On Thanksgiving, we went on a long-awaited trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i. Since we moved to Hawai’i, we have wanted to visit the Big Island to see all its beauty with our own eyes. We thought that we needed a full week to travel to all of the sights we wanted to see, so we kept waiting and waiting, but never found the right time to go. Finally, we decided to fly out there for our Thanksgiving break and stayed for five days.
On Wednesday afternoon be both rushed home from work to jump on an Uber to the airport to catch our flight, which we, of course, booked as early in the day as possible (in hindsight maybe a little too early). We flew from Honolulu to Kona, picked up our rental car at the airport, and drove to our hotel after a quick Target stop. On trips we always make a quick stop at a grocery store on our way from the airport to the hotel to pick up some snacks and drinks for our stay. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, which was beautiful and very centrally located in Kailua-Kona. We actually ended up not seeing much of our hotel, but still got to enjoy some of its amenities and really liked our room. After we arrived at our hotel, it was still early enough to go out for dinner and we decided to check out Kona Brewing Company (von wegen es gibt kein Bier auf Hawai’i – according to a famous German song “there is no beer in Hawai’i” – as if!) We had a nice dinner and got to try lots of delicious beers brewed directly in Kona. We actually did not care that much for the food, but Kona Brewing Company definitely is a great place for beer lovers.
Our first full day was actually Thanksgiving Day, so we decided to sleep in a little and do something relaxing. We had breakfast at this adorable little place overlooking the ocean and part of Kona’s historic main street. We both felt so relaxed and happy to be away from Honolulu for a little while. Also, we took the cutest pictures at the restaurant. We then decided to find out about tours to the volcano (which I was dying to see) and Thanksgiving dinner options. They actually had some great options at our hotel and we ended up booking a Thanksgiving dinner buffet at our hotel as well as a day trip to Volcanoes National Park. Then, we decided to use the rest of our day to go on a drive. First, we went to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge. The park was such a tranquil place and it was so interesting to see the ancient Hawaiian Heiaus. We continued to drive farther south to reach Hawai’i’s famous South Point, the most southern point in the US. It was a great experience to be there, however, if one is not in a daredevil mood and wants to jump down a 10-meter high cliff, there really is not much to do. After watching some reckless people jump down the cliff, we took some pictures and started driving back to our hotel to get ready for our Thanksgiving dinner.
The next day we decided to take a stroll through beautiful Kailua-Kona. We were surprised to discover that Kailua-Kona has a historic town center with an old church, a palace and many cute little shops, boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. We had some coffee and a bagel at a coffee shop called San Francisco Bay Coffee Bar and then bought some postcards and souvenirs to take home. After taking way too many pictures of all the pretty shops and places, we headed back to our hotel to do some tanning and relax at the pool.
Our fourth day on the Big Island was the most exciting one, at least for me it was, because we finally got to visit Volcanoes National Park. Ever since I moved to Hawai’i, I have wanted to see the active volcano. I didn’t just want to see the smoke and the crater, I wanted to see the actual lava glow, which is only possible at night. Since the park was about a three-hour drive away from our hotel and driving in the dark in an unknown place is not the safest activity, we decided to book a tour. Usually we like to go explore places on our own, but for the sake of our safety we chose not to this time. The tour we booked was amazing, literally everything was taken care of and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. We got picked up at our hotel and first drove to a place called Mauna Kea Recreation Area where we had lunch. We didn’t drive to the top of Mauna Kea, but we had a pretty good view of the volcano from the area we stopped at. It was pretty windy and cold (yes, it was actually cold here in Hawai’i), but it was amazing to be able to eat lunch so close to the highest volcano in Hawai’i. We then started driving toward Hilo just to pick up a few more people and then headed towards Volcanoes National Park. As we entered the park, we first went to the top of Kilauea to see the steaming lava by day. It was an incredible feeling to see the steaming volcano and to stand so close to the crater. We then headed back into our tour bus and went on a short hike through Thurston Lava Tube. The lava tube was like a tunnel underground, just that it was created by hot lava – so cool! Our tour guide suggested to drive down Chain of Craters Road, which was an amazing experience. We got to see steam vents, lava fields, and a stunning rainbow over the park. We took the road all the way to another short hike to some native Hawaiian petroglyphs and then down to the ocean, where lava used to flow into the water, creating beautiful rock formations along the coast.
Together with our tour group we had dinner at the park and then drove back up to the crater of Kilauea. Ready for the moment we had been waiting for all day, and for me even years, we got to the crater and did not get disappointed – the glow of the hot lava was breathtaking, it lit up parts of the sky in a pretty orange-pink color. We just stood there for a while fascinated, looking at the marvelous lava glow. This day at the volcano was an unforgettable experience and the tour we booked was definitely worth every dime.
On Sunday, our last day, it was already time to fly back to Honolulu. However, we had booked our flights late in the day so we could use our last day to do a little more exploring. After checking out of our hotel, we started driving toward Hawai’i’s North Shore. Our destination was Pololu Valley Lookout and Hawi, a little hippie town. On our way there we stopped at the oldest heiau on the Big Island and explored Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. The drive to Pololu Valley Lookout was a little windier and eerier than some of the others we took, but nothing compared to Road to Hana in Maui. And it was definitely worth it – the outlook was gorgeous. The north coast of Hawai’i is the oldest part of the island and therefore very green with lots of valleys. There were a couple of small islands near the coast, as well as a black sand beach. We didn’t have enough time to hike down to the beach, but we took some beautiful pictures from the lookout. We then drove back to Hawi to take a look at some of the cute boutiques and cafés in the little town. The town is very small, but definitely worth a visit. We had some delicious organic ice cream at a café and just enjoyed our last couple of hours on the Big Island. On our way back to the airport we decided to stop at a little fishing village, which we had passed while driving to the North Shore, to have some fresh fish for lunch. The town was called Kawaihae and was originally a busy trading port on the Big Island. Today the port is still one of the biggest ones in Hawai’i, but the town just consist of a few restaurants and a gas station. The restaurant we chose was so nice, overlooking the port with the nicest staff and the freshest fish. Such a great way to end our vacation!
We absolutely loved our stay on the Big island, but since the island really is as big as they say it is, we did not get to see much of the Hilo side of the island. I guess that calls for another trip to the Big Island, so we can explore all of the sights that we didn’t get to see during our last stay.