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Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Old May 5, 18, 12:01 pm
  #31  
 
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
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!!
We took a brief visit to the lookout at Waipi'o Valley, what an incredible sight! I wanted to do the hike down into the valley, but we were too pooped out from our lava field hike from the night before to even venture down the 2000 ft change in elevation, going down wouldn't be so bad, but then you have to hike it back up!! LOL! Definitely on our bucket list for our next visit to the island. But plan at least 1/2 day for the experience!
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Old May 5, 18, 12:20 pm
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Arthurrs View Post
We took a brief visit to the lookout at Waipi'o Valley, what an incredible sight! I wanted to do the hike down into the valley, but we were too pooped out from our lava field hike from the night before to even venture down the 2000 ft change in elevation, going down wouldn't be so bad, but then you have to hike it back up!! LOL! Definitely on our bucket list for our next visit to the island. But plan at least 1/2 day for the experience!
I think there are horseback outfitters who offer trips into the valley, which is definitely the way we'd chose to do it!

What part of the island did you base yourself out of when you visited Waipi'o? We're thinking of spending a 1/2 day and coming from Waimea (Mauna Kea).
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Old May 5, 18, 12:38 pm
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We visited Waipi'o Valley on our way back from Hilo to the Fairmont Orchid for our final night of our stay. Beautiful drive up the coast from Hilo!
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Old May 5, 18, 2:30 pm
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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 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!
I personally would never schedule 5 (or even 4) nights on the Hilo side of the Island. Depending on time of year, you could easily spend 5 days of non stop rain. I would not split up a stay between Hilo and Volcano either. They are only about a half hour drive apart, just in my opinion, not worth moving over. I stayed way out in Lower Puna and visited VNP just fine.

Do spend time in the Tsunami Museum. I loved it and want to go back.
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Old May 5, 18, 4:13 pm
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Originally Posted by tatterdema View Post
I personally would never schedule 5 (or even 4) nights on the Hilo side of the Island. Depending on time of year, you could easily spend 5 days of non stop rain. I would not split up a stay between Hilo and Volcano either. They are only about a half hour drive apart, just in my opinion, not worth moving over. I stayed way out in Lower Puna and visited VNP just fine.

Do spend time in the Tsunami Museum. I loved it and want to go back.
Thanks so much, this is really helpful!

I ended up extending our stay at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, so we're now spending 7 straight nights at the start of our trip. I figure that should offer plenty of time to not only lounge around the property and enjoy the beaches & sights in and around Waimea/Kailua-Kona, but also lend enough time to explore the northern and eastern coastlines with some 1/2 day trips down to Captain Cook/Honaunau and also up to Waipi’o. I think a full week should be more than enough to visit Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau and Kealakekua Bay, tour the historic Kona coffee farm, horseback ride in Waipi’o Valley... plus a couple of chartered sea adventures: dolphin swim, manta rays, snorkeling, etc.

As for splitting nights between Hilo and Volcano, I really would prefer to minimize driving so that we could see and do more in each location. I think it'd be worth it alone to experience the sunrise and sunset in Volcano w/o all of the day visitors. I find there's something really special about wandering through nat'l parks after hours. The accommodations are also fun and unique to each location; in Hilo we've booked an old 1910s guest cottage that Jack London purportedly stayed in, and in Volcano we're situated right at the edge of the rain forest in a historic cottage with an outdoor hot tub surrounded by jungle. The nice thing about both places being in close proximity is that I don't have to worry too much about trying to do everything in Hilo because we could always drive back and forth.

I think on the drive into Hilo from Waimea, we'll try to detour onto the Pepeekeo scenic route and visit the Botanical Gardens in the same day. The next day we'll visit both beaches (Carlsmith/Richardson) and the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Maybe Rainbow Falls if there's time as well. Otherwise, we'll visit the falls on the last day before continuing to Volcano. Perhaps we'll return from Volcano one morning or afternoon to explore ʻAkaka Falls State Park also.

Over our two nights in Volcano, we'll mostly stick to activities in VNP; trail hikes & tours of the park, lava tube cave, etc. We'll also try to experience the lava flows off the Pāhoa coastline, if the timing is right. Maybe also visit a farm/orchard in the area too.

Does that all sound pretty reasonable and doable within our allotted time?

Our new dates are December 6th until 17th.

12/06 - SFO to Kona
12/06-12/13 @ Mauna Kea Beach
12/13-12/15 @ Hilo
12/15-12/17 @ Volcano
12/17 - Kona/Hilo to SFO
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Old May 5, 18, 11:08 pm
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Does anyone have experience with the Avis at Kona airport?

Is it really this bad?
https://www.yelp.com/biz/avis-kailua-kona-2
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Old May 6, 18, 1:16 am
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Does anyone have experience with the Avis at Kona airport?

Is it really this bad?
https://www.yelp.com/biz/avis-kailua-kona-2
I've never had a bad experience with Avis at Kona Airport, and have used them numerous times.
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Old May 6, 18, 8:21 am
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I just discovered that our entire stay overlaps with the Mauna Kea's 44th Annual Pro-Am golf tournament, which falls over the exact same dates as our visit. I'm wondering whether we should expect the hotel to be really busy as a result? I originally booked for early December to beat the holiday vacation crowds. We're booked on an award stay with a cash and points upgrade to an Ocean View room, but I contacted the hotel's room sales manager about paying the rack rate difference for a Dlx Ocean Front, which I was told would be possible but can't be arranged in advance of our stay; it's pending availability. Is there a pretty strong likelihood that the hotel will be sold out during this period due to the golf tournament?

EDIT: I've decided to change our dates so that we arrive 11/29 and check out on 12/06 in order to avoid the golf tournament and ensure (as best I can) availability in the deluxe oceanfront room category that we're looking to upgrade to. I was able to avoid paying United's change fees so it all worked out!

Last edited by OliverB; May 6, 18 at 9:40 am
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Old May 6, 18, 10:00 am
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I have used Dollar, Alamo and Avis several times each. No problems with any. Your schedule sounds like fun. Just a couple things that you might not be aware of.... Thurston Lava Tubes is small. I was there a half hour, and it was plenty of time. I do not see you mentioning Chain of Craters Rd. I would definately put that on my list, and it can take a full day, or not.

While on the other side, make sure to go the other direction to the other end of the Island as well. I did not do that until my last trip, and regret it. It is beautiful and really rural, with little parks, scenic churches, and a lookout to rival Waipio, that you can hike easier. Drive through Kawaihae then stop at Lapakahi park, Mahukona park, Kapaa park, down to the Upolu Point Coast Guard park, Halawa and the King Kamehameha Statue, and finally Pololu lookout, where you can hike down.
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Old May 9, 18, 2:47 am
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Old May 9, 18, 2:55 am
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I have done the drive up to Mauna Kea several times (and almost made it to the top of Mauna Loa but weather got in the way.) It is a stunning drive and completely amazing to think that you're probably the highest person on the entire Pacific Ocean. If you decide to do this you'll need to consider whether you plan to do any diving before/after, and whether you have any altitude issues. I stay at the visitor's center for about 40 minutes or so, then make my way up slowly. I rented a 4x4 from a place in Hilo that used to advertise itself as the only place that rented cars permitted on the Saddle Road. I'm not sure that's true anymore since much (all?) of it was repaved and improved. PM me if you would like details but there is so much local advice here already that you seem good to go.
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Old May 10, 18, 3:26 am
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Originally Posted by LondonElite View Post
I have done the drive up to Mauna Kea several times (and almost made it to the top of Mauna Loa but weather got in the way.) It is a stunning drive and completely amazing to think that you're probably the highest person on the entire Pacific Ocean. If you decide to do this you'll need to consider whether you plan to do any diving before/after, and whether you have any altitude issues. I stay at the visitor's center for about 40 minutes or so, then make my way up slowly. I rented a 4x4 from a place in Hilo that used to advertise itself as the only place that rented cars permitted on the Saddle Road. I'm not sure that's true anymore since much (all?) of it was repaved and improved. PM me if you would like details but there is so much local advice here already that you seem good to go.
I cannot impress enough when someone warns about altitude issues, to listen to them. I had no idea that I did. My health is generally good. Not over weight. No breathing issues. When I got to the visitor center, I proceeded to walk like I had been drinking all day. I thought it would get better. I waited until about 25 or so minutes into it, my face felt like it was being pulled off, my head felt like it was going to burst open, I thought I was going to get a nose bleed, etc. Never experiences anything like it in my life. Face was rubbery feeling, just really weird. Headed down, and by the time I got to the bottom of the turnoff, to the main saddle road, it was back to normal.
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Old May 10, 18, 4:10 am
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That's exactly how a friend of mine explained it to me. I had none of those issues, even at the top.
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Old May 12, 18, 5:27 pm
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After doing some reading on the subject (and weighing our time and priorities on the island) I have no intention of going up to the Mauna Kea summit and it sounds like it could be extremely dangerous to do so in a regular 2wd rental anyhow, so that's definitely out. I appreciate all of your advice though!

I do have one question that would be really helpful -- I'm planning to book a dolphin swim with a tour outfitter called Hawaii Oceanic (#1 rated on TripAdvisor). They also offer a nighttime manta ray swim for $100+

Is there any good reason to book this versus just snorkeling ourselves at Mauna Kea Beach?

Initially, I assumed it had to be booked with a licensed tour operator as there was just no way that I could us jumping into the ocean at night alone... but I've since seen a number of videos on YouTube taken from the 'manta lookout' at the Mauna Kea Hotel which show families and young children in the water just floating around with the rays.

I'm wondering if we should do this ourselves as well, or if there's certain advantages of going out with a tour guide?

Can anyone tell me whether an operator like Hawaii Oceanic would take us out to a different and more secluded spot?

I would feel really dumb paying a tour company to take us in the water at Mauna Kea Beach, right outside our own hotel. We'll have our own snorkel sets (I've just bought 2 pairs of Cressi Superocchio goggles and I'll be picking up some fins as well-need to do more research first) so I'd rather not blow $200 USD if we can do it ourselves.

If the nighttime manta snorkel at Mauna Kea is going to feel like Disneyland though, with dozens of people in the water and even more looking down at us, and if an operator like H.O. would take us to a more isolated spot that feels a bit more "wild" or "natural" then perhaps I would consider adding that to our booking.

I'd really appreciate your input with this!


Option #1 = http://www.hawaiioceanic.com/Manta_R...orkel_Kona.php

Option #2 =
//
//


The following video (to my knowledge) is unrelated to Hawaii Oceanic, but I have to admit that it does look a lot more fun than just snorkeling off the shore of Mauna Kea Beach with a dozen families and kids all around:

What do you think; should I add a night tour with H.O. or should we just hop in the water ourselves by the hotel?

Last edited by OliverB; May 12, 18 at 5:55 pm
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Old May 13, 18, 9:26 pm
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I personally would never get in the ocean at night, without trained supervision. I am a very strong swimmer. Especially with children I would not consider it. I did the Fairwinds manta snorkel tour, and it is very much worth it. Adventure of a lifetime, so yes, I would do it, but only with a good tour company. Fairwinds goes from the marina by the Sheraton. It was a mad house out there, and I cannot imagine not having the gear that they provide. There were people in their own boats running into other people, trying to follow us and use our gear, etc. It can be very disorienting at night on the ocean, especially if the swells are up. Plus they know how to attract the Manta's, with lights, etc.
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