We got back yesterday from the Big Island of Hawaii. I have to admit, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. While overall a great experience, it isn’t my most favorite of islands. I’ve been to most of the islands now (Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and now Big Island) my favorite is still Oahu, while moO still favors Maui. In any case there are several reasons for my decision. But, maybe I’m just picky.
August might not be peak travelling season for any of the islands but when you reach your destination you don’t expect to see rain. That was the case when we landed. moO was NOT pleased. Luckily it only actually rained the first day. However, it was cloudy/overcast for a good percentage of the week we were there.
We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa resort, not the most expensive of places, but definitely not the cheapest. We did not realize how big the resort really was. When you need to take a tram (think Disneyland) to get to your hotel room, it has to be big. Something I noticed about the motif of the resort is the fact that it is really schizophrenic. What do I mean? Well, I didn’t get any pictures of the artwork, but it just didn’t feel like there was any reason for any of it to really be there. One section of the walkway would be regular, albeit great, Hawaiian artwork (paintings, sculptures, even some tools used a few centuries ago.) then a few feet down a painting of George Washington, a little further down, some sculptures and paintings from China, and another section for Japanese art. It just didn’t make any sense. I kind of wish I had some pictures to explain how odd it was. I should note that you should rent a car if you don’t want to be bent over by resort prices for, well, everything. (I’ll go more on the car subject shortly) There are no ABCs on the resort, and now that I think about it, this is the first time I’ve been to Hawaii and not been to an ABC. There were no “local” shops on the resort, so everything was marked up like 50-100%!
The food on the resort was overpriced and to be honest not horribly great. We went to the Teppan Table Japanese restaurant (ala Bennihana’s), Imari, but opted to just sit at the table for sushi and stuff. I got a simple teriyaki chicken and rice. I’m not sure how you mess that up, but I found my chicken tasteless and to my surprise boiled. Nice… As a nice change we did eat at the Queen’s and King’s Marketplaces and the two places we ate at were pretty good. Check out Charley’s Thai Cuisine in the Queens and Merriman’s Market Café in the King’s. Merriman’s had a very pleasant surprise, great drinks and great food. The price was… eh. But what do you expect; it was still on the resort. I got the Adam fallback, spaghetti and meatball. While not how I would make it, the noodles were cooked perfectly, at least how I like it, very al dente. Another pleasant surprise was the coffee shop they have at each end of the Hilton resort, Kimobean. Yes, still a little over priced, but better than the coffee from the (overpriced) breakfast buffet or the room drip.
A couple days in we were treated with a dolphin experience that made the trip for me. This was one of the more fun experiences of my life, too bad it was so short, something like 45 minutes dolphin time. What was great about the whole thing is that it wasn’t like we were standing outside a pool watching the dolphins, but actually in the pools with them. If you ever get the chance to do the Dolphin Quest, do it!
We only rented a car for one day, and before I get emails telling me how stupid I am let me say how much of a budget I was on. There’s probably no way to see everything outside the resort in one day. But, I think we fared well.
Our first stop was the Pololu Valley Lookout on the North West tip of the island (North Kohala) near Hawi. Be sure to bring hiking boots (or at least closed toed shoes), water and a camera. It’s a great hike with an even better bit of scenery. Expect a six or so mile hike downhill going down to the beach and back uphill to get to the car.
Our second stop was to the Hamakua Coast where we stopped at the World Gardens & Umauma Falls where it’s a self guided tour and $12/person. So, we promptly left and found a free waterfall place at the ‘Akaka Fall State Park. This place actually had running water and a real bathroom.
Our fourth and final stop was the lava flow at the end of the 130 hwy. which was the biggest letdown. While we saw a good amount of smoke where the lava met the ocean, we didn’t see any red magma. Although, you could possibly see a red glow if you came after dark. However, we got there at about 4 and already got bored of smoke at about 5:30. We started to see the sunset which was our cue to start making the trip back to the hotel.
We skipped the actual volcano on Hwy 11, because it was already getting dark and we would probably not see any lave there either. This was a pretty scary drive as there were no lights just two lanes and barely any cars. At about 11pm we finally returned to the hotel. Oh, we stopped at a Denny’s and finally found a Safeway for a few “cheap” groceries. What we thought to be a quick 7 hour trip to see the volcano/lava turned into a 14 hour trip. But, at least we can say we drove around the entire island in one day. It was probably the longest I’ve ever driven in a car.
How was YOUR Summer?