Remember last month when I took that whirlwind trip to the Big Island? It was INCREDIBLE. The Big Island is everything you read about: diverse landscapes, amazing beaches, tons of adventures. Keep reading to hear more about my trip, get tons of advice and see a few snaps of my adventures!
We stayed near Hapuna Beach on the west coast of the island (a great spot for beach days) and rented a car to get around. There are lots of tour and transportation options (including hotel shuttles!) to food/shopping/sights, but I like the flexibility and convenience of being able to get behind the wheel and explore on my own. You’ll notice that some of my recommendations are a bit off the beaten path, but very easy to find with a car!
Mountain Thunder Cafe at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel: Our favorite spot, we didn’t miss a morning. Incredible coffee, of course. But also a great place to lounge and relax with your cup, reading a book or checking some email.
Kohala Coffee Mill: Grab a tasty mocha at this sweet stop on a shop-lined street in Hawi on your way to or from the Kap’a Beach Park (below!) The town is small and quaint, which also makes it great for souvenir shopping at a relaxed pace.
Farmer’s Market at Kings Shops: WED (8am to 2pm) Friendly vendors with high-quality and in-season fruit offerings at very fair prices. YUM.
Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill: The best meal we had on the island! A simple prix fixe menu with something for everyone and attentive staff. Save this one for a fancy night.
Sleep: We loved staying in Puako, about 30 minutes north of the Kailua-Kona airport. The location is great for easy shopping, gorgeous beaches and close access to some of the best activities on the island.
Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel: Don’t be fooled when you turn away from the coast at the entrance- once you wind down the amazing private road, this property has one of the most beautiful beaches mere steps away from each guest room. While the furnishings aren’t the most modern available on the island, the price is great and the staff is incredibly attentive. Upper floors will get you a great view of the sunset, lower floors put you closer to the beach and pool area.
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel: Site of our favorite coffee spot on the island, we also ate breakfast and walked the beach here. We loved the service and how manicured and well-kept the grounds were.
Mauna Kea: I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you need to visit this amazing inactive volcano. Rental car contracts become void if you ascend past the information center, so don’t get carried away. (Still not convinced? Take a peek at the posted warning signs about what can happen without 4WD.) Also- they’re NOT LYING about the temperature. Long pants and long sleeves and a sweater will go a LONG way. The night we visited dipped to about 40 degrees (F) before the sun went down and even colder after.
To make sure you’re in time to watch the sunset, plan to arrive at least 60 minutes prior. You won’t miss the groups of folks hiking up the hill across from the information center to score prime viewing spots, but you can also head inside for some snacks (candy, obviously) and neat information about Mauna Kea and what makes it so special.
Kap’a Beach Park: Not a BEACH so much as a PARK so don’t even bother packing a suit. Instead, grab a coffee or pack a simple snack lunch and wear some sneakers for incredible waves and whale watching.
The Painted Church: Recommended for both the adorable church at the end of the line and the great views and experience of driving south of Kailua-Kona. The church itself is tiny and lovely and it sits on a sloped hill with views to the expansive ocean.
The fun doesn’t start and end with the church, however. The drive there and back is so much fun- tons of small towns to explore, tasty burgers to try and a real tropical environment to cruise through. Plan to spend the whole day and stop at any spot that catches your eye. Plus- did I mention the honor system road side fruit stands?!
Are you visiting the Big Island? Have questions about the other islands? (Kauai, my favorite? Maybe Maui?) I’m happy to help! Send an email or leave a comment and I’ll do what I can!
If you’ve visited Hawaii, what was YOUR favorite part? I’ll definitely add it to my list for my next trip back! And if you HAVEN’T been… I think you need to start saving those pennies. 🙂