Big Island route, lodging, shopping, and dining information
We flew into Hilo and out of Kona in order to maximize our time on the island. This didn’t seem to have much of an affect on the cost of our airfare, but it did have a disproportionate impact on the cost of our rental car. However, we got a free upgrade to a convertible, so I think we came out even in the end. It would have been worth it anyway just to see more of the island.
Note that the Kona airport is open to the air and, on a windy day, an utterly miserable place to be.
Big Island sight-seeing
The very lovely Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is an independent operation and not part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden system. Like most gardens in Hawaii, there is an entrance fee.
Akaka Falls State Park actually includes two significant waterfalls, the other being Kahuna Falls. However, when we were there all of the trails to Kahuna Falls were closed and looked as though they would remain closed for some time to come.
We didn’t actually spend any time in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park even though it is the main feature of the island and the sort of thing I’d usually be interested in. While we were here there was no place where you could actually view lava (which would be the biggest draw for me). The park’s website is updated regularly with information on lava flows, dangerous gasses, and park closures.
South Point can be reached via a narrow road.
St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (the Painted Church) is a lovely stop along the way to Kona.
We stayed at the south end of the island in a very quiet, rural area just inland from the ocean – and it was perfect. EVERYTHING about Kalaekilohana B & B was perfect. The house is comfortable and gorgeous (I almost could have lived right out on the large wrap-around porch), the bedrooms are lovely, huge, and airy (with the most wonderful bathrooms), the area is quiet and peaceful, the breakfasts are great, and the hosts are delightful. Staying with Kenny and Kilohana is like staying with good friends -I’d return just to visit them! Kilohana sometimes offers lei-making classes for guests, which is a wonderful way to get closer to island culture. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!
What’s Shaking is located on the scenic loop just to the north of the botanical garden. We stopped there for a light lunch that consisted of wonderful smoothies (the real kind, with banana as the base and then nothing else but fruit), huge fresh sandwiches, and lovely made-to-order guacamole.
Dining at the south end of the island left a bit to be desired. Kenny and Kilohana will direct you to whatever is likely to be best, but the options in this rural area are pretty limited.
We didn’t have time to shop in Hilo, which was probably a good thing, judging by all the enticing looking options available. We did shop at the little Naalehu Saturday market, one of many weekend farmer’s markets on the island, where we found a variety of great local foods.