How long to stay on the Big Island

Sep 17th, 2005, 10:10 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 3
How long to stay on the Big Island

My husband and I are going with a group from work to the Big Island of Hawaii this November and are staying at the Hapuna Prince 5 nights... We are thinking about extending our trip after the rest of our group leaves. I am wondering from any of you who have been to the big island, do you think there is enough to do to warrant staying there for a few more nights or should we hop over to another island? I am leaning towards staying on the big island right now... if we stayed on the BI, where else would you stay? I think we might change hotels after we leave Hapuna Prince to get a feel for another part of the island. Thanks for any tips!
lindsayr is offline  
Sep 17th, 2005, 10:22 AM
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lindsayr, I would add two nights at Kilauea Lodge (or other great B&B there) in Volcano Village at Volcanoes National Park, and see VNP and the areas around Hilo from there. I think a week on the Big Island would be great.

Then I would add at least three more nights on for another island, probably Oahu so that you could visit Pearl Harbor, and see more of that gorgeous island. Aloha ...
Sep 17th, 2005, 10:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 34,996
I can't suggest a hotel for you because I have always stayed in condos..or last trip a duplex when on the BI. If your trip is business related in the beginning so that your site seeing time is limited, then yes I would suggest staying longer. If you are able to explore a lot while there the 5 days, then I might consider another island. I think the BI is incredibly interesting, has something like 11 different micro climates..the topagraphy changes are incredible depending on your altitude and what side of the island your are on. Last time I was there, we stayed in a duplex right by the Wiapio Valley overlook and it was just so cool and pleasant up there. It was hot over on Kona and when we got home at night I could sleep with my windows open under a down comforter and be perfectly comfortable. There's tons to do and see, so it just depends on your interests.
crefloors is offline  
Sep 17th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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thanks for the advice! volcano village looks interesting!
lindsayr is offline  
Sep 17th, 2005, 12:48 PM
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If this is your first trip to Hawaii or if you do not plan to go back to Hawaii for a long time, you should spend some time on Oahu, especially if you have to fly back through Oahu.
dusty56438 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2005, 01:10 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Definitely stay longer if you have the chance!! There is so much to do on the BI that you'll wish you had more time no matter how long you stay. The island is big, so you'd benefit from moving to the other side for the rest of your trip.

I would recommend seeing as much as possible in the Kona and Kohala areas during your first 5 days -

On a Friday:
- A 1/2 day morning trip with Dolphin Discoveries ( will get you to the best 2 snorkel sites on the island and close dolphins and whales (the Humpbacks arrive sometime in November, so seeing them will depend on the timing of your trip).
- Spend the afternoon exploring something of your interest in the Kona area. Perhaps do a tour at one of the local coffee plantations.
- That evening, go to a luau, I recommend the Kona Village Luau ( - 800-367-5290 x 214), which is reviewed as the most authentic luau on the BI. This is only on Fridays...and you need reservations NOW!! If you decide not to go to the luau, then the rest of these plans can be done any day and I recommend having dinner in Kona.

Another day:
- Spend a day in the Kohala resort area. The Hapuna Prince has one of the best beaches on the island. Plus, if you are into shopping, the Hilton Waikoloa has a nice little shopping area called Kings Shops where I found a lot of my souvenirs. I'd recommend exploring the rest of the Waikoloa resort, too - possibly doing the "swim with dolphins" thing (again, need reservations NOW), and maybe riding their canal boat. Also, walk the Malama Petroglyph Trail.
- That evening, you should take a tour to the Mauna Kea Summit. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures ( picks up and drops off in the Waikoloa area.

Another day:
- Explore Polulu Valley and Hawi.
At Polulu Valley (has a black sand beach), I recommend taking a hiking tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail ( to walk behind a 500' waterfall that is only accessible if you take the tour with this group. They pick you up and drop you off in the Waikoloa area, but they may let you make arrangements to meet them at the trailhead so that you could then spend your afternoon in Hawi. In Hawi, stop at Tropical Dreams Ice Cream and at the Kohala Coffee Mill. Explore the local galleries and eat dinner at Bamboo Restaurant with live Hawaiian music. Some nights, there is also a live band playing at the restaurant across the street from the Bamboo Restaurant (on the corner of 270 & 250 also across from the large parking lot in front of the post office) - can't remember the name, but I think it's a white building with a large grassy area behind it. For an interesting stop, go into the Nakahara Store (in the same building at the post office). The items in the grocery stores in Hawaii are so interesting that this should be a tourist attraction of its own. I recommend finding a new snack and drink and giving it a try - I fell in love with Ginger candies while in Hawaii.

Another day:
- Take a tour into the Waipio Valley (don't attempt to drive down yourself). I recommend using Waipio Valley Wagon Tours (
- In the town of Honokaa, which you go through on the way to the Waipio Valley, stop at Tex Drive-In for malasadas.
- Also, stop at the Waipio Valley Art Gallery if you are interested in souvenirs of pottery, glass, jewelry, heirloom bowls, etc. It's just about 1/2 a mile or so away from the Waipio Valley lookout.
- In the afternoon, you may explore some of Parker Ranch ( or do one of their tours.
- Have dinner in Waimea, possibly at the Edelweiss Restaurant.

That's 4 FULL days...and you haven't even seen the active volcano yet.

If you have a 5th day that you are spending in the area, then use it to relax and restore your energy -- you'll need it after those first 4 days and before you start to explore the other side of the island!! But if that's your checkout day, then the following is a fairly easy day that doesn't keep you out too late:

The day you drive to Hilo:
- I recommend going back up to Waimea and driving along the coast on Hwy 19. It's really a beautiful drive. It's a long drive, so stop at some scenic areas and take some pictures.
- You might like to stop at Akaka Falls State Park for an easy circle hike through the rainforest to two beautiful waterfalls.
- Closer to Hilo, take the scenic route for Onomea Bay (8 miles north of Hilo). Stop at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden ( and walk through the 40-acre garden that has a waterfall, a view of the ocean, 1,800 species of tropical plants, a banyan canyon, orchid garden, banana grove, bromelaid hill, a golden bamboo grove, a lily lake, and a huge wooden statue of a tiki god. On our way out, I was given a free orchid, but I don't know if they do that every day all day. The little gift shop at the entrance has some unique orchid gifts that you won't see anywhere else on the island. I regret not getting a couple of things that I thought I'd see somewhere else.
- Stop in Hilo for lunch.
- In Hilo, drive down Banyan Drive. Stop and walk out to Coconut Island for a panoramic view back to Hilo. Also, nearby is Liliuokani Gardens (a large formal Japanese garden - said to be the largest this side of Tokyo).
- Go out to Rainbow Falls State Park for another easy hike to beautiful falls (multiple falls over one cliff - often with a rainbow).
- Head on to wherever you are going to spend your nights on this side of the island. If it's closer to the volcano, then you still have about an hour drive ahead of you. I recommend staying as close as possible to Volcanoes National Park so that you have less driving to do and you don't worry too much about staying late to see the lava flow at night, if that's an option (which you won't really know until you get there).

Next day or two:
- How much time you spend at Volcanoes National Park ( depends on how much hiking you like to do. We did this in half a day and I wish that we'd spent 2 full days here. If you stop at the visitor center, you'll find out what the conditions are for viewing lava at the moment and you'll get a little educational background. There is also a little bookstore (I think it's in kind of a little trailer in the parking lot right outside the visitor center) that had some very interesting books. I could have easily spent a ton of money on books here. I ended up purchasing a guide for the driving tour through the park with detailed descriptions for each stop (which I highly recommend getting even if you don't get anything else). I also got a book about the Goddess Pele...also, a book about whales...a book on the history of Hawaii..and a couple of maps. Prices are reasonable and profits benefit the educational programs in the park. Also near the visitor center is an artist gallery, but everything there is VERY expensive. You might like to take the short walk over just to look though.

From here, you'll have to look to someone else for advice. We didn't have time to do any of the hikes (other than Thurston Lava Tube and the Devastation Trail - both very easy and short) -- we just did the driving tour down to the end of the road, stopping at each point and reading through our guidebook. The little that we did took over half a day (and we were staying on the other side of the island, so we still had a long drive ahead of us). I would have loved to hike the Crater Rim trail one day (all day) and the Kilauea Iki trail (2-3 hours) another. Also, I would have liked to walk toward the lava flow in the afternoon to stay for sunset. Those could be done if you wanted to spend 2 days in the park.

What I would have done if I had 2 days:

Day 1:
- Start at the visitor center and bookstore EARLY in the morning (pack lunch, dinner, and lots of water - would need to purchase this in Hilo the day before - plenty of big grocery stores in that town).
- Do the driving tour, following the short hiking recommendations in the book.
- Hike the Kilauea Iki trail
- Drive down Chain of Craters Road to the end and hike as close to the lava as I felt comfortable. Wait for nightfall and then hike back (several GOOD flashlights needed!!!).

Day 2:
- Hike Crater Rim Trail - If you get an early start, then you should be done by 2:00-3:00p.

What I would probably do, is go ahead and start heading back to Kona via the southern route. This would allow you to stop at the southernmost point in the US, South Point (Ka Lae).

From here, you are 6 miles away from a GREEN sand beach called Puu Mahana. To get there, you have to either use 4-wheel drive or hike the six miles. If you have 4-wheel drive, I recommend it. If not, then you would probably have to get a room nearby to spend the night and take the hike early the next morning - probably not really worth it unless you just REALLY REALLY want to see sand that has a greenish color.

After your South Point stop, head on back to the Kailua-Kona area for your last night on the island. The rest of your trip depends on what time your flight leaves.

Now, if seeing the active volcano (and watching our planet grow first hand) doesn't interest you, then I recommend spending rest of your trip on another island...or if the work part of trip isn't going to accomodate you doing all the things I recommended for the first few days, then stay in the Kohala or Kona area and do everything that you didn't get to do. For me, everything that we did in the Kona and Kohala regions were the best parts of my stay. Hilo and Volcanoes National Park would have probably been better enjoyed if we hadn't made it a day trip from Hawi.

I think that if you try to fit another island into just a few days, then you are going to be missing out on a lot that the Big Island has to offer, as well as a lot of whatever the other island has to offer. Before I went to Hawaii, I figured I'd probably never go back -- now, I know that I will HAVE to go back and experience what I missed -- bring my children for the first-hand educational opportunities -- and to see the other islands.

Have a great trip. If you have any questions about any of my recommendations, just ask.
mrkindallas is offline  
Sep 17th, 2005, 03:26 PM
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thank you so much! you are all so helpful and informative!
lindsayr is offline  
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