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Locals - Help With Ideas??

Oakland, California
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Locals - Help With Ideas??

When Kona is crazy with Ironman in October, we will be near Pahoa (close to Kahena Beach) for several nights. Having flown in to Kona, I expect we may drive down the Hamakua Coast to arrive at the cottage we have rented and I expect we will spend at least one day at the volcano and one at Kapoho tide pools to snorkel. (We have a rental car.) After our time in the Pahoa area, we will return to the Kona side for a couple nights via Punaluu, Southpoint, etc.

It has been over 20 years since I was last on the Big Island (anyone else remember Queen's Bath?) and my wife has never been. Any suggestions on where to eat/drink and for activities/sights would be much appreciated. About us: people in their 50's who still hike, snorkel, etc., we enjoy history and wildlife, and good cocktails too.

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Island of Hawaii...
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1. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

Hi, interesting and different ...

To start out for activities, read the Top Question (in the Island forum) on must sees and dos where people share their favorites.

What is your memory of Kehena, Kapoho, Pahoa? Some would smile at the idea of going there to avoid "crazy" as it is Crazy Central, but we know what you mean.

The closest dining to Kehena is still Pahoa or the Kalapana Cafe where the road ends, also there is Uncle Robertʻs Awa Bar. On Wednesday there is a night market there with food and music.

Pahoa for dinner has Paoloʻs Italian, Ningʻs Thai, Kaleoʻs, and the mediocre but friendly Luquinʻs Mexican and also pizza (not amazing).

Malama Market in the new center by Hwy 130 is the full rage market (Cash and Carry in the Village is gross), and Island Naturals in the Village is the natural foods store.

For the tidepools, you want to go in after the pools are refreshed, so you should find a tide table online. Do not go in them with any open cuts, scratches, etc., due to bacterial issues from cesspool seepage.

I would avoid Ahalanui hot pond, bacterial issues and people who are not clean and have infections still use it. The temp is perfect for staph and vibrio to thrive. It is not idyllic as advertised.

You have to pay attention in lower Puna, really guard your car against break-ins, and I would not be in Pahoa after 10 PM. If you can walk to Kehena beach and not park your rental car there, that would be better.

While it is nothing compared to Oakland (I moved here from Oakland), itʻs different because in Oakland you pretty much know where to be on guard, but weirdness in Puna can develop randomly and spontaneously. So just keep your radar turned on and youʻll be fine.

Are you considering a guided lava hike?

On your transit day, I hate to add another "no," but Ka Lae is off limits to many rental cars, so you have to check with your agency at the local office (the national has no clue on road restrictions).

In terms of vast improvements, the Saddle Road is all realigned and is now a beautiful highway.

Iʻd probably just drop down to Punaluʻu from VNP, and would take the Saddle back to Kona.

I would not stay in Kailua Kona either, would be my last choice for the west side lodgings. Have you picked one yet? Kailua Kona has not gotten cuter or more charming in the last 20 years.

You will be shocked to see the difference in South Kohala, so many lodgings now. Visually, it probably wonʻt look like an improvement over undeveloped land, but in terms of affordable lodgings the scene is much improved.

Cocktails, well they are $15 now in the good places. You might want to go to Longs (thereʻs one in Pahoa), which has excellent prices on liquor, and mix your own at least some of the time.

I would recommend Beach Tree at the Four Seasons as a lovely sunset setting for a drink before you hit the airport (if you have an evening flight).

Speaking of flights, it takes 4 1/2 hours to get to Kehena without stops, so you will only have time to do Hamakua if your flight arrives early. Otherwise I would take the Saddle to get there faster, and would do Hamakua when you head west again.

PS. Sorry to put in so many warnings, but the ice epidemic has ravaged the lower Puna area in the last twenty years. Lots of tweakers.

Edited: 7:27 pm, August 22, 2013
Oakland, California
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2. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

We arrive at 11:30 AM but will spend the first two nights at the Waikoloa Beach Marriot (I know it's "tourist central" but figure 36 hours or so to ease into "island time" would help), so we will have an early start from there to Pahoa (and will give us a day to go up the Kohala Peninsula and maybe see some petroglyphs, etc.). Maybe on the way from the airport we'll hit Costco for some booze before he go to Waikoloa. Maybe we are not at Kehena (and I have little recollection of Kapoho or even the Pahoa area to be honest)? We are a bit less than 5 miles from where the Pahoa Kalapana Road hits HI-137, so closer to Kalapana end of the road than Kapoho. We are there for 5 nights and then back on Kona side (Keauhou) for three nights. How is THAT for details! LOL Since we are in the area, I was thinking about going to the Maku'u farmer's market on Sunday and maybe we'll just eat some meals at the cottage. Also, I was not planning to drive out to Ka lae, just stay on the main road (with a stop at Punalu'u and City of Refuge) on the way to Keauhou. Sorry to hear about the meth problems and the not so great changes, but I still expect we'll have a great time. Thanks for the warning on the Ahalanui ponds as I was considering that (now . . . not so much). Maybe that Uncle Robert's Awa bar thing would be fun. Any more suggestions and thoughts would be great (now that you have our "full" itinerary). Considering the little one hour rainforest walk that Volcano Art center does. Maybe a guided lava walk? Over in Keauhou thinking of a manta night snorkel and maybe a kayak & snorkel at Kealakakua/Cook Monument. Any thoughts on these things?

Island of Hawaii...
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3. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

Thanks for that! It is always better if you list the full itinerary for the island (and even include if you are visiting other islands). It is not too much to read, and it saves people from making unnecessary comments. So thank you for expanding. Your routing through Hamakua now makes total sense.

I am not a big fan of this Marriott, because the rooms are so small and have teeny lanais with no privacy, and the coffee station is a pain -- and the kids swarm the pools with no restriction of an adult pool. The restaurant is not good, or the bar -- but there is stuff within easy reach. Location wise itʻs a fine base for exploring.

From what you say of yourselves, I would think the Hapuna Prince would come in at the same price point and would be much nicer and more peaceful by like 50 times.

Please read the Top Question on kayaking and Kealakekua ...

The manta snorkels leaving from the Honokohau harbor location usually have better luck than Keauhou. There are so many topics on the manta snorkel, just put manta in the island level search.

Note: do not run searches from the Pahoa forum. You wonʻt find anything.

So as far as your rental location goes, if you will just link the listing it is way easier than trying to figure it out by a description.

When you mentioned Southpoint, it sounded like a stop, as the highway itself is not near Ka Lae, but runs a ways inland at that point. Returning from Puna, your entry on to the highway is at Keaʻau, which is 5 minutes from Hilo. Going from Hilo to Kailua Kona, I would never drive via the southern route, which is a tedious drive once you get past Naʻalehu and until you reach Honaunau. Honaunau you should visit on a day you are in Keauhou.

I would still take the Saddle. The scenery is pretty awesome up there.

Re the guided lava hike, if there is still an ocean entry or surface flows, yes we recommend it highly. Read the Lava Viewing Top Question and a few current topics on hike (use search). We recommend Volcano Discovery Hawaiʻi as the top company, and Kalapana Cultural Tours.

In fact, most people donʻt even think about staying where you are going to be unless they are planning a lava hike.

Yes I think the Awa Bar would be a must if you are in the area. I donʻt go because I donʻt like the drive home at night, but for you it will be convenient.

Oakland, California
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4. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

Hapuna Prince looks nice, but for an oceanview room (remember my wife has never been to the Big Island), I got a better deal at the Marriott. Maybe fewer kids with school in session most places will help. I wonder if there is also some issues with the Ironman on 10/12 that hits what is available on the two days before that? Of course, recommendations for eats and drinks nearby are welcome (especially since you say the restaurant and bar are not recommended).

Sorry I didn't hit the "Top Questions" - still learning how to maximize the features of Tripadvisor, I guess!

As for the Saddle Road route back to the Kona side, do you recommend that even if we want to get down to Punalu'u? I think that would entail turning around and driving back the way we came, but if you still think that better than continuing on around . . . .

As for linking the listing to where, exactly, we are staying near Pahoa, since it is a rental; from a private owner (through airbnb) I am a little reticent to share that without the owner's permission. (It is a "small" island even though it is "big.") Let's just say that we will get off the highway at Kalihikai Street. That should help pin point a location. We chose the area for a little isolation as well as for a base for our adventures on the Hilo side. Sometimes, in my experience, all you need is a beach, some jungle and a sunrise.

Thanks for the lava tours tips; we will check on conditions as trip time grows closer.

Island of Hawaii...
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5. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

Actually, most any owner who lists a rental, whether on VRBO or Air B&B, would be quite stoked to have their rental linked on TA in a way the guidelines allowed. Itʻs called free advertising. ;-) The exact address is different from the listing link. Sometimes they withhold that for security reasons.

There is not much at Hapuna that does not have oceanview, as all rooms face the ocean, though some might have some landscaping in front of them. The whole time you are at the hotel you are drinking in sights of the ocean. All the rooms at Hapuna have good privacy. The lanais are a good size, something you can actually relax on.

At the Marriott, the ocean is much more distant, and most of their views are obstructed, even some of the rooms that face directly to ocean, and many of the rooms have no privacy from people walking outside. The direct oceanfront rooms that are on high floors are quite nice with good views, but there are not many of those at all, and I doubt that is the category you are getting. Plus they donʻt have real lanais. They have teeny balconies that are cramped and put you on display to everyone else.

The Marriott rooms are cramped and the walls are at weird angles, whereas the Hapuna rooms are 660 square feet and the bathrooms are very large with both a generous tub and a walk in shower and double sinks. Marriott bathrooms are cramped.

Honestly, I think the Marriott is the wrong choice for anyone who feels drawn to Kehena. The Marriott is the essence of corporate feeling. Hapuna is laid back and aloha and the staff feel a lot more local. I was at both of them in July. It is night and day.

Thatʻs not even taking in the huge difference between the beaches.

Island of Hawaii...
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6. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

OK, so you are staying in Kalapana Seaview subdivision. We would not refer to that as Pahoa, btw. Pahoa is only the nearest post office.

You might want to visit S.P.A.C.E..

I hope you know, it would be hard to find a less practical touring base than this, kind of like picking Kona Paradise on the west side, or HOVE might be a better comparison. Seaview is an interesting subdivision. There are no CC&Rʻs, so basically anything goes, shacks and shanties are OK. It is like day and night from the adjacent Puna Palisades where the Absolute Paradise B&B is located. My realtor declined to show me anything in Seaview, but mostly because the property value is so low and people can do whatever in the lot next door, and whatever can be obnoxious. Not to say the rental isnʻt nice, just an odd neighborhood. I can see how it could be fascinating if you are a visitor though.

It will be one heck of a contrast to the Marriott. Hopefully you will write us a trip report.

Island of Hawaii...
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7. Re: Locals - Help With Ideas??

Re your route question: you should do whatever you like. Iʻve only driven the southern route from Volcano to Honaunau in one go, which is about 90 minutes shorter than it will be to Kohala. I still thought it was a tedious drive. I did it on a couple trips and didnʻt like it either time. I think Punaluʻu is over-rated as a must see. It is the best stop in Kaʻu, but Kaʻu is not know for great scenic stops.

If it is important to you, go for it, but it will be considerable longer than the Saddle, especially coming not from Volcano but from Keaʻau -- which is essentially from Hilo. No one from Hilo would drive to the Marriott via Hwy 11. It would make no sense. Tourists though, just want to see the other route. But then you miss the Saddle.

I was suggesting that if Punaluʻu is an absolute must, that you drop down and see it on a VNP day. I would never suggest that you leave Kehena, drive to Keaʻau, drive to Volcano and then down to Punaluʻu, then turn around and drive back to Hilo, and from there to Waikoloa. That would be really silly. Coming from Kehena, if you do get as far as Punaluʻu on your transit day, you would not turn around.

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