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Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

I know we are not going to be able see all the Big Island has to offer in 3.5 days, but need advise on how to see all we can. We will be in Oahu the 7 days before so don't mind skipping out on some of the beach activities to do other things that are only on the Big Island. We are arriving in Kona on a Friday morning. I wish it was Hilo, but it isn't. Our plan is to take a leisurely drive to Hilo and visit the sites that do not involve getting wet on the way. We will stay in Hilo Friday night and get up early Saturday to spend the day at the National Park. We would really like to take the tour to the top of Mauna Kea and was thinking about leaving the park early enough to do so. I think they pick up from the visitor center around 5 pm. We'll stay Saturday night in Hilo and head back to Kona Sunday am unless we need to go back to the National Park to finish seeing everything. Our flight out leaves Monday pm so have part of Sunday and all day Monday in Kona. Is the tour worth $185 / ea? There will be 4 of us. Is this too much to fit in?

Island of Hawaii...
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1. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

First, congrats on the preemptive strike on airports, length of stay, wet weather, etc.. Good job warding off unnecessary comments. :)

I didn't know there was a Mauna Kea summit tour that picked up at the VIS. I know Arnott's (NOT recommended) leaves from Hilo side, and two quality tours (HF&T, Summit and Stars are the ones coming to mind) pick up on the west side resorts, Saddle Road junction, and maybe Mauna Kea Access Road and Saddle junction?

It would help if you post which tour, where they pick up, what time you need to meet them.

There's a current topic on visiting an observatory that discusses the escorted free summit tours on Saturday, for which you need a Harper's SUV to not void a rental contract. If you so wish, you can rent one in Hilo.

I'll just post this and then look at the rest of it.

It all depends on how important Mauna Kea is to you. To me it is not that worth it, but to others it's amazing.

If you can handle driving a 4WD and know how to gear down and all that, four of you could substantially save with Harper's, but you will pay a separate rental fee unless you pick it up in Kona and have it the whole time. I don't know how much they charge per day, do you?

Island of Hawaii...
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2. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

You seem to have a pretty good grasp of the time limits, and know what you want, so I think it will work, as basically you want a driving tour of the island more than a soak in the atmosphere stay. (Of course I do think you miss out not doing our beaches, but I'll say no more on that.)

Did you have one or more things in mind for your last day? Where will you stay Sunday night?

Are you interested in Hilo farmer's market on Saturday morning?

Is there a reason why you're not planning to see Kilauea after dark, the summit glow, but would rather be on Mauna Kea?

Some things to ponder ...

Big Island, Hawaii
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3. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

This is not a good plan. You're trying to do way too much in too short a time frame across too much of the island with flights in and out of the side of the island you don't plan to spend any time on. So I would first ask you, what about this can you change? While I don't agree with the notion to skip beaches and ocean sports on the BI because you're going to Oahu (the snorkeling is worlds better on the BI and the beaches unique, mostly uncrowded, and with special features Oahu beaches don't have), I do think with only 3 days you should limit yourself to just the east side. Ideally, change those flights and fly into and out of Hilo.

The most glaring issue is your idea to drive from Volcano to the Mauna Kea VIS after spending the morning in the Park, and then (presumably) driving back from the VIS at night to Hilo or Volcano. Not a good idea. See the TQ on driving.

I see two possible options here...either change your flights and fly into and out of Hilo and skip Mauna Kea entirely, or fly into and out of Kona, stay on the Kohala Coast or Kona area, and take a summit tour departing from there. If the latter, spend the first night in the west, take the summit tour, the next day drive to Volcano and spend the night there and then tour the Park that day, then the next day drive back to the west side and spend the night on the Kohala Coast or Kona area again, then fly out. I don't recommend it, but if you're stuck flying into and out of KOA and see VNP and MK as must dos, it's what I guess I'd do.

Island of Hawaii...
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4. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

I thought of suggesting that you do the summit from the west side, but I was waiting to hear back what tour you actually had in mind. It certainly doesn't make much sense to pay for a tour and then do 80% of the driving yourself.

I basically agree with Shea's issues with the plan, but I thought I'd try just working within the parameters you set for a change, as you seemed definite about the flights.

If your lodgings aren't set in stone, I don't see why you couldn't stay the first night on the west side instead of the last, as Shea suggests.

It's really a lot of driving to go up to both Volcano and Mauna Kea from Hilo. You know it's 4000 feet up and down for the one, and almost 14,000 feet up and down for the other. You're putting a lot of stress on your bodies.

It can be hard to fathom that there's no route from Volcano to Mauna Kea without returning to sea level and Hilo, but such is the case.

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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5. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

I was looking at the Mauna Kea Summit Adventure Tour company. I may have misread their pick up schedule (it says arrival at the visitor center). I emailed them earlier to confirm and to get their thoughts on what day would be the best. I am going to call the airlines tomorrow and see how much it would cost to change our flight and arrive in Hilo and leave out of Kona. When we made the reservations, we had planned on spending time at the beaches and only one day at VNP and had decided against Mauna Kea due to the cost. I keep thinking about and reading the reviews and it seems amazing, but do not want to spend my last 3 days in Hawaii stressed or worn out. We added the 3 days on the BI just in case we never make it back, but hope to be back someday to enjoy everything the BI has to offer.

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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6. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

VNP is a must. Other than Mauna Kea, the other places that have sparked our interest is Honaunau Bay, Kealakekua Bay, Kahalu'u Beach Park, tide pools in Kapoho, Ahalanui heated pools, Ataka Falls and Waipio Valley. I KNOW there is no way to do it all. If you had to rank them, how would you rank them? Convenience should play into the rankings. At this point, you can assume I have to fly in and out of Kona. I mentioned talking to the airlines about flying into one and of the other, but remembered the rental car would be more if we did that so will probably not do that. The only reason I was thinking about it was to save on the driving time and to be able to see everything we could in between Hilo and Kona.

Big Island, Hawaii
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7. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

"the other places that have sparked our interest is Honaunau Bay, Kealakekua Bay, Kahalu'u Beach Park, tide pools in Kapoho, Ahalanui heated pools, Ataka Falls and Waipio Valley. I KNOW there is no way to do it all."

Well, that's certainly an understatement. :-) Look, as I said assuming as I did above that you are flying in and out of Kona and you have three days, and want to go to VNP, you don't have time for more than one of those things. Kapoho and Ahalanui are definitely out. You can see Akaka Falls and the Waipio Valley overlook (but not the valley itself) on the drive from Kona to Volcano or back to Kona. Kahaluu is crowded and mediocre, easily skipped. Honaunau Bay and Kealakekua Bay you don't really have time for, Kealakekua Bay especially because you have to take a boat tour out of Kona. You could maybe snorkel Honaunau Bay on your drive back from Volcano. I certainly hope you have a vacation planned after this trip!

Edited: 1:39 am, March 06, 2013
Tulsa, Oklahoma
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8. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

:-) The 7 days before should be more relaxing. We are trying to squeeze in whatever we can of the BI without making the end the vacation stressed. I hope we accomplish that. Thanks for your time & recommendations!

Island of Hawaii...
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9. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

There are at least three rental agencies that don't charge a drop fee from Hilo to Kona. They are listed on the Hawaii Discount Car Rental site (select More, and look at the Brands). It used to cost $25 per person to change inter-island, but also you have to pay any fare increase, which is common. If you had bought the coach plus, then you have flexibility, but I doubt you did.

You are literally all over the map with your interests, so I suggest mapping them yourself to make it more real for yourself. You can use Google Maps to get a decent estimate of drive time between points if you had a little extra.

Can you please give us dates, a month of the year at least? Mauna kea has been really cold and experiencing the normal winter closures.

LA
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10. Re: Big Island for 3 days - Mauna Kea & Volcanoes National Park

The most unique experiences would be visiting Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park and doing the Mauna Kea summit tour.

Whether you want to pay just under $800 for four people for the tour is up to you.

I can see you doing the trip arriving in KOA if you edit your wish list. I would skip Waipio Valley, but enjoy Lapahoehoe Park, Akaka Falls, Hilo. Maybe Kapopo tide pools. I don't care for Ahalanui hot pools because of the bacterial issues and some of the people that hang out there. Remember you will have all your luggage in the car at all these stops and some of them are just a bit sketchy. You could check into your east side lodgings and then go to the Kalapana are if the lava is flowing, or even consider a lava tour (look for Lavaguide's posts here for updates).

Then do HVNP the next day. Maybe do the MK summit. Second night on the east side. Then next day travel to Kona for a last day on the beach or snorkeling trip.

You have a lot packed in. I've done trips like this and as long as I had a last day to relax in the sun and water, it turned out OK.