Title: Hawaii Big Island 2 Weeks Family Trip with Itinerary, the Big Island, Hawaii
Preparation: Our family, 2 adults, 2 kids, stayed in Big Island, Hawaii: 14 days. We had a flexible schedule and did not join any travel agency tours. The total cost: more than $2500/person. Flight: Flight tickets are a big cost from Houston to Hawaii. I booked through google flight, around $1300/person for the round trip. Hotel: Outrigger Kanaloa at Kona 4 nights 78-261 Manukai Street Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740 $139 + tax /night (about $160) for a partial ocean view, 1 bedroom suite with kitchen, 1 couch bed. No free breakfast. It's a condo. The good thing was: we bought many items from the nearby grocery store and cooked meals by ourselves but it took time. My son was OK to sleep on the couch bed but it was not in good condition. The service was OK. When we arrived there very late at night, we could not find the exact entrance and called them, they sent people to drive their mini cart guiding us to get to the registration desk. Hilton Waikoloa Village (hotel and resort): 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738 5 nights It is a very big hotel resort along the seaside and it has a beautiful ocean view, but it's also pricey. Getting in and out to the room either by train or boat and parking took a quite long time. each night total cost including parking fee, room charges, wifi-charges etc $300. No free drinking water, no free breakfast. We felt if we go to Hawaii again we may choose a different hotel. Hilo Hawaiian Hotel 4 nights 71 Banyan Drive Hilo, Hawaii 96720 $139 + tax /night (about $160) This hotel was not in good condition when we stayed there, do not recommend it. No free breakfast although it does close to the seaside area. Suggestions: 1. Book the flight tickets and hotels or rental homes as early as possible to get good deals. Sometimes even one day earlier you could get $500 discounts for several nights in some hotels. Use the credit card that can give your mileage points to redeem some costs or other benefits. 2. Be aware of baggage fee charges when you compare the flight ticket prices. We were charged for $200 for the round trip for 2 bags. 3. Be aware of the agriculture inspections( animal, plants, fruits) in the airplane when you are going to fly in or out of the state of Hawaii. So it's better not to bring in any fruits or plants with you to Hawaii. I was not aware of this and I have brought some grapefruits to the plane and then we had to throw them away. When we came back from Hawaii, Pineapple was allowed but not other fruits. 4. Research online before you decide to go to all kinds of places whenever you could. There is also an excellent book named: "Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed The ultimate guidebook" by Andrew Doughty. We bought this book in an ABC store in Kona downtown. This book helped us a lot. When we drove through some mountain areas, there were no GPS signals and we used the map in the book to guide us to explore the natural beauty in the Big Island, Hawaii.
General opinion: It's definitely a great place to go. It's worth spending your time and money in Hawaii. It's worth to take a vacation in Hawaii. Especially if you have enough time and not join a travel agency's tour, schedule a more flexible time to enjoy the fabulous view and explore the natural beauty in Hawaii. Remember: 1. In the summer, sunblock is a must. Remember to get a bottle of mosquito repellent. In the first several days, I've got a lot of mosquito bites but when I wore pants, instead of shorts or skirts, I got fewer bites. 2. Pack a medical kit that contains bandage, alcohol swabs, etc. Because some of the beaches, even the Kayak, snorkeling sites have rough rocks. Kids or even yourself may get scratches or cuts, you need the medical kit. 3. Pack or buy water shoes before you go to the lava pools or snorkeling sites. Most probably there are rough rocks in the bottom and it's impossible for you to walk or play there with bare feet.
Attractions and activities: In Hawaii, you can enjoy a lot of activities such as the water parks, beaches, tide pools, lava pools, walks in bay floors, Kayak, snorkeling, etc. If you love snorkeling, it would be good to pack or buy the snorkeling stuff before you get to the site. Also prepare the water shoes before you go to swimming ponds, lava pools, or tide pools, black sand beaches. In Kona, we loved the following activities: 1. Kayak, the ocean views were so beautiful and you could get miles away from the shore if you do not have very young age kids and are good at swimming. 2. A water sports site. My son enjoyed a lot of water biking and he was biking hours in the gorgeous ocean. Between Kona and Hilo, there are also many beautiful valleys and scenic points you can see. Driving through the high mountain areas are also fun. We also visited South Point, the black sand beach and the green sand beach. Really gorgeous places you do not want to miss: 1. Mauna Kea beach, I would spend more than 3 plus hours there to enjoy the natural beauty of the ocean view and let the kids swim. There are several huge beautiful trees around there and you can sit under the tree to relax. Mauna Kea beach is the most beautiful beach I've ever seen on this planet. 2. Waipio valley: getting down to the valley is a challenge, especially for the elders, young kids. We tried but we stopped at the 1/3 of the road. The road was very steep and winding. So we decided to come back and take the Waipio valley shuttle. they have 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm one and a half hour tour. The price plus tips, 2 adults and 1 kid, about $200. ( this was the price in 2013) 3. In Hilo, we visited the Volcano Park and have seen the lava rocks and lava trees but have not seen real lava flow, we only saw the steams from the ground.
Dining: We ate in a nice restaurant within the huge hotel area and it was nice and also had great ocean views but the price is also pretty expensive. We could not afford to eat there all the time. So we drove a mile or so and found a grocery store in town and bought many nice hot meals there and the price was pretty reasonable. To save the meal cost, my suggestion is: 1. after you check in to the hotel, immediately search to see if there are grocery stores or local restaurants in town but not within the hotel, and then you can buy some nice hot meals to go which saves a lot. 2. try local fruits, especially papaya. Everybody in our family loved the papaya we bought from the farmers or local stores. We also bought some other fruits and all of them were tasted good.
Commute: We had rented a 4 wheel driven van which was OK when we drove through the mountain area. When we picked up the rental car, my husband also paid protection ( similar to the insurance) charges that cost us about $200 or so for 2 weeks. Later a friend told me that if you use some specific credit card to rent a car, then the insurance part would be covered by the credit card company. Also the price was different for with or without GPS system. We brought our own GPS and then used it. Of course, the smartphone also can do this for you. Flight: booked flight tickets through Google Flight. around $1300/person Houston to Kailua-Kona, 2 stops in the middle. Flight hours about 11 hours. Hawaii time difference from Houston. 5 hours late. American Airline: Houston to Kailua-Kona, middle stops Dalas DFW, Los Angeles LAX, California Back: Kailua-Kona, Honolulu, Dallas, Houston quite long trip We had to wait at the airport for 3 or 4 hours during the back trip.
Lodge: See details in the preparation section. Suggestion: 1. You can choose to stay in hotels or rental homes or both. We have spent several nights in a rental home, and then an expensive hotel and then a regular hotel. The pros and cons of each choice really depend on your time and financial budget. In my opinion, living in a rental home for a regular family is a pretty good choice: a. You can cook for yourself if you'd like to control what you eat. Usually, there are grocery stores nearby and you can shop there. b. Easy to get in or out if the place is not huge and feel more peaceful. c. The price is not expensive. you can also book a rental home that has the ocean view but with a good price. 2. If you choose to book a very nice hotel, it might cost you 2 or 3 times more than the rental home price. We lived in Hilton Waikoloa Village, a very big hotel and resort for several nights. There were metro trains and boats to get in or out of the hotel and finding a parking lot was not easy. It took a pretty long time to get in or out which I did not like. Of course, there are some pros: a. Nice views including the ocean view and lagoons, water pools kids can play. b. Kids are excited to take the trains or boats to get in and out. They also like to play in the water slides, pools there.
Shopping: We'd been to Kona downtown and have bought some sarongs that were nice and not cost too much. We also bought some nice real pearl necklaces and bracelets which were inexpensive although the shape of each pearl may be a little different but they are real pearls. I regret that I bought some good looking but man-made pearl necklace which cost about the same as the real one. I always love the natural beauty.
Things I wish I had known before: 1. If you have little kids and want to go to Hawaii, it's better to wait until they turn to 6 or 7 years old. when we went there, my daughter was 4 but still she needed to be held, piggybacked, or sit on daddy's shoulder. In many places, she could not walk as long as we'd like to explore, because she needed to be carried, sometimes my husband did not have much fun. I think, if you have young kids and still decide to go, it's better to go to the local store to buy a stroller for the young kid. 2. Kayak is fun in Hawaii, we loved it but be careful when you get back to the deck or port. If the deck is a natural one, very rough or narrow, it might be hard for you to get the boat to the right position. We had an accident when we tried to park the boat into the very narrow rough rock port, no staff helped us and then the boat turned over, everybody including my 4 years old daughter fell into the water and my husband got a cut on his hand. 3. I really regret that I have not done any research before we went to the green sand beach. The green sand beach has a very steep ( maybe 75 degree) cliff to get down and it was about or less than 100 meters wide. I would not go if my family has a very young age kid or elders, if I know the facts in advance. I had scratches and my daughter was miserable when she got soaked and felt so cold even it was in early June due to the wind. The green sand beach was about 3 miles away from the parking space and the road was full of boulders, trenches and that "road" was the roughest way I've ever seen on the earth. During the first 10 or 15 minutes or so, we walked by ourselves and then we decided to go back to ride on a local big truck, paid about $30. 4. Pack carefully when you come back home. When we came back home, during the security check at the Kona airport, we forgot to put the sunblocks and other medicine in the luggage but put in a hand carry bag, then had to throw them away.