pick the best weather day for that.

Definitely think about at staying in Volcano or HIlo. If you do that look at Kilauea Lodge in Volcano for best accomodation or Shipman House B&B in Hilo. My Island B&B or Dolphin Bay Hotel are excellent budget options.

Sunnyvale...
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6. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Wanderlust-For-2, SheaG, KK, Honu and TheodoreJay, thanks for all your comments

TheodoreJay, we dont have 17 days on BI, only 11 days on BI. Since we are coming in winter time, we'd rather spend more time on the west side and only do some must-dos on the east side to minimize impact from the weather

We've decided to do option 2. Changing my hotel booking to Hilo.

Will visit the south point on another day if the rental car agreement approves it. Will skip Punalu'u beach if we can see turtles elsewhere. Remember going to some black sand beach (Maui?), wasn't very impressed anyways. It's the turtle we want to see

11 more days....... so excited........

Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

There's no issue with driving to South Point in a rental, it's paved all the way down. What you can't do legally is drive a rental to Papakolea (green sand beach). That requires a 4wd, and would be trespassing anyway. Please don't pay the locals offering to drive you down, they're operating illegally, trespassing, and tearing up the fragile ecosystem with their trucks.

Island of Hawaii...
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8. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Honu viewing:

Pu'uhonua 'O Honaunau (without fail)

Kahalu'u Beach Park, left side rocks

Kuki'o Beach at Hualalai Resort area

Richardson's-Leliwai in Hilo

Sunnyvale...
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9. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Hi SheaG,

No worries. We have no desire visiting the green sand beach.

Hi KK,

Thanks for the list. Now we can skip the punalu'u beach and save some time :)

Sunnyvale...
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10. Re: Please help me plan the VNP section of our itinerary

Just to follow up, what if an option 3 says:

Start out early (7AM) from Kohala, drive to VNP thru Saddle and arrive around 10AM. Spend 4hr in VNP, start driving to Kalapana where the tour starts. Upon completion of tour, drive back to VNP to spend the night, Visit more VNP sites the next day, return to Kohala thru HIlo - Belt HWY. Come back and visit HIlo on a separate day (day trip)

Would that allow a less rushy experience of VNP and Hilo?