This is the tip you’ll really have to remember, and I’m sure that once you’re back you’ll write one yourself. I already mentioned here that there’s only one way to explore the island – by car and cars as we know run on fuel, which can be overpriced or simply “extinct” on this island.
There’s no problem finding a gas station by the airports or in large towns such as Kona or Hilo, but once you’re out there, exploring the Island, you may find yourself driving for long miles without a prospect of finding fuel. Occasionally, you’ll pass some small, remote towns where gas is overpriced, because they know that they’re your only chance in miles.
When the average price for a gallon was about $3.52 the town of Honokaa offered it for $4.05, not a big deal, but still can be pricey especially if you’re going for a full tank!
Fun Alternatives: Don’t wait till the last drop; fill your car when you can!
On our last day at Volcanoes National Park, we decided to drive up to the end of the road on Mauna Loa, the world's most massive mountain. While the ride was pleasant enough, in the end it wasn't really worth the time. The road's end doesn't provide spectacular views and the scenary along the road is just okay. It seems like a cool thing to do when you look at a map, but it's not really a highlight.
Unique Suggestions: Stop and check out the lava flows along the road. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984.
Fun Alternatives: Enjoy Mauna Loa from a distance. You usually can get a good view of the peak in the morning. Or, if you're in shape and have the time, do the four-day backpack to the summit from the end of the road (no, I didn't do that!)
Not far from Hilo is the Mauna Loa nut factory. Easy to find and beautiful to drive to. You pass by thousands of Macadamia Nut trees before you reach the factory. Inside the gift shop, you can browse the wide selection of flavored nuts, drinks, clothes and jewelry. Outside, you can walk on a self-guided tour of the processing plant. See how nuts are sorted, baked, coated, created and packed. If you are hungry, there is a nice outdoor snack bar.
Unique Suggestions: When you walk around the jewelry side, be careful when you draw for your free gift. I won a free pearl. So as I picked the pearl I wanted, you then get sucked into buying a setting for it (ring, necklace or earrings), which anywhere from $50-200. Before I knew it, I was drawn into a gorgeous setting for $175. Later on in stores, I saw the same setting for $50 or less. There IS a sucker born every minute.
Fun Alternatives: Take your free pearl and walk away! Have your own jeweler set it at home.
A rhyme we learned by a local:
Me ka wai kaulana a'o Punalu'u
Ka wai punapuna a'o Kauwila
(With the famous spring of Punalu'u
The fountaining spring of Kauwila)
--"Punalu'u" by Geirge K. Lopa, 1922--
You're able to see two kinds of turtles on the beach. The Hawaiian "Honu", green sea turtle, can be regularly seen in the bay, feeding on limu growing in the shallows.
In addition the "Honu'ea", or Hawksbill turtle, sometime enters the bay at night to crawl ashore and deposit eggs in the black sand.
One of the most thrilling sights is spotting the endangered green sea turtle that makes its home here in Hawaii. They are calm, sweet creatures that are unafraid of humans. They are most happy to keep munching away in the green algae growing on the black lava rock.
The turtles are protected by law, so touching or harassing them is punishable by stiff fines. This is because the turtles are endangered and the bacteria transferred to them via human skin can kill them as they have no immune system for it.
Panalu'u Black Sand Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches Hawaii has, with jet black sand and tall leaning coconut palms. The water can be a bit brisk, as this was a popular place for Hawaiians to get fresh water from the many springs that bubble up in the bay.
They would swim out with their gourds, slowly turn them upside down over the fresh water to fill them, cover the hole with their finger and swim back. The word "Punalu'u" actually means "diving spring".
One of nature's rarest wonders stretches across the island of Hawaii's shores - The black sand beach of Punalu'u. This magnificent beach formed when lava from two of the world's most active volcanoes, Maunu Loa and Kilaue, spilled into the ocean and quickly cooled, breaking into minuscule pieces that now comprise the "sand".
The black sand beach with its smoothed glass granules is always warm and soothing and the wild tropical landscape makes this spot irresistible.
Well, I give this a *qualified* tourist trap rating, really. ATLANTIS SUBMARINES (www.atlantisadventures.com) has facilities on Oahu, Maui, and here on Hawaii. I took the Waikiki submarine ride 10 years ago and thought that was the Living End. Very cool. You go 100 feet under the sea, glide around down there, the water is crystal clear, scads of fishies swim by, the guides give excellent narration of where you are and what you are seeing. Flash forward to May 2005 and my Kona sub ride. It's nature, so you see what wants to be seen. Meaning, you don't see sharks or whales or rays or eels or any manic feeding frenzies, no circles of life unfolding in front of your very porthole. So...if you haven't done this one yet, go ahead, it's a worthy and unique experience. But don't bother for any return engagement. You will be b-o-r-e-d, I'm afraid.
They are everywhere.....and some are hidden very well or disguised! These are the people who are trying to get you to invest in a time share before you leave Hawaii. Some will have traps such as cute or interesting animals to make you stop at their booth. We stopped to look at a cute little piggie who was wearing a lei and had his own little cute house enclosed with a cute white picket fence, and a small mailbox.......well you get the picture!...Yes, I stopped to look at this cute piggie, and they got me! The woman started telling us that if we just agree to go to a very brief introduction about time share condos ......a new resort set up of all time share condos.....We were told that we would be provided with beverages, snacks, and a tour of the place, THEN .....just for going thru the very brief tour we would get 2 FREE activities.......ANYTHING we wanted! Sounds good ha? Why not? We did it just for the free activities which can be expensive. Turns out the time share tour and intro was not so brief! They started out very nice, but once they saw that we were not interested, they became very pushy and even brought in their supervisors to try to convince us! It was very frustrating! .......Well, they were kind of upset that we did not invest in a time share, but they did give us those free activities.....We ended up choosing activities from a very short list! Oh well, we did get a free Luau and submarine activity. Not bad I guess, but we did use up some good vacation time!
Unique Suggestions: If you must go just to see what this is all about, or maybe you really are interested in a time share.........I suggest that you schedule doing this as early in the day as possible. The last thing you want to do is spend a whole day at a time share event when you could be enjoying your vacation!
Fun Alternatives: There are always other things to do of course....either at your resort or nearby. Some activities can be purchased as a package, where you get 2 activities for the price of one! Look around! OR book those ahead of time.
I was a little disappointed with this visit. It's merely a storefront for a winery. You get no tour unfortunately. You do get to taste their different wines, which are made right on the grounds. This winery is located off the main road just past the KMC entrance.
Unique Suggestions: Browse the shop and "talk story" with the sales people, you will find they are eager to share stories and rarely run out of things to say! If you are really into wines, you may not be so disappointed ... the wines are exotic, and not all are made with grapes! They're currently not shipping wines out of the state, so if you want to order, you must fly to the Big Island and pick up your purchases personally.
Fun Alternatives: Check around the store to see if there's a souvenir you don't already have, taste the wines, and move along to your next destination! Really, the gift shop is not "outrageously" over priced, so I bought some candle wicks for my sons, who I knew would GLADLY burn these for hours!
The hotel room I had, had a balcony. When I looked to the right, I had a view to the ocean.more
We stayed at Arnott's Lodge since there really isn't much in the way of lodging in Hilo, but we were...more
When we were here, this hotel was closed for remodeling. It might have needed it - my sister visited...more