Roxy goes to the Big Island (revised)

Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:01 PM
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Bianelli's Kona

I knew the craving for pizza would hit eventually, so I made my way to Kona to hit Bianelli's, which BIR calls one of the best. Actually, BIR had the best between Bianelli's and Kona Brewpub, and because I was on foot and couldn't find Kona Brewpub from my vantage point at the intersection, Bianelli's it was (though they're at the same general corner, it must've been there somewhere). This is a fun Italian restaurant, family oriented and cheery. My salad was really good and quite big, and my veggie pizza was very tasty and hit the spot, and I'm pretty picky about pizza (okay, so it wasn't my favorite ever, but really good for Kona). My waitress was friendly and attentive and I had a good time. I left with some slices in a pizza box which I knew I wouldn't eat the next day and was tired of carrying so I ended up giving it to the rag tag group of three hippies sitting in front of a downtown church. They were: Rip Van Winkle, a pretty caramel skinned hippie girl, and an enormous Hawaiian type who offered to get me stoned for my generosity. I said, Sure, why not, and now we're all living together on the beach in Hawaii. Or something like that, maybe I said I had to get back home. I forget.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:02 PM
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Batik at the Mauna Kea

I had a delicious meal here, oh my goodness. Expensive, but oh so luscious. A very attentive waiter served me filet mignon with mushrooms in a mouthwatering red wine sauce and little potatoes. For dessert they bring out a special silver urn filled with dry ice and frozen goodies, very cool. The place is dark and dramatic and quite enjoyable, not hotel-tasting at all.


Pavilion at Manta Ray Point at the Mauna Kea

Trying to eat a little lighter on my last night, I had a caesar salad and a shrimp cocktail, surrounded by uneven service. The salad was fine, and the shrimp were big and cold and crisp. They also brought out a complimentary dessert of petit fours, which were okay. Not quite as expensive as Batik, but it was trying. Also not as fancy, but elegantly casual and closer to the water.


Beachside cafe at the Mauna Kea

This was a really fun place to have lunch, right on the beach under the shade of umbrellas. The menu is limited, with salads and sandwiches and stuff. I had a good turkey club with potato chips and enjoyed the atmosphere, strolling back down to the beach afterwards.


Shaved Ice at Ocean View, downtown Kona

I wandered into Ocean View at the only time I knew I would have--before dinner at Bianelli's. He happened to be open a little later that night preparing for a festival the next day, so I really just lucked out. I got passionfruit and pineapple and I have to say it just wasn't at luscious as Wishing Well or extra especially JoJo's on Kauai. It just didn't strike me the way JoJo's did, unfortunately. The syrup hardly went halfway down and there was a lot of plain old ice. A bit disappointing.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:03 PM
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MISCELLANI


1. You really didn't see the volcano?

Okay, what did I say about that question? When I planned this trip, I had intended on visiting the volcano because the lava was flowing at the end of Chain of Craters Road. By the time I got there, it had stopped. My first night was spent in Hilo, with the intention of volcano visitation. I was gonna drive down there anyway but first I took a swim, then I kicked back in the room, called my boyfriend, and by that time I was hungry and driving all the way out there just wasn't in the cards for Roxy. I'm sure it's lovely though.

2. The Big Island...in the fall...and by yourself

I really loved the Big Island, after having also visited Kauai in June and Maui last year. I only got to see a tiny portion of it, but I love the incredible diversity of the land, the hidden beaches, and the treasures of the Puna area (wished I had time for Kapoho tidepools or a steam room).

What a great time to visit. Airfare and hotel rates were super cheap, and nothing was crowded, especially the plane. The weather was great, hot during the day but not awful, and the water temperature was wonderfully warm (and calm), which I think has more to do with how far south the Big Island is. Much warmer than Kauai several months earlier in June.

I've never travelled by myself before, and I had an awesome time. The only time I really missed a companion was at meals, but I did okay (especially the night I befriended those feral cats). It's nice to not have to worry about an itinerary change or skipping something the other person had their heart set on. It also gives you a chance to truly relax, because you really do spend more time than you think considering the other person's wants and needs.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:03 PM
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3. Is the vog that bad?

Yes and no. No, it's not that bad, like a layer of city smog, but yes, it was constant. It would roll in mid to late afternoon, hazing up the previously crystal clear skies in Kona (not Kohala). I'm asthmatic and it didn't bother me.

4. Driving

I rented a car from Alamo. I picked it up in Hilo and dropped it off in Kona. About drop charges...when I compared, it was around $40 to go from Kona to Hilo and about $80 to go from Hilo to Kona. My first reservation, through Alamo's site, had the $80 drop charge. A second, "test" reservation didn't. My final reservation with Alamo via Travelocity also didn't have one, and the rate wasn't inflated to compensate or anything ($196 with all fees). Alamo has always been good to me. This time I got a compact car with crank windows and a dead wasp on either side of the rear window (I checked for a hive).

The roads on the Big Island are very good, clean and smooth. The drive along the Hamakua coast is pretty (didn't stop for any waterfalls though), and as you round toward the top of the island, the views of Mauna Kea are drop dead gorgeous. That thing is massive, it rises gradually to its tremendous height, so it just fills your line of sight, and you can see the observatories at the top. The drive from Hilo to Kona is long and hot (2.5 hours roughly), and no matter how fast I drove, someone had to pass me. It was a little stressful.

Queen K highway (19) between Kona and Kohala is the site of miles and miles of lava grafitti. People spell out messages in white coral on the black lava, it's very cool and some are huge, readable from the road. I finally pulled over to try to do one and lucked out by finding an abandoned pile of coral (I wouldn't dare dismantle "Lolo Loves Pooky" or "Do me").
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:04 PM
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5. Downtown Kona

Very much like Lahaina, Maui. A little seaside town packed with restaurants and tshirt shops, although blessedly uncrowded this time of year, unlike Lahaina in July (see Dante's Inferno for more info on that). To me, if you're looking for a really tropical feel, you won't get it if you stay at a hotel in downtown Kona because there's so much hustle and bustle at your front door.

6. Hilo

I will admit I spend absolutely zero time in Hilo itself, apart from being at the hotel. The area along Banyan Drive is really pretty though, lots of huge trees and little parks along the waterfront.

7. Basic itinerary

Wednesday Arrive in Hilo, go straight to hotel, plant butt there for the evening with pool, dinner, bed
Thursday Get up early, go to Ahalanui Pond and black sand beaches, get back to hotel to check out, drive to Keauhou, check into hotel, eat, snorkel, nap, eat, bed
Friday Get up early, drive to Place of Refuge, wander, snorkel, nap, Magic Sands, shower from hell, dinner, bed
Saturday Leave Keauhou for Kohala, Kiholo Bay, check into Mauna Kea, lounge on beach, dinner, bed
Sunday Early morning snorkel, massage, nap, beach, snorkel, lunch, beach, nap, dinner, bed
Monday Morning departure from quaint little open aired Kona airport, which, FYI, is about fifteen minutes from Kona and about thirty minutes from Kohala

Geez, why did you move around so much? Moving doesn't bother me too much, especially since I don't really unpack. I wanted to be able to spend my days not driving a lot, so I decided to spend time in hotels close to the various places I wanted to visit, moving around the island.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:04 PM
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8. The way paradise ended this time

My last two trips ended with something ridiculous, but this trip...nothing strange or unusual capped it off (except for my parents' bet with each other whether or not I'd be calling to say I'm staying an extra day...I couldn't, eating at the Mauna Kea was breaking me).

Maybe instead, I'll tell you what finally inspired me to finish this report after six weeks. I watched that episode of the Simpsons where Homer and Bart think they have leprosy ("It's Hansen's Disease, Lisa, you know, like that horrible cream soda") and Flanders sends them to the treatment place on Molokai ("Let's jump the fence at the Club Med and scare the normals!"). The episode ends with Homer singing "Aloha 'Oe" from the electric needle room (great views!).

Or, as my mom likes to sing, "Alooooha poi!"...

...until we meet again...

love
roxy
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:06 PM
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P.S.

OMG, why is your trip report SOOO broken up into a million posts??

For some reason, it would only let me post these really short pieces, unlike in the past when it would accept longer posts. I don't know why, but there it is. Sorry kids. At least we'll always have Hawaii.

love
roxy
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 10:49 PM
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Mahalo Roxy!!! Another fantastic trip report!!!

I like how you split it up -- very useful for other trip planners.

I'm planning to go the BI in May 2005 and was very pleased to hear about certain hotels (Ohana Keauhou and Mauna Kea) as I had the same ones in mind.

One question: Was there a particular reason you skipped snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay - Capt Cook's Monument? Maybe I missed it in your report but I figured you of all adventurous spirits would have done it and offered some thoughts. Then again, there's the whole volcano thing... Oh well, I'm sure you're bound to revisit the Big Island.

Please make French Polynesia or the Cook Islands your next trip so that we can see your excellent commentaries on how they compare/contrast to the Hawaiian Islands.

Thanks again for the outstanding report. You are one cool wahine!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 11:18 PM
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Oh Bluefan, I'm blushing!

I WAS going to kayak to the Cap'n Crunch Monument, but I was worried about handling a massive, very heavy kayak by myself (don't anyone go thinking that just because these situpons are plastic means they're not heavy) and didn't want to count on the fact that someone at the bay would be there and willing to help. That's pretty much the whole reason I didn't go, but the two hours (!) of divine snorkeling I did at Honaunau made me feel better about missing it; I don't know if it could have possibly been better. I do love to kayak though!

My boyfriend wants to visit Belize next (and Japan and Nicaragua and Peru and...), but I have no idea when such a trip might happen. My wallet is still cooling off from the Mauna Kea. Believe me, a trip to the Cooks/Tahiti would be awesome (ooh, that one would be especially good by myself, all that quiet beaching and snorkeling) and I'd be happy to post a compare/contrast report, although the one that Lord Balfour did is pretty definitive (http://www.epinions.com/content_3387203716). How's that for a plug?

Let me know if you have any specific questions about those two hotels!

love
roxy
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Old Nov 22nd, 2004, 11:58 PM
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ADDENDUM

Mauna Kea Hotel Manta Rays

How could I forget the mantas?? They have a viewpoint where they flood the water with light at night, attracting the plankton the mantas eat. Both nights I saw an enormous manta, a swirl of black and white belly dancing. It's so close to shore and lit up and one night the water was very calm and I almost wanted to snorkel out there but I didn't. If you're in the area or having dinner at the hotel it's totally worth a stop, they're just magnificent.

glub glub
roxy

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Old Nov 23rd, 2004, 12:55 AM
  #31  
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Awesome report Roxy!

Just back myself from a trip to SoCal I did on my own and I share your opinion about its advantages besides having to dine alone (during which I did o.k., too, but which might have been nicer with company).
You do make me feel bad, however, for not having posted a report so far. But then, I did not yet get any inspiration from the Simpson's - and even Steve Martin's gorgeous L.A. Story has not been re-run on TV...
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Old Nov 23rd, 2004, 04:52 AM
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Great trip report, Roxy! Very informative for me, since I have been to Maui and Kauai, but never the BI. Kudos to you on enjoying a trip by yourself. On the rare occasion when I have travelled alone, I loved it too. Wish I could do it more often, but DH would feel sad to be left home alone.

By the way, on my desk is a battery operated Homer with a grass skirt and a lei on his bald head. He sings the worst lounge lizard version of "Aloha e" you've ever heard. We even took him with us on our last trip to the islands.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2004, 08:54 AM
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Correction, he sings "Tiny Bubbles", NOT Aloha e - DOH!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2004, 01:57 PM
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hsv,

You should totally post your trip report on LA! I live here and I wrote one once:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=34449400

The Simpsons DID go to Hollywood once with Mel Gibson...

doh,
roxy
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Old Nov 24th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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Roxy,

now that you mention it, I do remember that Simpsons episode - it just has not been aired here recently, so is not currently suitable for serving as an inspiration.

I also remembered your L.A. trip report. In fact, that one plus the one about the Hollywood Standard caused me to read this one, as I did enjoy the two others considerably and we seem to share some interests in what we like to do and where to hang out.
On the other hand, the level of your reports is hard to be matched - but I'll give it a try anyway. Will work on it over the weekend.

Greetings from Europe
hsv
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Old Nov 24th, 2004, 10:04 AM
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Hi Roxy,

Giving you a big High Five. I too was traveling in BI by myself, Nov 3-10. Enjoyed reading your report. I hope to post my trip report some day.

Cheers
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Old Nov 24th, 2004, 03:22 PM
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Travelbug,

Post a trip report! I'm curious to hear someone else's views of a solo Big Island trip.

love
roxy
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Old Nov 24th, 2004, 04:39 PM
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Finally!!!
Rox, i've been waiting on pins and needles for your review of your trip to the BI. You bring my favorite Island chain alive with your descriptions and opinions.
thank you and do keep traveling!
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Old Nov 25th, 2004, 07:16 AM
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How could you not visit Volcano Park?!!! Does BI call your spirit the way I know Kauai and Maui call both of us? Still trying to get there but my next trip is a beach house in Hanalei with a Lanai finish with first time visiting friends....then maybe BI! Thanks for the report! Happy Thanksgiving!
 
Old Nov 25th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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G'lou,

What did Roxy say about that question?

I recently read a funny article in the travel section of the San Jose Mercury News by this woman who went all the way to India and didn't visit the Taj Mahal and felt really really guilty, almost shamefully so, having to come back and answer to all her friends and family, some of whom had even given her clipped articles and things. But she saw all this other really awesome stuff, including things a lot of people don't usually see.

It reminded me of my non-volcano trip...I knew people would look at me like I'm nuts, but it's my trip, so there. Driving all the way out there, in the dark, after I just got in for my big relaxo trip, just didn't seem conducive to chilling out. Plus I did a lot of the other cool stuff I really wanted to do. I'm drawn more to water anyway.

The BI struck me as wonderfully serene, in a different way than Kauai. I don't know if it's because there were very few tourists in late September (I'm usually in Hawaii in the summer) or because I was by myself or because the BI isn't as heavily visited. The vastness of the land punctuated by these often hidden gems of nature is stunning.

I like "Hanalei with a Lanai finish", like describing a fine wine. That's awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Soon, it will be time for me to take a break from cooking turkey and pie and shooing my mom out of the kitchen to go sit down with a nice glass of a Bonny Doon red with some big, fat shiny greek olives. Glad you enjoyed the report.

love
roxy
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