Big Island Hotels

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Big Island Hotel Reviews

Even among locals, there is an ongoing debate about which side of the Big Island is "better," so don't worry if you're having a tough time deciding where to stay. Our recommendation? Do both. Each side of the island offers a totally different range of accommodations, restaurants, and activities.

Consider staying at one of the resorts along the Kohala Coast or in a condo in Kailua-Kona for half of your trip. Then, shift gears and check into a romantic bed-and-breakfast on the Hamakua Coast or near the volcano. If you've got children in tow, opt for a vacation home or one of Hilo's family-friendly hotels. On the west coast, lounge on the pristine beaches and try some of the fine-dining restaurants; on the east, hike through rain forests, frolic in waterfalls, and go for a plate lunch.

Some locals like to say that the east is "more Hawaiian," but we argue that King Kamehameha himself made the west his last resting place, and Hawaiians have always loved the beach. Another reason to try a bit of both: your budget. You can justify splurging on a west coast resort for a few nights because you'll spend the rest of your time paying one-third that rate in the east. And although food at the resorts is very expensive (except for Kona Village, which is all-inclusive), you don't have to eat every meal there. Condos and vacation homes can be ideal for a family trip or for a group of friends looking to save money and live like locals for a week or two. Many of the homes also have private pools and/or hot tubs, lanai, ocean views, and more; you can go as budget or as high-end as you like.

If you choose a bed-and-breakfast, inn, or an out-of-the-way hotel, explain your expectations fully and ask plenty of questions before booking. Be clear about your travel and location needs. Some places require stays of two or three days. When booking, ask about car-rental arrangements, as many bed-and-breakfast networks offer discounted rates. No matter where you stay, you'll want to rent a car—preferably one with four-wheel drive. This is imperative for getting to some of the best beaches and really seeing the island. However, some rental car companies do have restrictions about taking their vehicles to certain Big Island scenic spots, so make sure to ask about rules before you book.

Members of the Big Island-based Hawaii Island Bed & Breakfast Association www.stayhawaii.com are listed with phone numbers and rates in a comprehensive online brochure. In order to join this network, bed-and-breakfasts must be evaluated and meet fairly stringent minimum requirements, including a yearly walk-through by association officers, to maintain their membership.

Other bed-and-breakfast associations include Hawaii's Best Bed & Breakfasts (808/985-7488 or 800/262-9912 www.bestbnb.com).

For information on camping at county parks, including Spencer Beach Park, contact the Department of Parks and Recreation (25 Aupuni St., Hilo 808/961-8311 www.hawaii-county.com).

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