Hawaii’s Big Island November 2011 Trip Report

Kohala Coast Sunset
Kohala Coast Sunset

We’re back from a wonderful week on Hawaii’s Big Island. I sincerely love all the Hawaiian Islands, but my love for Hawaii Island grows deeper and deeper with each visit.

After each visit to Hawaii, I like to provide a quick snapshot of all we did in case it helps you for your vacation planning. Of course, I’ll provide all the details in future posts.

Where We Stayed

Due to American Airlines delay in DFW and then missed connection in LAX, our Big Island visit didn’t start on the Big Island. We spent the first night in Honolulu at the Ohana Honolulu Airport courtesy of American Airlines. It’s certainly not fancy, but it was clean and very convenient to the airport with free shuttle service. We were there less than 10 hours as we snagged the first flight out of HNL to Kona.

Our Big Island visit began with a two night stay at Courtyard King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona. This hotel offered a convenient base for exploring Kona. The newly renovated rooms and historic grounds really impressed us. With rates around $140 per night, this hotel is a Hawaii Island vacation bargain!

Next, we moved to the Kohala Coast for two nights at the palatial Hilton Waikoloa Village, which has so much to offer guests with the ocean front location and numerous pools. We had some mixed experiences here.  I think our stay might have been too short, though.

We ended our Big Island adventure with a bit of Kohala Coast luxury at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel which was where we stayed on our first trip to the Big Island in 2004. Staying here brought back such good memories as we made new ones. We highly recommend the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel.

Where We Explored & Played

We stayed busy our first day with snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding in Kona with Kona Beach Boys.

The Kona Coffee Festival was on while we were there. We discovered that this festival is far more than a tasty coffee festival – it’s a fantastic cultural festival.

We took a historical sunset dinner cruise with Body Glove Hawaii which was both tasty, scenic and informative.

Though we’ve been to Pu’uhonau o Honaunau National Historical Park other times, we took advantage of one the the fee free National Park weekends. We were so glad we returned, as more of the grounds have been opened since our last visit. Plus, we were there on a gorgeous, sunny morning with no crowds.

We visited another national park, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Here, we learned that many people consider this heiau as the beginning of the united Hawaiian kingdom under King Kamehameha the Great.

We toured Hawaiian Vanilla Company and had a delicious, vanilla-infused lunch. Did you know that vanilla is an orchid that blooms for one day only? I  learned that and many other interesting vanilla facts at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company.

We’ve viewed and hiked around Waipio Valley on other visits, but this time we got to go into the valley for horseback riding with Naalapa Stables.

Pu’uhonau o Honaunau (Place of Refuge)
Pu’uhonau o Honaunau (Place of Refuge)

Where We Dined

We recommend these Big Island restaurants.

In Kona:

Honu’s On the Beach Restaurant offers a nice and well priced breakfast buffet.

Splasher’s Grill has casual, open air dining.

In Kohala:

Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi serves delicious, fresh food in an eclectic bamboo inspired dining room.

– Hilton Waikoloa Village has a very nice luau.

– We loved the Breakfast Buffet at Water’s Edge in the Hilton Waikoloa Village. This buffet is really top notch and the lagoon view is beautiful.

– Eddie Aikau Restaurant & Surf Museum in the Kings Shops of Waikoloa Beach Resort serves excellent food with a farm to table concept. Their facebook page currently offers more information than their website.

– The CanoeHouse Restaurant at Mauna Lani offers fresh Hawaii Island sourced ingredients along with incredible ocean views. If you’re looking for a romantic dinner on the Big Island, you should definitely consider the CanoeHouse.

– Our last Big Island meal was at Napua Restaurant in Mauna Lani Resort for lunch. This restaurant serves great food to go along with the ocean view.

Fire Knife Dancer at Hilton Waikoloa Luau
The fearless fire knife dancer at the Hilton Waikoloa Village luau.

Worth Mentioning

– Because Avis was sold out for the day we needed to pick up, we carefully shopped around for another rental company. I’m happy to report that we had pleasant experience with Hertz. Our car was clean and we weren’t carrying around unwanted hitchhikers.

– Our visit was arranged in part by the Big Island Visitors Bureau.

  1. I was very impressed by the Kona Beach Hotel. The resort has recently been renovated and everything looked great. I especially loved the snorkeling in the bay–great fish, and nicely protected from the waves.

    The Hilton is a mega-resort and great if you have a family and wish to stay on-site–so much to do there. The rooms desperately need updating.

    My favorite “activity?” Simply sitting in one of the FREE beachside cabanas at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and relaxing. 😉

  2. Glad that you both had such a fantastic trip! =) The Hawaiian Vanilla Company is definitely on my list of foodie spots for my next visit to Hawaii island. My brother will be starting at UH Hilo in the spring, so I’m excited for the chance to explore while he’s there!

    1. Thanks, Malia! We learned all kinds of interesting information about vanilla there. The lunch was ‘ono with vanilla used in the savory dishes, too.

  3. Vanilla grows in Hawaii? Cool! – It will help round out my garden of coffee and pineapple plants. (I’m still looking for a Coco seedling)

    1. Dave — next time, I want to get to the coco farm.

      If I remember correctly (I don’t have my notes with me) vanilla only grows in latitudes that are within 25 degrees of the equator.

  4. Sounds like yet another fabulous Hawaii vacation! I can’t wait to get out there next spring, there are so many things I want to do/see/taste 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences and adding to our todo list!

    1. Thanks, Erin. Even as many times as we’ve been blessed to have visited Hawaii, we still have so many things we want to do/see/taste on each island. 🙂

  5. Sheila, always great to find you and Andy on our shores. Now I can’t wait to get back to my home island to do a little research myself. A hui hou!!

    1. Thanks, Nathan.

      Your home island is so fascinating!

      Do you see a lot of changes when you visit or do things seem to stay the same?

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