Sunday, February 20, 2011

Travels on the Big Island: Reflections on a recent trip

Part I—Overview


The Big Island of Hawaii is a magical place, in part because nature provides countless wonders (active volcano action, old and new lava flows, beaches, mountains, rainforests, and stunning views) and in part because the Big Island is the birthplace and home of King Kamehameha I (1758-1819), who united the islands under one ruler. As the Arthurian-like story goes, at age 14 Kamehameha was able to lift a large stone. This presaged his royal ascension and his ability to unite the islands and rule them as one.


Rough surf on the Hakuma coast

The Big Island is the largest Hawaiian island, yet its population is less than 200,000. It boasts wonderful beaches, and offers hiking, snorkeling, surfing, and lush vegetation. After reading and researching online, we came up with the short list of what we wanted to do.

Exploring Waipi’o Valley—Helicopter ride—Lava Viewing—Hiking in Volcano—Snorkeling—Body Boarding—Photography

We’ve been to the Big Island two times previously, but both trips were many, many years ago (don’t make me say how many!). For this trip, we planned on renting a car and staying in bed and breakfast type places. The last two nights we wanted to splurge and stay in a fancy resort. We had our eye on staying in the Mauna Kea Beach Resort. Many years ago when we were young and poor and camping, we had brunch at the Mauna Kea and vowed that one day we would return as guests (even though today a two-egg breakfast costs $20).


Hibiscus Flower

Bed and breakfast type places may not be for everyone. But, staying in such places is a great way to meet like-minded people, the hosts are typically friendly and helpful, and communal breakfasts are an inspiring way to start the day.


Surf at Hapuna Beach, Kohala Coast

With only a few weeks to plan, we began by redeeming some American Airline miles to secure our flight between San Diego and Kona. We departed January 18 and returned on January 27.


The bad: we arrive late (9:15pm) and it will be dark. The solution? Get a hotel fairly close to the airport for that first night. The flight from Los Angeles to Kona is approximately 6 hours. At this time of year there is a two-hour time change, so 9:15pm will feel more like 11:15pm.


The good: our return flight doesn’t depart Kona until 10:45pm, giving us an entire last day to play, have dinner, turn in the rental car, and arrive at the airport. The return flight (from Kona to Los Angeles) is approximately 5 hours.


Next, figure out where we need to be so that we can loosely circumnavigate the island (by driving) in a clockwise direction. By staying in different places, we will see more of the island and drive less. We minimize backtracking. We decide to stay two days in a place whenever possible so that we can easily participate in early-morning activities without having to get up super early and drive a long way.


Surfer at Waipi'o Valley's black sand beach

Our final itinerary includes six different accommodation locations: 3 for 2 nights and 3 for one night.


Next: Exploring Waip’io Valley

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