Wow! Has it really been 5 years since I last wrote about our Big Island of Hawaii? To give it some perspective on how long ago that really was, since then, I’ve gained a ring, a wife, a baby, and a few extra pounds. 😉
To be fair though, we actually haven’t done much traveling at all since da bebe came into our lives. Needless to say, this recent trip to the youngest island in our Hawaiian chain was a welcome change in scenery. The secret, ulterior motive/reason for the trip? To get the little squirt used to the idea of flying in a plane – call it “practice” – so that we could one day take her on a trip to the mainland U.S., Japan, or beyond.
Baby’s first plane ride
Our adventure started like any other trip would… NOT! Boy, traveling with a little one ain’t easy. There are soooo many things you need to worry about. Things like:
- Bottled milk
- Baby snacks
- Baby swimsuit
- Baby lotion
- Baby wipes
- Disinfectant wipes
- Baby carrier
Wifey literally had to pack one of those HUUUUGE (pronounced like Donald Trump) suitcases that you take on month long European vacations… For a two night neighbor island trip! Seriously?
Then again, she always packed like that. Kidding! No tell on me ah! 8)
And then there are the other baby essentials that come in larger form factors. Things like the infant car seat, stroller, crib, etc. Again, things you don’t really think or worry about when you’re a baby-less traveler.
Since we didn’t exactly want to take our “good” stuff (for fear of it getting mangled on transport), we decided to rent the car seat from the car rental place. A good idea, so long as you don’t mind using a “worn in” car seat and paying a few extra bucks on your rental car bill. For us, the convenience of it all just made more sense.
Baby and momma pulling maps while waiting for our car
Ed’s Tip: Be sure you know how to install standard car seats for babies. The rental car people aren’t allowed to install it for you, probably for legal reasons (they don’t want to get sued if something happens).
For the stroller, we were fortunate enough to stay at the beautiful Hilton Waikoloa Resort where they actually provide it as a service to their clientele. With Hawaii’s weather (causing a lotion-lathered baby to get quite sweaty) and elements (sand, salt water air, etc.), borrowing a stroller is definitely the way to go if you want to preserve your personal “good” stroller.
And then there’s the crib. Again, thank goodness that the resort provided this to us for free. Not sure how many they have available, but I would recommend calling in advance to request it for your room. Even though ours turned out to be more of a dryer rack (a place to hang our wet swim attire) as baby slept in the bed with us (see sleep diagram here), it was nice not to have to worry about lugging around a portable crib all the way from Oahu.
My “goal” when we first arrived at KOA (Kona International Airport), was to eat some famous Pork Chops from my friend’s family’s place: the Manago Hotel. Heck, I even skipped breakfast in anticipation of the blessed event. Since I knew it was in the Captain Cook area (which is even further south from our hotel than the airport), I thought it would be best if we went straight there from the airport rather than making a special trip there.
The drive was a bit longer than I thought (20 or so miles, and a good 30-40 minutes), but pretty straight-forward. You pretty much drive south on Queen Kaahumanu Highway (HI-19) until you get there.
Outside the Manago Hotel
The restaurant sits inside the lobby area of the 64 room hotel. It was perfect. We arrived just before 11am when they open for their lunch shift, so getting seated was a breeze.
Inside the Manago Hotel restaurant
Ed’s tip: Speaking of breeze, the hotel sits on the slopes of Mauna Loa at an elevation of 1,350 feet, so I would imagine that it gets quite nippy here at night or during the “winter” months. Be sure to bring warm attire with you. We were there in the middle of the afternoon in the midst of summer, and you could still feel the bite in the air.
On to the menu.
Manago Hotel menu
I already knew what I wanted, so looking at the menu was just a formality. 😉
First up though, were the inclusive starters… A nice little old school touch.
Home made mac salad (with potato chunks!)
And my personal fave…
I’m not a big fan of raw onions and tomatoes, but the third item in this dish (ogo) is one of my faves (see Poke Paradise series)! Don’t think I’ve ever had ogo namasu style. She go!
And then it was on to the main course. Wifey ordered the Mahi ($9.75) for her and baby, but I just noticed that I don’t have a single picture of the dish. I think I may’ve been in a pork chop trance by this point. LOL! That’s ok. My friend Nathan Kam to the rescue! Here’s a shot of the Mahi he took a few years back. Thanks Big Nate!
Mahi from Manago Hotel [Photo Credit: Nathan Kam]
I feel bad because wifey ordered it mostly so that baby could have something healthy (and chewable) to eat. She said it was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Though she did say that after tasting (and tasting, and tasting!) my pork chops so her palate may’ve already been tainted by then. 8)
And then my dish came… Did somebody say PORK CHOPS!? (cue 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This”)
Yes, I was a bit excited about getting those chops in mah belleh, and Manago Hotel definitely did not disappoint.
Manago Hotel’s world famous Pork Chops ($9.75)
Dauym! Buggah fo’ real kine brok’ da mout! The crispy texture of the breading was perfectly offset by the creaminess of the gravy. And the flavor… POW! Hit me right in the kisser. I want to go back again like right NOW!
Side note: There are many purists who think that you should enjoy the pork chop here sans the gravy. It’s up to you how you want to eat it. To each their own. I personally prefer gravy all ova!
Overall, it was a really great way to kick start our neighbor island vacation. Manago Hotel has that old school charm that I absolutely love and I know you will too. Go check um out goo…
Our next stop was full on spontaneous. As I was posting my pictures from Manago Hotel on the Interwebs, I got a bunch of comments asking if I was going to go check out Kona Chips. Being the Oahu boy that I am, I was like hah? Wea dat? Come to find out, it’s actually just a few steps away from (outside of) Manago Hotel! I would’ve totally missed it had they not told me. And thank goodness they did. Their star product, aptly named “Ugly Cookies” was winnahz!
Ugly Cookies from Kona Potato Chips (company)
Made with your standard oatmeal, rice cereal, flour, chocolate, butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and baking soda, the real kicker here is that they include bits of their popular Kona potato chips in the mix, giving the cookies their trademark “ugliness”. 😉 We still have about 3 more cookies left in the fridge from our batch of omiyage to ourselves, and believe you me, I’m trying my darndest to make it last as long as possible! LOL!
Other popular items here include their Furikake Chips, their “Sumo Style” Shrimp Chips and, of course, their namesake Kona Potato Chips.
Side Note: While penning this article, I gave Kona Chips a call to find out what their hours of operation were. To my surprise, the company president himself Jerome Furukawa answered the phone and he was very humble and nice and appreciative of the piece I was writing. Gotta love those kinds of folks. Go and support um gang!
With our pon-pons full, we packed up and made the northerly trek back up the Kona coast towards our home for the weekend at the Hilton Waikoloa. The drive was about an hour (approximately 40 miles), which only meant one thing: Daddy, the designated driver, was the only one awake. What’s new? 😉
The drive was definitely worth it though. Once we reached our room and unloaded all of our stuff, this is the view we were treated with. Ahhhh, lucky we live Hawaii, no?
The view at Hilton Waikoloa
After feeding da bebe, and a quick dip at the Kohala Pool, it was already time for dinner. We washed up and psychologically prepared ourselves to experience DK’s Crab Ramen again from nearby Sansei Restaurant & Sushi Bar. If you recall in part I of my Hawaii Ramen Quest series, the Crab Ramen at this particular Sansei (Waikoloa location) was the only dreamy one worth splurging on. The same exact ramen from the Sansei Waikiki and Kapalua locations both, for some reason, disappointed us (I didn’t try it from their Kihei location). We’re happy to report that the Crab Ramen at Sansei Waikoloa is still dope! We would’ve been so sad if that one also failed us. 😛
D.K.’s Crab Ramen with Asian Truffle Broth from Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Waikoloa) – $17.95
Instead of our usually faves like the Shrimp Dynamite and Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll, we decided to try a few different things this time. Wifey got the Matsuhisa Style Miso Butterfish for her and bebe, while I ordered the Japanese Yellowtail Nori Aioli Poke off their “New Looks” section of the menu.
Japanese Yellowtail Nori Aioli Poke with Crispy Lotus Root Chips and Tobiko ($14.95)
Ironically, bebe crashed out and decided to sleep through our entire meal. The one positive? Mommy and daddy got to enjoy a little adult time.
Mommy on a hot date! 😛
Daddy posing with the K.O.’d bebe
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queens’ MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Resort)
201 Waikoloa Beach Drive Suite 801
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Dinner Nightly: 5:30pm-10pm
Late Night Dining: Friday and Saturday: 10pm-1am
Of course it wasn’t long after dinner when bebe decided to wake up and get hungry, so we headed straight back to the room to feed our little Tamagotchi. Shortly thereafter, it was time for bed. It was then that I was able to capture this precious (IMHO) moment.
Bedtime stories with momma and bebe
The next morning we headed back to Queens’ MarketPlace to pick up some breakfast and snacks at Island Gourmet Markets. If y’all don’t know, convenience-wise, this place is the greatest invention since sliced bread! They’ve got a bakery, deli, produce department, meat and seafood department, stuff for omiyage and even a wine bar! Island Gourmet Markets is actually a division of ABC Stores so picture an ABC store and add like a mini supermarket all up in it. It’s like an ABC store on steroids. Wifey was able to pick up whole milk in small portions for the baby, which was perfect, since we weren’t able to bring much over on the flight and the refridge in our room wasn’t big enough to hold anything bigger. We also picked up some drinks, snacks, and bentos and sandwiches for lunch.
Wifey and baby enjoying a quickie picnic at the Queens’ MarketPlace
After lunch, we showed baby this neat water display that shoots a single stream of water over and across a walkway. It’s meant for people to walk under it, but baby found another way to have fun with it!
I guess she’s a fan of water!
It was funny because although she kept squinting and making a scared face every time she touched the water, she insisted on continuing to go back for more! With her entire body pretty much covered with water, we figured it was time to head back to the resort to get ready for some pool action. The little squirt had other plans. After a brief stop to catch a glimpse at some of the flamingos on property…
Pointing at the flamingos (baby’s eyes are getting heavy…)
Flamingo area near the Kona Pool
… the little one decided to crash out. Must’ve been the water fountain! 😉 A couple hours later, we made our way back to the Kona Pool to finally get our swim on.
Kona Pool at Hilton Waikoloa Village
I live for days like this!
After getting nice and toasty, we went back to our room, rested up and got ready for dinner. Whereas normally, we would’ve probably adventured off site to see what kind of neat, hole-in-the-wall eateries we could find, with the little one, we opted to stay close and head back to the Queens’ MarketPlace yet again. This time, we ate at Romano’s Macaroni Grill, for your standard, Italian fare.
Mac & Cheese Bites, Truffle Dip
Mama’s Trio (Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna Bolognese, Chicken & Mushroom Cannelloni)
We followed dinner with our ritualistic visit to Island Gourmet Markets before heading back to our room and calling it a night.
Down to our final day on the B.I., we decided to try and get an early start to our day. For us, that meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 9am, which enabled us to check out the Big Island Breakfast buffet at Water’s Edge.
The view at Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge
Ed’s Tip: There is typically a wait to get seated here, but even if you see a big crowd here ahead of you, don’t be scurrred. They turn (and burn) the tables pretty quick so you won’t be waiting very long.
Family photo opp. She’s actually posing and smiling!
With a check-out time of 12pm (no extension available that day), we headed back to our room for the dreaded pack up. Whyyyy did it have to ennnndd? 😉
Das ok, I had one more trick up my sleeve.
During our stay there, I learned about a neat little place called Da Poke Shack. Just a couple miles south of the “touristy” part of Alii Drive, this little, well, poke shack averaged 5 stars on Yelp with 271 reviews! Say whaaat? Since me and poke are one, I just HADSTA get us there to check it out!
Da Poke Shack
Inside was your typical looking mini fish market…
Inside Da Poke Shack
… Complete with a seafood and poke display case.
From L to R: Kim Chee Shrimp, Chuka Idako (Octopus), Pipi Kaula, Kim Chee Tako, Spicy Tako, Raw Wasabi Tako, & Taegu
The choices for poke for that day were Pele’s Kiss (which was their cute name for Spicy Ahi), Dynamite (Avocado Aioli), Shack Special (which looked like a shoyu based poke) and Sesame Poke. And you could pick from a variety of sides like seafood salad, mussels, imitation crab salad, edamame, etc. I went with the Poke Bowl, which comes with a choice of brown or white rice, 1/3 pound of poke and one of the sides.
Da Poke Shack’s Poke Bowl with Pele’s Kiss poke, white rice and Seafood Salad – $8.50
The Poke Plate is the same except you get 2/3 pound of poke and 2 sides. Since wifey also got the Poke Bowl, I made a new friend on Instagram who shared with me her recent photo from Da Poke Shack. Thanks Amy!
Half Pele’s Kiss Poke, half Shack Special poke with double Kim Chee Mussels and brown rice – $16.50 (Photo Credit: Amy Tsang)
The reviews online raved about the poke, which I will admit was super ono. Their poke is always fresh (never frozen), which is a HUGE (there’s that word again!) deal to people like me.
They also gave props to the friendly staff, which, in my particular experience, was nowhere in sight. To be fair, it was towards the end of the day and all of the “main” workers were probably gone for the day. And I was also in a rush (we were scrambling to get to the airport), and making odd requests (wifey told me to order a mini “anything with chicken” for the baby). I definitely need (and want) to go back to have a calmer, not-so-rushed Da Poke Shack experience. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a lot more because, like I said, the fish was super fresh and delish and that to me is numbah 1!
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Alii Dr
Kailua, HI 96740
(808) 329-POKE (7653)
After a quick stop at KTA (of course) and the gas station to fill up, it was time to bid the Big Island farewell. Quite a different experience traveling with a little one, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world… Even if that means keeping on these extra few pounds! 😉
* Special thanks to Big Island blogger extraordinaire – Damon Tucker and to Hilton Waikoloa‘s Director of Marketing Communications – Leanne Pletcher for your info and hospitality! What a way to travel for the first time as a family. We had a blast!