This Winter Take a Trip to Hawaii
By Susan Hornik
With the winter months upon us soon, you might soon be thinking about where you can warm up and catch some sunshine! Look no further than the island of Hawaii, known as the Big Island, a wonderful mix of beautiful white sand beaches, waterfalls, cattle ranching, coffee plantations, luaus, exotic flowers and the extraordinary (and still active!) Kilauea Volcano. Best of all, you get to meet the lovely Hawaiian people, who make you feel at home, from the moment you get off the plane!
And while vacations are made to relax, The Big Island is a wonderful place to rent a car and take a tour, as there are hundreds of things to do and see there. You will see the most incredible and varied landscape, not to mention a variety of climatic temperature zones that inspire lots of adventure for visitors to explore! The Big Island is made up of five connected volcanos, two of which are extinct, one is dormant, and two are very active. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are over 13,700 feet tall, and their summits often get snow during winter months.
The largest island in the Hawaiian Islands, hence the nickname, “The Big Island” is also the youngest, at just under a million years old. Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, its size is impressive when you are driving around!
What To Do: (and don’t worry if you can’t do it all, you can always come back to the island!)
* The must-see for any first-time visitor is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At this World Heritage Site, you’ll see something so impressive it defies words: Arid deserts, cavernous lava tubes and the unpredictable Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since 1983. It is believed the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, lives in Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea Caldera, so great respect must be paid here! Stop at Kilauea Visitor Center to get maps and current advice on how to safely view active lava flows in the park.
* If you’re a fan of coffee then you will definitely want to visit Kona Coffee Living History Farm, a great place to get a sense of the plantation lifestyle established over the past century. You’ll learn not just about locally grown coffee but also sample the gorgeous fruits that are all over Hawaii, such as oranges, passion fruit, and guavas.
* The view at Honokaa is simply amazing. To reach the viewpoint overlooking the nearly deserted Waipio Valley, 850 feet below., just park your car and walk a few steps—you will truly be breathless from the scenic outlook’s beauty. It’s one of the premier panoramas in the state. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles are allowed to drive down the steep road to its black sand beach, but you can hike down too.
* At Naalehu, stop at the Punalu’u Bake Shop ( www.bakeshophawaii.com), for the most incredible sweet bread you have ever eaten! Box up an assortment to eat, or better yet, ship some home so you can have this fantastic bread all year round! (the guava and taro bread are a personal favorite!)
* You’ll find cattle ranches and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) in the cool uplands of Waimea. (And great horseback riding!) Stop at the Parker Ranch Museum to learn about the ranch’s long history. It was founded by American sailor John Parker, who arrived in Hawaii in 1809, worked for King Kamehameha, and eventually bought land.
Downtown Hilo offers a taste of local shopping, dining and culture with stunning gardens and waterfalls. Hilo’s Liliuokalani Gardens, a Japanese garden complete with bonsai trees, rock gardens and canal bridges is quite lovely.
An unforgettable 45-minute journey aboard an Atlantis 48-passenger submarine, as featured in National Geographic television specials, where guests explore a 25-acre natural coral reef and its marine inhabitants! You will see beautiful and captivating scenery, habitats, and isolated treasures. Guests will discover an 18,000-year-old, 25-acre fringing coral reef, which boasts a vibrant ecosystem.
And don’t leave The Big Island without going to a fantastic luau! The Island Breeze Luau was a wonderful experience of great entertainment and unlimited food! This luau is located at the Courtyard Marriott in the historic fishing village of Kailua-Kona. http://www.islandbreezeluau.com/
Where to Stay
78-128 Ehukai Street, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
This lovely resort has a new Manta Ray Learning Center, where guests receive a complimentary expert discussion on these beautiful creatures before viewing them at Rays on the Bay, the world’s only restaurant to enjoy nightly live music by fire pit and observe majestic manta rays in their natural habitat. Under the stars, a weekly luau offers a colorful journey through history.
Situated on the iconic lava rocks of the Kona coast overlooking historic Keauhou Bay, the newly revitalized oceanfront resort flourishes with naturally landscaped lands that were once the birthplace and playgrounds of some of Hawaii’s greatest kings.
“At the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, authenticity of Hawaiian culture and the ‘Aloha Spirit’ is engrained in all of our activities, from our Kini Kini double hull sailing canoe ride to our complimentary ukulele lessons taught by Auntie Tutu Lindsey,” said Matt Grauso, general manager at the Sheraton Kona. “Our cultural director, Lily Dudoit, is our guiding light and helps to localize the experience for our guests. It is truly important to us they understand and appreciate the historic and cultural significance of this land region, or ahupuaa, of Keauhou.”
There are 485 guest rooms and 24 suites on 22 tropical acres. Spacious accommodations feature a comfy Sheraton Sweet Sleeper mattress and wifi. Inspired by the Native Hawaiian perspective, ocean front and ocean view rooms feature fabrics, color and prints created by renowned Hawaii designer Sig Zane, born and raised in Hilo. His design touches enhance public spaces throughout the resort.
Offering the ultimate pool experience, guests rave about the 200-foot lava tube water slide, two hot tubs, spouting fountains and the sandy-bottomed children’s play area. Hoola Spa offers a healing Himalayan Salt Room and oceanfront treatment patio. Whether visitors are seeking romance, relaxation or ocean and mountain adventure, Sheraton Kona’s guests find themselves in the perfect location to discover and experience the beauty of Hawaii.
Hilton Waikoloa Village
9-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive I Waikoloa HI 96738-5710
You could easily say that this hotel is a destination in and of itself, as there is lots to do on property! With 62 oceanfront acres and 1240 guest rooms, the Hilton Waikoloa Village has its very own salt-water lagoon and white-sand beach. Teeming with tropical fish and rare green sea turtles, the four-acre ocean fed lagoon is a protected oasis perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
The hotel features a coastal walk to Anaeho’omalu Bay, a popular salt and pepper sand beach with a coconut grove of swaying palms and shade from the Pacific sun. Plus, anyone visiting the property can enjoy a fantastic interactive encounter at Dolphin Quest, the only dolphin attraction of its kind on the Big Island. To be able to touch a dolphin is simply priceless.
After a busy day being a tourist, you can relax at the hotel’s Kohala exquisite spa, which provides soothing treatments and rejuvenating therapies, using island ingredients. You can relax with an selection of specialized massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, hydrotherapy treatments, and/or work out in the fitness center or take exercise classes.
Hawaii Island Retreat
250 Lokahi Road
Kapaau, HI 96755
If you are looking for something completely different, check out the Hawaii Island Retreat, a very private island getaway that feels more like home! Located on the North Kohala Coast, this eco-friendly hotel and spa—a lovely place for an intimate wedding– is set amongst 50 acres of gardens, wild groves and ancient valley trails.
“We create intentional peacefulness that provides a sanctuary from the distractions and demands of modern living,” said owner Jeanne Sunderland. “Immersed in beauty, I consider this a place where individuals and groups may find peace, joy, renewal of spirit and a sense of connectedness. In harmony with nature, we produce our own electricity and heat with solar panels, grow our own organic fruits and vegetables and produce our own eggs and cheese. The private retreat has 10 elegant spacious rooms with expansive views, and seven charming yurts near the spa facility, which offer a unique experience while being comfortable and cozy. “
How To Get There
Most visitors arrive at Kona International Airport in Kona, but Hilo International Airport in Hilo is closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can also island hop by flying into Oahu’s Honoloulu International Airport and booking a short flight to the island. (Best to book before you get on the plane to get the best deal!) #Hawaii