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Consolidated "Big Island Activity and/or Must-Do" thread

Consolidated "Big Island Activity and/or Must-Do" thread

Old May 7, 10, 7:16 am
  #1  
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Consolidated "Big Island Activity and/or Must-Do" thread

Hi:
I will be 3 full days (4 nites) in Big Island in the begining of September with whole family (Wife + 2 kids -11 & 8 years old).

What do you recommend I must do during these 3 days:
I was thinking on the following:

-Volcano Park
(is still close part of the rim route? Any new restriction or closed routes?)

-Lava flows by boat
(I read you still can see nothing by walking and some people advice that choppers are forbidden to descend below 1000)

-Mauna Kea summit (worth it?)

-Snorkel with Mantas
(Worth it?. Are they really coming near the boat lights by night?)

- Coffe Farm
(can somebady recommends one to visit, watch production process and buy good Kona coffe)

- Visit Hilo (worth it????).

Am I missing something??? Black Beach somewhere?

Also I am thinking on stay at Sheraton Keahou. Any opinion on that?.

Thank you.
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Old May 7, 10, 8:11 pm
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I stayed at the Sheraton Keahou for 5 nights in March. Overall we had a good stay. Only real downside in my opinion is the lack of a beach on hotel grounds and the food wasn't great. It is a pretty spot though, and the manta rays are supposed to be very cool...if you are around just after sunset (and they actually come out.) You can get quite a few more opinions here.

We met the the owner of country samurai coffee at his shop a few miles from the hotel (in Kona Square just off of Alii Dr.) and really enjoyed his coffee.

http://www.countrysamurai.com/

The owner (Walter) was a really nice older man who took time to tell us about a bunch of great spots and marked them on a map. For a tour of a Kona coffee farm he recommended Greenwell Farms, which we did check out.

http://www.greenwellfarms.com/

They give a free short tour and are very friendly. No sales pressure or any B.S.

Also nearby you should also check out Kona Coast Macadamia Nut & Candy Factory.

http://www.konaoftheworld.com/index.html

Not as friendly as the Greenwell crew, but these guys (also a recommendation from our Samurai friend) do in fact roast one of, if not the best macadamia nuts you'll find. Just make sure to buy the ones in the vacuum sealed packs (8oz I think). The dark chocolate macadamia bars are also worth a try.

Driving south from the hotel we had a nice lunch at coffee shack. The view is great from the small lanai (my photo.)

A bit further south down the road is Kaloko-Honokohau National Park. Some interesting ruins and we got to see several Honu (green sea turtles). (My friends at the park.)


Regarding the Mauna Kea summit, it is worth it if you are a fan of stargazing. We went on a tour (Summit and Stars) with Hawaii Forest and Trail and had a great time. Our guide Greg was fantastic and he shared tons of history on the island. He knew all of the plant and animal species around which he pointed out along the way. And after a quick dinner (average) and a windy ride to the top for a nice sunset on the COLD summit you return to the visitor center (a couple thousand feet lower) where you get an in depth tour of the night sky on their scope, along with some hot cocoa and fresh baked cookies. The last time I saw a sky that clear with so many stars I was in a planetarium. We saw satellites and shooting shooting stars...along with various planets and constellations. Greg really knows his way around the sky. If that sounds appealing to you I highly recommend you try it. But it may make for a long day for an 8 year old.


And if you are up for a drive, I'd recommend heading to Volcano for a day. It's about 100 miles from the Sheraton. Check out Volcano National Park. The crater was smoking pretty good when we were there. There are some closures as the volcano has been active lately, just recently flowing over a small highway. I believe the seaside viewing location (a good ride from the park) is closed at the moment...we saw a lava flow there.

While you are there have a meal at Thai Thai. Definitely the best red curry I've ever had. Just make sure you don't order anything hotter than medium, if that!

If you continue east and visit Hilo there are a couple of nice waterfalls to see (Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls.) And while you can skip the tourist trap Mauna Loa factory I do recommend Big Island Candies. Lots of cookie and coffee samples. Towards the back there's a counter that sells reasonably priced ,and tasty, ice cream (we got Mango flavor.)

Last edited by broadwayblue; May 9, 10 at 4:43 pm
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Old May 7, 10, 8:13 pm
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Big Island

The Big Island is awesome. You will have a blast!

Can't comment on the volcano...it's a crapshoot. Flows literally change by the hour. I could go tonight, have the most amazing experience melting the soles of my shoes, and send you tomorrow and you'd see nothing. Keep an eyeball on their website: http://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm.

The summit of Mauna Kea is AMAZING during sunrise. If you're planning that, I highly recommend it early in the AM. It's still very cool to see at any time of day.

The snorkeling trip will be hit or miss. I've been on amazing trips, and complete duds. Oddly, it's usually nowhere in the middle. It's nature...

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, South Point, and the Green Sand Beach are recommended.

I lived in Hilo for several years, so I absolutely recommend you go, but I may be biased. It's much more laid back and not nearly as touristy as the Kona side. It's also much greener. If you go overnight (maybe to explore the volcano...it's about thirty minutes from Hilo), I'd recommend you stay at the Hilo Hawaiian. Maybe you could talk the 11 year-old into going to school at UH-Hilo? Nani Mau botanical gardens are on that side of the island, as well. Akaka Falls, Pe'epe'e Falls and Boiling Pots, etc. are also on the Hilo side.

No worries on the Sheraton Keauhou...it's a great place.

Grab the guidebook "Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed" It's one of the best guidebooks on the island.

Have a blast.
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Old May 8, 10, 9:17 am
  #4  
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Originally Posted by mantas View Post
Also I am thinking on stay at Sheraton Keahou. Any opinion on that?.
Please ask that question in the Starwood forum (or there are threads there you can look at and add to -- but don't simply re-post this whole post. That's frowned )

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Old May 8, 10, 9:31 am
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Originally Posted by mantas View Post
Am I missing something??? Black Beach somewhere?
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Well worth a visit.
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Old May 8, 10, 10:13 am
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There's another black sand beach on the east side too. PM me if you'd like details. It's a very "locals beach" and thank goodness so far it hasn't been featured in The Big Island Revealed.
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Old May 9, 10, 9:54 pm
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The Sheraton is fine - and best location for you to enjoy the sights.

Your list should include:

1) Volcano visit (the lava is flowing like crazy now, but your results may vary so check the eruption status on arrival)

2) I'd do the Green Sand Beach over the Black Sand Beach, but it's a fairly long (but not difficult) hike across the 4WD trails...if you have enough time, you can visit both

3) A sunset trip to Mauna Kea with stargazing is a must - use Hawai'i Forest and Trail

4) If you want to swim with wild dolphins, PM me and I will put you in touch with someone who can set that up, and you really need to be staying at the Sheraton to be in the best location to get to the swim areas early in the morning...it's a very early am experience, so you have the rest of the day to drive down to the color-sand beaches, which will be a little further south depending on which spot you swim at

5) You can skip Hilo, but if you have extra time during the day, you can swing up through Waimea and on to Waipio Valley for a look

3 days is really tight to experience the BI - 4 or 5 is really a minimum just to catch the main must-sees.
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Old May 11, 10, 6:03 am
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Hi to everybody:
Thank you for all the information. I have read carefully each message and I am traying to make the best decisions. I got fast and properly feedback from the staff of Sheraton Keauhou (very kind people by the way, at least by mail), so its most likely we will stay there.
Yes, it will be better if I could stay a couple of days more, but as far as I am flying with miles, I had to stick to the flights where there are seats available to use with AA miles.
Instead, I will stay 8 days in HNL, so while I am planning the Big Island activities I start to organize the stay in Oahu.
And yes, I like to do the dolphins experience. I will get to you in the following days.
Thanks again to everybody. If you have any new idea or any other advise it will very welcome.
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Old May 11, 10, 8:08 am
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Originally Posted by mantas View Post
Hi to everybody:
Thank you for all the information. I have read carefully each message and I am traying to make the best decisions. I got fast and properly feedback from the staff of Sheraton Keauhou (very kind people by the way, at least by mail), so its most likely we will stay there.
Yes, it will be better if I could stay a couple of days more, but as far as I am flying with miles, I had to stick to the flights where there are seats available to use with AA miles.
Instead, I will stay 8 days in HNL, so while I am planning the Big Island activities I start to organize the stay in Oahu.
And yes, I like to do the dolphins experience. I will get to you in the following days.
Thanks again to everybody. If you have any new idea or any other advise it will very welcome.
8 days in HNL is too many. I understand you're using miles for the trip, but you can buy your own inter-island ticket, one/way or round/trip for very little money and spend more time on the BI - I think 5-6 days on O'ahu is more than enough, even for a first-timer.
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Old May 11, 10, 10:22 am
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Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
8 days in HNL is too many. I understand you're using miles for the trip, but you can buy your own inter-island ticket, one/way or round/trip for very little money and spend more time on the BI - I think 5-6 days on O'ahu is more than enough, even for a first-timer.
I know. Thank you for your advice.
AA agent told me that I can change the flights even after been already booked (which I already did), because is better to secure the rest of the fligths.
Also, if I keep all the flights booked in one itinerary on AA, the luggages limitations are less as it is considered as one whole international flight itinerary. I was told that if a cut the itinerary to take an internal flight (KOA to HNL) on Hawaiian Airlines or another line, I could have some trouble with internal flight luggages limitations and surcharges. Worst of all, if that flight is overcharged some of the luggages can not make it onboard.

I will spent some more time at Waikiki beach at Hilton complex (it was recommend) and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, climbing Diamond Head, visiting Pearl Harbour and enjoying Honolulu. Just relaxing after jumping all around LA (and Disney/Universal/Sea World) and Big Island.
Some tips for the Oahu stay?
Best regards.
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Old May 11, 10, 11:09 am
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Originally Posted by mantas View Post
I know. Thank you for your advice.
AA agent told me that I can change the flights even after been already booked (which I already did), because is better to secure the rest of the fligths.
Also, if I keep all the flights booked in one itinerary on AA, the luggages limitations are less as it is considered as one whole international flight itinerary. I was told that if a cut the itinerary to take an internal flight (KOA to HNL) on Hawaiian Airlines or another line, I could have some trouble with internal flight luggages limitations and surcharges. Worst of all, if that flight is overcharged some of the luggages can not make it onboard.

I will spent some more time at Waikiki beach at Hilton complex (it was recommend) and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, climbing Diamond Head, visiting Pearl Harbour and enjoying Honolulu. Just relaxing after jumping all around LA (and Disney/Universal/Sea World) and Big Island.
Some tips for the Oahu stay?
Best regards.
Just a thought - I think the AA agent is wrong. When you show up at the HA counter for your Interisland flight, they won't care about AA's international itinerary and will charge you for the extra bags. HA has nothing to do with AA. Assuming you're going origin-HNL-KOA in one direction on the same day and AA is just transferring your bags airside at HNL, it will still leave you with a problem with you try to check-in at KOA for the flight back to HNL.

What I would do is arrange in advance to store the extra bags near the airport, take your Interisland flight with just what you need for a slightly longer BI stay, then reclaim the extra bags when you return to HNL before your int'l flight home.

For O'ahu, it will depend somewhat on what you are interested in doing and when you will you be there. Can you post your entire itinerary and dates so we know what order you're doing everything and what time of year you're traveling?

Here is my suggested itinerary:

Day 1 - depart origin, arrive HNL, transfer to hotel, balance of day at leisure
Day 2 - activity day on O'ahu
Day 3 - activity day on O'ahu
Day 4 - activity day on O'ahu
Day 5 - activity day on O'ahu
Day 6 - store bags with Hilton, morning transfer to KOA, transfer to Sheraton, balance of day at leisure
Day 7 - activity day on BI
Day 8 - activity day on BI
Day 9 - activity day on BI
Day 10 - activity day on BI
Day 11 - transfer to HNL, reclaim excess bags from Hilton, flight back to origin

The airport transfer fee back to Hilton to get the bags and return to the airport will still likely be cheaper than what HA will charge for excess and overweight bags.
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Old May 11, 10, 3:07 pm
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While the Mauna Kea summit is fantastic, please note that many tours to the top don't allow children under certain ages. Your oldest is 11 and I don't recall seeing any tours allowing children that young. If you want to go, you'll need to rent a 4WD vehicle to drive yourself to the top.

And if you do find a tour allowing young children, let me know, as I'll be there this summer with my kids!
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Old May 12, 10, 9:41 am
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Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
Just a thought - I think the AA agent is wrong. When you show up at the HA counter for your Interisland flight, they won't care about AA's international itinerary and will charge you for the extra bags. HA has nothing to do with AA. Assuming you're going origin-HNL-KOA in one direction on the same day and AA is just transferring your bags airside at HNL, it will still leave you with a problem with you try to check-in at KOA for the flight back to HNL..

My flight is LAX-KOA (on AA), and 4 days later is KOA-HNL (with Hawaiian Air), and 9 days later HNL-DFW (with AA again), but everything booked with American Airline, so its an American flight. They are partners and accept miles redemption.

Last year I did something similar and booked everything on LAN airline (EZE-JFK with LAN, then LGA-MIA with AA, and finally MIA-EZE with LAN again) and when I took the internal AA agents did not mention any complain about the excesive luggage for an internal flight.

Anyway, I will send a mail to Hawaiian Air, and check what is their interpretation.

To MangoMan:

Good Point. I do not remember have read something about this limitation, but I read too much during the last couple of weeks. I will send a mail to some who offer this kind of tours to Mauna Kea summit later this afternoon and I will post what they tell me.

Last edited by mantas; May 12, 10 at 9:49 am
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Old May 12, 10, 9:55 am
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Originally Posted by mantas View Post
My flight is LAX-KOA (on AA), and 4 days later is KOA-HNL (with Hawaiian Air), and 9 days later HNL-DFW (with AA again), but everything booked with American Airline, so its an American flight. They are partners and accept miles redemption.

Last year I did something similar and booked everything on LAN airline (EZE-JFK with LAN, then LGA-MIA with AA, and finally MIA-EZE with LAN again) and when I took the internal AA agents did not mention any complain about the excesive luggage for an internal flight.

Anyway, I will send a mail to Hawaiian Air, and check what is their interpretation.....
I strongly recommend you get something in writing from HA waiving excess baggage fees - HA is a separate airline and they will not care about your AA ticket or itinerary, and the flight is a HA flight, not a AA one.

I'm about 99% certain that you will be charged excess bag fees upon check-in at KOA unless you have something in writing from HA management waiving those fees.
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Old May 12, 10, 10:32 am
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Originally Posted by SAT Lawyer View Post
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. Well worth a visit.
3 full days on Big Island - exactly the time we had
Some pictures from our trip in January 2010
http://bromeliadliving.blogspot.com/...ighlights.html

Also stayed at the Sheraton. It was okay. The slide was fun, views were beautiful, no beach.
Loved Punalu'u Black Sand Beach ^ (Found in the black sand a Plumeria Flower Ring with a small diamond in it)
Waited in the cold damp air to see the lava flow only to get a glimpse of glowing steam
rented a convertible Mustang loved the curvy scenic roads (which you'll find on and of the islands)
Loved the lava tubes and crater hikes
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