Driving and Discovering Hawaii: The Big Island.

Your guide to Hawaii Island’s secret beaches, active volcano flows, world-class restaurants and accommodations to fit every budget, and the road less traveled.

entire website and its contents copyright 2010 by montgomery ewing publishers LLC

Big Island Distances and Drive Times

Discover Hawaii's Big Island information, your insider travel guide to erupting volcanoes, nude, black, and green sand beaches, deals on Big Island hotels, B&Bs, resorts, and Waikoloa, Volcano  and Kailua Kona vacation packages. Gourmet bargain restaurants such as Giovanni’s Shrimp Pahoa and reviews of condo rentals, vacation homes, and cabins revealed here!

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Hawaii 1960 Kapoho Town Volcano eruption discoveringhawaii.com
 

Hawaii’s Big Island is home to secret beaches, active volcano flows, world-class restaurants and accommodations to fit every budget, and many roads lesstraveled. It’s two major population centers, Kona and Hilo, are Apples and Oranges: two very different Hawaii Island destinations with much to offer that is unique to their individual side of the island.


In short, Kona is sunny and hot, great for beach goers, and has lots of white sand beaches, terrific snorkeling, and a summer holiday atmosphere. Kona-side has many more vog (volcanic fog) days than Hilo. Kona-side excels in luxury resorts, and gourmet restaurants abound. Shopping is superior to that of Hilo.


Hilo is cooler by 5 degrees and throughout the day alternates between sunny and cloudy with plentiful rain, falling mostly at night. Thus, the Hilo side is lush and green and dripping with waterfalls. The Hilo side has no multi-star hotels, but does have hundreds of vacation rentals and B&Bs to choose from, and has wonderful food across a wide spectrum. Hilo is not a "tourist town", but there are plenty of visitors, usually of the more curious and adventurous type not dissuaded by the lack of pampering.


The Big Island has other choices as well, from the near-freezing nights during winter up in quaint-but-a-little-odd Volcano Village near the crater, to the wondrous isolation and endless vistas at Punaluu on the south and the ramshackle quaint environs of Hawi or Holualoa in the north, each nestled amidst rolling green ranchlands, with both Hawi and Holualoa adjacent to the magnificence of the string of primeval waterfall-drenched valleys that stretch from Pololu to Waipio.

 
Kona Brewing Company discoveringhawaii.com
Hawaii Hawi

big island guidebook

HiloTown


Winters are superb in friendly little Hilo, one of America’s most livable cities. Snow often caps the peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and there are lots of wonderful little restaurants to sample. What our local beach parks lack in white sand they more than make up for with crystal calm swimming lagoons. Chocolate-colored  Bayfront Beach [look for all the outrigger canoes stored here] is great for a picnic and sea glass collecting, but can be murky due to two rivers flowing into it. At the end of Bayfront Beach you’ll find Suisan, a great place to stop for all kinds of  ready-made-

for-the-road poke, the ono [delicious] Hawaiian version of ceviche. Richardson Ocean Park at the end of Kalanianaole Ave. is your best bet for swimming for its stunning location, little black sand beach, rideable surf, amazing coastal views and oceanfront natural glass-clear pools. Stop by Hilo Homemade Ice Cream for a delicious dense frozen delicacy, nearby at 1477 Kalnaianaole Ave. Ocean Sushi Deli, located downtown at 240 Keawe St., 5 minutes from Bayfront Beach,  has the best inexpen-sive sushi and sashimi any-where, and with plenty of unique local creations that broke da mouth. Try the Big Island Roll. Opens for lunch, 11 am. -2 pm,  opening again at 5 pm fo’ dinna. Hilo Farmers Market is the state’s BEST, hands down. Although the Kapiolani Community College’s farmers market on Oahu is amazing, far more varieties of produce and flowers are available at our hometown Hilo extravaganza: the mostly-rural Big Island is Hawaii’s Breadbasket, after all. In addition to such feastables as fresh-off-the-fishing boat sushi-grade ahi and ono green papaya salad, you’ll discover hot prepared foods to go, live trees and plants, like the Ice Cream Banana tree we bought, and a satellite market across the street chock full of Hawaiian crafts, fabrics, Tshirts, jewelry...you name it. The fun transpires every  Wednesday and Saturday. We can almost guarantee you’ll end up buying far more goodies  than you’d ever planned, and all without breaking the budget.

69s Beach, Waikoloa

Waialea Beach park, known popularly as “69s” has been newly “improved”, much to our disappoin-tment i.e., dogs no longer allowed to play here. Still, it is  kind of nice to have a restroom and shower...and parking that doesn’t involve dodging massive boulders. But alas, with the new ease of access come the crowds. This picture was taken on just such a crowded day midweek. One of our favorite beaches, 69s has shady trees on the sand for when you’ve had enough sun but still want to hang out, and a sandy shore bottom between rock outcroppings. Located at the  #72 telephone pole in the vicinity of Hapuna Beach. Google Maps can’t locate it exactly.

Sixty nines 69s beach Hawaii discoveringhawaii.com

Kona Brewing Company, Kailua-Kona

Our first of TWO favorite non-scenic Big Island Hangouts is in Kona, on the opposite side of the island from Hilo. The Kona Brewing Company is up a few blocks from the ocean in a more industrial area. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s very, very friendly, with fabulous beer and great pupus [nibblys]. This is a great after-beach/pau hana place where blue collar meets white collar and we’re all the better for it. 75-5629 Kuakini Hwy. 808-329-6110

big island guidebook

Richardson Ocean Park, Hilo

Hilo’s rep for rain is a little overdrawn, since most of the rain falls at night, gently on the roof, lulling you to sleep. We have our share of spectacular weather, and when it falls during the week, I take my dogs for a dish of Tahitian Vanilla at nearby Hilo Homemade Ice Cream, and then for a  crab-hunt among the rocks at Richardson, while I watch and lounge on the black sand beach.  As a bonus, we both love the multiple clear tidal pools here and at the neighboring beach parks. They’re very pretty, and offer safe wading/swimming on high-surf days.

If you’d like to stay in this lovely area, here are some great vacation rentals:

Hilo Vacation Rentals


big island guidebook

Hilo Bay Cafe, Hilo

Here’s our second of TWO favorite hangouts located in a non-scenic Big Island area: it’s in Hilo, in the shopping center near the Walmart, next to OfficeMax on Hwy 11, in town. But the inside is sophisticated and pretty, the food is wonderful and inventive, and prices are cheap for lunch and  inexpensive for dinner. If this place was in San Francisco –and it seems so when you’re inside– it would cost at least twice as much. Try the Blue Cheese Burger, and the ahi poke [poke rhymes with okay]. We like the $11 seared ahi salad, although it’s a little small for the money. 808-935-4939. Located just north of Prince Kuhio Plaza on the same side of Hwy. 11, Kanoelehua Ave.

Richardson Ocean Park Hilo discoveringhawaii.com


Hawaiian Paradise Park:

Want to stay in a unique local neighborhood? The Paradise Park residential enclave has a good number of OCEANFRONT houses available as vacation rentals, such as Seawatch pictured here and on the map. The owners of these rentals are fastidious about cleanliness and with providing visitors with lovely oceanfront accommodations. It’s whale season from November through March, and whales swim within a stone’s throw of shore to give birth in the bay. Dolphins and Giant turtles can be seen right offshore year-round. Sunrises and full moonrises are glorious. Cruise ships glide by after sundown, the star fields in the black sky are almost psychedelic, shooting star sightings are guaranteed, and whales conduct an orchestra of sounds at night, right there in your front yard, lulling you to sleep.

Located in the heart of the “Banana Belt”, the sun is more likely shining here than even just a mile up the road, and with only half of Hilo’s rainfall.

big island guidebook

Hawi Town

Head up to North Kohala for emerald-green pastures, the quaint town of Hawi, and Pololu Valley.

Hawi Town has a good sampling of galleries and stores, as well as good eating places, like the wonderful Sushi Rock, where sushi is just one of the luscious offerings. The hike down to Pololu Valley takes about 15 minutes, with beautiful vantage points along the way. The surf’s too wild for swimming, but the environs are gorgeous.

Visit gokahala.com for detailed information to North Kohala, the jewel of the Big Island.

big island guidebook: PUNA

HAWAIIAN PARADISE PARK

Pololu

Hawi

Miyo’s

big island guidebook:WAIKOLOA

SIXTY-NINES BEACH

RICHARDSON BEACH PARK, HILO

Coconut Island

Hilo Bayfront & Mauna Kea Snow

Hilo’s Kamehameha Ave.

Volcano

Village

Kona Town

BIG ISLAND FREE WiFi


HILO:


PostNet 111 E. Puainako St. 585, Hilo, HI, 96720

BJ Penn Gym 639 Kinoole, Hilo, HI, 96720

Borders Books 301 Maka'ala Street, Hilo, HI, 96720

Lola'a Cafe - Hilo Lagoon Building
CD Wizard Internet Cafe - 23C Pohaku Strret - 808-969-4800
Bot.Com Cafe - 180 Kinoole St - 808 933 9800
K's Drive In - 194 Hualalai St - 808 935 5573
Imiloa Astronomy Center - 600 Imiloa Place - 808-969-9700

VOLCANO:

Bed & Breakfast - Rt. 11 - 888-967-7286

KONA COAST:

Kona Coast Shopping Center - Center food court - Palani Rd. and Queen Ka'ahumanu Hwy. - 326-2262

KAILUA KONA:

Kona Brewing Company - 75-5629 Kuakini Highway
Island Lava Java and the Sunset Grill - 75-5799 Alii Dr., Suite A-1
Denny's - 75-1027 Henry St - 808-327-2184
Koa Wood Hale Inn - Pateys Place - 75-184 Ala Onaona St - 808.329.9663

Borders Books 75-1000 Henry Street, Kailua Kona, HI, 96740

Epitopia 75-5852 Alii Drive, Kailua Kona, HI, 96740


WAIKOLA:

Bay Club Bar and Grill at Waikoloa Beach Resort 69-450 Waikoloa Beach Drive - (808) 886-1515

KAMUELA / WAIMEA:
Waimea Coffee Co. - 65-1279 Kawaihae Road, #114 - 808.885.2100
Lava Rock Realty - 65-1290 Kawaihae Rd - 808 887 2500

big island guidebook

KILAUEA ERUPTS

  1. BulletHILO

  1. Free Download!
Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICKKAHULUI, Maui

  1. Free Download!
Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICKPu ` u O `o

  1. THE BEST OF HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND




Best Towns: Pahoa, Volcano Village, Hawi

Best Hotels: Hilton Waikoloa,  Royal Kona Resort

Samantha Brown’s Top 5 Travel Channel Video

Best Unusual Accommodations:
PUNA/ Paradise Park Vacation Rentals:
Rugged Coastal Location. Hawaiian Paradise Park is about 30 minutes southeast of Hilo Airport

Seawatch
Palms

KA `U / Kahuku/South Point:
Isolated coastal and mountain location, far removed from the tourist areas:

Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach
Ka`u Rental Page
House In The Clouds




photo above: Dolphins right offshore at Paradise Park

Best Restaurants: Jameson’s [Kona], Huggo’s On The Rocks [Kona], Sushi Rock [Hawi], Ocean Sushi Deli, [Hilo], Ning’s Thai [Pahoa], Hilo Bay Cafe, Miyo’s [Hilo], Kiawe Kitchen [Volcano Village], Donna’s Smokin’ BBQ, [Keaau]




Best Beaches:
Kona-side west:
69 Mile Beach,  Hapuna Beach, Beach at Honomolino Bay

Hilo-side east:
Richardson Ocean Park, Kehena Beach (clothing optional),

Ka`u-side south:
Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach


Best Attractions: Kilauea Volcano, Mauna Kea Observatories

In-town Hotels / Hilo & Kona
Unfortunately, Hilo lacks quality hotels despite there being a classic Hotel Row along Banyan Drive. This is a big Big Island mystery to us, because, well, if you build it, they will come.

The misleadinly named Naniloa Volcanoes Resort is neither a resort nor anywhere near the volcano. Its next-door neighbor The Hilo Hawaiian shares it’s frozen-in-the-60s decorating and upkeep problem...which includes down-at-the-mouth motel-quality furnishings, less-than-lush landscaping and average amenities, all the more disappointing because of their spectacular setting.

Putting the cart before the horse is a universal human idiosyncrasy, and much evident on the Big Island among certain businesses who are twiddling their thumbs waiting for business to pick up before they “can afford’ to bring their properties up to par. However, that doesn’t stop them from charging visitors premium room rates in the meantime.




Photo: The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

The Hilo Hawaiian has a lot of potential, as the hallways are very wide and the rooms roomy. On both our stays there we found front desk staff to be on the clueless side. The views overlooking Coconut Island are gorgeous, especially in winter when snows cover Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the seaside lawn and garden areas and the pool area are attractive...but visitors are more often disappointed than not: value received for money spent being the problem. Hawaii’s visitors expect lovely, lush, clean, well-maintained surroundings, indoors and out, and good value. Read TripAdvisor’s reader reviews here.

The Naniloa Volcanoes Resort has black fungus staining its exterior and the room furniture has seen better days. We cannot find their official website, which in this day and age is a real problem! Naniloa renovated three floors in 2007, a good idea, but the decoration is very IKEA-looking, i.e., inexpensive, modern, and perhaps not likely to hold up to constant use. The views are superb, but be sure to ask for a room with a view.. Here is the Frommer’s/New York Times opinion of the Naniloa:

Hilo's biggest hotel offers nice rooms with lanais and enjoys a quiet, leafy Banyan Drive setting on the ocean. The hotel is a little old and tired, but so are all the other hotels on Banyan Drive; in terms of comfort and amenities, this is one of the best that Hilo has to offer. Although it needs work (new carpet, a paint job, and overall remodeling), the rooms are clean and the oceanfront views are spectacular. The rack rates are on the high side, but it's usually pretty easy to secure one of the cheapest rooms (which have only partial ocean views and no balconies).
Royal Kona Resort
What Kailua-Kona town needed was a really good hotel right in town. Done.
Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays has completely reinvented the Royal Kona Resort, located right in the middle of all the action, but still quiet nonetheless. We got a special rate while renovation was going on in a different wing...so we got all the brand new perks with no noise or dust, at a bargain price, and would have been impressed even if we didn’t have scary memories of what this property used to look like. The addition of Don The Beachcomber’s oceanfront Restaurant and Bar is icing on the cake. Just a few steps next door, Huggo’s On The Rocks does indeed rock, with great food and entertainment. We had a terrific light breakfast there, feet in the sand, wonderful coffee. We actually weren’t expecting much, but turns out, we really loved the place. When you’re sitting here, you’re really in Hawaii. Alas, their website now says they don’t open til 11:30 am. Hey, where’s my breakfast?

Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel is quite dark and dismal despite it’s alluring website photos, wonderful location, sublime ocean views and amazing potential.

 The Kona Seaside doesn’t promote its property be anything other than what it is: a very clean, attractive, well-maintained locally-owned affordable alternative, and that is the key to their success. Uncle Billy’s is another popular locally owned budget choice. When we book a budget hotel like Uncle Billy’s or the Kona or Hilo Seaside Hotels, we understand and accept that we won’t be getting a 5-star Hilton Resort experience. However, people who book the Kamehameha, Naniloa or Hilo Hawaiian, both of whom promote themselves as resort destinations, usually come away disappointed, especially in light of the high rates they charge, 

Our advice? Search the internet and call hotels directly for the best rate. The first rate they quote will be their highest rack rate. Politely ask if they have a better rate. They will then offer a better rate. THEN, ask if they can do even better than that. In this economy, they most likely will.
If you are an AARP, AAA or other organization member, ask about discounts. You will often find with just a little legwork that you can stay at a new or newly upgraded quality resort for the same price as the rack rate at one of the hotels that have disappointed us here. 

Best Budget Hotel Hilo
The Hilo Seaside, on Banyan Drive is right on the water, and upkeep is exceptional. Located closer to the entrance of Banyan Drive, it is removed from the traffic and noise that can be a problem at properties further down the Drive. And, a complete rarity among Hawaii hotels, it has FREE limited parking

Best Budget Hotel Kona
The Kona Seaside
Not right on the water, but with ocean views and two swimming pools, this Seaside property shares all the positive qualities that make the Maui and Hilo properties a success: meticulous upkeep, lovely staff, genuine aloha, and affordable rates. We can’t understand visitors who do not rent a car after coming all the way to Hawaii and spending all that $$ on airfare, hotel, etc., but this is one place where budget travelers can get away with it. Shopping, beaches and great restaurants are all just steps away, around the corner on Kalanianaole Ave... and The Coconut Grill is right on site.

Atebara’s Hilo Potato Chips at 717 Manono St., and Big Island Candies at 585 Hinano St. are just a block apart, near Hilo Airport. Load up on goodies to take home, or for snack time back at your room.

Helpful Big Island Website:

http://www.eyeofhawaii.com/index.htm



KALAPANA

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION’s view of The Big island shows emissions from the Pu`u O`o vent on Kilauea, and emissions from where the current lava flow is entering the Pacific Ocean at Kalapana. The enormity of Mauna Loa (“Long Mountain”) is evident in this view as it stretches halfway across the island. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on earth. Neighbor island Maui is located at the top of the frame.

  1. Free Download!
Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICKMAUNA LOA

big island guidebook: WHICH IS BEST...

Hilo-side, or Kona-side?

It’s called the BIG Island for a reason...you’re going to need a car :-)

Free Download!
Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICK
Blog

The World Botanical Garden

located north of Hilo at mile marker 16, is brimming with adventure upon the inauguration of it’s new Zip Line Ride. Zoom over the gullies and and through the trees safely on this fully-permitted attraction.

THE BEST OF HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND




Best Towns: Pahoa, Volcano Village, Hawi

Best Hotels: Hilton Waikoloa,  Royal Kona Resort

Samantha Brown’s Top 5 Travel Channel Video

Best Unusual Accommodations:
PUNA/ Paradise Park Vacation Rentals:
Rugged Coastal Location. Hawaiian Paradise Park is about 30 minutes southeast of Hilo Airport

Seawatch
Palms

KA `U / Kahuku/South Point:
Isolated coastal and mountain location, far removed from the tourist areas:

Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach
Ka`u Rental Page
House In The Clouds




photo above: Dolphins right offshore at Paradise Park

Best Restaurants: Jameson’s [Kona], Huggo’s On The Rocks [Kona], Sushi Rock [Hawi], Ocean Sushi Deli, [Hilo], Ning’s Thai [Pahoa], Hilo Bay Cafe, Miyo’s [Hilo], Kiawe Kitchen [Volcano Village], Donna’s Smokin’ BBQ, [Keaau]




Best Beaches:
Kona-side west:
69 Mile Beach,  Hapuna Beach, Beach at Honomolino Bay

Hilo-side east:
Richardson Ocean Park, Kehena Beach (clothing optional),

Ka`u-side south:
Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach


Best Attractions: Kilauea Volcano, Mauna Kea Observatories

In-town Hotels / Hilo & Kona
Unfortunately, Hilo lacks quality hotels despite there being a classic Hotel Row along Banyan Drive. This is a big Big Island mystery to us, because, well, if you build it, they will come.

The misleadinly named Naniloa Volcanoes Resort is neither a resort nor anywhere near the volcano. Its next-door neighbor The Hilo Hawaiian shares it’s frozen-in-the-60s decorating and upkeep problem...which includes down-at-the-mouth motel-quality furnishings, less-than-lush landscaping and average amenities, all the more disappointing because of their spectacular setting.

Putting the cart before the horse is a universal human idiosyncrasy, and much evident on the Big Island among certain businesses who are twiddling their thumbs waiting for business to pick up before they “can afford’ to bring their properties up to par. However, that doesn’t stop them from charging visitors premium room rates in the meantime.




Photo: The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

The Hilo Hawaiian has a lot of potential, as the hallways are very wide and the rooms roomy. On both our stays there we found front desk staff to be on the clueless side. The views overlooking Coconut Island are gorgeous, especially in winter when snows cover Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the seaside lawn and garden areas and the pool area are attractive...but visitors are more often disappointed than not: value received for money spent being the problem. Hawaii’s visitors expect lovely, lush, clean, well-maintained surroundings, indoors and out, and good value. Read TripAdvisor’s reader reviews here.

The Naniloa Volcanoes Resort has black fungus staining its exterior and the room furniture has seen better days. We cannot find their official website, which in this day and age is a real problem! Naniloa renovated three floors in 2007, a good idea, but the decoration is very IKEA-looking, i.e., inexpensive, modern, and perhaps not likely to hold up to constant use. The views are superb, but be sure to ask for a room with a view.. Here is the Frommer’s/New York Times opinion of the Naniloa:

Hilo's biggest hotel offers nice rooms with lanais and enjoys a quiet, leafy Banyan Drive setting on the ocean. The hotel is a little old and tired, but so are all the other hotels on Banyan Drive; in terms of comfort and amenities, this is one of the best that Hilo has to offer. Although it needs work (new carpet, a paint job, and overall remodeling), the rooms are clean and the oceanfront views are spectacular. The rack rates are on the high side, but it's usually pretty easy to secure one of the cheapest rooms (which have only partial ocean views and no balconies).
Royal Kona Resort
What Kailua-Kona town needed was a really good hotel right in town. Done.
Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays has completely reinvented the Royal Kona Resort, located right in the middle of all the action, but still quiet nonetheless. We got a special rate while renovation was going on in a different wing...so we got all the brand new perks with no noise or dust, at a bargain price, and would have been impressed even if we didn’t have scary memories of what this property used to look like. The addition of Don The Beachcomber’s oceanfront Restaurant and Bar is icing on the cake. Just a few steps next door, Huggo’s On The Rocks does indeed rock, with great food and entertainment. We had a terrific light breakfast there, feet in the sand, wonderful coffee. We actually weren’t expecting much, but turns out, we really loved the place. When you’re sitting here, you’re really in Hawaii. Alas, their website now says they don’t open til 11:30 am. Hey, where’s my breakfast?

Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel is quite dark and dismal despite it’s alluring website photos, wonderful location, sublime ocean views and amazing potential.

 The Kona Seaside doesn’t promote its property be anything other than what it is: a very clean, attractive, well-maintained locally-owned affordable alternative, and that is the key to their success. Uncle Billy’s is another popular locally owned budget choice. When we book a budget hotel like Uncle Billy’s or the Kona or Hilo Seaside Hotels, we understand and accept that we won’t be getting a 5-star Hilton Resort experience. However, people who book the Kamehameha, Naniloa or Hilo Hawaiian, both of whom promote themselves as resort destinations, usually come away disappointed, especially in light of the high rates they charge, 

Our advice? Search the internet and call hotels directly for the best rate. The first rate they quote will be their highest rack rate. Politely ask if they have a better rate. They will then offer a better rate. THEN, ask if they can do even better than that. In this economy, they most likely will.
If you are an AARP, AAA or other organization member, ask about discounts. You will often find with just a little legwork that you can stay at a new or newly upgraded quality resort for the same price as the rack rate at one of the hotels that have disappointed us here. 

Best Budget Hotel Hilo
The Hilo Seaside, on Banyan Drive is right on the water, and upkeep is exceptional. Located closer to the entrance of Banyan Drive, it is removed from the traffic and noise that can be a problem at properties further down the Drive. And, a complete rarity among Hawaii hotels, it has FREE limited parking

Best Budget Hotel Kona
The Kona Seaside
Not right on the water, but with ocean views and two swimming pools, this Seaside property shares all the positive qualities that make the Maui and Hilo properties a success: meticulous upkeep, lovely staff, genuine aloha, and affordable rates. We can’t understand visitors who do not rent a car after coming all the way to Hawaii and spending all that $$ on airfare, hotel, etc., but this is one place where budget travelers can get away with it. Shopping, beaches and great restaurants are all just steps away, around the corner on Kalanianaole Ave... and The Coconut Grill is right on site.

Atebara’s Hilo Potato Chips at 717 Manono St., and Big Island Candies at 585 Hinano St. are just a block apart, near Hilo Airport. Load up on goodies to take home, or for snack time back at your room.

Helpful Big Island Website:

http://www.eyeofhawaii.com/index.htm
THE BEST OF HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND




Best Towns: Pahoa, Volcano Village, Hawi

Best Hotels: Hilton Waikoloa,  Royal Kona Resort

Samantha Brown’s Top 5 Travel Channel Video

Best Unusual Accommodations:
PUNA/ Paradise Park Vacation Rentals:
Rugged Coastal Location. Hawaiian Paradise Park is about 30 minutes southeast of Hilo Airport

Seawatch
Palms

KA `U / Kahuku/South Point:
Isolated coastal and mountain location, far removed from the tourist areas:

Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach
Ka`u Rental Page
House In The Clouds




photo above: Dolphins right offshore at Paradise Park

Best Restaurants: Jameson’s [Kona], Huggo’s On The Rocks [Kona], Sushi Rock [Hawi], Ocean Sushi Deli, [Hilo], Ning’s Thai [Pahoa], Hilo Bay Cafe, Miyo’s [Hilo], Kiawe Kitchen [Volcano Village], Donna’s Smokin’ BBQ, [Keaau]




Best Beaches:
Kona-side west:
69 Mile Beach,  Hapuna Beach, Beach at Honomolino Bay

Hilo-side east:
Richardson Ocean Park, Kehena Beach (clothing optional),

Ka`u-side south:
Punaluu Black Sand Turtle Beach


Best Attractions: Kilauea Volcano, Mauna Kea Observatories

In-town Hotels / Hilo & Kona
Unfortunately, Hilo lacks quality hotels despite there being a classic Hotel Row along Banyan Drive. This is a big Big Island mystery to us, because, well, if you build it, they will come.

The misleadinly named Naniloa Volcanoes Resort is neither a resort nor anywhere near the volcano. Its next-door neighbor The Hilo Hawaiian shares it’s frozen-in-the-60s decorating and upkeep problem...which includes down-at-the-mouth motel-quality furnishings, less-than-lush landscaping and average amenities, all the more disappointing because of their spectacular setting.

Putting the cart before the horse is a universal human idiosyncrasy, and much evident on the Big Island among certain businesses who are twiddling their thumbs waiting for business to pick up before they “can afford’ to bring their properties up to par. However, that doesn’t stop them from charging visitors premium room rates in the meantime.




Photo: The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

The Hilo Hawaiian has a lot of potential, as the hallways are very wide and the rooms roomy. On both our stays there we found front desk staff to be on the clueless side. The views overlooking Coconut Island are gorgeous, especially in winter when snows cover Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the seaside lawn and garden areas and the pool area are attractive...but visitors are more often disappointed than not: value received for money spent being the problem. Hawaii’s visitors expect lovely, lush, clean, well-maintained surroundings, indoors and out, and good value. Read TripAdvisor’s reader reviews here.

The Naniloa Volcanoes Resort has black fungus staining its exterior and the room furniture has seen better days. We cannot find their official website, which in this day and age is a real problem! Naniloa renovated three floors in 2007, a good idea, but the decoration is very IKEA-looking, i.e., inexpensive, modern, and perhaps not likely to hold up to constant use. The views are superb, but be sure to ask for a room with a view.. Here is the Frommer’s/New York Times opinion of the Naniloa:

Hilo's biggest hotel offers nice rooms with lanais and enjoys a quiet, leafy Banyan Drive setting on the ocean. The hotel is a little old and tired, but so are all the other hotels on Banyan Drive; in terms of comfort and amenities, this is one of the best that Hilo has to offer. Although it needs work (new carpet, a paint job, and overall remodeling), the rooms are clean and the oceanfront views are spectacular. The rack rates are on the high side, but it's usually pretty easy to secure one of the cheapest rooms (which have only partial ocean views and no balconies).
Royal Kona Resort
What Kailua-Kona town needed was a really good hotel right in town. Done.
Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays has completely reinvented the Royal Kona Resort, located right in the middle of all the action, but still quiet nonetheless. We got a special rate while renovation was going on in a different wing...so we got all the brand new perks with no noise or dust, at a bargain price, and would have been impressed even if we didn’t have scary memories of what this property used to look like. The addition of Don The Beachcomber’s oceanfront Restaurant and Bar is icing on the cake. Just a few steps next door, Huggo’s On The Rocks does indeed rock, with great food and entertainment. We had a terrific light breakfast there, feet in the sand, wonderful coffee. We actually weren’t expecting much, but turns out, we really loved the place. When you’re sitting here, you’re really in Hawaii. Alas, their website now says they don’t open til 11:30 am. Hey, where’s my breakfast?

Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel is quite dark and dismal despite it’s alluring website photos, wonderful location, sublime ocean views and amazing potential.

 The Kona Seaside doesn’t promote its property be anything other than what it is: a very clean, attractive, well-maintained locally-owned affordable alternative, and that is the key to their success. Uncle Billy’s is another popular locally owned budget choice. When we book a budget hotel like Uncle Billy’s or the Kona or Hilo Seaside Hotels, we understand and accept that we won’t be getting a 5-star Hilton Resort experience. However, people who book the Kamehameha, Naniloa or Hilo Hawaiian, both of whom promote themselves as resort destinations, usually come away disappointed, especially in light of the high rates they charge, 

Our advice? Search the internet and call hotels directly for the best rate. The first rate they quote will be their highest rack rate. Politely ask if they have a better rate. They will then offer a better rate. THEN, ask if they can do even better than that. In this economy, they most likely will.
If you are an AARP, AAA or other organization member, ask about discounts. You will often find with just a little legwork that you can stay at a new or newly upgraded quality resort for the same price as the rack rate at one of the hotels that have disappointed us here. 

Best Budget Hotel Hilo
The Hilo Seaside, on Banyan Drive is right on the water, and upkeep is exceptional. Located closer to the entrance of Banyan Drive, it is removed from the traffic and noise that can be a problem at properties further down the Drive. And, a complete rarity among Hawaii hotels, it has FREE limited parking

Best Budget Hotel Kona
The Kona Seaside
Not right on the water, but with ocean views and two swimming pools, this Seaside property shares all the positive qualities that make the Maui and Hilo properties a success: meticulous upkeep, lovely staff, genuine aloha, and affordable rates. We can’t understand visitors who do not rent a car after coming all the way to Hawaii and spending all that $$ on airfare, hotel, etc., but this is one place where budget travelers can get away with it. Shopping, beaches and great restaurants are all just steps away, around the corner on Kalanianaole Ave... and The Coconut Grill is right on site.

Atebara’s Hilo Potato Chips at 717 Manono St., and Big Island Candies at 585 Hinano St. are just a block apart, near Hilo Airport. Load up on goodies to take home, or for snack time back at your room.

Helpful Big Island Website:

http://www.eyeofhawaii.com/index.htm

big island guidebook

The PUNA District is HOT!

There’s much to see and do in the Big Island’s PUNA District, located south of Hilo. Drive south on Hwy 11 to Hwy 130, and make a left. In 10 miles you’ll reach PAHOA town, small, ramshackle, odd, with crazy “sidewalks” and terrific eating places and shopping. For such a tiny place, Pahoa packs a BIG visitor value punch. Eat luscious shrimp at Giovanni’s, the same people whose famous shrimp truck has drawn and nourished Oahu visitors to that island’s North Shore. You’ll find the same intensely flavored garlic and hot varieties here at Giovanni’s shrimp truck-without- wheels store. NING”S Thai has what we think is the best Thai cuisine we have eaten in all of Hawaii and California. Paolo’s hand-makes every luscious Italian bite, but don’t arrive famished, because it takes time to create your unforgettable meal. The Kapoho Pools are crystal clear, warm and welcoming. The nearby Ahalanui hot ponds are best visited as the tide is coming in so that fresh water will replace the old, which harbors bacteria. Despite having no beach, Pohoiki is the premier surfing and socializing spot in lower Puna, with sunning on the pier and swimming off the boat ramp. Frolic naked at Kehena Black Sand Beach. Drive to the very end of Hwy 130 for an up-close encounter with brand-new real estate in the making at Kalapana. You will have to hike 30-60 minutes from the designated parking area over rugged lava deposits, so wear good-fitting sneakers and socks, or better yet, hiking boots. The best views are at dusk, which means you’ll be hiking back to your car in the dark, so a flashlight or lamp is essential. Bring water to drink, a windbreaker, your camera and a friend. Since the lava course is ever-changing, call for the latest updates on the day you plan to hike: (808) 985-6000.

Visit this website for map of the flow’s location: http://lavainfo.us/

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Hawaii 1960 Kapoho Town Volcano eruption discoveringhawaii.com
Free Download!
Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICK
Hawaii Kapoho Pools discoveringhawaii.com
Hawaii Volcano Hike discoveringhawaii.com

big island guidebook: PUNA

What’s The Hilo Side Like?

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Our Big Island Restaurant Picks Map CLICK
Pohoiki pier discoveringhawaii.com
Hawaii Makalawena Beach discoveringhawaii.com

Top: Red Road is just one lane, bordered by historic mango trees, so drive carefully.

Above: The 1960 Puna eruption in Kapoho destroyed the town and local economy: the mountain it formed can be see towering above flatland in the vicinity of Kapoho Pools.

The views along Hwy 137 in Puna are spectacular

Kapoho Tidepools are warm and jewel-like.

Visitors prepare to hike to the lava flow at the end of Hwy 130 / 137. They stand on what used to be open ocean, before 1983.

The lava flow is spectacular at dusk: bring a flashlight and good footwear.

Pahoa Town Hawaii discoveringhawaii.comHawaii__Photo_Guide_to_Big_Island_Lava_Flow_Deposits,_Hilo,_Kona_and_Volcano_files/BI_BigIslandRestaura%2317EA082%20copy_1.pdf

Kapoho Town, 1960: Doomed!

Hawaii Green Sand Beach discoveringhawaii.com
Pohoiki pier discoveringhawaii.com

Pohoiki discoveringhawaii.com

Makalawena Beach

big island guidebook

Kona:


Kona is the side of the Big Island that caters to visitors via high-end resorts and shopping and plenty of lively ocean-view restaurants. Kona gets lots of sun and has spectacular white sand beaches. One of the best requires a sweaty, rough 20-minute hike: Makalawena. Stunning white sand, azure waters and lots of shade are its attractions; its location assures few visitors will be there.

big island guidebook

MAKALAWENA BEACH

Bring plenty of food and water - there are no facilities. Drive Route 19 north from Kailua-Kona, then turn left onto the rough access road for Kekaha Kai State Park (after mile 88).  Car renters better hoof it as it will really cost you if you get into trouble. After a rugged one mile, the road reaches a crossroads: park your car out of the way. Follow the path that leads right from the crossroads; straight ahead takes you to Mahaiula Beach, left goes to Makolea Beach, both also terrific beaches. In a few minutes, you'll reach the coast, where you will follow the coastal trail. Turn right as you face the ocean, to head north. The path will now go inland, across a rugged patch of black lava. It will take about 20 minutes to cross the lava, where you arrive at the south end of Makalawena Beach. Makalawena Beach is made up of 3 expanses of sand, separated by lava points around which you'll find great snorkeling.

Pahoa town

big island guidebook: KA`U

GREEN SAND BEACH


Near the southernmost point in the USA you will find a famed Big Island oddity: Green Sand Beach. You can only get as close as a 20 minute walk in your car. You have to hike the rest of the way, but yes, the olivine sand really is green.

big island guidebook

Pohoiki

bi_

Charles Leung Reveals Mauna Kea @ 13,796 Ft.

Steam rises from Halemaumau Crater

and snow-covered

Mauna Loa looms behind

Snow-covered

Mauna Loa

Snow-covered

Mauna Kea from

Jade St., Volcano Village