We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

Troy, New York
11 posts
Save Topic
6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

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!!

Canada
Level Contributor
9,210 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

Welcome to Trip Advisor forums!

Have you been to the Big Island previously?

Just to clarify...you have 5 nights total and plan to stay on both sides...but predominately East?

Winter on the east side can see it's share of cold, rainy weather. Be sure to bring a good amount of warm clothing for your stay.

As to the "Ponds"......I wouldn't as much as put my big toe in......too risky.

If you decide the Mauna Kea observatory in December is on the agenda for you, I would suggest an organized tour. They do the driving, and provide the parkas and outerwear you will require.Best done from the west side, and another cold adventure.

As you are waking up on the east side on departure day....I would recommend getting to the west side ASAP. You will not have a lot of time to be touring about that last day. Lunch at the 4 Seasons sounds like a fine plan. You will want to be at KOA for around 2p.m. dropping off the rental vehicle.

Troy, New York
11 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

Thanks! Yes, this is our first time to the Hawaiian islands! :-)

Yes, 5 nights total - One is Kona, others in Volcano

Yeah, I'm leaning towards not doing the full summit experience for Mauna Kea, mainly because it would require cold weather gear. I'm just wondering what I'm really missing if we don't go there - several of our friends have done it and highly recommend it.

Troy, New York
11 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

I thought of another question I have - there seems to be multiple botanical gardens near Hilo, but most people just refer to "THE Botanical Garden...". I assume the one most highly regarded is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, in Papaikou, correct?

Canada
Level Contributor
9,210 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

So, is the total trip 5 nights Big Island?....or do you go to another Island as well?

Yes the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden in Papaikou..is the main event.

http://www.htbg.com

Did those friends of yours who raved about a Mauna Kea summit tour...go in Dec or Jan....BIG difference. Your itinerary as it stands is going to bring you to areas with potentially cold wet weather at the time of your stay.

South Kohala on the west side....total opposite....sunny , dry, warm.

The Big Island has all those different microclimates that really can switch it up depending where you are on Island...and when.

http://www.hawaiigaga.com/WeatherGuide.aspx

Safe Travels

Edited: 5:25 pm, December 09, 2013
Troy, New York
11 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

We fly in and out of Honolulu, but all our time is on the Big Island (we may have time for dinner in Honolulu when we leave Hawaii).

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
27,690 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

How much of this is set in stone? Can you change your lodging? Because given what you want to do, and the time of year, I think you have your nightly allocation between east and west backwards. Also you should be able to change your interisland flights without much problem so I would fly into one side and out the other.

As to the specifics, Day 1 is fine, but you can seldom see any manta rays from the Sheraton restaurant. They're not that close in. Why not just do the snorkel?

Day 2 and 3 are fine except the winery is a must miss IMO,

Day 4; I wouldn't do any of that stuff and there's no accessible lava flow right now.

Day 5, whale watching and snorkeling in Hilo is very poor and great on the west side. You really need to be back west. Also there are no recommended summit tours that leave from the east.

Your flight day is way too ambitious.

Basically if it were me, I'd fly into Hilo early from Honolulu. Get to VNP and see the Park and night glow. The next day transit to the Kohala Coast via the Hamakua Coast, visiting the HTBG, Akaka Falls, and Waipio overlook. Check into a Kohala Coast hotel like the Hapuna Prince. That's where our humpback sanctuary is. Whale watch and easy beach snorkeling all nearby (ocean conditions permitting).

If you're flying in and out of HNL to the mainland you could reverse it and fly into KOA first and spend four nights there and then spend your last night east.

Alternately if you must keep the flights in and out of Kona, spend the first night in Kona and those area plans as you have set out. Transit to Volcano the second day for an overnight. The third day head to Kohala Coast lodgings via the Hamakua Coast.

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
3,986 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

Wow you are flying from NY to Hawaii for 6 days.....I hope you got a great deal on the flights. Anyway....skip Kealakekua Bay. Definitely pay for the Mauna Kea evening tour ...well worth it. I love the TROPICAL Botanical Garden near Hilo... Akaka Falls is nice but not a wow IMHO. Given your December timeframe... I do have to agree that the Kohala Coast should be way nicer weather then the Hilo side. Not to mention is you are going to snorkel the Kohala Coast is THE place to do it.

Shea is right on!

Edited: 6:26 pm, December 09, 2013
Troy, New York
11 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

Thanks Everyone!

@Zubsin, no, the flights were not cheap - but I had bought a ticket to Australia this year, and that didn't work out - so I had to use up an expensive ticket before February, but didn't want to go as far as AUS/Asia. Looooong story.

@Shea, thanks for your input. My fiancee booked the reservations, and had to call about 50 places to find vacancies, so I'm not sure he'd be willing to go to the effort to change them. But I think I agree with you that we should try to change at least one night back to the east coast, preferably sleeping on the east coast the night before our flight. However, that night is New Year's Eve, so reservations may be hard to come by. Any tips on a place that might have a vacancy and be under $250?

Regarding the Manta Ray snorkel - I didn't realize snorkel was an option - I thought only scuba would be good since they swim so deep. I'm honestly a little scared to be in the water with them since we don't have a lot of experience and they can sting you.

It really surprises me that there are no Mauna Kea tours from Hilo - why is that?

FYI - Our inter-island flights are in and out of Kona.

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
Level Contributor
27,690 posts
76 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

I think you mean you want to change at least one night back to the WEST coast: that's where the ocean sports are best done, and where your flights arrive and depart from, however interisland flights are usually very easy to change.

I have been looking at hotel vacancies around that period all week and have seen quite a few but yeah, prices will be up there. I would consider priceline or Hotwire hotels on the Kohala Coast.

The manta ray snorkel is easy. Everyone gets off the boat (easy entry) and holds onto a floatie ring so you all stay together.

Re your earlier questions....Ke'ei isn't interesting snorkeling. You could take a kayak tour of Kealakekua Bay but if you can change your lodgings and stay on the Kohala Coast, ocean conditions permitting I would just shore snorkel there. If you can't stay north and are in Kailua Kona, consider taking the Fairwinds or Sea Quest to snorkel.

Mauna Kea summit is most easily accessed from the west side (the east side of the Saddle going back into Hilo from Mauna Kea can be treacherous and stormy at night) and that's also where most of the visitors are, so the reputable tour companies base west.

Canada
Level Contributor
9,210 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: 6 day Big Island Proposed Itinerary

OMG....you are thinking of yet another night on the east side??????Heavens No....unless you are looking to stay in your NY garb the entire time.

It will not be a problem to find accommodation. Everyone will be on the west side, where it is warm and dry ( Not raining torrentially)

As Shea says....the whole plan is exactly flipped in reverse ...

Calling around to 50 places and coming up with the Royal Kona ......certainly gives one pause...

Tell me you have a car reserved.

It is clear that the OP needs to become familiar with the lay of the Land....as this itinerary will provide it's challenges.

Get answers to your questions about Kailua-Kona