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  • Writer's pictureShayna Gaman-Bean

The Big Island: Where we did our "biggest" or rather longest family trip to date!

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

"Hawaii is a paradise born of fire." ~ Rand McNally



The decision to do this trip was for 4 very good reasons:

1. I have a friend with a beautiful vacation home on the island.

2. There is a top 63 National Park on the island.

3. There are so many fun adventurous things to do on the island.

4. We wanted some quality family time.


So accordingly, when I realized I had 2 weeks off at the beginning of April, we decided this was a perfect spring break getaway!


Here is your quick list of fun things to do on the island in no particular order:

7. Sea Turtles: HERE is the place we saw the most, but of course there are other places to see plenty.

10. Luau

11. Zoo


Some favorite beaches in no particular order:

1. Hapuna: Beautiful and soft white sand beach. Quite large with bigger waves. Good to play in or boogie board. $10 parking and $5 per entry, but worth the money. About a 45 minute drive from Kona.

2. Spencer: Smaller and calmer white sand beach. Kids loved it here. About a 45min drive from Kona.

3. Kua Bay: White sand beach just north of Kona. Waves are perfect for boogie boarding.

4. Magic Sands: Just south of Kona. Another beautiful white sand beach.

5. Honaunau: And yet another beautiful beach worth checking out. In Kona's South coast.

6. Honokohau: To access this beautiful and calm white sand beach in North Kona, you can get there through the harbor or do the TOUGH 1 mile hike from the National Historic Park. This is the beach we saw the most turtles.

7. Punalu'u Black Sand: Beautiful beach with calm waters close to the Southernmost point of the island. There were 2 turtles there for us to observe.

8. Green Sands Beach: Check out more on the on the day 4 itinerary, but such an adventure getting here and so worth the trek!


Some favorite restaurants in no particular order:

1. Pineapples: In Hilo with great food, drinks, and service.

2. The View: In Kona with the BEST VIEW. It is a little farther from the beach, but absolutely stunning at sunset! Also great food, drinks, service.

3. Ono Loa Grill: In Kona and not a restaurant where you are served, but the food here is soooo good!

4. Huggo's: In Kona and super expensive, but great food, drinks, service, and view.

5. Kai: Another awesome view right on the water in Kona and also loved the service, food, and drinks. They have a great happy hour every day with live music which was super fun!

6. Volcano House: In Volcanoes National Park near the visitor center and the best part is the view of the Kīlauea Caldera, but the food and drinks are also great!

7. Punalu'u Bakery: Way down south and the sweetbread and malasadas are delicious!! Plus all sorts of other food and treats.

6 Fav Shave Ice Spots in Kona: One Aloha and Hawaiian Ice Cones

7. Fav "Stands" with all sorts of treats: South Kona Fruit Stand, Miranda's Farms, and Paradise Meadows.


Here is our itinerary:


Day 1:


We arrived at little before noon after a super smooth flight and headed straight to our home away from home.



We quickly settled in and admired the view:



First we headed to get a late lunch/early dinner at Ono Loa Grill. The burgers, onion rings, and sweet potato fries were delicious!



And then we headed to Kekaha Kai State Park and Kua Bay. It was such a beautiful day and the kids were already ready to jump in the water.




After hanging out for a little while, we headed to Walmart and KTA to do some grocery shopping.


We spent the first evening just relaxing on the back patio.


Day 2:


We slept in this morning and then decided we wanted to be a little adventurous today, so we went all the way South to South Cape aka Ka Lae (the most Southern point in the 50 states of the US.


On the way, we stopped at Punalu'u Bake Shop. It's in the middle of a little tropical paradise.


It was pretty busy when we got there, but we saw there were 2 lines, so we thought we'd be in and out pretty quick. Not so much. There was also a lot of confusion about what line to stand in. The answer is you can stand in either line and it was totally worth the wait! They have so much great food and drinks: lots of treats, sandwiches, cakes, breads, coffee, etc. We went for the malasadas and they were delicious!


We tried pretty much all flavors of the malasadas: traditional, chocolate filled, guava, mango, passion fruit. We also bought a ton of the sweet bread. That was so good to snack on.


Next we headed to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach.


Our first time on a black sand beach and it was so picturesque. We saw 2 sea turtles resting and hung out for a while just watching the turtles and ocean.






Next on to South Cape. There's a little area for parking and then it's a short walk to the tip of the island made of a lot lava rock, of course. The ocean here is rough, with huge waves and it's so windy, but the water was so beautiful!





There were quite a few people there fishing and jumping in the water (CRAZY!!), so we watched for a little while.





We then headed to Dinner at Huggo's.




Day 3:


First stop of the day was to Honokohau Beach. We started at the National Historic Park entrance and realized it would be a tough 1 mile hike... we decided we could do it (even though we were wearing sandals! HAHA!)..




It was a tough hike, but we made it and it was so worth it!



We hung out for a while playing in the water.



And then walked around some more and found 3 sea turtles resting. We watched one of the turtles get back in the water.




Then it was time to head back to our car and go to our next stop.


Up next was deep sea fishing. As we arrived, the group that had just gotten back had caught a huge marlin. Quite impressive up close!



So naturally we were pretty optimistic that we would catch something. We settled into the boat and headed out.




We got a quick crash course in deep sea fishing and then just relaxed and enjoyed the 4 hour ride. All 3 kids fell asleep and then it started downpouring rain. It was quite eventful despite not catching a thing. I still loved it because I just loved being out on the water.





Day 4:


We had another busy day planned:


First stop was at the South Kona Fruit Stand for a tropical fruit hall and some smoothies.





Then off to the Green Sands Beach!


Since the hike is long and tough, we decided to take advantage of one of the "shuttles." It was $20 per person cash and it was definitely worth it. The drive was ROUGH!! Crazy off roading over lava rock and rough terrain. It took about 20 minutes to go 3 miles! Once we got there we knew it was worth it.




The walk down to the beach was a little challenging:




The beach is an olive green color and the water is so beautiful and warm. Aidan and Camilla loved playing in the water.





It was very windy and the wind seemed to get worse the longer we were there. We were there about 1 hour and then decided it was time to head out. I'd say 1 hour there is perfect.


Tell me it was windy without telling me it was windy, HAHA!:



Next we explored Paradise Meadows where they have all sorts of traditional Hawaiian treats and some fun animals (pig and variety of birds) to see and art for sale.





Then it was time for a pick-me-up and we stopped at Miranda's Farms for some coffee.



And then our first shave ice of the trip at One Aloha. I love how you can have ice cream inside the shave ice. The possibilities are endless there as far a combos of shave ice and ice cream flavors.



We had one our favorite dinners at The View at Kona Country Club. The view was amazing!!



We also loved the food, drinks, and service. The kids discovered they love calamari and the devoured 2 orders of it!


Our last stop of the day was definitely a highlight of the trip: The Manta Rays.


We met up with our guides at 8:30pm and headed to our canoe. It was just our family on the tour which I loved! This kids did awesome! Everyone had to paddle, but it was very close to the launch and only took about 5 mins to get to our stop. Another awesome thing about this company was that they provided all the equipment (snorkel gear, life jackets, wetsuits and they had gear for the kids too!). They were all super knowledgeable and taught us so much about the mantas.



The mantas are identified by their spots on their belly and all the ones that frequent this area are identified and all named. Camilla was feeling a little queasy so didn't get in the water but the rest of us did and absolutely loved the experience. We saw at least 10, if not more mantas and they come so close to you! Queenie and Ria came up to us the most. This tour is great for those who may not want to get in the water because you can see that Mantas from the boat.



The blue lights attract the plankton which the Mantas feed on. You are not allowed to touch them, but they can touch you. None of us were touched, but they were not shy.






We were in the water for probably 45 minutes and then we started getting a little cold. The water actually felt quite nice, but you're pretty still in the water and eventually start getting cold from lack of moving. The reason you're still is twofold: one you have floats on your feet to keep you flat on the water and also because you don't want to scare the Mantas away.


Overall a phenomenal experience and the reason I chose this tour was because you can see the Mantas from the boat just in case you don't want to get in the water which was great for Camilla. She still had such a great time!


Day 5:


Today was our day on the rainy side of the island in Hilo. This day was particularly rainy and cool so I would definitely recommend bringing a thin raincoat or pancho if you're planning on going to this part of the island. The drive there from Kona is so interesting. It only take about 1.5 hours but it takes you through like 5 different climate zones from mountainous to lava rock to desert to rainforest.


We went to the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. It's a free zoo (donations appreciated) and I can't express how beautiful it is! But the huge highlight was all the animals. So many fun animals to observe and they all put on quite the shows for us. We particularly liked the tigers, monkeys, and peacock. Overall it was so fun to explore despite all the rain and I would highly recommend.







Next we did a waterfall tour:


First up Rainbow Falls:




Second was more falls along the Wailuku River:



Third was Boiling Pots:



One thing I regret not exploring there were the lava tubes. If you have a chance, definitely check it out.


Lastly, horseback riding, highly recommend:



We finished our Hilo day off with a delicious dinner at Pineapple's. We all loved the service, food, and drinks.




Kendall eating her favorite calamari.



We caught a beautiful sunset on the way home.



Day 6:


Today was our first pure chill day at the beach. We wanted a relaxing beach so the kids could just play in the water carefree so we chose Spencer Beach. It was a Saturday so we were expecting the beach to be busy, but surprisingly, it was not that busy!





We finished off the day with a beautiful sunset!



I would also recommend the Legends of Hawaii Luau at the Hilton.



Day 7:


This was a day I was so looking forward too: Our day at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!


This is another place I would recommend a raincoat or pancho and jacket if you're planning on being there late at night (which I would also recommend). Also bring lots of snacks because there are not a ton of food options there and once you're there you don't want to leave and come back (or maybe you do, but be prepared for a lot of driving!).


The drive from Kona is about 2 hours, but oh so gorgeous!


On the way we stopped at Punalu'u Bakery again for some more treats.


And off to the park!



We started out at the visitor center. I would recommend getting there before 10am because that lot does fill up. From there, there is access to the Volcano house and Kīlauea Caldera


We figured we'd start the day with the challenging hike, which was 1.6 miles round-trip into the Kīlauea Caldera. The walk is mostly through beautiful rainforest as you head down into the caldera. You aren't allowed to walk onto the caldera, but it is pretty amazing being so close to the crater and seeing the steam vents.




The hard part was hiking out of the caldera. It's a long 0.8 mile hike out, but we did it! And we saw this super cool bird the Kalij Pheasant on our way out.



And then we were rewarded with a delicious lunch with an amazing view at the Volcano House.





Up next we checked out the Thurston Lava Tubes. There was plenty of parking and the hike was very quick, definitely worth checking out with the kids.




At this point we were all starting to get tired (mostly from that first hike and then food coma), but we had to see the lava in the active crater, so we headed to the current eruption viewing site (best to check in at the visitor center to find out the current viewing area). Currently, it's a very easy 1 mile hike down this road to the viewing site.




Now seeing lava is very likely, but how much lava you see will definitely be luck of the draw and they encourage you to only stay up to 10 minutes so others can view. It wasn't too busy when we were there and we did see some lava boiling up which was awesome!




But my only regret from this trip was not coming back at night to view it at night. If you do choose to see it at night, plan on coming late at night (like after 10pm or early morning before sunrise) otherwise the parking lot will be full and there aren't good parking alternatives there.


We finished the day with shave ice and boba at Hawaiian Ice Cones back in Kona.




Day 8:


Today was our first of 2 photoshoot days. We started at Hapuna beach, an absolutely gorgeous white sand beach with some of the softest sand I've ever found. It doesn't open until 7am so our plan to do sunrise pics didn't really work out, but we still got some amazing pics.








We ended up spending the whole day here playing. The waves were particularly big this day and poor Kendall got pummeled twice by giant waves and she was done.




Nevertheless we all had another super fun beach day.


We ended the day with yet again another gorgeous sunset.



Day 9:


Honestly, I was a little sad this day because it was our last full day there.


We decided to do another photoshoot at Hapuna and then to Spencer to do more pics.







Then we hung out and played at Spencer Beach which was much more relaxing and we had almost the whole beach to ourselves.



We headed home to shower and clean and then went to our last dinner at Kai in Kona. This was another favorite restaurant as we were right on the water, we had an awesome view, service was great and super fast, they had great live music, the menu was huge and the food and drinks were so good. So many things to love about this restaurant!




It was a great last meal in Hawaii!


And of course we ended the day with a beautiful rainy sunset.



Day 10:


We woke up early, packed and cleaned. Unfortunately, we realized we were missing our GoPro, so we made the trek 45 minutes all the way to Hapuna Beach to look for it. No luck finding it, but it felt good to know we tried.


We made it to the airport just in time, got some snacks and boarded our flight. We had a very smooth flight home.



This trip with beyond amazing! So many awesome memories were made.



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