Vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii
by Val Tobin
Originally published December 6, 2010 on Suite101
Republished on SNGS December 2, 2013
The first thing that strikes you when you step off the plane and onto the tarmac at the Kona airport on the Big Island of Hawai'i is the beautiful warm air in this land of perpetual summer. Chances are, it is not even raining, as Kona is known for more sun than rain.
The next thing you notice is that almost everything is outside. Many of the hotels have lobbies that are open to the outside air. The people are as open as the buildings, as anyone I approached was ready and willing to talk to me. When you depart the mainland and enter the island, you truly leave your cares behind.
Since you're on an island, and, though they call it the Big Island, it's not really that large — about 4,038 square miles of area, according to the American Automobile Association's Hawai'i TourBook — you almost always are a stone's throw, or at least viewing distance, to the ocean. Sitting on a lanai and listening to the surf is one of the more relaxing pastimes on a Big Island vacation.
Resorts and Resort Amenities at the Sheraton on The Big Island of Hawai'i
If you want to stay in a resort, then you will find some comfortable and unique resorts in beautiful settings in Keauhou-Kona. However, not all resorts have white sand beaches. The island, is, after all, built on hardened lava, and most of the coastline is lava – sharp on the toes, not comfortable to lounge on, and home to some interesting creepy crawlies. To compensate for lack of sandy beach, the hotels have at least one, and usually more than one, pool.
One excellent, upscale resort on the Big Island, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort in Keauhou-Kona, boasts in-ground pools (including a 200-foot-long lava tube waterslide), a wedding center, restaurants (including one that offers a view of feeding manta rays), snack bars, tennis courts, fitness facility, spa and stunning tropical gardens all integrated with the black lava rock coast. The Sheraton also hosts a spectacular weekly Lu'au dinner and show.
The Keauhou Resort Trolley Tour for a Dollar
If you find that you yearn for some white sand beaches or just want to get away from the hotel for some adventure or shopping, but don't want to rent a car or call a cab, the Keauhou Resort Trolley can take you to a variety of places in the area, including the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, where you can go snorkeling, check out ocean tide pools or surf; Magic Sands Beach, where the tide can sweep away the beach only to return it at a later time; and the Keauhou Shopping Center, where you can find a variety of dining and shopping experiences.
The trolley also stops at the Kailua Pier, where you can find more restaurants and shops, fishing charters and Hulihe'e Palace. The palace was reopened to the public in 2009 after extensive repairs had to be done following an earthquake. Most of the shopping and restaurants are located along Ali'i Drive, such as the famous Kona Marketplace, where you can find Kona Rock and Mineral, a small store with a large supply of crystals and gems. You may even run into psychic advisor Tatiana, who sometimes does psychic readings there. But Ali'i Drive has many nooks and crannies to explore along the way. It is not possible to see and do everything found here by the Kailua Pier in just one day.
Hilo Hattie and Ali'i Gardens Marketplace
Another shuttle stop is at Hilo Hattie, where you can find Hawaiian clothing and gifts. They carry a selection of chocolates and macadamia nuts (and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts), as well as the island's very own Kona Coffee. If you love open-air markets, then be sure to jump off the trolley at Ali'i Gardens Marketplace. Here you can find unique clothing, gifts and goodies from a variety of merchants.
While the resort where you stay and the Resort Trolley can keep you busy for an entire week if you so choose, there are many more things to see and do on the Big Island.
Dolphin Swims and Other Ideas for Fun and Adventure on the Big Island
The Big Island, as stated above, is really not that big. My husband and I drove the circumference of the island in one day during one of our visits there. If the mood strikes, you can go from a coffee plantation in Kona in the morning, to black sand beaches in Hilo in the afternoon.
If you want to connect to nature in a profound way, investigate viewing the sunset and stargazing on Mauna Kea. Swimming with the dolphins or whale watching will take you to the ocean, where you can connect with the energy of the water and the magic of the dolphins. Visiting Volcanoes National Park allows you to experience the fire power of the Goddess Pele, but be careful you do not leave with any lava rock souvenirs, as legend tells that it is bad luck to do so.
Black Sand Beaches and Kona Coffee
For a unique beach experience, visit the black sand beaches that are scattered around the island. A guide from Hawai'i Forest & Trail explained to us that as the hot lava flows into the cold ocean, it shatters, resulting in the black sand that is found along parts of the coastline. For another unique experience, visit the various coffee plantations on the Kona side of the island. Kona is famous for its coffee, and many plantations give free tours, either guided or self-guided, and offer free samples of their delicious coffee.
A vacation on the Big Island can be the trip of a lifetime and a profound spiritual experience, or it can be all fun and games. If you talk to the very open and friendly locals, you will find that many of them were not even born there. Many traveled there on vacation and just stayed. The greatest power of the Big Island is not its volcanoes; it is its ability to make you fall in love with it.
Image: Lava Cliffs at the Sheraton, Big Island, Hawaii — Courtesy of Bob Tobin
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is not intended to substitute advice from your physician or health-care professional. Before beginning any health or diet program, consult your physician