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Help with Kauai and Big Island itinerary

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Hello all,

We have an 8 day/8 night Hawaii trip coming up around Christmas with our 2 kids. We are flying out to Lihue, Kauai and flying out of Kona. The Delta flights and rental cars are reserved. Beyond that not much has been planned. We have already visited Oahu and Maui. We have a number of questions regarding the itinerary.

- Given that we only have 8 (full) days, how do we split the time between the 2 islands? We were thinking 5 nights in Kauai and 3 nights in Big Island (seems short, but we don't have a choice).

- From LIH, should we fly into Hilo or Kona? We need to decide this first so we can book the lodging and inter-island flight.

- We definitely want to see the volcano (main reason to go to B.I). We have hotel reserved at Kona for 3 nights (part of vacation package), but I am not sure if that will work fine. It looks like Kona is 3-3.5 hours away from the park. Can we view the volcano in the evening and make it to Kona? At what time can you see the red lava flowing into the sea?

- One option is to stay near Hilo for a night or two and then stay in Kona for a day for our return (9 PM flight departure back home). Is that more practical? The inter-island air is not booked yet, so we are flexible. A rental car is available for pickup at Hilo and drop off at Kona.

- Ideally, where should we stay at Kauai and Big Island? We have to stay at least one night at Kona (Pacific Beach Hotel) as part of the package. Are vacation rentals pretty safe?

- Apart from the volcano, our main interests are exploring the beaches (coming from the Upper Midwest), shallow snorkeling (not everyone is a good swimmer in our family), a little hiking and tours/sights unique to HI. What are the must-see sights?

- Can we drive to VNP in our rental car (either from Hilo or Kona) or is it better to take a tour?

Thanks in advance

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