Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 850: Hawaii October 2005 (Oahu and the Big Island)
By Monica Pileggi from Maryland, Fall 2005
Trip Description: My husband Tony and I visited Hawaii October 15 - 26th, visiting the islands of Oahu and the Big Island.
Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - Hawaii
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Beach; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 1: October 15 - October 26; Oahu and the Big Island
Kona sunset from the Keauhou Resort
Return to paradise! Tony and I had honeymooned in Hawaii in 1988 and returned again in October 2003. We promised each other we wouldnít wait another 14 years to return to Hawaii. We had forgotten (although always in the back of our minds) about Hawaiiís beauty, the food, the friendly people, the culture, and its magic.
For this trip, we chose Oahu (of course!) and the Big Island (BI). My Mother had taken my brother and me for a weekend trip a few months before we moved to Florida back in 1979 Ė I grew up on Oahu, 4th grade through high school. I remember the sights we saw on the BI, but we had barely scratched the surface. Our itinerary for this trip included four nights on Oahu, six on the BI, and one last night on Oahu before our long flight home.
I made reservations again at the Hale Koa, which is a military-only resort in Waikiki (fronting one of the best beaches in Waikiki). I selected a garden room, $110/night. The perks are great at this resort: No taxes, $4/day to park the car in their secured garage, fabulous grounds, beautiful pools, a PX, gym, bars, casual and fine dining options. For the price of what we paid and the amenities, this hotel is equal to most other expensive resorts in Waikiki.
For the BI, we decided to stay at the Kilauea Military Camp, also for military and DoD civilians only, located at the Volcano National Park. I wanted a 1-bedroom cottage, but ended up with a 1-bedroom apartment with Jacuzzi at the rate of $108. Another bargain!
Lastly, I selected the Outrigger Keauhou Resort, located a few miles south of Kailua-Kona Town. I read great reviews on Trip Advisor, as well as positive comments from my sister-in-law Doris.
I booked our flight on Continental Airlines via Houston, as well as Hawaiian Airlines for our inter-island flights. I was happily surprised to find out that Continental Airlines is a Skyteam member, so I will earn miles towards my flight to Rome next year!
I booked, via USAA, rental cars for Oahu (Avis, $93 for the 4 days) and the BI (Hertz, $247 for the 6 days - will also earn miles too). I had read various comments about the importance of renting a 4WD for the BI, but with the sights I wanted to see, we would be fine in a 2WD. I also didnít want to spend $500 on a 4WD!
Frommerís is my favorite guidebook. I still had my Frommerís Honolulu, Waikiki & Oahu guidebook from 2002. I purchased the Oahu Revealed and Big Island Revealed books, which are wonderful and packed with great information. Not only do these books provide the normal travel/tourist information, the authors also provide information on places that sometimes even the locals donít know about.
Saturday October 15, 2005:
Ugh! We got up at 4:00am. We had dropped off Lucy at our friendís house the night before, which she wasn't too happy about. The drive to the airport was easy, as it was a Saturday. Easy check-in at the kiosk and we were off shortly after. Our flight to Houston was smooth. There was only about one hour between flights, but long enough to grab a bite. The food on board Continental is absolutely horrible!! I wonder if all American airline companies serve the same crap. I guess I'm used to the "real" meals on international flights. It was a LONG flight, but we were happy to be in Hawaii. We picked up our rental car and after a quick stop to a jewelry store where I had ordered a Hawaiian heirloom bracelet the previous month, we headed to the Hale Koa, our hotel for four nights.
The afternoon was spent at the Barefoot bar drinking mai taiís and watching the sunset. We also shopped a little at the AAFES shop. We walked to Tikiís, which took about 20 minutes, to meet Melissa, a fellow fodorite. We had plans to meet several people, but they had to back out. Dinner was excellent, which we started with the kalua pig quesadillas. They were so good; I was ready to go back to Tikiís to order them. We all ordered a fish dish. I had Ahi. Tikiís is a fun place and very lively. Itís always a pleasure to sit outside among the tiki lights and seeing the activity on Waikiki beach.
Breakfast at Kokoís cafť in the hotel. Shopping morning. We drove to the Aloha stadium and shopped a couple of hours. The swap meet is open three days a week and this day was our only opportunity to go there. I made sure I made our travel plans to be on Oahu for this. This is the best place for souvenirs, such as t-shirts, Hawaiian shirts, dresses; quilt products, arts and crafts, jewelry, luggage, various bags/purses, local foods (crack seed, jams, etc), etc. Prices here are much better than in Waikiki.
In the afternoon, we spent our time with Tonyís sister and her husband, Doris and Bill. They live in Kailua, so we took a walk to the beach. It was a cloudy afternoon, so we didnít go swimming. We had dinner at the Big City Diner. Apparently the one at Wards is really crowded and noisy. Oh, we did stop at the Pali Lookout before heading to Kailua. Fabulous views!
Visited an old friend in the morning; also visited the Punchbowl cemetery. Lunch at Ezogiku (ramen noodle shop) in Waikiki (fabulous soups and gyoza), we hit the beach next to the Hale Koa. This beach is great: no crowds. Mai taiís at the bar before heading to the Mandarin for dinner with a friend. There is a new restaurant there, Plumeria Beach, which serves a buffet dinner. Wonderful selection of foods. Our other favorite restaurant there is Hokuís.
Day trip around the island. We drove to Hawaii Kai, where I used to live, dropped off some film at Costco, had lunch at Yummy Korean BBQ at Koko Marina; picked up the film. Did a quick drive-by by my house and high school. Boy Hawaii Kai sure has grown!! Hanauma bay is closed on Mondays. Stopped for photo ops at Makapuu point, the blowhole, etc. Checked out the surfers at Sunset beach. Small waves, but lots of surfers out in the water. Walked around Haleiwa Ė cute, quaint town. There are lovely beaches and parks to visit, including Kualoa Park with Chinamanís Hat Island off shore.
We stopped at the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones, located in the center of the island in Waianae. This is where (during ancient Hawaiian times) women gave birth to potential kings (alii). Whatís interesting is that the stones are located out in the open with a small grouping of palm trees. The trees sticks out like a sore thumb Ė you canít miss the place. We met Lomiki, who was praying there. Quite a religious man, he explained the place to us.
Dinner at Keoís Thai restaurant. This was our third visit to Keoís and itís still great. Excellent spring rolls. I always enjoy dining at Keoís, as itís beautiful decorated with fresh flowers.
A.M. flight to Hilo, Hawaii. Sit on the left side of the airplane. Great views of Waikiki, Diamond Head, etc., as well as Molokai and Maui. Picked up our rental car (Avis) and headed to Kilauea Crater. We spent one night at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC), which is located inside the national park. Lunched in the tiny town of Volcano at Lava Rock Cafť. Saimin for lunch Ė just ďok.Ē After eating at Ezogiku, no other place compares.
Overcast afternoon. We stopped at the information center to find out about seeing lava live and in action. We drove around the crater (counter clockwise) and stopped at various points: steam vents, Jagger museum, the rift (make sure you walk out to see it and not just where you park your car); and Halemaumau crater.
We checked into our room, had a snack of pupuís, and then headed down the Chain of Craters road around 5:00pm to see the lava. The drive down took about 40 minutes. There is a place to see Hawaiian petroglyphs, but we didnít have time. I recommend you head down around 3:30pm to see the petroglyphs and to get to the end of the road before sunset. Many cars were already parked along side of the road.
We walked about 1/2 mile just to get from the car to the park ranger building (bathrooms are located there). We hiked another 1/2 mile to get to the end of the road where the lava spilled over the road. Walking along the lava is tricky. We followed bright orange markers for another 1/2 Ė 1/3rd mile. In the distance was a bright red glow. The lava was approximately two miles away. There was just no way to get closer. Looking up the mountain, you can see the lava flowing down in some spots, as most of it moves underground. Before the sunset, we could see the white steam rising to the skies. Wear good shoes and wear pants. I fell on my shins, as I tripped while walking back. I think my legs would have been worse off if I had worn shorts. Thank goodness my camera wasnít damaged. Another person also fell. Iím sure that happens every night to someone. Take your time walking. And bring flashlights for EACH person in your group. Itís pitch black once the sun goes down. The sky is absolutely fabulous with all the stars. I have never seen that many stars before. Although we couldnít get close to the lava, it was a fun evening and great experience.
Dinner at Thai Thai in Volcano town. Excellent food, a little slow on the service. The place filled up quickly with hungry diners. Make reservations; or do take out. Our room at KMC had a Jacuzzi, so I soaked for a while.
Since we had an overcast day yesterday, we drove around Kilauea crater again so I could take better pictures. We also walked thru the Thurston Lava tube and Devastation trail. Part of Devastation trail looks like the moon! Plant life is slowly growing back.
Drove to Kona for our next five nights, stopping along the way at Punaluu Beach Park, with its black sand beach. Saw turtles in the water. Neat sight. Along the way to Kona, you can see where lava had flowed down to the sea. Approaching Kona, I was amazed at how high we were (2000 feet). I expected (from looking at maps) to be at sea level.
We checked in at the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort in the late afternoon. Disappointed with our room, (classified as a ďpartial ocean viewĒ room carpeting was horrible, a torn bedspread, full sized beds instead of our requested king bed) we asked at the desk for a better room. We also wanted to price a room, which was considered a deluxe ocean view room. We were given a key to room 515 to check it out. Nice room, carpeting was much better but still needs to be replaced, great views: facing the pool and ocean to the left. Back at the desk we asked how much to upgrade. No charge. We quickly re-packed and moved to the new room. Thank goodness we didnít unpack everything!
The Verandah Lounge is a great place to watch the sunset, see turtles basking in the sun on the rocks, and drinking mai taiís (although the mai taiís were much better and less expensive at the Hale Koa). We enjoyed our drinks and kalua pig quesadillas (not as good as at Tikiís) while listening to live Hawaiian music. Good dinner later at their restaurant.
Breakfast at Kimoís in Kona. Cheap and good selection of foods. Donít leave your dish alone at the table, as birds will fly in and proceed to eat the food. Dropped off some laundry, which we picked up on a different day. Made a quick trip to Costco to drop off some film. Back in Kona, we walked around the outdoor market, visited Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church and King Kamehameha's restored Hawaiian temple, Ahu'ena Heiau, all must-see sights. The last three sights listed encompass Royal Hawaii, the era of Missionaries, and Ancient Hawaii.
After lunch at the L&L Drive in for local plate lunch, we drove to see the Painted Church, stopping along the way to pick up some Kona Coffee. The church is small with beautiful paintings inside. Met a couple from Baltimore (Frank and Joanne) and chatted with them for a while. Not enough time to visit the Place of Refuge, so we headed back to our hotel. In the evening Frank and Joanne came to our hotel to dine at the restaurant. Friday night is prime rib night, but we didnít want buffet food, so we snacked on some things we picked up at the grocery store down the street. We enjoyed our food, while watching the sunset. Later, we had snacks and drinks at Drysdaleís, located at the Keauhou shopping plaza.
What a long day for us! We drove up to Kohala after picking up our laundry and dropping of more film at Costco. Got gas too Ė best price for gas in Hawaii is at Costco. First stop of the day trip was at the Waikoloa resort. We walked along the area to see the Hawaiian Anaehoomalu petroglyphs. Awesome sight. We saw many petroglyphs. Lots of figures and circles.
Next, we stopped at the Puukohola Heiau, which King Kamehameha had built after being told he would be able to conquer all of Hawaii if the Heiau was built. Thousands of ďvolunteersĒ helped build the heiau. See the link to the right for details. It was quite impressive.
Waimea is a pretty town. The hills are lush green. We shopped a little before heading north on Rte 250 to Hawi. Cute little artist town. We headed east and at the end of the road, we enjoyed the wonderful views of Pololu valley and lookout. We were told it would be a 1/2 hour hike to the black sand beach below and almost an hour to get back up, so we decided against it. We stopped to see the original King Kamehameha statue. The copy is located in Honolulu.
Hapuna beach is beautiful! We didnít go swimming since it was getting late, so we just sat and enjoyed the views for a short while. With a quick stop at Costco to pick up my film (and mai tai mix) we headed back to our hotel. We had also stopped and picked up some dark rum. These two purchases was about the cost of two mai taiís at the hotel. Itís a great way to save on the cost of drinks, especially if you are on a budget.
We had dinner at a Filipino restaurant in Kona Ė Tanteís. Very good food, but they didnít have any lumpias! We were so disappointed.
At the grocery store at Keauhou shopping plaza, we picked up sandwiches for breakfast. We didnít want to dine at the hotel and didnít want a whole lot of food. After stopping at Costco to get gas, we drove to Mauna Kea on Saddle road. It was a rainy day in that area. Once we got to the Onizuka visitorís center information center, we were told because of the rain and possible ice, we would need a 4WD to get to the top of Mauna Kea, as well as being able to participate in a caravan to tour the observatories. They provide free tours on the weekends. We stayed to watch a movie, which lasted an hour. The other reason for the hour long movie is to get everyone acclimated to the elevation. After the film, the tour guide announced that two couples were in need of a ride. No one volunteered. One guy said NO to Tonys request. One couple finally said to us we could ride with them (Daryl and Phyllis). Nice couple. They had overheard our conversation about not having a 4WD.
The first five miles was unpaved and within seconds of getting onto this unpaved road, we all understood the need for a 4WD. Average speed was 17mph. As we got towards the top, the sun would peek out but it still rained lightly. We saw several rainbows. The first visit was to the Keck observatories. We were allowed to see them, but behind glass. The room was quite cold! See the Keck Observatory link to the right. We also drove to see the University of Hawaii telescope. There are 13 telescopes in use today. It would have been a beautiful sight if it had been a clear day. Instead, the temperature was in the low to mid 40s. We both wore pants and I also had a sweatshirt and jacket. It was very cold up top.
I think the drive down the mountain was worse than going up. Back at the information center, we warmed up, and then headed down the road. Along the way, I stopped to take photos of the sunset. It was beautiful! Since it was getting late, we decided to have dinner in Waimea. We found the Waimea Ranch House, which had excellent steaks. It was expensive, but well worth itÖwell, except for my $9 glass of wine. I should have asked to see the wine list.
Breakfast consisted of bagels at the Internet cafť at the Keauhou shopping plaza so Tony could check his work schedule. Ran into a guy that Tony used to work with at USAirways 15 years ago. We talked with Rick for about 40 minutes. I was anxious to head out for the day. Once on the road, heading to the Puíuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, we stopped at the little town of Captain Cook and picked up a plate lunch for the road. The trunk of the car would be hot enough to keep the chicken and kalbi ribs warm. The historical park entry fee was $5. Sitting along the ocean, the park grounds are beautiful. The skies were blue and just perfect for picture taking. Turtles sunned themselves while they slept either on rocks or the beach. Everyone must stay at least 15 feet away from any turtle. Hawaiians who broke any laws (kapu) could go to this place of refuge and be saved from death. A lot of the area has been restored, including some of the thatched buildings.
Next to the park is a great place for snorkeling. We had lunch while watching people snorkel. I should have bought my mask and snorkel when we first got to Kona. I wanted to see Kealakekua Bay, so we headed there after lunch. People were kayaking and swimming. The area was clouding up, so we drove back to our hotel and hit the beach next door: Kahaluu. Itís one of the best places for snorkeling. There are only two small areas to enter the water that is sandy; the rest is lava rocks. We brought and wore our reef shoes, which is highly recommended. We had a nice swim and laid out in the sun for a short while. I decided we would purchase a mask/snorkel in the evening to use the next day.
For dinner, we headed to town and dined at Rios Seafood restaurant. My dinner was excellent; however, Tony was very disappointed with the portion of his fish. It was quite small. The waiter took off a few bucks, but that didnít appease Tonyís stomach.
We walked around Kona, purchased a few things, including the mask and snorkel. I bought one set since we would have to take turns watching our things on the beach anyway. I also bought a large floral bag for my purchases. After Tony paid with his credit card, he noticed the man didnít return his card. We checked his wallet and the guy just stood there and stated he did return the card. Not so. Well, he had it under the register drawer, but had pretended to look around for it. We felt he was just hoping we would walk off without the card.
This was one of my favorite days and I kick myself for not snorkeling the first day we got to Kona. We snorkeled at Kahaluu beach and it was such an awesome experience. Turtles were everywhere. One just ďhung outĒ and munched on coral. I was only a few feet away from the turtle who didnít mind being watched. Another one swam right for me, so I just floated and let the turtle decide which way to turn. She (or he) turned to the right and brushed my arm with its flipper. Cool! I saw many types of fish: Yellow tangs, puffers, trigger fish (Humuhumunukunukuapuaa), Moorish Idols, butterfly fish, etc. I would have snorkeled every morning and afternoon had I gone snorkeling the first day in Kona. Oh well, lessons learned: donít wait for the last day to do something special. AND bring an underwater camera!! I totally forgot to buy one.
After our showers and checking out, we drove to Kona for lunch at Luluís. Again, Tony had a bad meal. His burger was way overcooked, so he had it returned. The second one came out better; however, he thinks it was one of those pre-cooked patties that just get heated up. My spicy chicken quesadillas were pretty good. Service was very slow Ė only one cook Ė yet there were only six customers when we arrived.
We had time to top off our gas tank, pick up my last roll of film, and then head to the airport. We didnít wait too long for our flight. I liked the openess of the airport. It reminded me of an outdoor shopping area. We sat separately, since I wanted to be at a window seat on the right side. Tony sat a few rows back. It was neat seeing Kahoolawe, the smallest island in the chain and uninhabited. Coming into Honolulu, the views werenít as good as leaving from there.
Since we were spending one night only, we didnít rent a car. Instead, we took the Airport Waikiki express bus ($14 per person round trip). No need for advanced reservations Ė just head outside and to the bus stop. There are workers in bright yellow shirts to direct passengers.
Back at the Hale Koa, we checked into room 839, a room at the end with a corner balcony. We had views towards the mountains and on the other side towards the ocean. Not bad for garden view prices. We had to have one last round of mai taiís at the barefoot bar. Ran into Geri, one of the waitresses.
Last minute shopping at the PX, then off to Dukeís for dinner. Doris, Tonyís sister, arrived an hour late. We had appetizers (ahi poke rolls Ė the best!) and a round of drinks to tied us over. Both of us ordered the Opah, which was prepared with a macadamia/breadcrumb crust and pan fried. Yum! There is also a nice salad bar, which I enjoyed the Caesar salad. There is live entertainment nightly. We had made our reservations the week before; otherwise it would have been a very long wait. For dessert, we all shared the hula pie. Save room for that!
Before heading to the airport for out 6:30pm flight, we spent the morning on the beach, checked out and stored our luggage and had lunch at Tikiís (yes, we went back for their kalua pig quesadillas). Window shopped on the way back to the hotel; showered a second time, as it was a hot day. We were allowed to use the showers in the gym, where towels, etc. were provided.
We were the only ones heading to the airport at 4pm, so we had the van to ourselves. The driver, from America Samoa, was very friendly.
Knowing the food is lousy on Continental, we had an early dinner Ė saimin. Ezogiku is the best! Smooth flight home. Dinner on board was pizza; it was worse than a frozen pizza from the grocery store. Do all American flights have such lousy food? I must be spoiled with my international flights. We enjoyed the last of our mai tai mix, which we placed in a large water bottle and brought on board in our carry on bag. Saved us from the $5/drink charge.
I wish we had a few more days in Hawaii. I wish I had snorkeled every day at Kahaluu beach (much better than Hanauma Bay!). I wish we could have gotten much closer to the flowing lava, like 10 feet away! I wish I shopped more at the flea market or at least gone back a second time; prices are really the best there. However, I donít regret a single minute of our trip. Hawaii will be there for our visit again in a few years. Lastly, since we saw so many sights on the Big Island, the next time we go there will be a lot more relaxing and plenty of time for the beaches and snorkling.
See my website, luvtotravel.com (link to the right) for further details. It will include hotel information, as well as detailed restaurant information.
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