Trip Report-Big Island Bliss

Old Jan 30th, 2006, 06:32 PM
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Trip Report-Big Island Bliss

It was great to escape the rainy Northwest for a mid-January trip to the Big Island. We've been to Maui, Kauai, and Oahu several times, but this was only our 2nd trip to the Big Island. I had great difficulty deciding where to stay. Kohala? Kona? Hamakua Coast? All had appeal. I would hate to confess to the number of places I reserved and then cancelled!

Our final decision was to base in Keauhou, at Kanaloa at Kona. We had a wonderful 2B/2B unit furnished in vibrant colors with wood-grained floors and quality artwork. Our unit had central A/C, washer/dryer, 2 lanais, and a pleasant garden view. It was $185 per night. We rented from Prince Properties (www.konaoceanfronts.com), an excellent small agency with high standards for their units. A big plus : all of the light switches and remotes were labeled! One of the best features of Kanaloa is that there are 3 pools- one for adults only. With fewer than 200 units, we had no difficulty space in the water and on the lounge chairs. I enjoyed being just a short drive (or long walk) from Keauhou shopping center, with a nice KTA supermarket and a good assortment of other shops and restaurants. We particularly liked Daylight Donuts, where we got great breakfast sandwiches and Tropical Dreams ice cream. Our favorite breakfast, however, was at the Aloha Angel Cafe in Kainaliu. This is on the road south towards Captain Cook and Kalakekua Bay. The cafe is part of the old Aloha Theater Building (circa 1920's). You dine outside on a wooden lanai surrounded by lush foilage.

We had a 1-night getaway from our Kona condo and stayed at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. We were in the beachfront wing, with a room that looked across the large grassy lawn to the beach and ocean beyond. I liked the casually elegant feel of the Mauna Kea and enjoyed ocean swimming at the excellent beach. Cost: $430 per night, breakfast inc.

My favorite beach was Spencer Beach Park. It is one of the few Kohala beaches that is not backed by a big hotel. There's an offshore reef so the wave action is very gentle. There's a campground which would be a great place to stay for someone wanting a cheap sleep on a good beach...and not intimidated by a few rough looking characters.

We drove through the Waikoloa Resort area and were glad we had decided against staying there. Just a bit too sterile and manicured for our tastes. Noticed that they are starting construction on the Queen's Marketplace, to supplement the King's Shops.
I understand that Queen's will have a gourmet food and wine market that is a joint venture by ABC and KTA. Also an outdoor entertainment amphitheater seating 4,000.

A highlight for us was a trip down into the Waipio Valley. We chose the wagon tour; a 4 wheel drive van takes you down the very steep road to the bottom of the valley and then you transfer to a 10-person wagon pulled by 2 mules. The scenery was outstanding and tales of the area interesting. Thanks to those who relieved my anxiety about the drive. Not scary at all, with someone else at the wheel.

We skipped Hilo and the volcano this trip in the interests of reducing time spent in the car. We've visited both before. With Mt. St. Helens and plenty of rain at home, neither held that much appeal!

The only negative on this trip is that we noticed a huge increase in the traffic in and around Kailua-Kona. It was heavy and slow most of the time...much worse than anything we've experienced on any of the other islands. There was road construction and many traffic lights that don't seem to be well-coordinated.

We enjoyed great weather all week. Highs around 80, light trade winds, and low humidity. Our flights on Hawaiian Airlines were wonderful, as always. It's the only airline where I feel that my vacation starts when I board the plane. Hawaiian music playing in the background, island videos on the TV, good food. Ahhh!! Time to start the "which island next" discussions!
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Old Jan 30th, 2006, 08:43 PM
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Barbara, thank you for a great report. Makes me want to jump on the plane and be there tomorrow, as we love the Big Island! We also like the Aloha Angel Cafe ... Now get on with planning that next Hawaiian trip!
 
Old Jan 30th, 2006, 10:48 PM
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Great trip report-But I have a few questions-I am going to the BIG ISLAND this April- what is the name of the company to take the tour into the Waipio Valley??

Also have you been to Mauna Kea and done the stargazing??

ANy other restaurant recommendations??

Thanks! Glad you had a great trip and thanks for sharing..
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 12:49 AM
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Barbara: I know what you mean about traffic around Kailua. It's getting pretty outrageous and the state really needs to do something about it. Just going from KOA airport to Kailua (which should take 15 minutes tops) can take 45-60 minutes during afternoon commute hours. But it was nice to hear your trip was otherwise positive. Thanks for the report.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 06:03 AM
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For those interested in learning more about the wagon tour, the website is www.waipiovalleywagontours.com.

The road to Mauna Kea was closed part of the time we were there due to snow! We had not planned on doing the stargazing, though. We did gaze at some beautiful rainbows up around Hawi in North Kohala. Also liked gazing at the spectacular sunsets...some pink and purple; others golden. Although we did not notice any vog, I understand that tiny particles in the air help create those lovely sunsets.

Our best lunch was at Cafe Pesto in the tiny port town of Kawaihae, which was very close to Spencer Beach Park and a huge heiau. I had a baby green salad with fresh fish on top (I forget the name..not Ono, but another firm white fish). Our dinner at Mauna Kea's Manta Ray Pavilion was also excellent.
This time I did have Ono, with a basil macadamia nut pesto. We enjoyed a shrimp dinner at Bubba Gump's in Kailua. Not gourmet, but fun atmosphere, fast service, and pretty good food. Also ate a "just OK" meal at Drysdale's Sports Bar in the Keauhou Shopping Plaza. I indulged in a malasada taste test from 3 different bakeries, including the famous Tex's in Honokaa. None came close to Leonard's or Agnes's on Oahu. None were fresh from the fryer...two were cold, and Tex's was from a warming tray that was only a slight improvement.

My husband is an antique/collectible dealer so we always visit antique shops, thrift stores, and garage sales in our travels. There were some nice shops south towards Captain Cook, and in Waimea. Lots of garage sales in the Upcountry town of Waikoloa Village, which seemed like a really pleasant place to live. More residential than tourist-oriented. We also stopped at farmers markets in Hawi and Waimea where we saw some interesting produce and lovely flowers.
We didn't do any snorkeling this trip. Seas were kind of high, and we were kind of lazy.
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Old Jan 31st, 2006, 06:38 AM
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Mahalo Barbara5353, enjoyed reading your informative T.R.!
Our mainland local news featured a clip on snowboarding atop Mauna Kea this morning...as its been too warm for snow in the Mid Atlantic states
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