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Three Island visit assistance/BI questions

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Hi,
We're arriving in Honolulu from Chicago around midnight on January 1. We'll spend that night and three more, leaving on January 5 for Maui.

We are on Maui until the afternoon of January 11. We'll be there to visit friends and attend an event.

Our plan is to then fly to the Big Island with our friends who live on Maui, landing in Hilo. We leave for home from the Kona side on January 17. So, we have 6 nights on the BI.

We are two couples, active, well-travelled, who enjoy beaches, but also culture. We want to definitely visit Volcano National Park when on BI.

So, questions:
Like many others, we're unsure if we should stay in Volcano Village or Hilo. Is Volcano Village really tiny? I do enjoy walking around a new town, and maybe Hilo has more of that.

One or two nights in the area?

The rest of the time in the Kona area, I think, but I am open to other ideas. We'll certainly have done plenty of beach time in Maui, though we can always do more. I like the idea of visiting some of the old, small towns, and less touristed parts of Hawaii. A suggestion was made to head to the NW.

Any ideas are welcome, and thanks in advance!

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