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Old 04-16-2010, 06:09 PM
 
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Hi all - hoping some of you can offer suggestions for our first trip to Hawaii as outlined below. We'll be visiting the Big Island and Oahu from May 7th-14th. Thanks in advance for your input!

General:
1. Are there best days/times of day to do or to avoid any of the activities mentioned below? For example, maybe you know certain places are closed on Wednesdays or super crowded mid afternoon on Thursdays.
2. Do you recommend taking a tour vs going on our own for any of the activities mentioned below?

Food:
We welcome any must-try recommendations. We'd love to try some typical Hawaiian fare or just yummy grub. We're not into fish/seafood but we love pork and spicy foods. Indian, Caribbean, and Thai probably are our favorite cuisines - if that helps with recommendations any. Matsumoto's shave ice on Oahu is on the list already

Big Island:
We'll be arriving in Kona the evening of May 6 and leaving probably the morning of May 11. Not sure what order we'll do things in but our priorities are: volcano, snorkel, rain forest. We expect to spend a night or two at the military campground in Volcanoes Park. Do you recommend doing these things in a particular order so we'll have enough energy/ability to do everything we want to? For example, we don't want to hike the volcano and then not be able to move or snorkel the next day. Not sure how rugged the hikes are or how fit we need to be.

1. Volcano - Are running shoes ok for this? Any footwear/clothing/outerwear recommendations? I hear it gets cold and am not sure about what to wear.
2. Snorkel - expecting to do this at one or two places on the Kona side. Specifically, Kealakekua Bay and Kahaluu Beach Park. Any knowledge of these waters? Can we get to a good snorkel spot on our own there or need a tour? Are the waters calm enough for a novice swimmer like me? I've only ever snorkeled in the calm waters of Cayman.
3. Rainforest - Any recommendations for this? I'd love to see a waterfall and maybe do a zip line if you know of one. I'm guessing this is an all day kind of outing? Up on the northeast coast, right?

Oahu:
We'll likely be arriving on the 11th and I'll leave the evening of the 14th of May. Priorities here are: Pearl Harbor, snorkel, luau. If you know hints or tips about days to go/avoid Pearl Harbor...or a good luau - bring em on. Snorkeling we're thinking of Hanauma Bay and Makaha Beach. Are you familiar with either? Not sure if we can enter on our own or need to go further out with a tour. Heard Hanauma is closed certain days of the week for conservation. Any insights are welcome!

If you can offer advice on any of the above or anything I haven't mentioned, I'd love to hear it. Thank you!

ps. I know to leave things be - no taking sand or rocks from beaches and volcano. We respect the environment and want to leave it in good shape for others to enjoy
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Old 04-16-2010, 09:10 PM
 
Location: Big Island- Hawaii, AK, WA where the whales are!
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Big Island:
We'll be arriving in Kona the evening of May 6 and leaving probably the morning of May 11. Not sure what order we'll do things in but our priorities are: volcano, snorkel, rain forest. We expect to spend a night or two at the military campground in Volcanoes Park. Do you recommend doing these things in a particular order so we'll have enough energy/ability to do everything we want to? For example, we don't want to hike the volcano and then not be able to move or snorkel the next day. Not sure how rugged the hikes are or how fit we need to be.

1. Volcano - Are running shoes ok for this? Any footwear/clothing/outerwear recommendations? I hear it gets cold and am not sure about what to wear.

Running shoes should be fine. Not sure what your going to hike? Many areas to but if you are just wanting tourist - park hikes no problem. I left last week and the lava flow into ocean hasn't returned by the time I left. Staying in Valcanoe area you will want rain coat/warmer clothes. Pants depending on the weather. It can get cool at night...although I am aclimated to Hawaii so I am in a Sweat shirt if under 70's.

2. Snorkel - expecting to do this at one or two places on the Kona side. Specifically, Kealakekua Bay and Kahaluu Beach Park. Any knowledge of these waters? Can we get to a good snorkel spot on our own there or need a tour? Are the waters calm enough for a novice swimmer like me? I've only ever snorkeled in the calm waters of Cayman.

Depends on the surf. Personally I am a chicken in water. If you want a real easy snorkel go next to the Outrigger Hotel in Kona. Tours if you are really unexperienced. Everyone tells me the night manta ray snorkel in Kona is really neat and very safe.

3. Rainforest - Any recommendations for this? I'd love to see a waterfall and maybe do a zip line if you know of one. I'm guessing this is an all day kind of outing? Up on the northeast coast, right?

Wapio Valley is really amazing for the Jurassic Park experience. You will have to walk down a long ways or get a tour. A rental car won't cut it.Very very pretty with waterfalls also. Their is zip lines in Hawi -Northwest part of island and a new one north of Hilo on the Hamakua Coast past a couple of the water falls.

As far as an plan day by day of what to do.. Good luck. I can't do that. I only wake up in the am figure out what the weather and surf is then decide day to day where to go and what to do.

I will let others comment of Oahu other than you should be fine on your own in Hanauma Bay. Have fun.
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Old 04-17-2010, 06:11 AM
 
18,969 posts, read 11,636,687 times
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Thanks for your reply - it's really helpful! I'll make notes about the snorkel and rain forest recommendations

Question about the warm clothes - do you mean jeans, long sleeve t-shirt and jean jacket kind of warm or multi layers with sweater and gloves? If I'm moving at all outside I'm fine in jeans and a long sleeve t when it's in the low 60s. TIA for your response

Looking forward to more folks weighing in - so excited for this trip
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Old 04-17-2010, 11:58 AM
 
Location: Moku Nui, Hawaii
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There is a website called "Trip Adviser" which is geared up to answer these sorts of questions precisely should you not get much response here.

In May, you shouldn't see temperatures below sixty so dress for that. Volcano sometimes gets misty rain and sometimes pouring rain. It's generally a warm rain, though, and it usually doesn't last all that long. An umbrella might be nice, though.

Thurston Lava Tube in Volcano National Park is very fern forest/rain forest and it is a short easy hike, too. The Hilo Panewa Rainforest Zoo is a nice spot to visit. It's not a large zoo and it is sort of half botanical park but it's free. It's nice to pack in a lunch and have lunch at the zoo.
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Old 04-17-2010, 12:28 PM
 
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Thanks for the response Hotz! I'm aware of TripAdvisor but was feeling sort of eh about it. Will definitely add Thurston Lava Tubes to my list!

Ya, I was sort of surprised by the lack of response here. Some state forums on CD have lots of give and take when it comes to visitors questions and some are more interested in talking to residents only.

Oh well - I'll still hold out hope that a few more kind souls will add their two cents here
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Old 04-17-2010, 12:33 PM
 
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Just back from a visit to the Big Island, can only answer as someone who briefly visited.

Volcano - running shoes are just fine. I wouldn't wear slippers/sandals for the trail around the crater, not because the terrain was difficult but because it varied from shady tropical to out on the lava. You need closed shoes to keep your feet from getting dirty-bit-scratched and you sure don't want to twist your ankle.

Weather - despite all the advice, I didn't take a warm enough jacket and had to buy one at Ross. I'm used to Kihei Maui I guess, and it was cooler in Hilo at night than I expected. A lightweight long sleeve fleecy thing was fine. Took an umbrella and used it. If you want your hands free, take a light windbreaker instead, to layer over anything and keep you dry. It WILL rain when you are there, and yes it varied from light sprinkles (just keep walking) to heavy downpour (start running).

I'm out of shape and overweight and the volcano hike was fine. Had to stop and rest my beating heart, but everyone else in the group was just fine. If you are at all active, it will be no problem. Take water. We took lunch and ate out on the volcano crater, sitting in the shade.

There are more challenging hikes & trails, and you can spend more time wandering about. But for us the hike was enough, and off we went to dinner. No problems the next day.

Time - We spent more time driving than I thought we would. The roads were excellent, better than many Maui roads. Traffic moved along quickly and other drivers were very polite. It's just that places are very spread out. Also we took some scenic drives instead of walking because it was raining, so that put us in the car more too.

Merriman's in Waimea was excellent. Didn't get there this last visit, but the time before was great. Reservations required.

Stop at farmers markets when you see them on your drives. We stopped at one and found someone making crepes! Wow, so tasty with shrimp and spinach. My friend got kalbi ribs at another stand.

Snorkeling - Can't speak to snorkeling on the BI, but on Maui I tell visitors that the tours are great for getting you out to places you can't get to from shore. Snorkeling from a boat means you are in deeper waters, but can get out easily. Gear is provided, and often lunch too. You get out on the boat cruise to a location, snorkel around, eat, snorkel more, and come back. It's a nice trip. Some boats have snuba gear for you to try.

Snorkeling from shore still means great fishies, but you need to navigate getting in/out of the water and sometimes the waves can smack you. It all depends on the beach and the day. If you see lots of kids with parents and gear (those are visitors, the ones without parents and no snorkel gear are locals) in the water, then obviously it's probably safe for anyone. If the kids are all on shore, then the waves might be too rough. Again, I'm not very fit, but I can snorkel on Maui. Advantages of snorkeling from shore is saving money and spending as much/little time with it as you please.
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Old 04-17-2010, 01:16 PM
 
Location: Hawaii-Puna District
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Remember to add plenty of drive time to your schedule. It's called the Big Island for a reason.
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Old 04-17-2010, 02:30 PM
 
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Oooo thanks so much Calico and MD Great advice.

Helped put my mind at ease about the volcano. I read such different things - including scary stuff about melting shoes, treacherous footholds, and aching bodies Excellent advice about snorkeling, too. I'm in ok shape but a novice swimmer (very novice) and, although I can walk for miles, I don't have much aerobic capacity for more strenuous effort like jogging.

Love the tip about farmer's markets - will do!

Driving time - I've been mapping some possible treks out on Google. Hoping they're pretty accurate because it already looks like some long drives - yikes. Like, 2.5 hours from Kona over to Waipio Valley.

Thanks again for the advice! Will check back later to see if there's more. Getting giddy about this trip
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Old 04-17-2010, 02:40 PM
 
Location: 98166
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Hey there,

Kona to Waipio should only take you about an hour and a half give or take. Although if you are going south towards Volcano from Kona I guess it would take that long. Watch your speed too! Lots of cops out lately. Have fun on your trip!!
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Old 04-17-2010, 04:54 PM
 
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Default A wonderful trip!

We just returned from a visit to both of those islands last month! It was the trip of a lifetime.

Here's my $.02...

Volcano -- We drove to the park after visiting Ka La'e (south point). I was so hot at south point, and was getting so much sun, that I actually got a case of sun poison...(I am very, very white). Then we drove to Volcanoes Nat'l Park right after that and I was freezing in my tank top and shorts. So, it probably has something to do with perspective. Do the lava tubes -- we didn't, and everyone has asked us about that particular thing since then for some reason. Another day, we went to Hilo and went on a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. If you have any extra money for something special, I would highly recommend the heli tour of the volcano! It was truly extraordinary!!!

Food -- We were lucky enough to get hooked up with locals and had authentic homemade lau'lau. It's tasty, if you like pork and spinach-like greens. Even if you don't really like fish, you should try the mahi mahi there. Really very good when cooked fresh, and it's not "fishy" tasting.

Snorkel -- I would recommend a tour on the Kona side to see the most, unless you are a very strong swimmer. We walked into the bay at Kealakekua and snorkeled from the shore... Didn't see much, but it's apparently better over by the Capt Cook monument across the bay. We are very fit, but I was nervous about attempting to swim that far... You will see more if you take a tour to the bay from Kailua-Kona, but it does eat up a good portion of a day. We also have heard the tide pools up by Hilo/ Puna area are pretty good for snorkeling. We didn't have time to get there.

Oahu -- I strongly recommend visiting Pearl Harbor on a weekday and getting there early. We arrived at 7:30 on a Tuesday and our ticket times to visit the Arizona were for 9:40... by the time we left at 11 a.m., the line was LOOOONG to just get into the park. Parking also seemed limited, but maybe we missed a larger parking lot somewhere. I thought Oahu was GORGEOUS -- a very different look from the B.I. (which we loved too). The main issue there is traffic. Avoid driving across Honolulu during rush hour if you can. Driving up the coast to the north side of the island is very fun/ scenic too. There are lots of places to stop -- get a good, detailed map or query your GPS for landmarks/ attractions when you're there.

Last thing -- a small warning. Some of the roads on the B.I., especially the less-traveled ones heading east/south from Kailua, are no joke. Very sharp drop-offs and large potholes and sharp turns are plentiful in those areas -- and locals are used to it, so they tend to tailgate and get a little irritated if you drive slowly. I would not recommend driving on those roads for the first time when it is night-time or any time when it is dark.

Hope this helps! Have fun!!!!!!!!
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