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Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

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Raleigh, NC
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Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

My husband and two children (girls) ages 13 and 10 and I are planning to go to the Big Island the last week of March and first week of April. My sister is stationed in Oahu and will be joining us for six of the days. I have been reading through the forum and I have some questions and hoping to get some advise. We have to stay at the Hilton in Kona because we have points and it is free. So the hotel was decided on due to points. I have read good and some not so good comments on the Hilton, but it is free so that is decided.

If we want to go to the Volcano and to Mauna Kea - yes I am still trying to understand the area via maps, but is this a one day trip to do both or should this be done on separate days? Could anyone give me the estimated time round trip to each from Kona Hilton?

Do we need a rental car each day we are there? I have read the bus does go into Kona and other places, but am unsure if a rental is needed all week we are there?

Coming from North Carolina the jet lag adjustment will be for us the first few days early mornings - until we adjust - so we took the advise when we went to Oahu 3 years ago to do Diamond Head - are there any attractions that we should do in the early am?

I want my girls to experience the culture - local restaurants, history, etc that isn't the typical "excursion" - activities we can plan and it isn't your typical tourist attraction to do - but could on our own?

And last - must do(s) this time of year? Whale watching? Manna-ray night swimming? I am unsure as I have read so much I am now asking for help.

Thank you in advance for your assistance!

Anchorage, Alaska
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11. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Hi KK,

Not sure you got what I was talking about either. I was referring to Hapuna being a drive up...

Although I have had good luck getting thru the gate at Mauna Kea all but one of the times I've gone there.

I'll try to be clearer in my posts! :)

Aloha

Island of Hawaii...
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12. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

hey again ... no worries, just wanted to clarify about Mauna Kea beach.

I wasn't responding to the Hapuna part, but to this sentence:

>>> Also mauna kea resort has a nice beach. Just drive up to the gate and say you want to go to the beach.

My comment was that it may not be that simple, because people do get turned away. I get turned away more than 50% of the time, because I don't go early in the morning. Try going in the middle of the day, especially on a weekend, passes are hard to come by.

Calgary, Canada
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13. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Hi I stumbled upon this thread looking for trip ideas. My wife and I and our 7mth old are planning a 10 day trip in November. We are planning to loop the island, definitely interested in beaches and snorkeling, hiking, whales would be cool but we might be a bit early for that. Looking for recommendations on best things to do...maybe off the beaten path a little, as well as places to stay. Should we be flying in/out of kona or Hilo or in one out the other? Have been to Hawaii once before and split our time between Maui and Kauai.

Thanks for any advice!

Big Island, Hawaii
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14. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Obi, it's best to start your own thread rather than adding onto an old thread.

Are you planning for next November?

I don't really think "loop the island" (although I know one poster uses that term often) is a relevant term here since, well, you can't. Parts of the north are impassable and so what you really end up doing is kind of a zigzag across the island.

Also IMO the island better suits itself to two bases, one west and one east, rather than driving around and staying at more locales. It is best to fly into Hilo and out of Kona (or vice versa) and split your time approximately 80/20 or 75/25 west/east. I prefer the Kohala Coast on the west side for its proximity to beaches, best weather and lodgings. Volcano is a good choice on the east side for proximity to VNP and accommodation choice, but Hilo is another possibility.

In your new post, include your nightly accommodation budget.

California
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15. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

To the OP - a rental car for the duration is pretty much a must on the Big Island. We've stayed at The Hilton Waikoloa a few times. Monstrous resort but it is good with kids. You mentioned "free" - are you a Hilton Gold or Diamond member? If so the Lounge is great for light breakfast, snacks, etc. We ate breakfast there every day and saved a ton of money.

Island of Hawaii...
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16. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

The OP's trip was in March 2012. Long over. Why bump this?

Oklahoma City...
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17. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Your plan is similiar to ours. We like to hit some of the tourist highlights if they seem worth it, but mainly we just like to soak up the local vibe. I would highly recommend the manta snorkel. It will blow your mind! We loved our drives down Old Mamalahoa hwy and the Kohala Mountain Rd. We took our girls up Mauna Kea, nerves of steel and very good driving skills are recommended, btw. Hapuna is a gorgeous beach, unless it is a windy day! 69 is excellent to snorkel when the ocean allows. Most of all, just chill. The BI is wonderful for kicking back and soaking in the glory of creation!

Edited: 6:26 pm, January 10, 2013
Oklahoma City...
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18. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

that posted to the wrong forum post.

calgary
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19. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Hi there!

We just came back from a month on the Big Island over Christmas with our three girls 13, 11 and 4. We did a LOT and loved the Big Island - I will give you our fave things that would be high on my list to recommend:

Snorkeling and beaches: Our kids are part fish - so we did a LOT of snorkeling and there are lots of good beaches to explore. You are situated well at the Hilton to hit some nice snorkel spots - the beach at Puako (Beach 69) is really lovely because it actually has beach but it also has a nice area to snorkel just to the left side of the beach around the big rock. The showers were not working when we were there b/c of a water main break - but hopefully that is fixed. Right at Waikoloa is A-Bay (Anaehoomalu) which was not our favourite swimming place - the beach is a salt and pepper sand - but there were lots of turtles on the beach there and your kids will get a kick out of the feral cat colony. Also to your north is the Mauna Kea Beach at Mauna Kea resort - if you get there early (before 9am) you will get a parking spot (usually) esp weekdays. The beach is really pretty soft white sand - very postcard - nice swimming - not prime snorkeling. Hapuna Beach is also along this stretch (we often would do Beach 69 then head over to Hapuna) - fun time in the waves body surfing and with small boards - just watch the surf at Hapuna - it was really REALLY big for a few days over New Year's and it is freakin' huge! Just ask the lifeguard if you are worried but the smaller waves are definitely fun. You will have to head south one day to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (and adjacent area Two Step and is about 1hr 45 min to 2hrs drive south). It is literally two steps off the lava and you are over a nice reef area to snorkel. Which brings me to:

Historical sites/fun educational things to do: The National Park Service has a Junior Ranger program that is really quite fun for your kids' age group. They have workbooks you fill out and you run around the historical site and then check with the ranger to make sure you have everything correct and you win a prize! It is a free program and our girls really enjoyed it. There are five sites to visit on the Big Island - each park you visit you get a different prize. The Pu-uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) is one of these sites and quite interesting. North of you (at the Hilton) is the "Hill of the Whale" Pu'ukohola Heiau - also an excellent visit (and then head directly north to Kawaihae to the shave ice shop on the corner - best shave ice we found! Also recommend the Harbour Gallery there - we kept going back - they had some beautiful stuff!). Of course Volcano NP is amazing - the films at the visitor centre give you great background info - and we did the Kileauea Iki Hike - clockwise - very nice - pack a lunch - do the workbook at the centre - get your stamp! Another great find was the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm - very near Kona (a bit south). They charge for a tour - but it was so well done and so educational - neat to see cacao (chocolate) trees with pods on them! Plus they do give you a bit of free chocolate to taste! You need to call and make reservations ahead of time - I think they only do them a couple of days of the week. They explain the whole process of chocolate making and chocolate growing. It was really quite interesting.

Mauna Lani has free hula shows - I think they are Monday and Thursday evenings - around 6pm - but check their schedules - there is also a farmer's market on Wednesdays. We drove across the island several times (but we had time) - and hit the Hilo Farmer's market which is pretty awesome if you are looking to try interesting tropical fruit. We tried a Cherimoya - it is sometimes called 'custard apple' - you eat it with a spoon and it tastes like apple and cinnamon custard inside! Also they had fresh coconut (and young coconut) that they would chop up for you - drink up the coconut water first then take it back to get it chopped up so you you can eat the meat. A fun thing for kids to do!

Restaurants - the food prices are going to hurt - it is hard not to spend a lot when you go out! Best local grocery store - up the hill in Waikoloa Village - cheaper goods and their deli shop has prepped food to go - some of it is quite tasty and pretty local! We stayed in the village so we got to know this spot well (although we cooked for ourselves at our condo). Ocean Seafood Chinese Restaurant in Kona - reasonable prices - great chinese food and the fastest service you have ever seen. We didn't do buffet - ordered off the menu b/c kids don't eat enough to make 'all-you-can-eat' worthwhile. Honoka'a - Tex Drive Inn - best malasadas on the island - they serve them hot and different fillings - we had to go back a second time just for the malasadas - even tho Honokaa is a bit of a drive! Oh and the CostCo in Kona has the most amazing ice cream bars at the food concession - for $1.50 they hand dip them in chocolate and roll them in almonds...we almost missed our plane out b/c the family had to make one last stop for ice cream before we left!

Oh and if you buy snorkel gear at Snorkel Bob's (which we did b/c we needed prescription lenses - which I am THRILLED to have purchased) - you get a free copy of "Fishes I Have Known" which my 11 year old spent the driving time in the car reviewing and is now a reef fish expert and conservationist. :-)

Ten days is a good stretch - you should be able to do quite a bit. Have fun and as we found, even if your plans don't go as planned - it is still and adventure and a good day on the Big Island!

Have fun! Hope this helps!

Big Island, Hawaii
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20. Re: Planning 10 day trip to the big island - advise please?

Pintobat, the OP posted over a year ago. I enjoyed your post and request that you post it separately as a trip report under its own topic so I can link to it in the Trip Report compilations Top Question, and also so it doesn't get buried. Thanks!