Hawaii Post 5: Kona to Maui

To catch-up on my vacation recap (and to learn about must-visit restaurant and hotels in Hawaii) check out these posts:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona

And so we leave off with us saying goodbye to the Big Island and taking an “island hopper” to Maui. It’s not common to take boats between the islands as it’s not cost effective or environmentally friendly which is a big deal in Hawaii. We dropped off our rental car and took the shuttle to the airport, only this time we didn’t get dropped at the main entrance. Instead we were taken to a shack of a building away from the main airport. And this is why this flight earned it’s own post.

So it’s the three of us and another two couples in this “terminal”. We approach the desk to get our tickets (since they don’t let you get boarding passes ahead of time… which should have been a warning sign). Instead of a person, there is a courtesy phone where you speak to an operator to “check-in”.

The planes parked out front were tiny. Very tiny.

We had a lot of time to kill, considering it’s Hawaii (and they have issues with plants and soil) we got their super early because of security. It turns out island hoppers don’t require you to go through security. So yes, lots of time to kill. The sunset was beautiful, watching it over the tarmac. And you know me, I made friends with an older couple waiting for their flight so that helpped time go by.

Eventually an attractive guy comes out and calls our names. He asks to see our licenses and confirm our weight. Oddly enough, weight on these small planes is a number one priority. We told him our weights (painfully after 5 days of vacationing) and then waited to board the flight. We were concerned about liquids and the number of bags and sure enough, none of that mattered. It turns out that the attractive man was our pilot, Captain Tim (he told us to call him). Oh how hottie Captain Tim will remain in our hearts.

Captain Tim loaded all of our luggage himself, and even called out our seat assignments. It was pretty funny, given that this plane fit 8 people? What an awesome/frightening/cool/scary experience. He put the three of us directly behind him. My knees were hitting the pilots back, that’s how small this plane was. We could see all the gauges, maps, whistles. Given how flying is these days, this was such a unique chance to see how pilots fly. It was totally new to me.

I was a tad worried, since the plane was so small and my stomach gets motion sickness sometimes, but it was all perfectly fine. Our only regret was that we didn’t do the flight during the day. Most travel companies had $100+ helicopter tours of The Big Island, but this plane was only $60 and was low flying enough that you could get the island tour experience. We booked our flight for just after sunset so we couldn’t see very clearly. Trust me, book a flight to another island and do it during the day time.

Hawaii Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona

This was the biggest move of our time on The Big Island, Volcano Village to Kona.

You can see by the maps, we had a big day ahead of ourselves. We started by leaving the Aloha Junction B+B after eating the amazing breakfast they prepared for us. We decided to backtrack 10 minutes down the road to visit the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. My sister heard they had a $20,000 orchid that rarely blooms, but happened to be in bloom while we were there. They had gorgeous flowers. My allergies were acting up, but Im glad I got to see a room full of unique flowers. They all smell different, wildly different.

We needed to do one more thing before we started our long road trip to Kona. We went back into Volcano Village and did one more hike. I can’t say we saw anything very different from the day before, but it was nice to be out there getting exercise. There were dramatic lava formations that were cool to hike around.

Around 12p we finally hit the road. At marker “B” we saw a sign for a black sand beach and decided to get some fresh air. This turned out to be a great decision. This black sand beach is Punalu’u Beach and is a common place for turtles to lay out on the beach. We saw several. The other side of the beach had giant crashing waves. Don’t count on swimming here, but if you like wildlife it’s worth stopping in.

Since it was lunch time, we stopped in at a place highly recommended to us, the Punalu’u Bake Shop (point “C” on the map). I enjoyed the tuna sandwich and a malasada. We all split a scoop of mac nut ice cream and got some snacky breads for the road.

After lunch we had a short journey to the southern most tip of the US. I have to share a photo of a house we passed along the way:

Is that not hilariously hideous?

Once we were away from houses, the landscape became rolling green hills with cattle. Such a change in scenerey in such a short drive. Down at the coast, there is a hike to a green sand beach. We didn’t have enough time to make the loop, and from what we’ve heard, don’t try to drive it. I’m sure given how remote it is and the hike you have to take to get there, it’s a magical beach. And green sand is so rare.. oh well, next time. We did get to walk around and stand on the edge of the cliff of the southern most point.

We still had a long drive ahead of us, so we set back on the road to Kona. Along this drive north there were many coffee plantations and fruit farms that give tours. We were tired and anxious to get to Kona so we did not stop off at any. We finally arrived at our hotel (Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel) in Kona around 5ish, just in time for a drink and a walk around the property before dinner. This hotel was beautiful, centrally located, and pretty cheap. Judging by it’s high occupancy given it’s their off-season, I’m guessing this is a favorite for visitors.

For dinner we walked to the Kona Brewing Company. The food was so good and the beer even better.

The next morning began out last day on The Big Island. We snorkeled at Kahluu Beach Park and then explored Alii Drive. This road take you along the ocean and is filled with cute shops. We even stumbled on a farmers market.

It was getting cloudy and we needed to head to the airport, but we made one stop at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area.

My next post will be all about our flight from The Big Island to Maui.

Hawaii Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa

The trip begins with the three of us (me, my sister, and our friend) landing at the outdoor airport in Kona (The Big Island) late at night. We stepped off the plane to breathe in the fresh air of this cool (tiny) airport, walk down the steps and right over to the taxi stand. All outside. We clearly aren’t on the main land anymore.

We rented a car because our Big Island journey involves a looping trip around the island. Split three ways, the price of having a rental car is totally worth it. We then drove to the Kona Walmart. This is also a must-do if you are traveling in Hawaii on a budget. We didn’t want to check ny bags (because of the fees) so we bought liquids and beach stuff here. We then stopped at Safeway and bought food for lunches/snacks for the trip. Do this. Food in Hawaii gets really expensive. For example expect to spend $6+ dollars just on your morning coffee. After loading up on food, drinks (for do-it-yourself happy hours), and beach mats/coolers we made the 20 mile (30 minute drive) to The Hilton Waikoloa Village.

We had three nights at this hotel. The first night we got in so late that we just crashed. Plus it gets so dark here that you can’t see more than ten feet from any lights. For example, the drive to the Hilton was all along the ocean but we couldn’t see any of it. This post is dedicated to our time in Waikoloa, which was spent entirely at the resort. This place is Disneyland. When we arrived they gave us a list of classes (some free and some cost extra) for our time at the hotel. We then took the tram to our hotel room. You heard me right, tram. This resort is so large that there are three modes of transportation: tram, boat, or walking.

Every morning I would leave the room at 7a just to explore the grounds while it was peaceful and quiet. It was fun to see the resort wake up, and there’s always something new to see. Here are my pictures from the trip.

There are several pools (with slides!) and the fun of this place is exploring and stumbling upon something new. They have everything from manmade pools to a massive lagoon and bay perfect for snorkeling and seeing wildlife.

They have tons of birds walking around, 2 “talking” birds in their lobby, and flamingos. The lagoon has resident sea turtles you can swim with. Oh yeah, and freakin’ DOLPHINS! DOLPHINS! You can swim with the dolphins for an extra fee, although watching them is free and I did plenty of that.

Each day we indulged in happy hour… which basically made the fancy drinks a normal price. And we figured out a way to hit two happy hours at two of the bars within the resort.

A big thing here, and all over Hawaii, are the sunsets. People flock to the lookout points to see the sunset, although you had a great view from anywhere here. At the resort, a boy blows the conch shell at sunset and runs around lighting all the tiki torches. It’s a really fun event to watch. Plus the torch lighters are pretty handsome.

These are the boys we had for our two sunsets. The second one actually said “How you doin'” to us mid-run.

Lastly, I want to share these photos. The first shows you how grafitti works here. All along the highway there tons of black rocks (from the volcano) which means that with white rocks people can spell messages. All along the main road/highway are these messages. It’s funny the lengths people go to write messages in rocks. The second picture I took while eating dinner at the cantina within the Hilton. This is one of the boat docking stations and we enjoyed watching it from our table.

This isn’t meant to be a Hilton ad, but it was a great “vacationy” way to begin our adventure. This was the only resort part of trip and it was nice to see a variety of places along the journey. This resort offered deals (as it was there off season) and of course the longer you stay the cheaper each night becomes. They also offer food packages that we didn’t get. We ate at the cheaper restaurants within the resort, made our own breakfasts, had leftovers for lunch, and sometimes made our own happy hour drinks. Thats why the first stop at the local Walmart is an important stop. We each splurged on the Hilton coffee ($6-7) every morning because it was so delicious we couldn’t resist.

Next up, we leave the resort and get to see the real Big Island. From Waikoloa to Hilo.

I’m Back!

Hilton Waikoloa- Budha Point

Hi All! I’m back after a crazy 11 day adventure exploring The Big Island and Maui in Hawaii. It’s been full of adventures, and by that I mean FULL. We certainly clocked some beach time, but we wanted to make the most of both islands so we packed our days. I took over 1500 photos, so I’m still going through figuring out which ones to share with you.

Sunrise in Hilo

I know that my blog is mostly about Los Angeles, with the exception of some New England travel and Milwaukee wedding fun, but I think sharing details from my Hawaii trip would be really helpful to people planning their own vacation (the same way we used Young House Love‘s blog to help with our planning). So if you could care less about Hawaii, just skip over the next 9 posts coming up this week and I’ll be back to sharing my usual LA business late next week (it’ll be June!).

Volcano Village- Hike Through The Crater

Hopefully you’re interested in Hawaii and the next few posts will be really helpful to you. Without going into overkill (did I mention 1500 photos?) I plan on sharing with you maps of the trek, food places you can’t miss (from restaurants to roadside stands), the clean inexpensive hotels (resorts, condos, and B+Bs) we stayed at, and the excursions that are worth the splurge of money and time (zip-lining, snorkeling, and waterfalls). The smallest amount I can condense it to is 9 posts, while still sharing all the important details with you. If you want more details about a particular place, leave comments and I’ll happily tell you more.

One of many turtles on Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Big Island)

While I do miss Hawaii, it’s good to be home and I missed you all too.

Another amazing Maui sunset.

Orchids, Sea Turtles and Kona Beer, Oh My!

Today we started off visiting an orchid garden outside Volcano Village. They had one in there worth $20,000! All I bought were postcards… 25 cent post cards. Next up, black sand beaches (with sea turtles!) And the southern most point in the US. It was awesome. Pictures will come soon with full descriptions, I swear. I also need to say we’ve stayed at several awesome hotels that you need to know about when making your Hawaiian vacation. More on that when I’m home. Here’s s photo in the meantime!