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Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Big Island in December - Questions and Recommendations

Old May 13, 18, 10:53 pm
  #46  
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Originally Posted by tatterdema View Post
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.
Thanks so much for this info! The Mauna Kea Hotel also attracts the mantas with lights; it's a nightly ritual and they have a dedicated viewing area, which is why I thought it could get a bit crowded and possibly feel artificial compared to the boat tour. The Mauna Kea manta area also doesn't seem to be out in open waters. Did you get a chance to check out the videos above? It looks to me like some sort of landscaped gentle lagoon that's protected by reef and it's also why I asked if the boat tours were likely to feel more adventurous or exciting. I could be off track but something about the hotel footage seemed a bit Disneyland 20,000 Leagues. I'm not sure if the area is man-made and dug out by the hotel, if it's the way the coastline shaped naturally, or it could just be that the videos are all shot from the above viewing area which gives it a framed sort of aquarium feel, but seeing families of tourists lazily floating in the moonlit waters of the pacific with their kids and right in front of a prominent resort hotel which usually has restrictions about that sort of thing, seemed really unusual to me.
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Old May 13, 18, 11:25 pm
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No, sorry, I cannot view the videos on the computer I have right now, lol, I can barely type. I can say that I have heard good things about the Manta viewing there though, and would not hesitate to do a guided tour there, I just would not do it on my own. The Fairwinds one is right off of the Sheraton, in fact the lights from the Sheraton draw them, so it sounds similar. The tour operator provided wet suits, and I would not have lasted very long without wearing one. Not sure why it was so cold, I can swim in the ocean in Hawaii for hours, but only about 45 minutes in the water, even with the wet suit on, and I was blue when I got out. They had a hot shower, soup, and hot chocolate if I remember right, for when we got back on the boat.

ok, I got the videos to play. The first ones are nothing at all like what I saw. Like you say, it looks protected or something. Still, if it is the one at Mauna Kea, I have heard good things, I just would be careful and ask around before going it alone. The one I did with Fairwinds was more like the last video. The water was very deep, and a diver went to the bottom with huge lights shining upwards. We has a large raft to hang onto, and there were fairly large swells. The night I went, we only saw 2, and only for about 5 minutes, but it was exactly like that video. They looped under us, almost brushing my chest. It is amazing when they are coming at you with their mouth open, and you can see all the way into their body.

Last edited by tatterdema; May 13, 18 at 11:40 pm
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Old Jun 5, 18, 3:15 pm
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I'm surprised no one suggested Mauna Kea visitors' center at night for star gazing. It is the only place on Earth where you can see 80% of the stars and both North Star and Southern Cross at the same time. Visitors' center 9000 ft elevation is high, but not a problem for anyone used to skiing at Mammoth. Mauna Kea summit is totally different story regarding altitude sickness. The one time we went up to the top I was out of breath just walking faster than normal, and it took a while to catch my breath.

We'll be going to the Big Island just before Christmas and we plan to go back to Mauna Kea for start gazing. I might consider going back to the top and take it easy.
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Old Jun 5, 18, 4:29 pm
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Originally Posted by CIT85 View Post
I'm surprised no one suggested Mauna Kea visitors' center at night for star gazing. It is the only place on Earth where you can see 80% of the stars and both North Star and Southern Cross at the same time. Visitors' center 9000 ft elevation is high, but not a problem for anyone used to skiing at Mammoth. Mauna Kea summit is totally different story regarding altitude sickness. The one time we went up to the top I was out of breath just walking faster than normal, and it took a while to catch my breath.

We'll be going to the Big Island just before Christmas and we plan to go back to Mauna Kea for start gazing. I might consider going back to the top and take it easy.
I would love to do the star gazing myself, but I got altitude sickness at the visitor center last year. Lol, unfortunately I will never be turning on that road again while driving the saddle road. It was the scariest health related issue I have ever experienced. Luckily I recognized what was going on and got back down to the saddle road before it got too serious.

I do recommend every one at least try it though, it was cool (in more ways than one) up there. I wanted to watch the movie, but couldn't stay long enough to. It is a good suggestion for Oliver also, since most likely his entire trip will need to be retweaked due to the volcano. Staying on the Hilo side at all might be pointless if things keep going the way they are.

Last edited by tatterdema; Jun 5, 18 at 5:18 pm
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Old Jun 5, 18, 5:37 pm
  #50  
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Norwegian Cruise drops calls to Big Island indefinitely

https://www.usatoday.com/story/trave...and/673806002/
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Old Oct 8, 18, 12:18 am
  #51  
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I can't believe it's already October! We're taking off for the Big Island in about 6-7 weeks and I'm just touching up our itinerary now. I've left much of it open-ended because who needs planning in paradise... I do have a quick question for anyone who can answer: would you consider the (approx hour long) drive from Waimea to Kapaʻau worth the time and effort, if only to see the Pololu Valley Lookout? In other words, if not descending into the valley or doing anything else in the area, would you still suggest it a worthwhile destination if afforded the time? We'll already be driving roughly 20 min. from the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to the Waimea Town/Homestead Farmer's Markets on a Saturday morning, and since we're already a lot closer than our hotel and we have no other plans to drive along the mountain road (HWY-250), I thought it might be an option, depending on how we're feeling. I just wanted to weigh input from others on the forum to determine whether or not it's something we should prioritize. Also, would the 250 (mountain route) from Waimea Town be more interesting/scenic than taking the 270 (coastal route) from our hotel? If we only had time for one drive to the Kohala Coast, would you suggest the 250 or 270?

Mahalo!
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Old Oct 8, 18, 1:55 am
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
I can't believe it's already October! We're taking off for the Big Island in about 6-7 weeks and I'm just touching up our itinerary now. I've left much of it open-ended because who needs planning in paradise... I do have a quick question for anyone who can answer: would you consider the (approx hour long) drive from Waimea to Kapaʻau worth the time and effort, if only to see the Pololu Valley Lookout? In other words, if not descending into the valley or doing anything else in the area, would you still suggest it a worthwhile destination if afforded the time? We'll already be driving roughly 20 min. from the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel to the Waimea Town/Homestead Farmer's Markets on a Saturday morning, and since we're already a lot closer than our hotel and we have no other plans to drive along the mountain road (HWY-250), I thought it might be an option, depending on how we're feeling. I just wanted to weigh input from others on the forum to determine whether or not it's something we should prioritize. Also, would the 250 (mountain route) from Waimea Town be more interesting/scenic than taking the 270 (coastal route) from our hotel? If we only had time for one drive to the Kohala Coast, would you suggest the 250 or 270?

Mahalo!
I've never gone there, but I distinctly recall my first Big Island visit some 43 years ago, and getting to the Waipio overlook. It was a great vista that bring back fond memories.

For me, it depends on your next best alternative for that hour or so--do you really want more time on the beach?

Do enjoy your trip, and be careful driving on the Big Island--there are some really horrendous drivers there.
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Old Oct 8, 18, 10:41 am
  #53  
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Thanks. Just to be clear, I'm asking about the Pololu Valley Lookout; not the Waipio, which we'll definitely be visiting on a short detour from Waimea while driving along the Hamakua Coast to Pepeekeo, Papaikou, and eventually, Hilo. This will be on the morning we check-out from the Mauna Kea. We'll be having an early brunch in Waimea, then continuing to the lookout, then hitting the 270 and driving down to 'Akaka Falls, then taking the Onomea Scenic Drive along the Old Mamalahoa Hwy w/ a road stop at Whats Shakin farm stand for fresh fruit/smoothies, followed by an afternoon visit to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden; all before arriving at Hilo and checking into our guest cottage.

Re. Pololu Valley: we would be visiting from the other side of the island during the early part of our trip, if we decide to go. We have one full week (7 nights) at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel before we continue down the coast to Hilo for 2 nights and then Volcano for our final two. We plan on spending 2-3 days lounging at Mauna Kea + Hapuna Beach and the rest of those 7 days will be spent driving down the Kona coast, exploring other beaches, sites, trails, etc. (I have a long list). I figure that if we're going to visit Pololu at all, it would be best to do so from the town of Waimea, since it's in the same relative direction (if taking the mountain road) and we have a few casual lunch spots to visit in Waimea anyhow. I'm just wondering if the hour-long drive (each way) along the mountain road is worth our time, just for the scenery and Pololu Lookout?

Also can anyone point me to the most reliable website for monitoring the lava flows at Pāhoa?

I would like to try and plan a lava boat tour, if possible -- would you suggest morning/sunrise or evening/sunset for the ideal experience?


PS - Can Google Maps generally be relied upon for driving directions across the entire island or is the WiFi signal spotty in the rain forest? Should I rent a separate GPS navigation w/ Avis? I've read a lot about car break-ins on the island so I wasn't planning on doing so, but...

One more question (sorry!) -- in researching lava tours, I've decided that a helicopter would be a lore more comfortable, convenient and most importantly SAFER than a boat tour.

My concern is that many reviews from 2018 report that lava sightings have been somewhat disappointing because the flow is being redirected through some new fissure vent offering much less dramatic views. I want this to be a relaxing holiday and I'm already wary of booking too much, but I also feel that we should see an actual volcano while on a tropical island w/ one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Is it worth the $300/person cost to take an early morning chopper ride from Hilo? I've been in a helicopter once as a child and I'm not especially enthusiastic about the whole idea but I could be swayed... would it be crazy to not do either while in the Hilo/Pahoa/Volcano area? Will we have any opportunities to view lava flows (w/o excruciating mountain hikes) while spending 2 nights in Volcano Nat'l Park? We'll be driving all over the place in those 2 days; Chain of Craters Road and Crater Rim Drive, Kīlauea Iki and Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube), etc. I'm guessing that we probably won't be seeing any active lava flows in these sections of the park, right? If you've taken a memorable helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian or any other carrier/outfitter, could you please describe the experience and the specifics of why you enjoyed it so much?

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Oct 11, 18 at 5:17 am Reason: consecutive posts merged
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Old Oct 8, 18, 12:57 pm
  #54  
 
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Also can anyone point me to the most reliable website for monitoring the lava flows at Pāhoa?

I would like to try and plan a lava boat tour, if possible -- would you suggest morning/sunrise or evening/sunset for the ideal experience?


PS - Can Google Maps generally be relied upon for driving directions across the entire island or is the WiFi signal spotty in the rain forest? Should I rent a separate GPS navigation w/ Avis? I've read a lot about car break-ins on the island so I wasn't planning on doing so, but...
Try poking around here:

https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/

Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Also can anyone point me to the most reliable website for monitoring the lava flows at Pāhoa?

I would like to try and plan a lava boat tour, if possible -- would you suggest morning/sunrise or evening/sunset for the ideal experience?


PS - Can Google Maps generally be relied upon for driving directions across the entire island or is the WiFi signal spotty in the rain forest? Should I rent a separate GPS navigation w/ Avis? I've read a lot about car break-ins on the island so I wasn't planning on doing so, but...
There is no wifi in the rainforest, unless someone has a hotspot. There is GPS, and generally this signal is not blocked by rain or trees. There is pretty good cell reception, but you should check your provider's coverage map.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Oct 11, 18 at 5:18 am Reason: consecutive posts merged
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Old Oct 9, 18, 3:20 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
One more question (sorry!) -- in researching lava tours, I've decided that a helicopter would be a lore more comfortable, convenient and most importantly SAFER than a boat tour.

My concern is that many reviews from 2018 report that lava sightings have been somewhat disappointing because the flow is being redirected through some new fissure vent offering much less dramatic views. I want this to be a relaxing holiday and I'm already wary of booking too much, but I also feel that we should see an actual volcano while on a tropical island w/ one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Is it worth the $300/person cost to take an early morning chopper ride from Hilo? I've been in a helicopter once as a child and I'm not especially enthusiastic about the whole idea but I could be swayed... would it be crazy to not do either while in the Hilo/Pahoa/Volcano area? Will we have any opportunities to view lava flows (w/o excruciating mountain hikes) while spending 2 nights in Volcano Nat'l Park? We'll be driving all over the place in those 2 days; Chain of Craters Road and Crater Rim Drive, Kīlauea Iki and Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube), etc. I'm guessing that we probably won't be seeing any active lava flows in these sections of the park, right? If you've taken a memorable helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian or any other carrier/outfitter, could you please describe the experience and the specifics of why you enjoyed it so much?
Um, you may want to check your data, but there are NO active lava flows that are currently viewable anywhere on the Big Island, in fact the USGS/HVO has recently lowered the alert levels to the lowest it's been for years. I think you would be disappointed to spend $$$ on a helicopter tour of silent lava fields! I'd rather take an airplane tour of the entire island, so much to see! Also, HVNP is once again open, and it's a sight to behold the changes that have transpired over the past few months!
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Old Oct 12, 18, 5:27 pm
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Thanks so much, Arthurrs!

That saves us a lot of time and money... and we don't need any airplane tours, we'll do fine by car and foot!

Could anyone give me an idea of what sort of packing we should plan for Hilo and Volcano during the first week of December?

I'm planning to just pack shorts and swim trunks for the Kona side during the daytime w/ some very lightweight seersucker & cotton madras half-sleeve shirts and popovers. A rayon aloha shirt and pair of old cotton twill army chinos for the evenings, plus an old linen Brooks Bros sack jacket for the occasional "nicer" meal (Merrimans, Browns Beach House, etc). Maybe a lightweight vintage cotton harrington style windbreaker for cooler afternoons.

What about the other side of the island though? Will shorts and swim trunks still work? Will I need some sort of rain coat? Should I pack long sleeves for the evenings?

Would something like this be appropriate for rainy weather or do you suppose that canvas would be too heavy?
https://www.etsy.com/listing/5687451...k-rainproofed?

Could anyone describe what the tropical rain is like on the Hilo/Volcano side? My limited experience of seasonal afternoon tropical storms in Miami (that typically blow past in an hour or two) is all that I have to go by...

Would something like this waxed canvas rain poncho seem better suited for our time in the rain forest?
https://www.carriercompany.co.uk/pro...long-rain-cape
(also looking at old wwii anoraks on ebay)

FTR, we're spending 2 nights in Hilo + 2 nights in Volcano
(after our initial week on the milder side of the isle)

Lastly, I'm wary about packing a lot of clothing as I don't want to be hauling luggage all over the place and I've read about rental car break-ins so I'm hoping to just bring one pair of knock-around shoes + a pair of espadrilles for the beach. Do you suppose I can get away with canvas CVO style sneakers in nicer restaurants? It feels really dumb to pack a pair of heavier dress shoes just for a couple of meals when it will just consume space and add weight to our luggage.

Thanks!!

PS -- forgot to ask about the 'high country' around Waimea where we'll be having dinners and occasional meals. Will a button down shirt be fine in the evenings w/ cotton twill chinos or do I need something heavier to layer over like a Pendleton Topster?

Last edited by OliverB; Oct 12, 18 at 7:35 pm
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Old Oct 12, 18, 9:17 pm
  #57  
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WTH are "popovers" and "topsters"? Brit talk?

I take 2 pair of shorts, 3 or 4 short sleeve shirts, 1 pair athletic shoes, flip-flops (sandals), underwear & a light jacket. Keep it simple. There are only a couple fancy restaurants in the Kohala area that require "resort wear" (nice shorts or slacks and a nice golf shirt/aloha shirt). Keep it simple. I can fit all I need in a 22" roller bag. Then I just wash clothes every 3 or 4 days.

Last edited by philemer; Oct 13, 18 at 11:45 am
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Old Oct 13, 18, 12:53 pm
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Haha definitely not Brit talk. Popover is just a pullover buttoned shirt (half placket) and a Pendleton Topster is what I'm wearing below:



I'm not concerned about the sunny side of the isle; that's easy -- I'll just be packing beach wear! It's the rain forest side (Hilo/Volcano) that I'm trying to figure out. I have no idea what to expect for December weather. Likewise evening in the high country; I understand it can drop like 20 degrees and get quite cool at night. Is it dumb/unnecessary to pack a linen sports coat?
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Old Oct 13, 18, 1:49 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Haha definitely not Brit talk. Popover is just a pullover buttoned shirt (half placket) and a Pendleton Topster is what I'm wearing below:



I'm not concerned about the sunny side of the isle; that's easy -- I'll just be packing beach wear! It's the rain forest side (Hilo/Volcano) that I'm trying to figure out. I have no idea what to expect for December weather. Likewise evening in the high country; I understand it can drop like 20 degrees and get quite cool at night. Is it dumb/unnecessary to pack a linen sports coat?
Having a coat is always useful - even on cold plane flights. And the Hilo side gets more rain and is cooler than the Kona side.

Pack light for warm weather as you already are planning and then you can always go shopping if you want or need to augment your wardrobe.

Know that if you are going to walk on lava, closed toes shoes that may get a bit torn up are essential. And the big island is all lava. Even adjacent to most/all beaches.

David
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Old Oct 13, 18, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by OliverB View Post
Haha definitely not Brit talk. Popover is just a pullover buttoned shirt (half placket) and a Pendleton Topster is what I'm wearing below:



I'm not concerned about the sunny side of the isle; that's easy -- I'll just be packing beach wear! It's the rain forest side (Hilo/Volcano) that I'm trying to figure out. I have no idea what to expect for December weather. Likewise evening in the high country; I understand it can drop like 20 degrees and get quite cool at night. Is it dumb/unnecessary to pack a linen sports coat?
Forget the sports jacket. Just bring a light jacket to ward off the rain. And it will also keep you warm when the temp drops to 55-60 degrees at night. Maybe also a light sweater (pullover or cardigan). Sounds like popover is the same as a golf shirt in my lingo. Pullover, 3 buttons and a collar. I googled the words 'popover' and 'pullover' and nothing matched a shirt or jacket.

Your Pendleton jacket, while beautiful, will scream "tourist" in HI. And it will absorb rain. With all the rain on the Hilo side just bring a light rain jacket. Enjoy the trip. We love the BI for all the diversity.
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Last edited by philemer; Oct 13, 18 at 1:59 pm
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