So You Want To Visit…The Big Island of Hawaii

After a very long time, Hawaii finally started to open back up and allow tourism again after the pandemic. Of course, we got over there as soon as they eased restrictions, and spent two wonderful weeks split between Oahu and the Big Island. We started and ended the trip on Oahu, flew to the Big Island a couple days before Christmas, and stayed until a few days after then flew back to Honolulu. I had been to the Big Island as a teen, but it was even better as an adult.

Best Times To Visit:

  1. Much like any trip to Hawaii, I prefer going when it’s cold back home, so typically the dead of winter. We typically head that way over the holidays (where better to celebrate Escapemas than a beautiful tropical island?) so Christmas through New Years is the top of our list.
  2. Now that I live in Ohio, we have a much longer cold period, so really any time between late October and early April are appealing times for me to peace out and head to warmer weather. And fortunately Hawaii is beautiful year round, so that works just fine for me.

Best Hotels:

  1. On the Kona side is the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort. This is where we stayed over Christmas this past year, and it was really nice. It was a large resort, and it had a monorail continuously running from end to end (which gave me major Disney vibes, which likely contributes to my love of this resort). We got upgraded to the remodeled tower with views of the dolphin lagoon, which was a total treat. There is a large family pool, lazy river, and an adults-only pool as well. Not to mention beautiful black sand views and decently priced restaurants. Waikoloa is on the Kona side so it is convenient to a lot of dining and nightlife, but is a bit of a drive to some of the top activities.
  2. On the Hilo side is the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo, a DoubleTree by Hilton. It’s very convenient to the waterfalls, volcanoes, and other must-see destinations. However, the hotel itself really isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a pretty standard Doubletree, but with ocean views from most rooms (which I guess is something to write home about). There’s one small pool, a couple restaurants, and a walking path. It’s not somewhere I would pick if I wanted to spend a ton of time right at my hotel, but for a place to sleep thats near all the activities I like, it’s unbeatable for the price.

Best Restaurants:

  1. The Fish Hopper. This restaurant is on the Kona side, and has some of the best food I ever experienced on the Big Island. Their macadamia crusted Mahi Mahi was awesome and flavorful. All of their desserts were made fresh in house, and they had a really unique drink menu. Everything on it was awesome. We ate their Christmas morning and they had some really fun holiday specials that aren’t normally on the menu.
  2. Papa Kona Restaurant and Bar. This spot was right on the water with stunning views, and the food and drink were great to boot. I got fresh fish tacos that were really flavorful, and all the drinks on the menu were great. Dave discovered that he loves ube in anything, and I got an old fashioned with macadamia nut liquor which was surprisingly delicious.

Best Activities:

  1. Volcano National Park. This one is a given — you can’t go to Hawaii without seeing a volcano. We were fortunate in that the lava was flowing while we were there, so we got to see that awesome red streak in the distance. I’ll add that the lava flow isn’t as dramatic as you’d think from seeing advertisements. The strong flow slowed down several years ago, so now it’s really just trickles through the landscape. Still awesome to behold, but don’t expect to see tidal waves of red heat coming at you.
  2. Black sand beaches. There are a lot of cool black sand beaches on the Big Island. We opted against going to the more touristy ones, and found essentially a private black sand beach instead. I’ll clue you in to our little secret: we went to the Mahai’ula white sand beach, but instead of walking right onto that beach, we walked left out onto the lava rock. We hiked for maybe a mile or two at the most, and all of a sudden it opened up into the most beautiful black sand beaches you could imagine. It was just us, and we spent the entire afternoon and evening without seeing any other humans. It was an antisocial dream come true.
  3. Find (but don’t touch) the wildlife. Obviously Hawaii has a lot of cool wildlife, so I always recommend keeping an eye out. When we were at our secret black sand beach, we got to see an endangered monk seal just a few feet away. Obviously it’s illegal to touch them, and the seal wouldn’t have let us close if we tried, but we sat down and got comfy, and the seal decided to just ignore us and continued to sun bathe not too far from us. We also saw lots of sea turtles, which is always a treat.

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