Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to visit Honolulu a number of times; with my family, to run conference events (great place for a conference!) and travelling on travel agent ‘famil’ programs. So when my boys voted for a Hawaii break again this year, I thought it was high time that we added on another island to visit as part of the trip so that we could experience more of what this amazing State of America has to offer.
Always passionate about experiencing and seeing new cultural activities or things to visit, we added on a three day trip to the main island of Hawaii, fondly known as the ‘Big Island’, so that we could witness the volcanoes and mountains/star gazing for ourselves.
Our hotel, the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, was a few minutes out of the main township of Kona and was the perfect base. The hotel has long been an island favourite and is set in the perfect location, with a fantastic pool area, great restaurants and an amazing spa and gym. I treated myself to a traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, and they carried out outside on the balcony area of the spa which was brilliant. Not only was it one of the best massages I’ve ever had, being outdoors mean that I listened to the sound of the waves rolling into the beach as part of the experience, which made for a tranquil, relaxing and calming atmosphere.
So what is there to see and do on Hawaii or the ‘Big Island’? Famed for the Volcanoes National Park, this is one sight that is definitely not to be missed. The active crater is an amazing sight to see and it feels quite surreal to be having photos taken with clouds of steam in the background and often there is the red glow of molten lava, which unfortunately we missed, but visitors had been treated to the day prior to our visit.
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are huge mountains; Mauna Kea is actually known as one of the highest mountains in the world (taken from below sea level) and is home to one of the world’s greatest astronomy facilities. Nightly tours take in fantastic star-gazing experiences which is another ‘must do’ sight. We have just returned and the summits were covered in snow (quite a phenomenon as it’s the most snow that Hawaii has ever experienced) which was also quite surreal. We were basking in 26 – 28 degree heat, whilst the summits were covered in thick snow. The mountains are of high altitude so the tour options are only for people that are aged 14 years or older, and for people that are of reasonable health/fitness. There is no hard core climbing but the altitude can make it difficult to breathe.
Hilo is actually the capital of the ‘Big Island’ but is not really the best place to stay. It’s located on the other side of the island to the more popular Kona, and is definitely a place to stop; however it is known for being very wet (apparently it rains there on average of 262 days per year!). Do take in as part of your tripping around, as the spectacular Rainbow Falls are spectacular and it’s also a great drive to travel to Hilo with lush vegetarian and beautiful scenery all the way.
There are macadamia farms, chocolate factories and coffee plantations to visit on the island, all offering free samples to tempt you to buy, so there is plenty to keep you occupied whilst touring around and you’ll never go hungry!
The town of Kona itself is great; a large resort style town with lots of great restaurants and tourist areas to enjoy. It’s layout is quite similar to some of the Whitsunday’s townships.
We loved our few days on the ‘Big Island’ and it was a complete contrast to neighbouring Honolulu on the island of Oahu, which is where most travellers frequent and spend most of their vacation. The ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii was a true, traditional, Polynesian island experience and a great add-on to our regular five days on Oahu (Honolulu).
So when you’re planning your trip to Hawaii, don’t just take in Oahu, think about adding on a few days on Hawaii (the ‘Big Island’), Maui or Kauai, as they all have something different to offer.