My 7-Day Big Island Itinerary in Early September

I had a wonderful time on Big Island of Hawaii! All the beaches, mountains, waterfalls and food we had exceeded my expectations and made me want to see other places. Below is my actual 7-day Big Island itinerary from Sept 2 to Sept 8, 2017. Feel free to use it as a guide when planning a trip to Big Island.

Please note, the goal of my trip is to see as many things as possible, so I was a little bit rushed and didn’t spend a lot of time in each destination. You can definitely skip some places and focus on other destinations. I will write more about each destination I visited in separate posts. Places with the tag Recommended! are highly recommended, and I wished I stayed longer!

Big Island
From top left to bottom right: sunset at Mauna Kea, Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, duck confit at Napua, lava glow at Jaggar Museum

Flight

We travel from Vancouver, and there aren’t any direct flight from Vancouver to Kona during the summer. Thus, like people from many other North American cities, we have to connect in one of the west coast cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles, and flight with two stops are not uncommon. In fact, we had two stops on the way back to Vancouver on Sept 9: San Francisco and Portland. I sometimes think: are we not one of the west coast cities?

Arrival time is also one of my big consideration. Many flights arrive at Kona in the late afternoon, which means people will just go to the hotel and rest. I didn’t want to waste my entire day flying, so I chose a flight that would arrive at noon at Kona. It turned out to be a wise decision, even though I had to be at Vancouver airport by 3:30 am.

To get the cheapest flight possible, I chose the return flight with two stops. Many flights are overnight ones which leave Kona in the late evening and arrive in west coast cities in the early morning, which is possible because of the 3 hour time difference. The 5-hour overnight flight was quite painful because I couldn’t get to sleep and my butt hurt. It wasn’t totally bad, as we had the entire day on the day of the flight, and we saved one day of the hotel.

Accommodation

To fully see Big Island, it is important to decide how many days to stay on the Kona side and Hilo side. It would be difficult to stay only on the Kona side and still visit Hilo or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I had 6 nights on this trip, so I chose to stay on the Kona side for 4 nights and the Hilo side for 2 nights.

On Kona side (west coast), I stayed at Hilton Waikoloa Village. I chose it because it was the cheapest hotel I saw on Expedia at that time. I will write a detailed review in a separate post. On Hilo side (east coast), I booked a B&B,Shaka Shak Garden Inn, on Booking.com. I’ve never stayed in a B&B before, and I will describe this experience in a separate post.

Transporation

Renting a car is an absolute must when traveling on Big Island. There aren’t public transportation to all the destinations. I was so unprepared for this, and I felt embarrassed when I talked to the agent at Alamo. I will find some time to learn all the details of renting a car and write a post about it.

Itinerary

Below is our actual itinerary, or the places that we visited on Big Island. I plan to write a post for each of the destinations.

Day 1 (Sept 2): Getting Started

Morning

● Early morning flight from Vancouver to San Francisco and then to Kailua-Kona.
● Lunch at Daylight Mind

Afternoon

Puako Petroglyph Park and see the archaeological preserve
● Picked up snorkel gear at Snorkel Bob’s and practiced snorkeling at Waikoloa Lagoon
● Dinner at Napua (Hawaiian cuisine & seafood) Recommended!

Places we missed:

● Lunch at Beach Tree Bar inside Four Seasons Resort. We skipped it because we missed the left turn into the resort, and the next intersection was too far away.
● Visit Mahai’ula Beach & Makalawena Beach. We tried to go back on Day 3, but the road was too difficult to drive. I was afraid that the uneven road would damage my rental car.

Day 2 (Sept 3): Kohala Coast & South Kona

Morning

● Breakfast at Island Lava JavaRecommended!
Hapuna Beach State Park (snorkeling) Recommended!
Mahukona Beach Park
Kapa’a Beach Park (snorkeling)
Lapakahi State Historical Park
● Lunch at Cafe Pesto (Italian)

Afternoon

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Kahaluu Beach Park (snorkeling)
● Dinner at Splashers Grill (Hawaiian)

Places we missed:

● Magic Sands Beach Park

Day 3 (Sept 4): Mauna Kea

Morning

● Breakfast atMai Grille
Anaeho’omalu BeachRecommended!
Kiholo Bay
Manini’owali Beach
● Took out lunch at Umeke’s Poke Bowls (poke) Recommended! and had it at Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area

Afternoon

Pu’u Huluhulu before going up the mountain.
Mauna Kea. Recommended! See the sunset at the summit.

Day 4 (Sept 5): Kona & South Kona

Morning

● Breakfast at Island Lava Java (again!)Recommended!
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (turtles!)Recommended!
Downtown Kailua-Kona. Visited Kamakahonu Beach and Hulihe‘e Palace.

Afternoon

Greenwell Farms (coffee plantation) Recommended!
● Lunch at Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park Recommended!
Pae’a (snorkeling) Recommended!
● Dinner at TK Noodle House (Asian fusion)

Places we missed:

● Peaberry & Galette (crepe)

Day 5 (Sept 6): The Black Sand Beaches

Morning

● Breakfast at 808 Grindz CafeRecommended!
St Benedict’s Painted Church
South Point Cliff Dive

Afternoon

Punalu’u Black Sand BeachRecommended!
Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls
● Dinner at Sombat’s (Thai) Recommended!

Places we missed:

● Papakōlea Green Sand Beach. We decided not to go because it would take us 2 hours to hike to and from the beach.
● Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens

Day 6 (Sept 7): Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkRecommended!
○ Steam Vents, Sulphur Banks, Jaggar Museum and Kilauea Overlook
○ Kilauea Iki Crater and Thurston Lava Tube
○ Drive down Chains of Crater Road
○ See lava glow at Jaggar Museum after dark
● Dinner at B&B with takeout from Cafe 100

Day 7 (Sept 8): Hilo & Hamakua Coast Drive

Morning

● Breakfast at Cafe 100
Downtown Hilo: Visit Two Ladies Kitchen Recommended! and Hilo Farmers Market. Had coffee at Just Cruisin Coffee
Hawaii Tropical Botanical GardenRecommended!
● Snack at What’s Shakin

Afternoon

Akaka Falls State Park
● Snack at Tex Drive-in
Waipio Valley Lookout
● Had coffee at Waimea Coffee Company
● Fly home in the evening

Comments

I managed to visit most places in my plan. I’ve tried to reduce driving by reorganizing the places to visit before the trip. It turns out that the driving is still too much for me (I am the only driver). Even though it only takes 10 minutes to fully explore some destinations, putting too many places in the itinerary is definitely not a wise thing to do. Nevertheless, it is still a fabulous trip and it will definitely become one of my best memories!

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