The Complete Big Island Vacation Guide

big island cover Aloha! So you are planning a vacation to the Big Island – you are going to have such fun! This is the complete Big Island vacation guide, which is the online version of my ebook Plan Your Best Vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii Ever! Where to Stay and What to Do on the Big Island.

Topics in this guide

Aloha!

So you’re planning a vacation to the Big Island (Hawaii Island) –

Congratulations! You are going to have SUCH FUN! First, you’ll be flying in to either Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) or Hilo International Airport (ITO). You may find a direct flight, but if not, your airline will probably schedule your connecting flight from Honolulu for you.

If you have to do it yourself, you can do so with either Hawaiian Airlines or Go! Airlines http://www.iflygo.com/.

Also check out Hawaiian for great rates to Hawaii.

My Favorites on The Big Island

My favorite area:

Tough one on this really big island, but I’ll say the Kohala Coast. This has two of my favorite beaches, Hapuna and the Mauna Kea Beach, and it’s also got my favorite resort, the Hilton Waikoloa – a beautiful and fun place to visit whether you stay there or not!

My favorite hotel:

This is easy – the Hilton Waikoloa. They’ve got Dolphin Quest, a great program for learning about dolphins – and if you want to spend the bucks, close encounters with them :-) The rooms are very nice, the pools with their slides and waterfalls are fantastic, there are several restaurants and lounges, tons to do, and you can ride around the place on the Disneyland-like free tram and boat shuttles. Also, they have a pretty lagoon and a cool art collection displayed around the pools, walkways and gardens.

My favorite luau:

Island Breeze. This is held on the historical royal grounds at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The pre-luau activities begin when the royal court paddles in from Kailua Bay and the conch shell is blow. You can learn fun Hawaiian crafts and get a Hawaiian “tattoo.” The show features various dances of Polynesia, including hula of course, and concludes with the Samoan fire dance. The menu is traditional Hawaiian featuring the underground baked pig, fresh catch of the day and chicken.

My favorite activity:

Really hard to choose just one, but I’ve narrowed it down to the Fair Wind Snorkel Cruise at Kealakekua Bay (where I got to swim with dolphins!) and the lava flow view hike when the lava’s pouring over the cliff into the sea. For up to the minute lava updates, call the Kalapana Lava Viewing Hotline at (808) 961-8093 or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at (808) 985-6000.

For more general lava updates see here http://www.hawaii-lisa.com/lavaupdate.html

Best Weather on the Big Island

Like all of Hawaii, the Big Island offers exceptionally good weather, especially on the west side.

Hawaii has two seasons: summer (May through October) and winter (November through April), and the temperatures change very little between these two seasons. Average daytime temperatures at sea level in the summer are 85°F and in the winter, 78°F. When the sun goes down temperatures at sea level rarely drop more than 5 to 10 degrees.

The weather does change quite a lot from region to region (the island has all but two of the world’s eco-climates), especially when you travel upland. Bring a sweater if you go up to Volcano. You can even find snow here in the winter at the top of Mauna Kea!

Like all of the Hawaiian Islands, the Windward side (here, that is the Hilo and Puna side) gets most of the rain. Hilo is the rainiest city on Earth in fact. The Windward side is very lush and tropical, and most of the rain falls at night and early morning, although sometimes in the winter the rain will fall for days on end. The Leeward side (Kona and Kohala) is usually sunny at sea level, and when it rains, it is usually in the late afternoon. Kohala is desert like in its dryness, which makes for lots of sunny beach days!

The ocean waters here aren’t too cold either. Surface temperatures average 74° to 77°F in the winter and 78° to 83°F, with the warmer temperatures found on the Kohala Coast – at Hapuna, you’ll feel like you are in a heated swimming pool.

Best Hotels on the Big Island

These are the best hotels in all of Hawaii Island, in my opinion.

If you consistently find higher prices than what I have found, maybe prices are up due to high season or some other reason. You find the best fares during the off-peak season, late September through the first week of June. And exception to this is fares go up around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, as well the days closely surrounding them and Spring Break.

You may find lower prices by bidding at Priceline and using Hotwire.com. This is all detailed below the tables. All listed prices are based on double occupancy. If you find lower prices than I’ve listed here, don’t question it, just book it!

Best Overall and Beachfront Hotels on the Big Island

Note that all with the exception of the Chalet Kilauea are beach front.

  • Chalet Kilauea featuring the Inn at Volcano, At website: $107 for a room at the deluxe Inn at Volcano. Less for some of the other properties.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu, $495 at Expedia.
  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.

Best Family Hotels on the Big Island

  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou, $159 at Expedia.

Best Budget-Priced Hotels on the Big Island

Many of the following hotels don’t list with Expedia and Priceline. If you call them directly for reservations, be sure to ask “Do you have any discounts that could bring my rate down?” You could get a “Yes” and a better rate off the bat.

I also highly recommend bidding on Priceline. Many of these smaller operations do not sell rooms to Priceline, and so if you are bidding on Priceline you will normally get something like a resort or a 2 to 4 star hotel. Remember, you can’t pick your hotel if you bid, just your desired star level.

You’ll have the most luck with getting low bids accepted on Priceline when the hotels are hurting for visitors, but try anytime. You could really get some good deals.

Most of the following are condos and include full kitchens, private washer/dryer, pool and barbecue. The “Best Prices” are based on Expedia, Priceline (lowest prices without bidding) and the hotel’s site.

  • Hale Kona Kai, $140 at website, $10 extra per person after first two.
  • Kona Isle, $99 (2009) and many rent 5 nights get two free specials for 2010 with rates starting at $105.
  • Sea Village, $96 for 1 bedroom, $112 for 2 bedrooms at Expedia.
  • Dolphin Bay Hotel, $99 (one queen bed), $149 (one bedroom) and more options. Weekly rates discussed on request.
  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, $159 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.

Best Hotels for Romance and Weddings on the Big Island

  • Hilton Waikoloa, $189 at Expedia.
  • Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, $159 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, $296 at Expedia.
  • Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $274 at Expedia.
  • Fairmont Orchid, $199 at Expedia.

Bidding on Hawaii Travel at Priceline and Shopping at Deep Discount Sites, Expedia and Hotwire

Shopping for travel reservations through Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire is a great way to save money on hotels and sometimes even flights to Hawaii. You can often get even better prices than ones in the charts. I have personally bid and got $55 at the Royal Kona Resort and $120 at the Waikoloa Marriott. My friend got $110 at the Waikoloa Hilton and $85 at the Hapuna Prince. (All of these hotels are on the Big Island.) And I know someone who bid and received a round trip flight from San Francisco to Honolulu for $250. These are good deals!

Oh, and don’t forget car rentals. You can get great deals on car rentals by bidding.

The only issue with bidding for hotels is that you won’t know what hotel you get until you are locked in to paying for it. You just specify a certain star level or class of hotel.

And the only issue with bidding for flights is that you won’t be able to specify an exact time, but they do tell you it will be sometime between x morning hour and x evening hour, so not too bad. I have a friend who got a round trip flight Los Angeles to Honolulu for $179 through Hotwire.

At Hotwire you can get their regular low rates while specifying your hotel, airline/flight time and car model, but to give you the deep discounts Hotwire gets from their partners that they’re not allowed to publicize, you won’t know the names until after you reserve. As mentioned above though, you can choose general times, star rating on hotels, size of car, etc.

So How Should I Bid on Hawaii Travel?

Hotels:

I like to decide on a hotel I like, then find out what its star level is. Then on Priceline, I go directly to naming my own price, and during the process Priceline will tell you what the average price is for that star level. I then bid half of that.

The Priceline website will have a ticker of recently accepted rates in the area you are searching for that is helpful.

An awesome resource is the bidding for travel forum. If you scroll down on the home page you’ll see three Hawaii forums, based on which islands you are planning to visit. People bid, and then come here and post their accepted and rejected rates.

I have heard that the posted “median retail prices” at Priceline are sometimes inaccurate. I don’t worry about this in Hawaii because I am so familiar with what the hotels cost here. You, however, may want to check prices on the website of a few hotels that are the same star level as you want. You can then try to bid 50% of that.

Rental Cars –

$15 a day is generally a good place to start, and check the recent winning bids on Priceline.

Flights –

I like to bid 50% of whatever the going rate is and then bid up in $50 increments if that is refused.

Most Fun, Must-Do, Activities and Things to Do on the Big Island

This is my personal favorites list of the most exciting and fun things to do on the Big Island:

  • Atlantis Submarine Kona,Featured on National Geographic. The Big Island’s tour takes you down to visit underwater gardens of coral teeming with schools of tropical fish. You may also see manta rays and sharks.
  • Take the Fair Wind Snorkel Cruise at Kealakekua Bay. This is a must-do, in my opinion. You will snorkel in a pristine marine preserve and if you in the morning, chances are you will see dolphins. They also offer whale watch cruises.
  • Play with and pet a dolphin at Dolphin Quest. You do not need to be staying at the Waikoloa Hilton to enjoy this wonderful (and educational) experience, but slots fill up fast so sign up as early as you can. They book up to a year in advance.
  • See Waipio Valley from Horseback, Combine fun horseback riding with a tour of this legendary and beautiful valley. You might even see some of the wild horse herd!

My Favorite Inexpensive/Free Activities on the Big Island

  • View the Lava! When it’s flowing into the sea, you can, from the Kalapana Viewing area, safely view the red hot molten lava pouring over the cliffs. The view point is about 1/2 mile away from the lava, so binoculars or a camera with good telephoto for optimal viewing. This is best viewed at night so also bring a flashlight (and good walking shoes!). For lava updates, call the Kalapana Lava Viewing Hotline at (808) 961-8093 or the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at (808) 985-6000.
  • If you aren’t staying at the Hilton Waikoloan, you can still tour the hotel and see the dolphins. Just park nearby, walk in through the gate and start looking around. People come in for just the restaurants and dolphin quest all the time.
  • Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, This is the island’s main attraction, and there’s lots to do and see up here – steaming craters, a walk-through lave tube cave, rainforests and moonscapes, a volcanic science and cultural museum, the famous Kilauea Lodge, a fantastic visitor’s center, lots of hiking trails and more. Most of the National Park activities are wheelchair accessible. It can get chilly up here so bring a sweater. Warm up at the lodge’s lounge with hot cocoa while you look out at the now active Halema`uma`u crater (spewing ash and steam but occasionally lava) and enjoy the big lava rock, fireplace (grab a free brochure on its history).
  • Kayak Kealakekua Bay,Take a guided kayak tour to the pristine marine preserve and snorkel the coral reefs. Ocean Safari Kayak Adventures offers “Early Riser Dolphin Quest Tours.” Or check out the sea caves of Keauhou Bay.
  • Visit Rainbow Falls in Hilo, For the best chance of seeing a rainbow over the 80-foot falls, go early when the sun and morning mist make their magic.
  • Puakō Petroglyph Archeological Preserve, This contains over 3,000 pertroglyphs. It’s a short hike from Mauna Lani Resort, which also has some to view. Non-guests can also access via the resort and pick up a map and brochure.
  • Akaka Falls State Park, On the Hamakua Coast (the Big Island’s answer to Maui’s Hana Highway), this includes a very pretty hike through lush gardens and over a stream with the famous 400-foot waterfall waiting for you at the end. Because it’s a big visitor attraction with an unguarded parking lot, don’t leave valuables in your car.
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Also located near Hilo on the Hamakua Coast, this well maintained nature preserve is a must see if you’re into flowers and walking paths that meander among waterfalls and provide sweeping ocean vistas. Over 2,000 species including orchids (Hilo is the “orchid capital” of the world.
  • Parker Ranch, One of the largest and most historical ranches in the United States, Parker is home to the paniolo, the Hawaiian cowboy, and has a variety of visitors attractions including their Historic Homes Tour.
  • Hulilee Palace, Large, elegant museum in Kailua-Kona that was once the vacation home of King David Kalakaua (the Merrie Monarch), Queen Liliuokalani and other Hawaiian royalty.

Best Big Island Beaches

Many visitors who don’t leave Kona are disappointed in the small pockets of sand they find there. A good deal of the island’s coast is is rocky. The “Volcano Island” being so much newer than its neighbor islands doesn’t have as many of the kind of beaches you’d expect from Hawaii. Why? Beaches and their sand are made by hundreds of thousands of years of ocean surf pounding against shells, coral and rock. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands, so beaches haven’t had that much time to develop. Many parts of the coast is younger than 1,000 years old, while Kilauea Volcano still adds hundreds of acres of new land a year. The Big Island has many other incredible attributes that more than make up for this lack of beaches, but hey, we have a few really nice beaches too, including ones that make national and world wide “Best Beach” lists!

Don’t hit all of these unless you are really into beaches. Just pick a few and take your time.

Note: In Hawaii, all beaches are public. Anywhere that there is water, there must be public access to the shoreline. If you are in a residential neighborhood and want to check out the beach, just look for the blue signs that say “shoreline access” and follow the path, even if it’s directly between two houses. Sometimes, though, residential beaches do not have restrooms or showers.

Don’t worry about directions too much. You can see the ocean from almost everywhere, and there are signs designating the beaches. Here’s a link to Google’s Big Island Map. And here’s the Hawaii Ocean Safety Map.

The surf conditions in Hawaii somewhat follow the seasons. During Hawaii’s summer (May – October), surf from the south occasionally has high surf conditions. During Hawaii’s winter, surf from the north has higher surf.

Hapuna (Kohala) – About 30 miles north of Kona on Highway 19 just before the Hapuna Prince Hotel.

Papakolea Beach (Green Sands Beach) – South Point, Kau – Green Sand – Take Highway 11 to Ka Lae (South Point) and drive about 12 miles to the end of the road. Then hike the 2 1/2 miles to the beach. For more details: Green Sand Beach.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – Kau – Black Sand – South of Kona near the 63 mile marker of Highway 11 (and about 20 miles south of Volcano National Park).

Ahalanui Park (The Hot Pond) – Puna – Near Kapoho. Directions are a little complicated, and there are two popular routes. Here’s a Google map from Hilo to Ahalanui. We travel the more scenic route: Take 132 and just past the Lava Tree Park where the road forks, stay to the right. This will be Pohohiki Road. Take it all the way to the ocean where it ends at Isaac Hale Park and Pohohiki Boat Ramp. Turn left and you’re there in just a couple minutes.

Kauna’oa Beach (Mauna Kea Beach) – Kohala – Take the Mauna Kea Beach hotel turnoff from Highway 19, about 31 miles north of Kona. They may not let you in if all the spaces have filled up. Try early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Richardson’s Ocean Park – Hilo – Black Sand – Take Kalanianaola (Hwy 120) out of Hilo, heading towards Volcano Hwy and Banyan Drive. Cross Volcano Hwy and drive on about 5 miles past the fish ponds. Look for the sign just past Leleiwi Park.

While the “Volcano Island” isn’t known for its beaches there are some beauties here, including some of the best in Hawaii and even the world. The beaches above are just a short list of my favorites, but you may find many more that strike your fancy as you drive along the Big Island’s coastline.

Best Big Island Guidebook

The Big Island Revealed is my favorite guidebook. Absolutely straight talk and real opinions from 2 people who have done everything they review. The aerial photos of the hotels are awesome for choosing a hotel. I love this guidebook.

In Conclusion

So that’s it – have a wonderful, wonderful vacation! The Big Island is an awesome place, and you really can’t go wrong here.

Aloha!

Hilo and Kona and Honolulu Cruise Port of Call Help

I’ve come across your website while researching our trip (boyfriend and I). We are planning a cruise in September and wanted to know how accessible shuttle services are from the ports.

1. Hilo cruise ports to Akaka falls. Should we take a taxi or is there a shuttle, what are the costs?
2. Honolulu port to HNL international airport. We want to be at the airport by 630-7am, how much would a taxi cost, I see that the airport is fairly close by.
3. In Kona we plan to follow your advice and visit Kahaluu Beach, is this difficult to get to? How much would a jet ski/ boat be?

We were just wondering how close attractions are from the ports, and what to expect if we took cabs or if public transit was easy/reliable (we don’t want to miss our departure at each ports).

Honolulu port to the airport would be about $20 to $30.

Hilo to Akaka falls, you probably will need to take a taxi, although sometimes shuttles are offered. You may have to wait till your are on the ship or even till you get off at port to know about the shuttle. Taxi is $3.20 a mile, so it could cost you $64 one way. Many times the taxis are vans, so if you could fit three couples in a van you could split it three ways.

In Kona, Kahaluu Beach is around the 5 mm, while the cruise ship is around the 0 mm, so that will be much more reasonable by taxi. – less than $20 one way.

Jet ski is $100 something for the hour but it’s just on a circular track. To rent a boat is going to be $370+ for a half day. Renting a scooter or bikes is easy too and not too much money.

Each port is different, and each port will have a different amount of resources trying to help you see what you want to see. Hilo and Kona are generally the hardest to figure out because the island is so big and in Hilo not as many tourists come in, so there’s not as many companies catering to them.

Don’t worry, I’m sure it will all come together nicely for you and you’ll have a great time :) Lisa

Turtle Watching and Marine Biology in Hawaii

Hey, just found your website because i was watching one of your videos on youtube, i’m a 17 year old biology and geography student from england and i’m hoping to become a marine biologist who specialises in sea turtles. and i want to come to hawaii in summer 2010, to get some great diving experiance, and to see alot of sea turtles and other marine life in their natural habitats. it seems like you know alot about hawaii, and you seem better then all my local travel reps and i was wondering which island would be best to stay at? where are sea turtles most common? and what good marine experiances are out there? your help would really help me to achieve my lifetime ambition thanks

I know there are marine biology programs at our local colleges here – have you contacted anyone at UH Hilo or UH Manoa?

Well, there are turtles on every island and you can see them easily anywhere in Hawaii – really. go down to the beach and there they are – just about any beach with rocks around somewhere. I think I will suggest the Big Island for you though, because the big island has many opportunites to see many turtles. There’s a little pool to the left of Onekehakaha beach where they come in to sleep at night and I’ve seen 12 or more at a time there. You can almost always see them at punaluu and kahaluu beaches.

Look into the big island – Hilo or Kona, I think it’s what you are looking for. Aloha! Lisa

i have just contacted both colleges that you told me about and i’m waiting for a reply id love to move over to hawaii and go to university their. but i dont quite understand how my qualifications will transfer into credits. i was wondering if their are any conservation scemes i can book myself on for the summer of 2010? preferably sea turtle ones. and if you know any good diving schools where i can get a qualification in diving? thankyou, been a great help. Aloha !

you’re welcome!

why don’t you look into positions at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I know they have summer intern positions and they have seasonal openings. I also have heard that they sometimes hike out into the backcountry and camp on the beach to protect the turtles that come in to lay their eggs.

As for diving schools, there are tons. I wouldn’t look into this until you get here since you don’t know exactly where you’ll be.

Kona-Kohala Remote and Secret Beaches, Big Island Hawaii

I will be traveling to the West side of the Big Island slightly north of Kona this coming January. Do you recommend any remote less crowded beaches to go too?

I have hiked from Hwy 19 to a couple of secluded beaches off of the beaten path. Is this safe to do?

It is 100% safe to do., in my opinion. People do it all the time. There is very little person on person crime here.

You could go to Maumae Beach through the Mauna Kea Beach hotel. The entrance station guard will give you a map. It’s a beautiful beach. There is Kiholo Bay and Beach 69 or Waialea Beach. the trailhead is by the 71 mile marker. Also try Makalawena, which you walk to from a trail at Kona Coast state Park. about 20 minutes.

Have a great time!

Beach 69 Video

Kailua-Kona Cruise Port of Call Things to Do – Activities

July 11, 2008 by Lisa · 4 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities, Vacation Planning 

We will be arriving by cruise ship and won’t have a car. I was wondering if there is a nice black beach close by to the pier at Kailua-Kona. And if you can give any other suggestions of things to do and see while we are there for the day.

The closest black sand beach to Kailua-Kona is Punaluu, and it’s over an hours drive. If you will be stopping in Hilo you will be able to easily bike or take a taxi to Richardson’s Beach- it’s less than 2 miles down the road from the Hilo Pier.

In Kailua Kona, I would go to Kahaluu Beach, decent snorkeling and lots of turtles – it’s 5 miles down Alii Drive. You can take a taxi or a shuttle. You could walk around Kailua town. There are shops and restaurants. If you just wanted to get in the water there is a tiny beach right there where the cruise tenders drop you off. Right there at the pier they various boats and jet skis and tours – some of the glassbottom boats are pretty inexpensive for an hour.

SuperCharge your Big Island of Hawaii Vacation Planning; Hawaii Big Island Revealed Review

If you are planning a trip to the Big Island I highly recommend you get the book Hawaii the Big Island Revealed

I have lived in Hawaii for well over a decade, I’ve done just about every activity and hike I care to do, and I still refer to this book when someone asks me something I’m not sure about or just don’t know. I have each one they wrote. I don’t know who the authors are personally, but I have talked with many businesses and hear how they have been ‘shopped’ by the authors.

The authors don’t put their pictures on the book and they don’t talk about who they are. When they go to research an activity or hotel they don’t try to get a free room or good service, they try to be treated like anybody else so they can give honest, accurate reports on just about everything there is to do on every island. They are even funny. And they are, really, brutally honest. If something is a dump they call it a dump. If something really rung their bells, you can tell.

The book is broken down well in categories like Activities and Adventures and Beaches and also by location. The index is very thorough. There are lots of spectacular pictures and area maps and complete driving directions. AND, maybe best of all, they provide aerial pictures of the hotels showing how close (or not) the hotel is to the ocean and which building is which (so you can request what building you want to have a room in).

Get the book, you will not regret it. Hawaii the Big Island Revealed

Big Island Secrets and Remote Nature Activities

I’m travelling to the Big Island in a week, staying in Koana. On your advise, I’m sticking to one island for my first visit. I’m not the late night party type, and enjoy the nature side of the land. The Big Island sounded more like me. I want to see the volcano, attend a Luau, go to the green, and black beach (Jeep already reserved), and I’m looking at the ATV (Riding the Rim) ride. I like the remote, out of the norm for tourist places. I was reading about the lava tubes that are filled with fresh water. Sounded incredible. With what I have described, please offer some advise, and maybe a few secrets about the Big Island.

well, your trip sounds like one I would love. :) the green sand beach is awesome – if you keep driving past the beach you’ll find all sorts of neat nooks and crannies and coves. We used to go camping down there a lot.

I haven’t done the riding the rim tour but it looks like fun – if you wanted to drop me a line and let me know how you liked it I would love that.

How about a manta ray night dive or snorkel? I haven’t done this but people rave about it.

Or renting a boat: we just did this and really had a good time. If you don’t rent a boat you should consider a boat tour to Kealakekua Bay or renting a kayak and going out in the bay. The snorkeling is amazing and frequently you see large dolphin pods.

You know, I don’t know what’s a secret and what’s not anymore so I found a page that professes to tell secrets :) it all looks good to me. :)

If you really like nature you should head up to saddle road or even the mauna kea visitor center on a clear night: – the expanse of stars practically on top of you is amazing. Like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. When I drive over the saddle at night I always have to stop and take it in for a bit.

As for the lava tubes filled with fresh water – I’ve never heard of that. Where are they? – this vacationer wrote back and sent me a link – it’s Queens Bath at Kiholo Bay. According to Hawaii the Big Island Revealed there are several of these around the island (anyplace that is a good place to bathe ends up being called Queens’ Bath).
I know you are going to have an AWESOME time!

Horseback Riding on the Hilo Side of the Big Island

March 1, 2008 by Lisa · 2 Comments
Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities 

If you are a visitor to the Big Island or a resident and are looking for lessons or trail rides here, consider contacting my friend Sharon at Volcano Paradise Ranch. She teaches kids and adults, she does trail rides and arena training, she takes care of beginners and advanced riders and everything in between. Her ranch is located in Kurtistown, which is halfway up towards the Volcano, about 20 minutes from Hilo.

As far as I can find, this is the only place close to Hilo currently offering any sort of rides or lessons. The second closest places would be Dahana Ranch in Waimea or Waipio Valley Horseback rides – which are both an hour drive from Hilo.

Big Island Itinerary

Itinerary

  • Fri PM leave Oakland 3:30pm
    EVE arrive Hilo 7:05; drive to Honaka’a
    Hotel Hotel Honaka’a
  • Sat AM Mamane Bakery; HAWAIIAN MACADAMIA PLANTATION, INC., Waipi’o Valley; drive down Valley Rd, Kahuahine Falls & Waiulili Falls
    PM take Rt 19 west to Kawaihae; Pu’ukohola Heiau; Hapuna Beach swimming and snorkeling; Malama Petrograph Trail
    EVE check in at hotel and relax (die) or go to ukulele entertainers, Kings Shops at the Waikoloa Resort. Call (808) 886-8811
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Sun AM Hulihe’e Palace; Mokuaikauna Church; Cloud Forest
    PM Kahalu’u Beach, snorkeling
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Mon AM snorkeling/whalewatching
    PM open
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Tues AM Keauhou Sea Cave Adventure (kayaking/snorkeling)
    PM open
    EVE open
    Hotel Kona Seaside Hotel
  • Wed AM check out; Captain Cook; Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden; Holualoa Kona Coffee Company tour; Ho’okena, Green Sand Beach; Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
    PM continue drive to Volcanos National Park
    EVE open
    Hotel Volcano Cabins
  • Thurs AM Visitor Center, Jagger Museum, Crater Rim Drive, walk Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube walk
    PM Chain of Craters Road
    EVE picnic lunch at End of Chain of Craters Road
    Hotel Volcano Cabins
  • Fri AM check out, leave park 5:30am, depart Hilo Airport 8:30am
    PM arrive Chicago
  • is this reasonable? I’m I getting at the good stuff or did I miss alot?

    It looks good to me – let me talk about a few things here:

    To drive down in Waipio Valley you need a four wheel drive. It’s not an easy drive. Have you found directions to the falls? Doing all this plus swimming at Hapuna beach will be quite a packed day.

    You’ll need a 4 wheel drive to get to the green sand beach too unless you plan on hiking a couple of miles each way.

    Don’t stress if you aren’t at the Hilo airport 2 hours before you fly out. ATA is the only airlines that goes to the mainland from Hilo. We just flew that flight to Oakland last week. We left our house at 7 am, got there at 7:15, and had NO problems. There were no lines – nothing. That’s just how the Hilo airport is usually. I’m not saying to plan to get there with only 1 hour and 15 minutes to spare like we did, but don’t stress about it.

    I think you covered about as much as possible in the time you have. Cool.

    Have fun! Lisa

    Flight departure to Kona, Big Island of Hawaii

    Monday

    Flight departure to Kona, Big Island of Hawaii

  • Drive: for 3 to 4hrs to the Town of Volcano (See map) and stop at supermarket for groceries for the Bungalow
  • Check-in: Kate’s Bungalow Address: 19-4039 Hapu Ln, Volcano Ph: (877) 967-7990
  • Evening: At leisure (Pack lunches for tomorrow’s Volcano National Park excursion)
  • Tuesday

  • Morning: Hawaii Volcano National Park
  • Visit: The Visitor Center and obtain information about Volcano and the latest info and location of lava flow also ask about directions in and around the park. (There are two scenic drives with a wealth of volcano views An 11-mile drive, called Crater Rim, passes by many rising steam vents)
  • Visit: Steam Sulphur Banks Vents, Kilauea Overlook, Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Crater, Devastation Trail (45min hike)
  • Afternoon: Thurston Lava Tube (20min hike), Kilauea Iki Overlook, Kilauea Iki Trail (Little Kilauea), Hilina Pali Overlook, Holei Sea Arch (end of road where lava flowed)
  • Evening: Return to see the lava flow after dark, (take a flashlight, water bottle, and jacket)
  • Wednesday

  • Morning: (Check-out) Wake up early and drive to Hilo Airport (1hour drive-See map to Hilo Airport)
  • Tour: (1010hrs) Blue Hawaiian Helicopter (Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls Tour) #1963497799 Ph: (800) 786-2583
  • Afternoon/Lunch: Lunch at Kuhio Grille 111 East Puainako Street, #A106, Hilo (Located at Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza)
  • Drive: Richardson Beach Park (walk around and take a look at the black sand beach and scenery), Rainbow Falls State Park (at the edge of Hilo town and view the falls), North to scenic drive detour at Onomea Bay along the Hamakua Coast,
  • Visit: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens and Onomea Bay Trail (Stop at What’s Shakin Smoothie Stand near the Botanical Gardens for refreshments)
  • Drive: north to Akaka Falls State Park (Hike short trail-loop and view Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls)
  • Drive: North to the Waipio Valley Overlook,
  • Drive: from Waimea, descending down to Kona
  • Check-in: Surf & Racquet Club Address: 78-6800 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona Ph: (808) 331-8878
  • Evening: At Leisure
  • Morning: At Leisure
  • Afternoon/Evening: (1320hrs) Mauna Kea Summit Adventures Tour (tour pick-up: Buns in the Sun 75-5675 Palani RD) Ph: (808) 322-2366
  • regarding the Big Island – which way are you driving to Volcano? The southern route or the northern route? The southern route may be your best bet, and it should only take 2 to 2.5 hours unless you stop a lot, which you may.

    And groceries? There are no major grocery stores along the southern route. It’d be best to stop in Kona. There is one in Naalehu but it’s small with very high prices.

    There’s a lot of things to do in Kona – go to Kahaluu Beach to snorkel and see turtles. Go to the Puuhonua National Park – I think your pass from the Volcanoes National Park might get you in. Check with them. Go on the Fairwinds boat tour – go on a glass bottom boat and or the atlantis submarine.

    related: Multiple island itinerary

    Tour the Volcano From Maui – How to Get to the Big Island

    If I spend 10 nights in Maui is it easy to do a day trip to the big island to see the volcano or would you recommend something different. I am traveling with a 15 and 12 year old boys.

    Well, you have four options, really. The first three will take *all day*. The last one will not but will be the most expensive. If you really want to see the volcano then go for it – just realize it could be doing *nothing* when you come (it could be in a pause or all the lava could be flowing underground)

    1. arrange your own flight to hilo, rent your own car, and drive up to the national park, see as much as you can in one day, drive back and fly back to maui. Not a bad choice – probably your cheapest option. I would say it is possible to do this for $100 per person for the flight (if you book early enough to get the lowest rates on the flight) plus $35 to $60 for the rental car. Drive to the national park from Hilo will take 30 minutes. (Do NOT fly to Kona- that will take you over two hours to drive to the Volcano.) Bad thing is, the lava flow is currently (nov 07) viewable only by air so you may not get to see active lava – but you will get to see all the other stuff.
    2. Arrange your own flight to Hilo, then take a tour bus to the National Park. http://www.hawaiiactive.com/activities/bigisland-volcano-tour.html or arrange your own flight to Hilo or Kona, then take a small plane or helicopter flyover tour of the volcano: http://www.hilowings.com/ , http://www.bluehawaiian.com/bigisland/tours/, http://www.safarihelicopters.com/bigislandtours.html (web booking price is $151 per person when I wrote this)
    3. Arrange a bus tour to the volcano, starting from Maui – http://www.hawaiiactive.com/activities/maui-volcano-adventure.html - have all the legwork done for you by the tour company
    4. Do a flyover of the volcano from Maui: http://www.volcanoairtours.com/index.html, http://www.hawaiiactivities.com/us/hawaii/maui/sg/1258/ag/6382/

    have a great time!

    How to Best See the Volcano from Oahu

    answer
    Thanks :) The volcano is on the Big Island, so the first thing you will need to do is get a flight to the big island – or you could look around for a tour company that would do an island tour for you, like this one.

    However, you are correct that right now the best viewing is from the air. You might just want to catch an inter-island flight to the Hilo airport and just walk over to the helicopter and small plane departures and take one of them, like Hilo Wings.

    If you do take a helicopter or small plane tour, here’s some pics of what you may see: my friend was up just last week and took these pictures.

    Now, as for the park being closed – everything is currently open except for some pretty advanced hiking trails near the current flow. The closures only lasted for a short time after the earthquakes around mid-June. There’s lot’s of interesting stuff to see and a huge crater that is easy to get to, but the flowing lava is only visible from the air right now. Check the absolute latest information with the National Park or my volcano blog.

    Have fun! Lisa

    question
    First, what a great website! I find the information very interesting. My wife and I are planning a trip to Oahu next week and wanted to include a tour of the Volcanoes National Park. With all the current activity going on and based on their website, it appears that a good portion of the park is closed. We were really hoping to see some neat things, including lava, etc. With these developments, does it make more sense to tour from the air instead of the ground? If we still elected to tour from the ground, what is still open that would be worth seeing?

    Maui and the Big Island Day Tours from Oahu

    I have seen that I can get cheap inter-island flights via “I flygo Airlines”. I will be staying in Oahu and want to visit a few islands for a day each.

    I want to know if I visit Maui, or another island, how easy is it to get from the airport to a day tour. Is there somewhere that I can book a day tour that will pick us up from Maui airport and take us on the island ‘tour’.

    I am mainly interested in Maui and the best island to see volcanos (which island would that be?)

    Thanks, Vicki (Australia)

    Hi Vicki,

    The active volcano is on the Big Island, so it appears you would most like to visit Maui and the Big Island and you would like to use Go! airlines to defray some of the cost of this.

    Several companies offer big and small bus and shuttle tours on these islands. If you are going to see a specific attraction, such as Kilauea Volcano, you will probably be able to find a company that will also shuttle you to and from the airport or just pick you up there if you book your own flight. If, however, you are going to do a “circle island tour” or just a general sightseeing tour, you may find it easiest to book your airfare through the tour company, and they may or may not (most likely not) use Go! airlines. I, by the way, have flown on all three inter-island carriers and Go! is my definite favorite at this time for the great prices and the short lines.

    So, here’s some places to look for tour booking for island and volcano tours on Maui and the Big Island:

    I hope you find one or two that you like Vicki! Have a great time! Come back and tell us how it went – I’d love to hear which ones you did and how you liked them. Aloha, Lisa

    See also: Hawaii Island Hopping

    Which Hawaii Island has the Least Tourists?

    November 3, 2006 by Lisa · Comments Off
    Filed under: Big Island, Big Island Activities, Maui, Vacation Planning 

    Hi, I am planning the vacation for two couples and we are having a difficult time deciding which island to go to. We definitely want to avoid Oahu and are considering Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. We are looking for sandy beaches and small communities of local folk with a few restaurants. Two people really want to go to the Big Island but I have heard that the beaches are few and far between and while we may be up for an adventure 2 or 3 days of the 7 most of our time will be spent on the beach. Is this true? I am nervous that Maui may have more tourists than we are willing to handle (coming from NYC and SF). Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Well, yes, I think I would avoid Maui also. It’s a beautiful island, but most areas are pretty jam packed with other tourists. It’s following in Oahu’s footsteps. On the Big Island, the strange thing is, even though the beaches are few and far between, there is a stretch of road called the Kohala Coast that is dotted with one fantastic beach after another. Obviously the beach you’ll spend the most time at will be the one next to your hotel or rental, and if you stayed at a Kohala Coast hotel you would only have to drive 15 minutes or so in either direction to reach some of the nicest beaches in all of Hawaii like Beach 69, Kaunaoa Beach, and Hapuna Beach. There’s also A-Bay (Anaehoomalu), and Spencers Beach. However, on the Big Island, the adventures will be a far, far drive from Kohala. Also, there are no local communities really on the Kohala Coast :) . There’s some Hawaiian Homelands up North of Kawaihae, and Waikoloa Village and Waimea are pretty local and nice and laid-back, but they are up the mountain and not near the beaches.

    Now Kauai is practically just one big beach, and the east side will be pretty local and laid-back with nice beaches and a short drive to anywhere.

    I don’t know, I don’t think you can go wrong with what you want if you avoid Maui and Oahu. I stayed at the Waikoloa Marriott on the Big Island last weekend (October) for a mom’s weekend out and we were practically the only people around at the pool and the shops. A lot depends on when you go too.

    Dolphin Swim Programs in Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai and the Big Island

    Years ago I was able to swim with dolphins (in a rescue program?) in a closed lagoon at a posh resort on the Big Island, for $50 if I remember correctly. Now my wife is interested but we are not headed that way. Heading to Oahu and Kauai end of November. Do you know of any other program like that?

    On the Big Island, you probably did the Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. These days, it’s more like $200 though :) . I don’t believe there is any such program on Kauai, but on Oahu, you have the Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Hotel and Resort and the Sea Life Park has a dolphin swim program too. I can’t say which would be ‘better’ but I know in the past if the dolphin gives the OK you could hold onto their fin and get a ride at Sea Life Park, which is something the Dolphin Quest does not do.