Big Island Activities?

Jul 13th, 2009, 06:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Big Island Activities?

We have decided to check out the Big Island in early november. Was wondering what would be some worth while things to do or see? We are going to check out the big attractions like the volcano water falls etc for sure. But was looking for things that might not be advertised as much?

Also was looking at a few maps and there are some roads that say 4x4 only. Is a 4x4 truely needed or is this a suggestion only. Are the roads gated or is someone watching to enforce this?
If this is truely the case, might think of getting a jeep instead of a car.

Has anyone rented any houses or condos thru Craigslist in Hawaii. There seems to be some good dealsout there, but was wondering if anyone has gone this route?
This is the first time we are going to be in Hawaii, so any help would be appreciated.
honda400ex2 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2009, 07:03 AM
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No need for a 4WD.

If you suffer any damage to a car on a non-authorized road, your insurance becomes void. Which means you are responsible for all towing/repair charges. (Such as high-centering a 2WD car on a road marked 4WD only)

I would never ever rent from a Craiglist ad. Too many crooks. No means of recourse.
Marginal is offline  
Jul 13th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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Hi Tim, We rented a condo in Keahou through VRBO which can be accessed on the internet. It has photos and direct links to the owners. There were lots of vacancies. We even haggled a little and got the price down on a 2 bedroom unit.

In addition to our Fodor's guide we depended on the Big Island Hawaii Trailblazer guide for their extremely detailed driving advice. The roads to avoid, the ones that are 4WD are all in there and the dangerous ones are noted too. Must sees: the new volcano vent, the view of the volcano from a helicopter and, our favorite, Waipio Valley (4WD). We're glad we saw it by jeep.
sun_shine is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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Right now I think there are plenty of good deals out there without risking your vacation on craigslist.
We got a unit in Kona at Hale Kona Kai last Nov it has a great view and oceanfront the unit maybe a little smallish but we spent most of the time on the lanai.
The Place of Refuge is interesting and next to a very good snorkeling area.
hulajake is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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Lots of sites good for all islands & one for Big Island:
dusty56438 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Must sees - try to do the walk over the lava field (from the east side) to see the new lave hitting the ocean - best if you can sit and wait til after dark - but don't forget to take flashlights and wear closed shoes! Also, we loved the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens just north of Hilo.

I've read in several books (and on maps) that rental companies will not allow you to take rental cars onto the Saddle Road. However, we rented from Alamo and we checked and re-checked the 'rules' and it only said not to drive on unpaved roads. As the Saddle Road is paved, we did it and it was no trouble at all. A few ruts on the western end, but totally paved along its length. I wouldn't try to drive up to the observatories or down into Waipio Valley with a 2WD rental though.

I would look at vrbo (or similar) for rentals. We rented a house down on the Kapoho tidepools and a condo in Kolea, with no problems.

Have fun!
wildblueyonder is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 03:09 PM
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The Saddle Road (it crossed between the two mountains and is how you access the observatories at Mauna Kea. Last December, it was certainly quite rough in numerous places, and the DOT is trying to improve it. Worse, though, was the really thick fog in certain places on the road. I'm SO glad I wasn't trying to drive an unfamiliar car on a foggy, unfamiliar, rough and narrow road. And forget it at night! On the road off Saddle Road to the observatory, we saw a few people on the side of the road with car trouble - one flat tire and another overheated. Good luck getting AAA there!

We took the tour of Mauna Kea with a guide company - they picked us up near our condo, drove us up to the visitor center, fed us a delicious dinner while we acclimated to the elevation, and then drove us to the top of the mountain to see the observatories and the sunset (they even provided the parkas and gloves because it was COLD up there). You couldn't take a rental car/truck beyond the visitor center -- way too steep. After sunset, we came back to the visitor center where we got to watch the stars with our guide and hot chocolate and a very nice telecope. I slept the whole way home (a couple hour drive). It was wonderful.

We did drive the rental convertible on the road to the southernmost tip of the U.S. It was also rough and probably not the best idea. But it was just gravel and potholes, not fog and altitude.

There are a lot of places available on VRBO, and prices are much cheaper. I know it doesn't help for planning purposes, but when I was planning for last November/December, I was booking last minute, and the owners were getting much more flexible on price.
kgh8m is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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Don't even THINK of doing the Saddle Road in the dark. Unless you want to buy the rental car as a souvenier of your trip.
Marginal is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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kgh8m, what tour company did you use for Mauna Kea? Was the drive scary? If people who dare drive up themselves have trouble, did the tour driver? Was it a van? Hope this is not too off base, honda400 (looking at BI for Jan)
texasjo is offline  
Jul 14th, 2009, 08:38 PM
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Big Island was recently named as one of the top 20 Drives of a Lifetime in the world in National Geographic.

Big Island:

The top 20:
dusty56438 is offline  
Jul 15th, 2009, 03:56 AM
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Reply to TXjo, since kgh8m, has not replied, hope I'm not too far off base by sharing our experience with the Mauna Kea Summit Tour which Fodor's describes to be among their "Top 10 unforgettable experiences".
We went with Hawaii Forest and Trail in a 4WD van and our drive was not that scary though portions of the road are unpaved and bumpy and I would not want to be driving up it when it snows. The driver took good care of us and was very knowledgeable about stargazing and importantly they even had a cozy, Kahuna-sized parka. The only other concerns I can think of regarding our summit tour other than accessibility to bottled oxygen-which was available but no one used it, was that if you're very tall >6 feet we noticed that at least one other operator used a van with increased headroom:
Feel free to inquire more
JohnD is offline  
Jul 16th, 2009, 08:03 PM
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Thanks JohnD for the reply and pictures of Saddle Road. I so want to do this tour but do have a thing with heights. We have driven in the Rockies and some of those roads were very narrow and quite scary. Looked at the websites you gave and both look good; just want to be safe. Was there a lot of walking about at the top and at the telescopes? Both have fairly stong warnings about the altitude and we are active seniors.
texasjo is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Reply to TXjo,
The trip to the Mauna Kea Visitor center at 9,000 ft. is easier than the Trail Ridge Road of Estes Rocky Mountain National Park (12,000ft) and doesn't give views as sheer, IMHO and this is where the stargazing with your guide through the portable telescope happens after the tour visits the 14,000 ft summit and also where the tour stops on the way up to acclimate folks to the altitude.

However, the drive up to the summit to observe the cosmic telescopes beyond the MK visitor center is worse than the Rockies and becomes unpaved, bumpier and narrower. The good news with many tour operators is that there is no need to drive up to Mauna Kea or on Saddle Road as they will depart from tourist areas at sea level or may even pick you up at your resort. Our van tour stopped a couple times on the ascent to observe silverswords and other features but there was very little walking involved. Once the tour reaches the summit, not much walking is needed as you can only observe the telescopes from outside which open and move as the sun sets and the appear. I do not recall anyone having visible difficulty with visiting the summit in our group other than chattering from the cold. We actually drove up to the 9,000 ft MK visitor center on a previous trip and the road beyond was closed due to snow, so the next time we did the van tour to the 14,000 ft summit and highly recommend it as it is quite memorable.
JohnD is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 07:55 PM
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Sounds like a go for us....and you did say they had oxygen
Appreciate your help.
texasjo is offline  
Jul 17th, 2009, 09:28 PM
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November 6-15 is the Kona Coffee Festival.
You might want to check out the parade or some events.

There is a new zipline on the Big Island, in North Kohala, which most people don't know about, but I hear it's really fun.

The small towns are fun to walk around and explore. Waimea is Paniolo (cowboy) country, and has a unique atmosphere (and some very good restaurants).

The drive between Kona and North Kohala is very pretty, and there are interesting historical sites including Pu'ukohola Heiau near Kawaihae (where Waterworld was filmed).

The twin towns of Hawi and Kapa'au also have good restaurants and local musicians who play frequently at the Bamboo and Luke's Place. Sushi Rock is a tiny and funky restaurant with a great reputation. Kapa'au is the birthplace of King Kamehameha, and the home of the original statue. There is a lot of aloha and love for the land in this part of Hawaii. If you continue on to Pololu you can hike to a black sand beach, and stop at art galleries, ice cream and fudge shops along the way (lilikoi (passionfruit) fudge is so delicious).

Since all the beaches are public access, you can visit the beaches at the Kohala resorts, and have a drink or enjoy entertainment and shopping. Most of the resorts have interesting historical attractions like ancient fish ponds or petroglyph fields, and most of the shopping centers have free Hawaiian entertainment as well.
Kailani is offline  
Jul 18th, 2009, 03:59 AM
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Be sure to go to the thread Dusty suggested. He did an awesome job of giving TONS of info.
Connie is offline  
Aug 10th, 2009, 09:23 PM
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my daughter is 5 and is awestruck by the stars and she would love this BUT is it too much for a 3 and 5 year old especially if sooo cold? we are going in december!
g_m_s_l is offline  
Aug 10th, 2009, 09:39 PM
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Texasjo - It was Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. It seems pricey, but we just loved it. The road wasn't the scariest I've ever been on, but I wouldn't have wanted to do it on my own. The tour operator's van is like a airport shuttle crossed with a Hummer.

g_m_s_l - it probably won't be the temperature (it's cold up at the top (20 degrees), but they give heavy parkas), it would be the time involved. It was about an 8 hour adventure, all told. Our tour operator says: "We do not take children under 13 years of age to the summit because they have a much higher incidence of high altitude problems."

I wonder if that applies if you rented a 4x4 that was allowed on the Saddle Road (again, see prior warning) and just stayed at the visitor center level (not the top of the volcano). You watch the stars from the visitor center level, not the top (just sunset up there).
kgh8m is offline  
Aug 11th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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JohnD, helpful comparison to Trail Ridge there; thanks.
Kgh8m, I believe that the visitor center is fine by the rental car companies, even in a sedan; just no higher. Wondering if getting a 4 x 4 gets you dispensation for the Observatory?
sylvia3 is offline  

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