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Visiting Hilo

NYC
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Visiting Hilo

Hi:

I'm planning a day trip to Hilo coming from the Colony Villas on a Wed, and I would greatly appreciate some input on a few questions:

1. Should we make a stop at Waipio Valley Lookout on the way there or on the way back? How much of a detour is it timewise?

2. Are there any concerns driving back on Highway 19 in the dark?

3. I'd like to see the waterfalls, Hawaiian Botanical Gardens, farmer's market, the rainforest zoo, Lilioukalani Gardens, and Big Island Candies, and make stops along the Hamakua coast to enjoy the scenery. In what order should I do this to make the most efficient use of time? And is this too much to do in one day? Should I do Hilo and Hamakua coast on separate days instead?

Thank you for your help!

ann

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1. Re: Visiting Hilo

Hi ann,

Yes I do think this is too much to get done in a day.

Yes I think you should do it in two days if these are the stops you plan.

#1) Waipio Valley

I haven't done in awhile but the speed limit is low on that road, 25-35 mph. I would allow roughly an hour which is about 20 minutes each way and a 20 minute photostop.

Not sure what you mean by asking when to stop. If you MUST do it that day, then perhaps on way there so you can gauge your time. Lighting for photos will change of course, as may clouds and general weather. In afternoon you would be looking towards sun and get a backlit effect ... morning is better to get the sun shining on and illuminating the sides of the valley.

#2) Driving back in dark

Yes, avoid this, you'll be staring at headlights for 2 plus hours, the road itself is extremely dark, and it tends to dump rain which can make visibility at night extremely poor, plus there can be rocks fallen in the road from time to time.

Be aware it gets dim on Hamakua side early, after 4 pm. The sun goes down behind the mountains. You are driving in the shadow of Mauna Kea rising over 13,000 feet above you. On parts of the road you will have sun in your eyes driving back in late afternoon.

#3) In order as you come into Hilo

Akaka Falls -- allow 15 minutes each way to get up there and maybe an hour if you walk the whole loop and take photos.

The Botanical Gardens are worth a half day, 2 hours minimum. They are a steep walk down to sea level.

Liliukalani Gardens are from 30-60 minutes to enjoy them although ideally you would sit down on the lawn and get the feel of the place.

Farmer's Market (Wednesday) is good for two hours or more.

Rainbow Falls can be a quick stop but you can easily spend an hour between it and Pe'ePe'e/Boiling Pots, especially if you take photos.

Zoo is 20-30 minutes from downtown Hilo and good for an hour to walk it. A mini-botanical garden in its own right. it is actually very open grounds, less mosquito rain foresty than the Hawaiian Tropical ... an over-looked place that I enjoy.

Big Island Candies is just a quick stop, right? Do they do a tour or something? They make great products.

Problem with dividing this up: the hard part of the drive IMHO is getting through the mid-section with gulches. Everything but Waipio is on the other side of the gulches.

Waipio, Akaka Falls and Hawaiian Botanical fit well together. You can get food and drink without going into Hilo. Stop at What's Shakin near the gardens or Pizza and/or bakery in Honomu town. Scenery--Laupahoehoe point on way home, if sunny.

Queen L Gardens, Farmer's Market, Rainbow Falls, Candies, all fit together. Zoo is additional drive.

If you plan to do Farmer's Market, then you should drive straight over and not stop other than bathroom break. Buy some treats/eats and go to Queen Liliukalani Gardens and picnic. Get your candy. Zip up to Rainbow Falls although it'll be too late for rainbows, falls are still nice. Or do Falls very quickly before market.

If you have time, walk around Old Hilo downtown (adjacent to market).

Stop at Tex's or in Waimea on way back.

Zoo - gosh, add that to the Farmer's Market day and it may be too much, just see how time goes.

Better if you could have spent a night in Hilo to do all these things!

PS. If by any slim chance you had extra time on your Hamakua Day, you could explore Honoka'a town, drive up to Kalopa State Park, spend some extra time in Waimea. But you want to get to the botanical gardens in the morning when the sun is from the east or again the slope the garden is on will be in the shadow of Mauna Kea. The garden is pretty much under canopy, but the sun lights up the plants. Akaka Falls too will be dim and darkish by late afternoon.

PPS. The gardens hike is not easy to plan when not staying in Hilo. You should check to see if it's raining on Hilo side and have a Plan B in mind.

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2. Re: Visiting Hilo

Hi, KamaainaK:

Thank you very much for such detailed advice! You've really helped put my itinerary into better focus. I have exactly 1 week before I land on the BI, and I am only beginning to feel a tinge of panic :-) I had actually wanted to test whether I could allow myself to go on a vacation without a detailed game plan (for which many people ridicule me), but have had to admit defeat. But now I'm really glad that I've posted my questions because attempting to do all those things in a single day would have left me frustrated at best. I'm printing out this post to bolster my plea to my family for the need to be out and about at the break of dawn :-)

I do have additional questions:

1. Will the traffic be much different if we see the Hamakua coast on a weekday or Sat? I've already booked the morning Kohala Wai tour with Hawaii Forest & Trails on Thurs, and I wanted Fri morning to be our beach day to avoid weekend crowds. That leaves us Sat because we will move from the Colony Villas to the Sheraton on Sun.

2. What is your traffic and weather radio station? I just want to be able to check conditions on different parts of the island if things don't look so good wherever we may be.

Thank you again for your help!

ann

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3. Re: Visiting Hilo

oh, you're very welcome, glad I was of some help!

yes, you will want to get up early and get the most out of the daylight.

I drove Hwy 19 today and noted that the Waipio Overlook is 9 miles from the highway. I think an hour was more than adequate but I try not to give "rush" times. Whenever I get in a beautiful spot I want to linger and the reality is I get behind "schedule" rather than ahead as the touring day goes on. (but that's my style)

btw there are two turnoffs for Waipio; I usually take the Waimea side one to go straight there; if you want to loop through Honoka'a town and you are on your way home you could take the Hilo-side turnoff.

1. Will the traffic be much different if we see the Hamakua coast on a weekday or Sat? I've already booked the morning Kohala Wai tour with Hawaii Forest & Trails on Thurs, and I wanted Fri morning to be our beach day to avoid weekend crowds.

Sounds like a good plan to have beach day on Friday.

Traffic should be fine on Saturday. There is a commute on that highway but you're going counter to it .... people commute from more affordable Hilo side to better-paying westside jobs.

The traffic on 19 isn't so much about volume of traffic, more that it's difficult to pass and there are slow trucks and also farm vehicles that build up caravans behind them, and they can be on the road at any time. There does seem to be more trucking in the early hours. We left around 8 am from Hilo side and there were lots of tankers going both ways. we came home around two and the road was wide open ... what a gorgeous day it was. I hope you get the same.

Just enjoy the drive and if you have to go slow, so be it, easier to see the scenery.

2. What is your traffic and weather radio station? I just want to be able to check conditions on different parts of the island if things don't look so good wherever we may be.

I'm embarassed to say I don't know ... I don't think we have enough traffic issues to merit a whole station! They break in if there's an accident or road closure. (and I listen to CD's so I just take it as it comes. If a bunch of emergency vehicles went by I might turn on the radio ...)

I check the weather by looking out the window, but my husband uses the net ... NOAA radar or just go to www.hawaiiweathertoday.com if you have access to internet.

The Hawaii weather should be on the Early Show if you only have TV ... and the night before you get a forecast at about 10:20. It's pretty Oahu-centric but it will give the outlook for all islands.

We like Guy Hagi on Channel 7 (CBS affiliate, channel 9 but on our cable it's 7)

Maybe someone else knows a good radio station. ;-)

PS. Enjoy your planning! Then when you get here don't let your plans drive you crazy. It's more important to have a good time than to do EVERYTHING. Your planning will serve its purpose in that you know where things are; you know what interests you, and you won't waste time flailing around ... my husband refuses to plan anything and I'm sure we would see nothing at all on vacation if I didn't do the research. (nor would we have a car or lodgings ;-) )

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4. Re: Visiting Hilo

Thanks so much again, KamaainaK! I am feeling some regret as to staying only on the west side, but it's too late now. All 4 of us like botanical gardens, so no one should be balking at another long drive. But what? No traffic radio station? I guess on the BI, I wouldn't have much recourse if I got stuck in traffic anyway. I'll really have to try to relax...at least I'll have 2 days in San Francisco to decompress from my NY stress levels before flying out to Hawaii :-)

ann

Portland, OR
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5. Re: Visiting Hilo

Ann,

I also would suggest breaking this trip up into two days. If at all possible, try hitting the northern section of the coast on one day – I think KK mentioned that Waipio, Laupahoehoe, Akaka, and Onomea Bay/Botanical gardens make one nice day. I would get up early do this and then drive through Hilo, finish out the day at the Zoo (and Mauna Loa Macnuts?) Come back into Hilo, eat an early dinner (Don’s grill?) then drive back. Day 2 in Hilo would be Rainbow, BIC (bring$$$), Coconut Island/QLG and the farmer’s market etc.

No matter how you do it, get some malasadas at Tex’s!

Have fun planning!

Good luck and happy travels!

NYC
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6. Re: Visiting Hilo

LOL! With so many mentions of Tex's, it sounds to be a destination in and of itself. Rest assured, it's definitely on my list. Thanks for the suggestions, echolynch!

Another question has popped into my head. I was planning to bring a small cooler dedicated for my purchases at Big Island Candies. But how would I keep those goodies unmelted when I'm at the airport waiting for my flight at least 1.5 hrs ahead of time? I understand that KOA is open air, right? I have unfortunately trained my friends and colleagues to expect nice chocolates (rather than magnets and keychains) after my vacations, so getting the candy back to them in good condition is high priority.

ann

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7. Re: Visiting Hilo

hmmm ...

you could have them shipped by the store?

You're right, I've had those chocolate-dipped shortbreads melt on me at room temp. Although the individual wrapping keeps them from getting messy, they don't look pristine any more.

I don't know. I would have said keep them with an ice pack by now they won't let the ice get by security. Or Blue Ice either, I'm sure.

Tex's is a good stop and really pretty landscaping ...

but I'm sorry to say the restrooms weren't nice at all when we stopped there two days ago. One broken, one with door lock broken, only one in commission and a line out the door. They used to be cleaner and nicer.

It's a woman thing, I know.

We also stopped at Parker Center in Waimea where the restrooms were very clean and no waiting ... girl tip.

8. Re: Visiting Hilo

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