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Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Old May 3, 18, 7:44 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
How much would we be looking at for a helicopter tour?
Cost depends on the length of the flight. Blue Hawaiian is nearby Mauna Kea Hotel, it's a popular option. We decided to take Big Island Air tour out of Kona airport, it's in a plane instead of a helicopter, and is a bit more affordable. Our guide/pilot was excellent, and it was a great way to see the entire island in 1 1/2 hours. We circled around the crater several times, it was a clear day and we had a perfect view of the lava lake.

Last edited by Arthurrs; May 3, 18 at 7:57 pm
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Old May 3, 18, 7:54 pm
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Originally Posted by muran View Post
What kind of food are you looking for and budget? Since you are going to be near Mauna Lani Hotel, I would definitely go to the Captian's Table at Canoe House.
Unfortunately the Mauna Lani Hotel is shutting down Oct 1, 2018 for an 18 month extensive renovation, which will likely include Canoe House restaurant. I love that place, we'd take a sunset walk along the beach from the Fairmont Orchid and enjoy a really nice dinner there! Alternatively there's Browns Beach House Restaurant at the Fairmont Orchid, the sunset views there are stellar, and the food excellent the two times we went. Lava Lava beach club is nice as well.

Definitely include Merrimans in Waimea in your dinner plans. Top notch! Make reservations, they fill up fast!

For something more casual, Cafe Pesto in Hilo, and Fish Hopper & Jackie Rey's in Kailua-Kona were pretty good.
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Old May 3, 18, 9:19 pm
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Originally Posted by 747FC View Post

Do monitor this site. https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/

Madame Pele is acting up and your volcano plans may need to be adjusted.
Also check out this site:

https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes...ea/status.html
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Old May 3, 18, 10:31 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
How much would we be looking at for a helicopter tour?

When you say that it should cost less to take from Hilo, do you mean as compared to taking it from Kona airport? We're talking about the lava flows in the Pāhoa area, right?
Yeah, I mean from Hilo airport instead of Kona airport or another site in Kona (helicopters dont need an airport to depart from, and Blue Hawaiian like another poster mentioned has a departure point close to the resorts on the Kona side). Because Hilo is so much closer, either the entire flight can be shorter, or they can spend more time checking out the lava and less time flying across the island to get to the volcano.

As as far as prices go, Im not sure. I did it something like 20 years ago, and it was actually a package deal that included round trip flights from Honolulu on Aloha and a rental car for the rest of the day (fly to Hilo early in the morning, take the tour, then drive around on our own and fly back to HNL that evening). The big thing that the helicopter was able to show us that you cant see on the ground is getting us close to the caldera itself where the lava is actually first coming out of the mountain.

A fixed wing aircraft would likely work too, biggest difference is that a helicopter can hold in one spot while the best an airplane can do would be to circle around several times.
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Old May 3, 18, 10:43 pm
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I second a helicopter tour out of Hilo. Trying to do it from Kona is much longer and much more expensive. We did one last year - flew into Hilo and booked the helicopter tour for half an hour after we landed. Did the tour, picked up the rental car and then drove up to the Fairmont Orchid. Stayed there a week and then went down to a friend’s place in Captain Cook for a week, flying back out of KOA.

We used Paradise Helicopters and did the Volcanoes and Waterfalls Extreme. We got a Kamaaina rate so not sure what the normal rate is but it was worth it. We were there at the time the lava was pouring into the ocean and it was a great way to see everything.
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Old May 3, 18, 10:45 pm
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Evacuations underway. 10k people affected.
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Old May 4, 18, 4:23 pm
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Arthurrs View Post
Unfortunately the Mauna Lani Hotel is shutting down Oct 1, 2018 for an 18 month extensive renovation, which will likely include Canoe House restaurant. I love that place, we'd take a sunset walk along the beach from the Fairmont Orchid and enjoy a really nice dinner there! Alternatively there's Browns Beach House Restaurant at the Fairmont Orchid, the sunset views there are stellar, and the food excellent the two times we went. Lava Lava beach club is nice as well.

Definitely include Merrimans in Waimea in your dinner plans. Top notch! Make reservations, they fill up fast!

For something more casual, Cafe Pesto in Hilo, and Fish Hopper & Jackie Rey's in Kailua-Kona were pretty good.
Bummer! I called and it's definitely closing. I asked whether the chef would be moving elsewhere on the island during the renovation period but they couldn't say just yet.

I think I've been to Merrimans in Kapalua and I remember it being pretty good. It's definitely on my list of reservations.

Is Brown's Beach House comparable to Canoehouse? I generally tend to avoid hotel restaurants but it does look like one of the better choices around. What about Hualalai Grille at the FS? Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe?

I have a few casual lunch spots on my radar as well that seem pretty decent: Bamboo in Hawi looks more fun than tasty but I really love the setting. Similarly, Nanbu Courtyard Cafe in an old legacy building in Kapaau looks more interesting than good, but it's on my list of options for a quick lunch stop. There's Umeke's, Hale I’a Da Fish House and Lunch Wagon, and Da Poke Shack which all look very good. Suisan Fish Market and Cafe 100 in Hilo as well. Fresh Off The Grid and Gypsea Gelato for snacks. Nothing too exciting overall. Uncle's Awa Bar and Farmer's Market in Pāhoa & Hana Hou in Naalehu look like they might be good too. Kanaka Kava looks like fun for what it is; perhaps we'll have a casual dinner there one night.

It's really a shame about Canoehouse as that definitely seemed like the best food on the island. I hope the chefs and kitchen staff are able to relocate and get in a similar groove. Most of the nicer places I'm finding around Waimea and Kailua-Kona really do look like they cater to a tourist driven market. I've yet to find anything that seems special. Maybe we'll just go back to Merrimens a few times if that ends up being the bets there is!
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Last edited by OliverB; May 4, 18 at 4:56 pm
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Old May 4, 18, 4:37 pm
  #23  
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Originally Posted by 747FC View Post
Evacuations underway. 10k people affected.
Is there any reason to suggest that there could be long term impact 7 months from now?
I genuinely don't mean to reduce the critical situation affecting indigenous and local communities to some self-centered "how will this impact my trip" angle, but it's been mentioned several times in this thread with advice to monitor volcanic activity, so I'm curious whether there's any substantial risk for our visit in December? I'm really not at all familiar with patterns or enduring effects of volcanic activity and rough time intervals between eruptions. Do you or anyone else know if there is any significant threat to the Teapot Cottage on Kilauea Rd that I have booked?
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Old May 4, 18, 4:39 pm
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PS: How often does this occur in Volcanoes Nat'l Park? Are there regular evacuations or is this considered quite rare / hasn't happened in many years? If this is something that happens every few years in varying magnitudes, can anyone anticipate what the damage to infrastructure would look like and how many months before roads are repaired following eruptions?

Last edited by OliverB; May 4, 18 at 5:01 pm
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Old May 4, 18, 5:22 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Is there any reason to suggest that there could be long term impact 7 months from now?
I genuinely don't mean to reduce the critical situation affecting indigenous and local communities to some self-centered "how will this impact my trip" angle, but it's been mentioned several times in this thread with advice to monitor volcanic activity, so I'm curious whether there's any substantial risk for our visit in December? I'm really not at all familiar with patterns or enduring effects of volcanic activity and rough time intervals between eruptions. Do you or anyone else know if there is any significant threat to the Teapot Cottage on Kilauea Rd that I have booked?
You are right to question whether this particular fissure eruption will affect your plans. Probably not, but you need to monitor what is happening and adjust your plans accordingly.

The current eruption is part of the Kilauea eruption cycle that began in 1983, so you can see how long this has been an issue (a periodic issue, but an issue nevertheless.) For more history, see https://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/HCV/kil-general.html

For an expert's view, you can read this news report:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-0...hawaii/9728316
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Last edited by 747FC; May 4, 18 at 5:29 pm Reason: more info
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Old May 4, 18, 6:46 pm
  #26  
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I've got a very rough sketch of our itinerary knocked out and I'm trying to determine whether it all makes sense...


6 NIGHTS at MAUNA KEA in which we intend to do the following:

- Several days relaxing at Mauna Kea Beach and maybe nearby Hapuna Beach State Park

- Visit the town of Waimea; which we'll no doubt be stopping through for meals, etc. over the course of several days

- Afternoon trip to Manini'owali Beach at Kua Bay, perhaps lunch/dinner in the Kailua-Kona area.

- Leisurely sunset hike along Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, possibly combined with some time at Manini'owali Beach as listed above

- At least one morning/afternoon swimming w/ dolphins and one evening snorkeling with manta rays w/ Hawaii Oceanic outfitters in Kailua-Kona

- A morning tour of Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook

- Afternoon relaxing/snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay in Captain Cook (perhaps same day as historic Kona Coffee Farm)

- Afternoon trip to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Hōnaunau Bay + Place of Refuge)


Do you feel this is sufficient time for this leg of the trip? Would an extra night be helpful? I'm only 9,000 Marriott Rewards points short of extending a night, which I'm strongly considering, however I wonder whether that would best be served at the very end of the trip, so that our final evening is spent closer to Kona airport which would allow for more touring of the southern part of the island after we check out of Volcano?

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2 NIGHTS in HILO in which we intend to do the following:

- Hilo Farmer's Market - [Hilo] *

- Spend at least one afternoon at Carlsmith + Richardson Beach Parks

- A morning or afternoon at Rainbow Falls / Waiānuenue

- Morning at the Hilo Farmer's Market

- Visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum

- Do the Pepeekeo Scenic Drive, perhaps en route from Mauna Kea to Hilo, if that makes sense?

- Visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden -- maybe the day we check in or out from Hilo, combined with the Pepeekeo drive?

- A morning/afternoon visit to ʻAkaka Falls State Park in Honomū for the Falls Loop Trail


This already feels like a jam-packed itinerary for Hilo and I am wondering whether an extra night would be necessary to cover everything? If so, should I simply extend our stay in Hilo or try to book something near Pepeekeo for convenient access to that area? If we leave Mauna Kea early on our final morning and leave Hilo late on our final day, we could probably squeeze a full 3 days out of this leg of our trip. That seems like enough time to visit 2 beaches, falls and botanical gardens... but not at a leisurely pace.

It's way too soon to figure out what's going on with lava flows in Pāhoa but as we get closer to December I'll look into options for boat/chopper tours of the lava flow. That could either be done by our base in Hilo or Volcano.

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2 NIGHTS in VOLCANO VILLAGE in which we intend to do the following:

- Hike along Kilauea Iki Trail
- Visit Nāhuku / Thurston Lava Tube
- Mt. Kilauea Tour and/or Crater Rim Drive if accessible

- Maybe a trip to Paradise Meadows Orchard & Bee Farm in Naʻālehu combined with a stop at Papakōlea Green Sand Beach (though it's low priority)

There seems to be less to do in this nat'l park w/o committing to serious day hikes, so I guess this will afford us more time to just lounge around our cottage rental (which is advertised as being situated right at the egde of the rain forest) and enjoying the nature and scenery, or maybe driving out to Pāhoa to try and tour the lava flows from Volcano rather than Hilo


And lastly... I'd really love to somehow integrate the Waipi’o Valley into this itinerary... a day on horseback through the jungle to Hi'ilawe Falls and drive up to the lookout point. Should we spend a night in this are after we leave Volcano? We could drive around the southern part of the island (towards Capt Cook) and try to spend our last night somewhere just north of Wimea so we could explore the Waipi’o Valley on our final day... alternatively, if I add another night at Mauna Kea at the very beginning of our trip, it looks to be a relatively short/easy drive to Waipo'o and we'd have more time to do that w/o feeling rushed.

I want this trip to be really relaxing and laid back so I want to be sure to spend enough time in each location that it doesn't feel like we're running around trying to see a million things every day. What are your thoughts on the itinerary so far? Would another night in Hilo be useful? If I were to extend our time at Mauna Kea by a night, should we do it at the beginning or end of the trip?

Thanks so much!!
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Old May 5, 18, 3:50 am
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
PS: How often does this occur in Volcanoes Nat'l Park? Are there regular evacuations or is this considered quite rare / hasn't happened in many years? If this is something that happens every few years in varying magnitudes, can anyone anticipate what the damage to infrastructure would look like and how many months before roads are repaired following eruptions?
You can google most of this. It is pretty common, although not so much that it pops up in a residential area. A couple of years ago it caused havoc in Pahoa, almost taking out the transfer station. It is pretty cool to stop and look at how it surrounded the station, came right down to it, then stopped. They cannot fix the roads until the event ceases, which who knows when would happen....

Last edited by tatterdema; May 5, 18 at 4:26 am
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Old May 5, 18, 10:52 am
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What sounds like a better itinerary:

Fly in/out of Kona:
- 5 nights @ Mauna Kea
- 2 nights in Hilo (possibly extend to 3 nts)
- 2 nights in Volcano
- 2 nights @ Mauna Kea

...or...

Fly in Kona/fly out TBD:
- 7 nights @ Mauna Kea
- 2 nights in Hilo (possibly extend to 3 nts)
- 2 nights in Volcano


If spending 7 nights in Mauna Kea would it be relatively easy and convenient to visit Waipi’o Valley or even take a day trip to Pāpa'ikou area (Botanical Gardens, etc) so that our time in Hilo is a bit more relaxed and not so busy with sightseeing? I know the obvious solution would just be to extend our stay in Hilo, but I have enough Marriott points for an extra night add-on and I want to burn through them before the big devaluation; plus Mauna Kea looks like a spectacular property and I'd be happy to stay longer!

Last edited by OliverB; May 5, 18 at 11:23 am
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Old May 5, 18, 11:40 am
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Is Brown's Beach House comparable to Canoehouse? I generally tend to avoid hotel restaurants but it does look like one of the better choices around. What about Hualalai Grille at the FS? Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe?
...
It's really a shame about Canoehouse as that definitely seemed like the best food on the island. I hope the chefs and kitchen staff are able to relocate and get in a similar groove. Most of the nicer places I'm finding around Waimea and Kailua-Kona really do look like they cater to a tourist driven market. I've yet to find anything that seems special. Maybe we'll just go back to Merrimens a few times if that ends up being the bets there is!
Having been to both, I'd put Canoehouse on equal standing with Brown's Beach House. They both serve great food, and the views are amazing at sunset. Be sure to make a reservation in advance to get a front row seat. Right next to Brown's Beach House is Hale Kai Restaurant, a more relaxed, casual restaurant, the prices there are a bit cheaper, and if you get there early enough, a table with a wonderful view of the ocean.

Merrimans in Waimea was all around a fantastic experience, the food was done perfectly, very attentive staff, and I took home a 1lb bag of Harens coffee beans that they had for sale (a fantastic coffee that they serve there). I'd rate it higher than Canoehouse and Brown's beach house for the food, but unfortunately you don't get to enjoy some amazing sunset views.

If you're going down to Four Seasons, then definitely go to Residents' Beach House. It used to be exclusive for local residents in the community, but they have since opened it up to the public. Reservations are definitely necessary for this restaurant.
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Old May 5, 18, 11:50 am
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
What sounds like a better itinerary:

Fly in/out of Kona:
- 5 nights @ Mauna Kea
- 2 nights in Hilo (possibly extend to 3 nts)
- 2 nights in Volcano
- 2 nights @ Mauna Kea

...or...

Fly in Kona/fly out TBD:
- 7 nights @ Mauna Kea
- 2 nights in Hilo (possibly extend to 3 nts)
- 2 nights in Volcano


If spending 7 nights in Mauna Kea would it be relatively easy and convenient to visit Waipio Valley or even take a day trip to Pāpa'ikou area (Botanical Gardens, etc) so that our time in Hilo is a bit more relaxed and not so busy with sightseeing? I know the obvious solution would just be to extend our stay in Hilo, but I have enough Marriott points for an extra night add-on and I want to burn through them before the big devaluation; plus Mauna Kea looks like a spectacular property and I'd be happy to stay longer!
Our last trip of 8 nights, we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid for 6 nights in an oceanfront room, then stayed at the Doubletree Hotel in Hilo, then came back for one more night at the Fairmont Orchid in a cheaper category room that I knew was going to be available to me for a late checkout since my return flight was later in the evening (fabulous hotel BTW). We tried to minimize the back and forth across the island, from one side to the other can take several hours by car, especially if you stop along the way, and traffic can be heavy driving through Hilo at certain times of day. Keep in mind that it rains a lot on the Hilo side of the island, so keep your plans flexible. We lucked out and had clear skies for the two days we were on that side of the island.
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