Hello! I have been enjoying this forum and the comments in the last week, as I've been planning the details of my vacation at the end of the month. I wanted to put my proposed itinerary out there and get some feedback. We arrive in Kona early on Dec 27th (flight to Honolulu from the U.S. east coast the previous day).
As a note, we decided the top priorities for this trip were surfing, snorkeling and Volcanos National Park. We're also interested in Whale Watching and the Observatory. It will be just me and my fiancee on this trip (28 and 34 yrs old), no kids.
Day 1: Kona: Morning: Surf Lesson with "Surfer Bear" on Kahalu'u Beach, Afternoon: Coffee Plantation Tour and relax at hotel, Evening: Dinner at the Sheraton to see the Manta Rays (We stay at the Royal Kona Resort this night, all other nights we are staying in Volcano Village)
Day 2: Kona to Volcano Village: Morning: Snorkel near Captain Cook (Kealakekua Bay, Ke’ei Beach or Honaunau Bay), Ka'u (Na'alehu) Farmers Market (Saturday). Afternoon: Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach, Check into Guest House, trip to Volcano Winery. Evening: Jaggar Museum or Volcano House restaurant to see crater edge at night.
Day 3: Volcano National Park: Breakfast at Volcano Village Farmer's Market (Sunday), Hike Kilauea’iki Trail, Visit Thurston Lava Tuba, Chain of Crater Road. Evening: Jaggar Museum or Volcano House restaurant, if not done before.
Day 4: Hot Springs: Morning: Champagne Pond at Cape Kumukahi. Afternoon: Lava Tree State Monument, Ahalanui hot spring in Pohoa or Pohoiki Warm Spring in Isaac Hale Beach Park. Dinner and lunch in Pahoa. Drive to Kaimu Beach via Kapoho Kalapana Road for sunset, if lava is flowing.
Day 5: Hilo: Morning: Akaka Falls, Umauma Falls, World Botanical Garden or Hawaii Botanical Garden. Afternoon: Whale watching trip in Hilo or swimming and snorkeling at Richardson's beach. Evening: Mauna Kea Observatory - tour to the summit at sunset or just do free trip to visitor's center for star gazing.
Day 6: Volcano Village to Kona: Surf or Whale Watch in Kona or Kohala coast, if lack of waves/whales did not permit this previously. Lunch at the Four Seasons or walk around downtown for the day. Flight at 4:00.
How does that sound???
Some specific questions I have:
- Should we pay for a (licenced) kayak guide for Kealakekua Bay, or just skip it and do Honaunau Bay on our own for snorkeling? Has anyone snorkeled on Ke’ei Beach (southern part of Kealakekua Bay)? We have both snorkeled once or twice before, but aren't super experienced. We also don't have our own equipment.
- Has anyone visited the three hot springs mentioned? Which are the best? Champagne Pond sounds interesting to me, but to get there you have to do a half hour hike over lava fields - is it worth it when the other two are easily accessible?
- It is worth it to pay to go to the observatory summit, or is the visitor center comparable?
Thank you so much in advance!!