When you think “island style,” you think Hawaii and our innate, laid back way of life. After two recent trips to the Big Island of Hawaii, I quickly discovered that we ain’t got nuthin’ on ’em. This here is true, island style living and I’m about to show how you too, can roll John Cruz style… brah.
Thanks to a friend at go! Airlines, we were able to get an awesome deal on airfare, which also gave us the unique experience of boarding an airplane from the tarmac. Silly Jetway. Who needs ’em? True island stylers get it going from the ground yo.
Boarding go! Airlines to Kona, Hawaii
Island Style Tip (IST) #1: Know someone who works for the airlines or shop around for the best price.
go! Airlines’ fares are regularly at $39, which forces the other carriers to offer competitive prices, which is good for us consumers. Another trait of island style living is finding good deals. Your options are as follows:
- go! Airlines (www.iflygo.com)
- Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianair.com)
- Aloha Airlines (www.alohaairlines.com)
- and now, the Hawaii Superferry (www.hawaiisuperferry.com)
(IST #2): Know someone who works at Hilton or stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village to take advantage of an entire day of frolicking in the sun for free/cheap.
Hilton Waikoloa Village sign
Just a short, 20 minute drive from Kona International Airport at Keahole, this huge, 62 acre oceanfront property has much to do and much to see. First thing’s first, let’s drop our bags off at our room.
After checking in, you’re led towards (neat thing #1) an air-conditioned tram which takes you to your hotel.
Once we drop off our bags, we’ll get on board (neat thing #2) the mahogany canal boats to tour the rest of the property.
Mahogany Canal Boats
Our first stop was the Grand Staircase (you may start to recognize elements of this property as the place where Dog the Bounty Hunter got married).
From here, you can look at the beautiful view across the Lagoon or catch a glimpse of a turtle or two in the Lagoon itself.
Turtle in the Lagoon
From there, we worked our way around the Lagoon, through/behind the mini, manmade waterfall, and towards the Dolphin Learning Center.
Walking through/behind the waterfall
Dolphin Learning Center
Since our stay was brief, we decided to pass on the Dolphin Learning Center (for more information on Dolphin Quest, click here) and have our fun in the Lagoon.
Editor’s note: the real reason we passed on DolphinQuest was because of a cheap/grumpy tour guide 😛 but this leads us to IST#3:
(IST#3): Hang out right next to the Dolphin Learning Center long enough and you’ll see the cute dolphins swim right by you, get fed and play with the tourists who weren’t on a budget. If you’re lucky enough, the trainers will come by and chat with you.
The Dolphins swim right near you
The Lagoon is a four-acre, ocean fed sanctuary where we humans (hotel guests of course) can rent kayaks, water bikes, paddleboats, etc. for some on the water fun, or wade and come face to face with tropical fish or one of the few rare green sea turtles we saw earlier.
Playing on the water bikes at the Lagoon
The Lagoon side view of the waterfall is definitely better.
The view from the other side of the waterfall
After frolicking in the sun, we head east to cover more of this huge property. Along the way, we see sleeping flamingos,
ugly Buddha statues,
the property’s beautiful and scenic wedding chapel and gazebo areas,
and, in front of the Ocean Tower, another close encounter with the endangered sea turtle.
(Note: I was told that you should avoid contact with these animals not only because they are fragile and endangered, but also because you can catch salmonella).
As you head northwest past the Kohala River pools,
You’ll slowly approach one of the most breathtaking sights on the property, Buddha Point.
Take your time to enjoy the view at Buddha Point. It might even be a good idea to bring lunch or sunbathe here…
I can go on and on about the many more sights and amenities you can find here (including shopping, entertainment and additional outdoor activities), but I’ve got so much more to cover in this article, and let’s face it, they’ve got enough face time. You’re welcome Mr. Hilton. I’ll be waiting for my lifetime comp coupons in the mail. 😉
Another benefit to having a “native” at the locale you’re visiting is the possibility of a home cooked meal (don’t be a cheapskate and be sure to bring planny omiyage though!). Not only is eating a home cooked meal great food for the soul, it’s a time for quality bonding and will make you feel like you’re at home again.
(IST#4): Have a “native” where you’re visiting and have a home cooked meal
Half the fun is going shopping for the ingredients,
And the other half is preparing it,
and eating it.
With the day winding down, our first day of traveling island style has ended. But fear not, slipper wearer. We’ve still got another full day of laid back living to go!
So our next stop is Big Island Grill, a place popular with the locals. The food was way too salty for me and the prices are semi reasonable, but this visit and subsequent mention in this article is much more than just trying to find a good deal on eats. Confused? Read on…
Answer me this question first. Where else can you meet a 7 foot, former Olympic and NBA World Champion and All Star player AND even get a photo with him, all without paying for an exorbitant card show entrance fee? (Oh, and by the way, he’s as nice and cordial as they come!) That’s right: at Big Island Grill (if you were with me on this day 😛 ). Rumor has it, he has a place in Hualalai and frequents local favorites when in town.
This one’s a little hard to accomplish, but…
(IST#5): Be at the right place at the right time and you too, can have a photo like this! 🙂
OK, so this next tip is rather touristy and not exactly island style-ish, but hear me out. There’s a pretty good tip at the end, especially for you romantic types.
(IST#6): Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (on a non lava day). Even better is if you visit on certain event days, admission is free (normally $10 per vehicle).
Volcano status report kiosk
You may be wondering why you’d waste your time visiting the park when there’s no lava flowing into the ocean, but trust me there buddy ol’ pal. You’ll like this one.
OK so after you do the touristy visits to the Visitor Center and various stops around Crater Rim Drive, make the extra effort and drive down Chain of Craters Road until you hit the end of the road (download PDF map here). Most tourists end their tour on Crater Rim Drive and don’t make this little detour (especially on non-lava days), but believe you me, you won’t regret it as you’ll see more majestic, untouched Hawaii than you’ve ever seen before.
Majestic, untouched Hawaii
When you hit the end of the road and park your ride, make your way to the cliff’s edge for some nice, majestic shots.
Oh, but that’s not it my dear friends. You should see a long road that can only be traveled on by foot.
Chain of Craters Hike
You want to take that until it ends.
Oh no, that’s not it either my friends. Keep on a truckin’! This is where the fun begins. Here you’ll see a large mass of hardened lava where few before you have witnessed.
You’ll see marked areas that you are not allowed to go beyond, so be sure to pay attention to these signs.
Don’t go beyond marked areas!
Also watch your step and keep your eyes peeled for dangerous footholds and coned off areas.
Watch your step for dangerous footholds!
Keep your eyes peeled for coned off areas
So why all the rigmarole? Believe me, there’s a method to this madness. Eventually, when you make your way past all the obstacles and find a nice little area to rest, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, you’ll thank me for Island Style Tip #6a:
(IST#6a): Propose to your girlfriend/boyfriend (ukulele optional)
With its isolated nature and picturesque backdrop, you’re sure to have alone time with you and your mate in the most perfect of settings. Don’t forget to invite me to your wedding! 😉
Later this evening, we planned on having a family style BBQ back at our friend’s house, so on our way back to Waikoloa, we stopped by Tex Drive-In for their very famous specialty: malasadas.
Which leads us to our next two tips
(IST#7): Don’t come to a BBQ empty handed and
(IST#8): If it’s Tex Drive In malasadas you are bringing, be sure to eat one first, hot and fresh (and then rearrange the rest in the box and act like you didn’t 😛 ).
Tex Drive-In famous malasadas
Fortunately for us, our friend’s roommate is an executive chef on the island, so we were treated to some of the best tasting grinds around, including BBQ steaks,
garlic butter shrimp,
and homemade mac salad.
Which leads me to tip #9.
(IST#9): Have a hotel friend, who lives in the place you’re visiting, whose roommate is an executive chef, who decides to have a BBQ and invites you. 😉
OK, so that one’s not very realistic, but, much like IST#4, having a local style BBQ is just as fun and just as relaxing, island style, that is.
Well, we’ve finally come to the end of our stay on the Big Island, but what’s a trip to the Big Island without a visit to KTA Super Stores? It’s like going to Kauai and not going to Big Save, walking through Waikiki and not stopping at an ABC Store, or going through a list of Island Style Tips and ending on #9. So without further ado,
(IST#10): Buy your last minute omiyage at KTA. They sell unique, specialty snacks that are perfect for fulfilling that gift list before heading home.
Omiyage from KTA
So whether you’re from Hawaii or have Hawaii in your heart, that’s my perspective on how we do it Island Style (on the Big Island). I think, however, Cruz sums it up best:
On the Island, we do it Island Style,
From the mountain to the ocean from the windward to the leeward side…
Enjoying the Kona sunset before heading home…