The Big Island
Landed in KOA: We landed on the Big Island just before dusk. We got our rental car and got settled in and checked out the place. We stayed at my Boss's place in Waikoloa Village on the Gold Course - Amazing spot! We went to dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club nearby- we were underdressed but still had a drink and appetizer and enjoyed the atmosphere. We stopped at the “Whole Foods” of Hawaii (Island Gourmet Market) to get a snack for the evening. This was in a large shopping center but the store weren't open because things close early on the Big Island... like most places close at 9.
Day 1: Monday
We ended up waking up pretty early- like around 7 or 8 am due to the time change we had from Atlanta. It was nice! We put on our hiking gear and hit the road. We started to go towards Hilo and make our way up north. We didn’t make it all the way up to the top because we stopped along the way multiple times and enjoyed the views! We passed some large open land area and saw some goats and a roosters. We passed Mauna Kea State Recreation Area and looked around. It said the entrance to hike the mountain was a few miles away. So we hopped back in the car. We actually missed the turn in to hike up it., so we said we would come back to it because we were having so much fun exploring. We kept driving through the farm land with amazing hills and mountains. We were starting to get hungry and found a seemingly populated place and checked it out. We stopped at Liliuokalani Park and Gardens and explored because we were too early for breakfast to even be open yet! We got some great pictures- even one that’s in the Hawaii book Tim gave us! (Hawaii, the Big Island revealed, Book by Andrew Doughty) We stopped to eat at a breakfast place - Ken's House of Pancakes, which was delicious. The coconut and guava syrup for the pancakes were amazing! I found a headband at some shops kinda near by. We made our way towards the east end and found the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. We didn’t enter the gated gardens, just explored all around it. It was stunning. Made it back to the car and stopped at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park. There were Giant “jacks” to hold up the pier and block the waves from getting too big- it was a tsunami evacuation area. There were actually signs saying that this was a "tsunami watch" area. Great pics with the rocks on the water. We stayed longer and explored the park area and saw a bunch of crabs and tons of coral. We probably stopped a few more times as we decided to head back to Tim’s place. We found the grocery store close to us and got sandwich stuff and some beer. This was called the KTA Super Store, which was more reasonable than the Island Gourmet grocery.
Day 2 Tuesday
Woke up still early and made some coffee at home. We ate some breakfast we got at KTA the night before. First thing we did was head over to Snorkel Bobs and negotiated snorkel gear for $2 a day. They would have charged us more (about 8 dollars a day) because we weren't locals, but you can talk the price down! We got the cooler from the house and filled up with some liquor and mix we got at the local grocery- yes liquor at a reg grocery store! It's not like the states. We headed out and landed in an area called Puako in our swimsuits- it was more a resort we found. We got a drink at the bar (just incase!) and found seats in the resort area. We made ourself a drink from our cooler and put on our snorkel gear. At this very moment, this might have been my favorite moment on the Big Island. We snorkeled out to where some rocks were, and we saw everything. Sea Turtles, all kinds of color fish, and other sea life. Just simply amazing. I saw over 8 sea turtles at once. We snorkeled for at least 2 hours. We got lots of Go Pro footage, and also just spent time not worrying about getting it on film. After that, We ended up going to Hapuna Beach close by and found some rocks to climb and explore. On the way we passed a food truck selling the most, amazing and fresh doughnuts i've ever had. Of course we stopped. It was a blue food Truck on the side of the road selling fresh, made when you order, doughnuts. Manuela Malasada was the company name, but Hot Malasadas and Roasted Sweet Corn was written on the side of the food truck. Once we got to Hapuna Beach, we watched the sun go down and it was just the most amazing day.
Day 3: Wednesday
Thanks to Tim's Brother, Trent, we got to go out on a boat the next morning. We left the dock at 8:00 sharp and headed out to sea. We departed from the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. We saw sooo many dolphins and cool fish. The dolphins swam in groups of approximately 6-15. We landed ashore for 15 minutes and explored a small Queens Bath. There are apparently a few of these baths- they are tide pools where the Queen used to bathe. It's made of half fresh water and half salt water and it's very cold! After the boat ride, we wanted to explore the area and grab lunch. We walked alongside the golf course towards the bars/restaurants near the resort. We stopped and ate at the Beach Tree Bar- great food and drinks but expensive. But very good food. We got the Poke bowl and the bacon grilled cheese special. Wow, now i"m hungry. I was so full and happy and fell asleep by accident on the beach for I have no idea how long. I woke up very burnt but still happy. We got our snorkel gear and checked out the water area right by that "front desk" check-in area. Wow. What a place to work. We got some awesome rock pics and great GoPro footage this day.
Day 4: Thursday
We got the opportunity to golf on the Four Seasons Golf Course at 10:00am- the Hualalai Golf Course. Wow, what a great surprise by Trent! I bought a nice while collared Hualalai shirt and socks. We got to play all 18 holes - I didn't participate on every hole because that would have probably tacked on another 5 hours haha. The ones I did play were awesome! Garin did great and loved it. This was a famous course with an incredible water front view! We tried to get some drone shots, but they were poorly done because we were having memory card issues. They had some cookies on certain holes throughout the course which was cool! When we went home to watch the news before bed, the main talk was about what direction the winds were going to be blowing the next day- crazy! Even though the volcano was erupting when we went, it never effected us once. We went to the 49 Blacksand beach which had AMAZING snorkeling! I also cracked open a coconut that had fallen from a tree on a bunch of rocks. I was super proud of myself.
Day 5: Friday
Doughnuts. We wanted doughnuts. Were there some on the big island? Of course! We went to Holy doughnuts in Kona. We were headed to go explore Kona and see what they had to offer! We then stopped at Mi’s waterfront and had drinks and an early lunch. We then went and walked the beach to Kailua Kona. it was not clear for snorkeling and there wasn't much of anything to see in the water. On the beach, we passed some adult Sea Turtles who came ashore to rest- so cute! We didn’t walk around the loop to find the rest of the turtles, because we had already seen some. We took a different path back and explored our way back to our car. We ended the night at Lava lava beach club, where we dressed up appropriately for this night! We sat down by the water then walked over to a darker beach area and gazed up at the stars. Perfect day once again.
Day 6: Saturday
Saturday is Local Market Day! We headed out to the Waimea, where they have a fresh local market set up every Saturday morning. We got some jams, Beef Jerky, and dried Dried Fruit. We stopped back at the house to set our market buys down, and got dressed for the beach. We wanted to snorkel again, so we tried to find the spot the boat dropped us off at on Wednesday. Garin found Kalaoa beach online and it was at least in that same area so we could guarantee some great snorkeling finds. Obviously snorkeling as one of our favorite activities. It's hard not to say that was my favorite activity this whole trip - the clear water and endless species of fish is hard to beat! On the way to this beach we had to hike. And it wasn't going to be an easy one! We parked on the side of the road, but it had a nice indention so we were sure it would be safe. We put on our sneakers and packed our backpacks with towels, water, snorkel gear, and beer from Island Gourmet. We then marched the unforgettable lava field from where we parked- now that’s a story. Dead goat bones, broken shoes, scrapes, running from a sketchy guy on the beach. We literally made it back to our car with minutes to spare before it got complete pitch black. It was one of our crazier adventures we did this trip! Overall, we ended up having Success there at the beach! Great snorkeling - one turtle and lots of fish. The waves and current got pretty strong towards the rocky areas, but it kept us alert! We ate at Sushi Rock Restaurant, which was delicious.
Day 7: Sunday
We realized we missed our flight but got it changed no fee to Oahu due to the active volcano, Kīlauea We pushed back our flight and got a rental car and headed to town after we landed at HNL airport. Island hopping! We stopped at Herringbones restaurant for brunch at about 11am. Went shopping at the mall in Honolulu (Ala Moana Center) around checked out some stores for a headband and bai got some new kicks. Went to Lanikai Beach and chilled. Got doughnuts from the food truck Leonard’s bakery and some pork from a food truck. We were not big fans and didn't really eat anything from either place. We went across the parking lot to jambalaya juice for açaí bowls instead. We headed to our Air BnB up on North Shore, and took drone shots of the mountains along the way. We saw the cute bungalow and met the owner - would totally recommend if you plan to stay on North Shore! It was a tiny little house with an outdoor shower on a Farm that had avocado trees, mango trees, peppers, and a whole lot more. Went to eat at Haleiwa Joes up the street got a good crab salad and a glass of wine. Love this island too!
Day 8: Monday
it’s Monday and we’re still here! We tried the outdoor showers and got ready for the day. Such a cool setup! We got up and took a tour of the farm. We headed out and booked an 11am shark dive. To pass some time since we got up early, we went to eat at Cafe Haleiwa up the street. Swung back home to get my one piece bathing suit. Our ride ended up being cancelled due to the wind and it being too choppy. We stopped by the surf shop he>i and talked with one of the owners for a while and ended up getting some free gear. We went down the street and got açaí bowls at Haleiwa Bowls. We went to hike to the top of Manoa Falls and got some drone and GoPro shots. By then it was getting to sunset so we went towards to Kaiona Beach Park on the way home. We stopped at a taco place 10 min away from home, Cholo's Homestyle Mexican in North Shore Market Place, that was pretty good.
Day 9: Tuesday
This was the day we went to tour Pearl Harbor. Very touching experience, and was a lot more interesting and interactive than I thought it might be. A must-do if you make it to Oahu. Afterwards, we got some food at a food truck, and planned to go to Chinaman's Hat. We stopped by the mall and bought snorkel masks and water shoes. We set up on the beach viewing Chinaman's Hat and found GIANT crabs! We snorkeled out to Chinamans Hat in our gear and water shoes. My GoPro was dead from Pearl Harbor earlier that morning, so I was upset I didn't get the footage I wanted, but it was still a great hike. Flew the drone once we swam back to the main shore and got some awesome footage. Went to a Chinese restaurant and got dinner and great dessert.
Day 10: Wednesday
We went to Island vintage cafe and got incredible açaí bowls. Just amazing. We had our One Ocean Diving tour at 9:30. They stopped the boat for us and we got to jump in the water. I looked down in my snorkel gear and I couldn't believe it. Right under my feet were sharks. By the dozens. The water was clear and I could see them swimming around. I let go of the rope and was free swimming over all these sharks. It was the best feeling in the world. They were Galapagos Sharks swimming in small pods and huge pods. A Must-do experience. The sharks were not aggressive, but the waves sure were! My breakfast didn't make it, but at least I did. We walked around shops near there. Got burgers and drinks at Teddy's bigger Burgers. We rented paddle boards for $15 for an hour. Saw giant sea turtles. Back to Island Vintage Cafe and I got poke bowl instead. We walked around a little in the shops. We went to Waimea Bay Beach Park and chilled. I jumped off the famous rock and go pro and drone footage. We flew back to Kona. We got a free upgrade to a mustang convertible when we landed, which is what we had in Ohau. MUST GET A CONVERTIBLE for both islands- so much better. We contemplated and discovered that a 4-wheel drive isn’t worth the money, you should spend it on a convertible. It was about 10:00pm and we went to eat and drink at Pueo's Osteria open til 1am- very late for Kona!
Day 11: Thursday
Last day. Sad. We packed up the place, went to the airport to get the snorkel gear we left in the car, then back to snorkel bobs to return it. We went to Island Gourmet Market and got a doughnut and a monster and kinda looked around while we waited for Lava Lava Beach Club to open at 11. We went there right when they opened for coconut mai tais, ahi nachos, and I got fish tacos. The best place on the Big Island hands down- great for the day and night. We took photos on the lava rocks then headed to the airport. Got on our American Airlines flight to LA. Once we landed in LA, we had to split up. Got 1000 credits in flight and free hotel stay at the Aloft by the airport in LA. Got some breakfast from the voucher they gave me and made my ATL flight.
The trip was amazing. It was a great length. I feel like we made great use of our time and did pretty much everything we wanted to do. The big island was more chill- no traffic and spaced out. Never rushed. Beautiful sights and beaches and food. I am glad that we went over to Oahu for a few days to check it out. That island was more hectic and had more traffic so you needed to plan your day better because the time passed much more quickly. Felt like I ran out of time twice as fast over on Oahu. It reminded us of LA. Met some great people on both islands though. The snorkeling on the resort the second day was unbelievable- the fish and turtles. The shark experience was incredible- I got off the rope and was just floating atop of over 20-40 sharks- and they knew I was there. I wasn’t scared at all. I was more scared to jump off the cliff at Waimea Bay! The cliff jump landing actually hurt a little! There were a bunch of teenagers up there that thought they were too cool to talk to you. So funny. I love my fanny pack I got at the Honolulu airport- by far my best purchase in a while. We didn’t use all the Kodak photos which is fine, so I have some to take on another adventure. It was a lot easier and calmer at Tim’s place verses the bungalow, due to it being more like Home. Space. Indoor shower. Washer and dryer. TV. The whole thing- his place really felt like Home. Very thankful. I liked the farm a lot too because it was a cute place on an awesome piece of land for $65 a night. Unbeatable. We had issues with GoPro and drone- either not charged or memory full. Garin figured out the memory card when we were a day or two out from going to Oahu. Great food- we mostly ate out on Oahu cause there were places everywhere, and had grocery frozen pizzas or sandwiches at home on the Big Island. But great things to do on both islands. This trip is going to Be hard to top! I loved every second of this incredible trip. Wouldn't have been possible without some help and guidance from my boss Tim, his wife Jane, his wife Jane, and and his brother Trent. Thank you!
You may have heard you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to be able to fully explore the Big Island. I won't say that is entirely untrue, but I would not recommend it. We got around just fine in a normal 2-wheel drive rental car. In fact, when we got the convertible, we enjoyed it WAY more! The wind. The weather. The sun. The smells. The views. It wouldn't have been the same without the top down driving along the coast. Would definitely recommend 100% getting a convertible rental car, especially for your first trip or two.
At Least 10 days. Whether you plan on island hopping or not, 10 days is the perfect vacation time. Sure, if you stayed 5 or 6 days you could get a feel for the place, but it wouldn't be the same. This is definitely not a "weekend" trip... There is too much to do.
The Big Island vs. Ohau: Which did we like better?
Gosh, such a tough question I gave myself! To be honest, I'm going to have to go with the Big Island. It felt like an actual relaxing vacation and we were not rushed at any given moment. It was so nice. Both islands had endless opportunities, but the Big Island had a super chill vibe, which I enjoyed.
PHOTO ALBUM (Click for next photo)