Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hawaii Vacation - Big Island

Where: Big Island, Hawaii
When: January 15-19, 2012
1. Hotel
We stayed at the Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. What a lengthy name! People usually call it Kona Beach Hotel. It's owned by Marriott, so if you are a member of Marriott rewards program, you can accrue some points. This hotel recently went through total renovation, and, even though it looks old outside, the room was clean and beds were very comfortable. It has a small beach, and it is very close to Kailua-Kona downtown where you can find lots of restaurants including Island Lava Java.
2. Restaurants
We love to eat 'good' food. Good in quality. Wherever we go, we do quite extensive research on food and restaurants. Here are the restaurants we tried while staying in Big Island.
(1) Island Lava Java
It was the very first restaurant we visited in Big Island. I believe we had dinner there on the day we arrived. High quality food. Not greasy. Casual ambience. Good portion size. Not a cheap-eat, though. We paid $47.24 for three main dishes. With tip added, it was over $55.
(2) Breakfast
We tried McDonald on our first morning. It was on our way to Hawaiian Volcano National Park. In Hawaii, McDonald is very expensive! We paid $12.87 for two egg muffins and two small OJs. From the next day, we ate bagel with cream cheese and orange juice which we purchased from a grocery store. That way we not only saved money, but also could save time.
(3) Coffee Shack
We still talk about this restaurant! We loved their food. It sounds like a coffee place, but it's a very popular breakfast and lunch place. As there is usually a long line of people waiting, you'd better be not too hungry. Try their outdoor seating, which gives you a breathtaking view. We ordered three dishes and paid $39.72 plus tip.
(4) Big Island Grill
To save money spent on tips, we had some take-out meals, and Big Island Grill is one the of places we tried. We had two to-go meals from there. Except salads, their entrees are mostly 'grilled', which translates to 'quite oily'. We paid $22 - $23 for two entrees.
(5) Harbor House
Their food is very similar to Big Island Grill. I think people like this restaurant because it's sitting right at the harbor with a great sunset view. For two to-go entrees, we paid $24.48.
(6) Cafe 100
We had a brunch here while we were in Hilo. One of the cheap-eats. Lots of different kinds of loco moco. Outdoor seating with self-service. If you want McDonald-ish food but don't want to pay too much, this is the place to go. For two entrees and one salad, we paid about $14.
(7) Cathee's Kitchen
We found this hidden gem on our last day in Big Island. It's literally hidden inside a gym. Oh, how we wished we had found this place earlier! It was within the walking distance from our hotel, and offered homemade, healthful food at a reasonable price! If we ever get to stay in the same area next time, we will make this place our 'designated' eatery.
3. Grocery shopping
Safeway and Walmart are the two major grocery stores in Kailua-Kona area. We checked out both of them, and found out Walmart offers much better price than Safeway.
4. Laundary
We bought a small bottle of laundry detergent on our first day, and throughout our two-week stay in Hawaii, we used coin laundry machines. Kona Beach Hotel has a coin laundry room on the first floor and it was very convenient.
5. Sightseeing
We planned our sightseeing with the assumption that this might be the only chance we get to see Hawaii. So most of the places we visited are the ones considered 'major'.
(1) Hawaiian Volcano National Park
We were here on January 16, 2012, which was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and we got free admission to the park thanks to MLK! It saved us $10 per vehicle entrance fee. Click here for information on fee free days and entrance fees. Craters and steam vents were really cool. The small Jaggar museum was not very impressive, but the view from the Crater Rim Drive in front of the museum was awesome.
(2) City of Refuge = Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National History Park
There is a very interesting story behind this place and that's what took us there. In old Hawaii, this was a place of refuge for people who broke law and could not avoid death penalty. It was a great learning experience for us. For more information on entrance fees, fee free days, hula programs and Ulana Lauhala (weaving) workshop schedules, click here.
(3) Rainbow Falls
Don't go here. Not worth of visit.
(4) Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls is not as grandiose as Niagara Falls, but we enjoyed the view and walk around the park. There is $1 entrance fee. Click here for more information.
(5) Hilo
(5-1)Hilo Banyan Tree Drive - Thanks to a 19-month old girl who woke up 4 AM, we arrived at Hilo really early in the morning. Instead of sitting around until the Farmers' Market opened, we decided to look around the area and we found Banyan Tree Drive on the map. It is a beautiful park with Jananese gardens and Banyan tree-lined drive. The view of the adjacent Hilo Bay makes this place even more charming.
I like walking around farmers' markets where locals come and sell local stuff. At Hilo Farmers' Market, we bought mangoes, passion fruits, and papayas. We also tried Malasada (Portuguese donuts). I suggest you visit either on Saturday or Sunday. If you are not a Farmers' market person, you might not want to visit, though.