If You are Going to Kona...

by - Wednesday, April 24, 2013

 Flying into the Big Island Kona Airport is way better than flying into anywhere else. You fly in over the ocean, and then you can see all of the white writing on the lava, and then you come into this tiny, adorable open air airport. This pretty much sets the stage for the whole trip. I am not a huge beach person (relaxing is the worst), but the Big Island has so many different kinds of adventures without having the more populated feel of some of the other islands. Here are my suggestions for a trip there.


Where to Stay

My Mom's house! Ok, so the point is that I have no idea. If you are in any way related to us (or just know us), my Mom would be ridiculously elated to host you (and you can eat your weight in the fresh produce from their yard), but that may not be your deal. There are beautiful resorts right on the ocean, and they often have pools and luaus and the kind of stuff you want to see if you are visiting Hawaii for the first time. If you are feeling fancy, I would start there. There are also lots of house rental opportunities on the island, because so many of the places are people's second home. If you are traveling with a lot of people, I would highly recommend that.

Where to Eat

 The Hualalai Grille- This is up on the volcano, and in the middle of the art galleries, so it is pretty fancypants. But the building is really pretty and cool, and they have some really neat breakfast food.

 Huggo's on the Rocks- There is also a fancier Huggo's next door, but Huggo's on the Rocks has a cool bar atmosphere, great Mexican/Hawaiian food, live music (not all the time, but lots of the time) and a great view of the ocean. Best of all, you can take your shoes off and play in the sand with your toes while you eat. You can't feel more like you are in Hawaii than when you eat at this restaurant.

Kona Brewery- Don't you love a place that smells like yeast? I would move in here if I could. Yummy pizza and beer. Another place where you can eat outside.

Other places worth trying- Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill (where we always eat first), Quinn's Almost by the Sea, Falafel in Paradise, Kona Inn Restaurant, and Island Lava Java

Be Sure to Try

Something Taro-y- Most people will push the Poi, but it is kind of grey, and it didn't do much for me. Instead, I would suggest Taro Bread, which is purple, sweet, and amazing. The best one is made at Punaluu bakery on the Big Island, which you can actually visit if you head south. Definitely worth having while you are there, because you really can't get it anywhere else.

Fresh fish- Do sushi or fried or grilled. However you like it, but if you like fish at all, you want to try it as much as you can there.

 Shaved Ice- It's a snow cone with ice cream inside. You can get it a lot of places, and they have a ton of choices. You should try it at least once while you are there.

Weird Fruit- The farmer's market sells things I didn't even recognize, but trying it was always good. Rambutan (sp? in the picture) tastes like a pear/kiwi fusion. Amazing amazing.

Where to Go

The Southernmost Point in the United States- South Point (also known as Ka Lae) is a big cliff with fishing. It is a pretty short walk to one of the green sand beaches, which seems pretty awesome (haven't gotten there yet). It is also super windy there. It is just one of those things you should see, because you are close and you can. Plus, you can stop for taro bread on the way!

Waipi'o Valley- Waipi'o Valley is definitely one of the most photogenic spots on the Island. For a long time, it is where the Hawaiian kings stayed. I can see why, because it would have been very difficult to get to. Most cars can't make it down the VERY steep roads, so you basically have to hike. The hike is tough and STEEP(but fun and down a road, so not to tough that way) and then you walk down the road a little bit and there is a big beautiful beach to play on! We loved the adventure, but be careful about getting too far off the beaten path for this. The remoteness has made this a place where a lot of drugs are being grown (supposedly, I saw nothing like that), but drug dealers don't like when you get into their stuff. But if you just stay on the main road, there is definitely nothing to worry about.

 Arch City- This is another great strange beach on the Big Island. When you go to the volcano, you can also walk through lava tubes (basically, the lava has deteriorated to make tunnels). Here, they make huge arches over the water. This is another place to bring your hiking shoes and run around. You can also sing the theme from Bear City as much as you want.

A Black Sand Beach- This is Punalu'u Black Sand Beach right outside of Kailua-Kona (Kona is the region, Kailua-Kona is the actual town). These are awesome, and I have never seen anything like them. The other big plus is that every time we have gone we have seen the huge turtles hanging out. They are so cool, but leave them alone. Trust me, you earn up good Honu (turtle) karma, and eventually one will swim right by you when you are playing in the water. They are all over the island, but they do have problems with tourists hurting/ bothering them, so be cool and leave them alone. These beaches have rougher sand (it's not as broken down as some sand), but it is still so cool!

The Old Palace- This is a great park with a nice beach on it and a great explanation of the culture and history of the Island. Very pretty with the palm trees, and plenty of lava to climb around on. Unlike any other historical center you have ever been to.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Rainforests, lava tubes, and the actual Kilauea volcano. I know you are going to Hawaii for the beaches, but it is worth it to take one day off from sun and surf to see this park. The lava tubes are nothing like anything else, and the top of the volcano is shockingly freezing. Also, it's huge. Also, there are machines about seismic activity. 

Akaka Falls- This is great, because you are basically just walking through some rainforest business with tropical plants and beautiful flowers, and then it opens up to this giant gorgeous waterfall. It's the prettiest waterfall I have ever seen. 

What to Do

Get Leied- They are so pretty! It is one of those things you can't do just anywhere. If you don't have someone meeting you there with a lei, just buy one yourself. You don't need to be too cool.

Snorkel and Swim- I'll be honest, I don't care much for snorkeling. If I am in the water, I just want to swim and splash around in the waves. But the Boy and my mom love it. I will admit, that as long as I only do it about once a trip, I think it is neat to see all the beautiful fish swimming around. I would highly recommend the underwater camera, so you can torture your loved ones with fish pictures. But I think if you are in Hawaii, you probably don't need me to tell you to get in the water.

Write your name in white rocks- People send all sorts of messages with them, and you never

Explore and find an abandoned beach- If you are willing to get a little further off the beaten path, you can spend a day at the beach and only see a handful of people. My Mom and I got super lost and beat the shit out of our feet, but then we ended up in paradise, and we only saw a couple people the whole day. It was so nice, because in California, if it is nice at all, the beach is packed. If you are well-enough, and not dragging too many kids with you, I suggest looking up some of the more remote beaches and taking a good hike there. You will be able to wash off the sweat when you get there!

 See the Lava Flow into the Ocean-This is not a great picture, but it is the fire of the lava lighting up the steam that comes up when the lava hit the water. You have to drive out to whereever the lava is coming down at that time. Then you walk across the cold lava in the dark (bring flashlights!) down to the shore. I remember thinking it was just the coolest thing ever, even if it didn't photograph well. Another cool activity for the nighttime.

Go to a luau- Even if you don't stay at the hotel, you can go to one of the luaus they have there. You get to see them pull the pig out of the dirt (that's how they cook it) and try all of the food that people think of when they think of Hawaii. We had fun, but we loved watching my Mom and Scott schmooze with the tourists. It's one of those situations where you basically have to make small talk with strangers, so the fun of it depends on your desire to do it.

Watch the sunset- They are pretty and scenic, and it is all very Hawaiian.

Be Sure to Pack

Hiking shoes! Being a little more flexible in how you get to the beach opens up some of the best beaches to you. Take tougher shoes than you think you need. Lava is not great with flip flops.

Sunglasses, Hat, Sunscreen- Yes, it is sunny, and you don't want to burn. Do you really want another speech about skin cancer?

Cutesy maxi dresses, hawaiian shirts, and whatever cheesy Hawaiian clothes you want- Just embrace it, because unless you live on a tropical island, you basically never get to dress like you are on a tropical island.

2 swimsuits- You don't want to have to put the sandy/wet one back on if you go back out later in the day.

Don't bother bringing beach towels or surf boards or snorkel gear- you can rent all those sorts of things there for a little bit of money and a lot less hassle.

Water shoes- The lava is rough, and even sandy beaches probably become lava bottomed once you get far enough out in the water. It isn't bad at first, but by the end of your trip, you might be feeling it if you don't give your feet a break!

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