Hawaii is one of my favorite states in the USA and if you have not visited yet, you are missing out on an amazing destination. Hawaii is a lifestyle. It has sunshine, beaches, fresh food, an environmentally-friendly way of life, little stress, and most importantly to this traveler, very cool nature!
I’ve traveled to Hawaii a few times over the years and love exploring new places. This trip my mom and I opted to visit the Big Island of Hawaii (a new place for me!) and Oahu, since my last two trips were to Kauai and Maui.
The Big Island is a big island so we broke up our week into two different parts, staying in Kailua-Kona for 4 days and Hilo for 3 days. You can definitely spend the night in Volcano as well but we were trying to avoid packing and unpacking too much on this trip.
Kona is the mega-touristy side with a lot of resorts, condos, and restaurants. We stayed in an amazing condo at the Kona Coast Resort. There were multiple pools, tennis courts, BBQs, mediocre fitness rooms, and a golf course next to the ocean. Sunrises and sunsets were my favorite time of day out on our porch overlooking the golf course.
Yes, I would have definitely preferred ocean view but Hawaii is expensive and I could not afford anything near Kailua-Kona that offered an ocean view. Be prepared to spend some money here (and a lot of places in Hawaii for that matter). Also good to note, is that there are no true beaches here. Just rocky spots to snorkel in. We went to the black sand beach recommended to us as the best sandy beach. It was a great spot but nothing but rocks.
Mom and I rented a car the entire week we were on the Big Island which was the way to go. We drove up to the Northern part of the island with scenic overlooks, historical ruins, and cute little towns.
As for the food, I ate fresh poke or a poke bowl every day. We shopped at the local grocery store chain often in Kona where there was a plethora of different poke options. I was a happy, healthy eater.
The outdoor “farmer’s market” was a good place to check out crafts mostly and some local fruit- papaya and pineapple were my favorites but there were tons of exotic options. These bananas apparently each come with their own gecko.
Also Kona brewery is here- a worthy stop on a warm afternoon. They have a lot of tasty beers.
Downtown Kailua is lined with touristy shops and restaurants. But not far away from them is the gorgeous Huliheʻe Palace, the former home of Hawaiian royalty. It had a $10 entrance fee so we just looked at the mansion from the outside. The entrance gate was very cool.
On the drive over to Hilo, there are a few major stops like Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and Punalu’u black sand beach. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park took about an hour to walk the trail, snap some photos of the sunbathing turtles, and visit the sacred sanctuary. It is a picturesque space with great historical significance for old Hawaiian society.
By the time we drove to Punalu’u black sand beach is was rainy and foggy- not great beach weather. We still walked along the sand to see the turtles and get the experience.
But the best stop is Volcanoes National Park. I didn’t hike much because Mom is not much of a hiker but we did a few shorter trails. Parts of the park are gigantic, active volcanoes, steam vents, recent lava flows, and more. The endangered Nene goose lives up here too. We saw a couple along the side of the road.
Had we more time, I would have spent a night in the town of Volcano nearby so I could have done some more hiking. The Volcano House Restaurant in Volcano National Park has pretty good food (especially the macadamia nut crusted fish and chips, skip the burger) and an incredible overlook of the Kilauea Crater. It is both foggy and steamy in Volcano National Park but so worth the trip.
It looks like what I imagine the moon would be (minus the vegetation).
More from Hilo on the Big Island up next!
Reader Question: Have you ever been to the Big Island? What part was your favorite?