Happy Memorial Day! Hope you all got your bbq on. I left off when we said our goodbyes to the glorious Hilton. We were sad to go, but excited to see the real Hawaii. These maps show you the scale of our day move to Hilo. We stopped off at several places… but more on that later.
About fifteen minutes up the road is point “B” on the map, Hapuna Beach. This public beach is the epitome of what you picture when you think of a Hawaiian beach. White sand, clear blue bath water, and even a smoothie stand. At the end of the trip we all agreed this was probably the best beach we visited. We only had an hour and a half to spend here, and it was a cherished 90 minutes. The smoothie stand was a tad pricy, but worth it.
The landscapes on the Big Island are so varied. We went from extreme desert to lush rolling hills of greenery. Such a small distance to see such a drastic change in landscape.
We drove the next hour to Honokaa (near the “C” on the map) to eat lunch at Tex Drive In. This place was recommended to me by everyone who heard I was going to the Big Island. Given it’s reputation, I thought it would be massive and packed with people and I was wrong. It’s like a little diner stop, where you order food at the counter and sit at picnic tables. It was small, low-key (like most everything in Hawaii, as I learned) and delicious!
Tex is known for their malasadas. Get a malasada there. It’s like a donut, but a square puff pastry of heaven. I’m not big into pastries, but it was so good. I got the cream filled.
After I finished a fish sandwich and malasada at Tex, we realized only 10 minutes away was Waipio Lookout which was on our “if-you-have-time” list. This is point “C” on the map. This lookout is well worth the added 10 minutes in the wrong direction. This lookout gives you such dramatic views of the cliffs, and gives you a peak into Hawaiian history by letting you look onto the remote village deep down below.
We opted not to hike down into the valley, as we still had so much to see along our trek to Hilo. We retraced our steps to Tex Drive In, and continued for another hour+ to get to point “D” on the map. This was a beautiful drive along a green hillside with water views. This was so different from our time in Waikoloa and equally valuable to our Hawaiian experience.
Point “D” is Akaka Falls. This super short (.5 mi?) loop is really easy and a great way to jump into the tropical climate. We paid a dollar? or maybe two, to a man guarding the entrance. I like to hope he worked for their parks department, but I have my doubts. It was worth the couple dollars, as you see many waterfalls along the loop. The most awwing is Akaka Falls. The path is very well maintained and I would barely call it a hike.
Once we completed the loop, it was about 5:30p and we still needed to get into Hilo. This was our day in Hilo, and we got into town so late that not much was open. We checked into our hotel around 6pm. We stayed on what locals might call “the wrong side of town”, but we enjoyed our hotel, The Dolphin Bay Hotel. Here we booked a 2 bedroom (practically) apartment, with it’s own full kitchen and balcony. While the neighborhood isn’t great, this hotel is very nice and a good price. They grow their own fruit, so they keep fresh papaya and bananas in bowls for the guests. Their lobby is packed with free amenities like bug spray and umbrellas to take on walks into town. When we arrived we indulged in a papaya from the garden and some homemade cocktails on the balcony.
The owners of the hotel told us about a super cheap and yummy sushi place walking distance from the hotel, Ocean Sushi. They warned us it was nothing fancy (card tables and chairs) but that the sushi was amazing. Best recommendation ever. When you hear “cheap sushi”, it’s easy to worry, so we decided to walk to the restaurant and if we didn’t feel like it was for us, we had some back-up options. When we walked the 15 minutes to the place we saw it was packed with locals. This is always a good sign. Everything was around $5. Wow. What a deal. And these weren’t boring rolls, they were creative and unique. They had mac nuts in them (which is what Hilo, and Hawaii, are known for). Have you had a tuna roll with a mac nut in it? Genius. We were all blown away! I think that meal cost us each under $15 (including tax and tip) and we ate so much food. The photo below was just one round of sushi (and we had a couple rounds). We even got dessert, fried mochi. This was also voted our favorite dinner given the deliciousness and cheap prices. If you are in Hilo and eat sushi, this is a must. I could go on all day about this place, but I must continue.
We walked around town after dinner and then headed back to the hotel. We knew we were going to wake up early to catch the sunrise the next morning (which is best from this side of the island). We felt safe walking back to the hotel because there were three of us, but if you are planning to go by yourself I would be careful walking around this area alone at night. Hilo in general was much less touristy than the Kona (west) side of the Big Island and it was also a great experience seeing how locals live in paradise.