March 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

I’ve been watching HGTV’s show Hawaii Life and it’s killing me. I miss being there! Anyone who is fortunate enough to live there, probably takes it for granted. Perhaps I would, too, after years and years and years. But maybe never, having not lived there.

I first went to the Big Island in the spring of 2000 and spent two weeks in a house near Laupahoehoe. It was heaven. Every morning, I could get up, don a swimsuit and a sarong, and get ready to hit the beach. The sun would be shining and the air felt warm, even at 8 a.m. Being on the east side of the island meant driving about 1.5 hours to get to the Kona side beaches, but it was worth every minute.

Our first beach was Hapuna, where I tried boogie boarding for the first time. It was like flying on top of the water and I loved it. Still do! There is no place to boogie board where I live. There isn’t even a nice body of water to visit. The water is beautiful all around the island and though a bit cool in winter, still a gorgeous sight.

My first try at snorkeling was at Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kona. It was late afternoon and a big cool, but we stopped at this beach on our way home from Hapuna. It looked like a typical town beach…parking lot, bathrooms, and a pavilion. It was rocky at the entrance to the water and since the water was chilly, my sister-in-law and I were conversing about whether or not we really wanted to get wet again. We asked a woman who was walking out if it was worthwhile and she said yes. “It’s like swimming in a fish bowl.” So, we grabbed our snorkel gear and dove in. It was cold, but the fish were incredibly colorful and we even saw green turtles swimming by. It was an amazing experience and a beach we have visited many times since then. Honaunau is my favorite snorkeling place. The last time I was there, we swam with dolphins!

Some people go to Hawai’i and come away thinking it was ‘just a big city.’ Well, if you go to Honolulu, it is, but there is so much more to Hawai’i than that. I’m usually only on Oahu long enough to change planes and head to the Big Island. Granted, Honolulu’s airport does have a beautiful garden where you can sit while waiting for your plane. It even has tiki torches and a Japanese gazebo. But, getting out of the city is the important thing. Whether you head to Maui, Kauai, Molokai, or the Big Island, spending time away from maddening crowds is the experience you’re most likely looking for and you can find that within a short drive…even on Oahu.

Why do I like the Big Island? Maui is pretty, too and I haven’t been to Kauai, but I like the variety of the Big Island. You can do any kind of water sport, hike Volcanoes National Park, wander through a rain forest, see staggering cliffs, watch cows grazing at the Parker Ranch, and even enjoy fine dining. It has a little something for everyone from a visit to Hilo Hattie’s to diving with manta rays to taking a helicopter tour to see the lava flow. One word of caution on hiking at Volcanoes…it’s really best to do a day hike when you can see where you’re going…falling on lava is like falling on broken glass and walking over hollow sounding lava is probably not a good thing.

What are my favorite places on the Big Island?
Snorkeling – Honaunau (Point of Refuge), Kahalu’u, and the Mauna Kea’s beach (get there early in the day…they only give so many passes to non-guests). At Honaunau, walk out onto the middle of the lava rock and head straight to the ocean, because there’s a step down to sit on for easy access. At Kahalu’u, look for a sandy spot, because it’s very rocky. The Mauna Kea’s beach is beautiful – snorkel near the rocks on the left or right.

Boogie boarding – Hapuna or the Mauna Kea. They’ll post signs if the waves are too high. Best tip for boarding – you don’t need to be too far out. Stand facing the shore with your head turned to watch the waves (don’t turn your back on the ocean), and when a wave starts coming in, hop on the board, and start kicking. The wave will carry you to shore. I like to have my arms out, airplane style, and glide in. It’s truly like flying. We often make the little man be our wave spotter. He stands behind us in the water and tells us when to start kicking.

Pretty places on the Big Island

  • Any western beach at sunset
  • Waipi’o Valley
  • Akaka Falls
  • Mauna Kea – snow-topped mountain…as long as you’re at the beach looking up at it
  • Onomea scenic drive
  • Kapoho tide pools

Where should you eat while there?

  • Hilo Homemade ice cream
  • Shave ice
  • Like wine? Try Volcanoes Winery (sample the guava butter, too)
  • The Coffee Shack south of Kona (check out the avocado tree in the back yard). It’s a good place for lunch
  • Merriman’s Market Café at the King’s Shops at Waikoloa Village (nice place for some upscale shopping, too)
  • Café Pesto in Hilo
  • Naung Mai in Hilo (try the tapioca over ice cream. Sounds strange, but I loved it)
  • That 50’s Place in Laupahoehoe
  • Tex’s in Honokaa, the warm malasadas (doughnuts) are yummy!

There’s so much to see, do, and eat, that you can go back to Hawai’i again and again and never get to everything. The weather is great and though you might get rained on, it’s yet to happen to me when I’ve been there. All I can say is that there is a lot to love about the islands of Aloha!


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