For me the big “surprise” of Hawaii was how relaxed and uncrowded it was, even during Spring break, *except* in the Honolulu area surrounding Waikiki Beach. A little research after our trip of a few years back told me that almost all Hawaiian tourism happens in the few square miles of Honolulu right around Waikiki Beach, the stretch of beautiful white sand and surf that curves in a gentle crescent around the surf side of Honolulu. Pearl Harbor was also fairly crowded, though even these “busiest” parts of Hawaii were easily manageable.
I think the kids remember the high rises, beach, and trinket shopping in Honolulu the most but my wife and I enjoyed our stay at the Keauhou Bay Resort, an “Outrigger” Brand Hotel about 10 miles south of Kona on the big Island. Our first room was too low and with a bad view but they relocated us to higher floor where we enjoyed a great view of the surf and swaying palms. Hawaiian hotel lobbies are often in the open air in a patio like setting, and that was the case at the Keauhou Bay. The restaurant also was “outside” but under a roof, next to a nice small pool and within view of the surf. The immediate area was a sometime home of King Kameahameha, the dude who unified the islands (sometimes with brutal force), but is still celebrated as one of Hawaii’s great historical figures. A recreation of his small house is still on the grounds.
the Keauhou Bay Resort Hotel was somewhat isolated from the big groups of resorts and hotels located at Kona and at Waikoloa. Kona appeared to cater more to the “middle class” where the huge resorts at Waikoloa tend to cater to the wealthiest visitors to the big island. Based on our short visit to Waikoloa the resorts there seem to spend a lot of time “recreating” Hawaii at the resort grounds and pools rather than having you experience it a bit more directly on the beaches and the small city of Kona. However if you want to be pampered more you’ll probably want Waikoloa places.
The big Island is not nearly as big as I’d expected - you could drive completely around it in 5 hours 20 minutes using the main Hawaii Belt Road that circles Hawaii (this is pretty much the key main road on the big Island, though there are a few other big roads in Waikaloa area.
Links to some key attractions of Hawaii:
DO NOT MISS the historic native village at Honaunau a US National Historic Park. This is a “must see” to understand Hawaii before colonialism. A beautiful recreation of a native polynesian village with interpretive information.
Kealakekua Bay is where Captain Cook first landed. He was greeted by Hawaiians peacefully and left, but then returned and was killed. The monument area offers excellent snorkelling as part of a *great* full day adventure that was the highlight of our Hawaii trip. No special skills required though it is a bit physical unloading and loading the boats on the car and into the water:
* Rent Kayaks and snorkelling equipment at one of the places south of Kona. We used “Kona Boys” and they were nice.
* Drive to the put in area at Kealakekua Bay. There were some folks hanging out there to help put in and take out for tips, but we just did it ourselves.
* Kayak out to near the monument. You can take out on the rocks north of the monument and then snorkel the reef around there. Lots of fish, great “drop off” to deep water.
Keep an eye out for Dolphins, or even whales. Dolphins are most likely in the mornings and evening.
Hilo is Hawaii’s largest city but not nearly as big a tourist destination as the Kona area. However our drive along the Puna Coast offered some of the most scenic views of the trip. At the end of the road is a great fish and burger cafe, and you can walk from there to the black sand beach that used to be among the world’s most famous until the area was overrun by Lava from Kilueau. Now you’ll see the beach in the process of eroding away into black sand again and note the coconut palms planted all around by a local. Although technically you could hike to Kilauea from here it is many miles away, not recommended, and could be dangerous.
Kona Coffee: Be sure to do one of the many coffee tours offered just south of Kona at the small coffee plantations. Our 40 minute tour showed the trees and the process. Also it was “free” (though you should give the guide a nice tip) and including sampling several Kona blends and taking away some free avocados from their trees.
Yes, there is a lot more to note about Hawaii, but I need to move on to some new destinations. We’ll do more Hawaii later….We invite all our readers to join our Hawaii Trip Reports. Write a short trip report about your Hawaii vacation on Oahu, Kauai, Maui or Hawaii Big Island or Molokai and Lanai. Hawaii visitors would like to hear where you stayed, island, hotel or vacation rental, and what you did on your Hawaiian vacation. Please, email us your report. When approved, your Hawaii trip report will be published immediately. Mahalo and aloha Pua Hawaii Kohala Coast Vacation Guide
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