Big Island of Hawaii

Old Jul 31st, 2022, 08:16 AM
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Big Island of Hawaii

I am planning for a trip in October and have a few questions about closures. We will have a car and want to drive to Waipio Valley Lookout. I see that Waipio valley Rd is closed till 2025, does that effect the drive to the look out.
The other question is about Keck or Maunakea observatories. It looks like they are 2 different sites, will we see pretty much the same?? Also, it seems like they are both closed now because of Covid, is this correct?
thank you,
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 09:00 AM
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Where's our Hawaii people? I can help with Oahu but don't know a thing about Big Island. Trip Advisor has very active Hawaii forums, if you don't get answers here (I would link them but that seems not allowed).
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 10:30 AM
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I haven't been up there since the closures, but a few friends have.

You will still have amazing views in and around Waipio. I believe the closure is only for driving down into the valley, which is great and beautiful, but not game changing if you can't do it. If you want stunning views and a short hike, head down into Punaluu. It's a black sand beach and gives you great views down the coast, and the beach is pretty (if it's a big wave day, don't get in the water).

For Maunakea, it's totally worth a visit and I don't believe the visitors center is closed. Since the issues with 90m telescope, it's been very touch and go. I believe now you have to take a tour group up there, but at the least they'll know what's open and what isn't - maybe call a tour company, or the visitors center and ask. I've done Maunakea several times, but never heard anyone do Keck. For Maunakea, it's best to see the sunset up there if you can. And if you haven't been, it is cold so pack accordingly.

If you want suggestions for that area (are you staying Hilo or Kona?) I can offer a few. I traveled there every month for several years due to work so got to see a little of the Kona side of the island.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 12:02 PM
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I would LOVE suggestions of where to stay. We will probably spend 1 night in Hilo and 2 near the Nat'l Park. We will also spend time on the west coast (not sure if we will divide between north and south or not). At this time we have 12 days, I think that may be too much time. I will appreciate any suggestions.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 12:38 PM
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12 days on the big island is a long time, but there is a lot to do. For staying, I honestly am not the best person to recommend as I usually stayed at a friends house down in Kona. Of the places I stayed:

- In Kona proper, I would stay at the King Kamehameha. It's right at the start of downtown Kona so you can walk down easily, but you can also drive out of town to the north super easily without much hassle.
- Some friends stayed down at the Outrigger resort south of Kona, where there are a handful of resorts. It has a beautiful location, some good snorkeling nearby, and easy access south, but it depends on what you want to do. If you like going out to eat and walking Kona, the Outrigger and other resorts can be a bit of a drive after a few drinks.
- In Waimea, I stayed at the Jacaranda Inn. It is SUPER funky, which I loved. It's an old house with some rooms and has a feeling like being taken out of a time machine. On the book shelf in the library were 100 year old National Geographics you could pull down and read. I also stayed at the Kameula Inn, which is fine and serviceable. It doesn't have the character of the Jacaranda, but not everyone likes the same things so obviously your call.
- Up towards Waimea are a number of resort places like Hilton Waikaloa and Mauna Lani. Those are all nice, have some things in the area, but are a haul from Kona if that matters.
- There are also a number of camping grounds if you are into camping. There are some nice 'hike in, hike out' sites, as well as places you can drive to, park, and camp.
- You can also look for air bnb.

In Volcanos, see if you can get the cabins - if that's your thing. They are nice and a fair distance from the town so star watching is amazing. It also can be chilly down there so give weather a look for packing.

Hilo I can't remember where I stayed. I've only been there 4 or 5 times and usually only for a night or two of work.

For things to do, the snorkeling around Big Island is great (Puako is decent, two step is nice, Kealakekua is nice), hiking is fun (I especially like Puu Waawaa in the morning), the anchialine pools are cool (lone palm and gold pond), SCUBA is fun (e.g. black water drift dive), lots of waterfalls Hilo side, and the countryside up in Waimea area is gorgeous. As you hit on, the views on the North Shore near Waipio are incredible. It really depends on what you want to do. You could easily drop 4 days and fly to someplace like Maui or Molokai for a long weekend if you wanted. Like I said, 12 days on the BI is long, but there's a fair bit to do there.

Last edited by dougharper5625; Aug 1st, 2022 at 12:39 PM. Reason: Additional info and poor wording.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 12:49 PM
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We prefer to stay on the Kohala coast and always rent a condo in the Waikoloa Beach resort area. We like the Kohala beaches and the proximity to Waimea. I don't care much for Kona as it's so busy and crowded and not very pretty. The beaches near Kona are not really beaches, either. I think it makes sense to stay near Volcano for a couple days so that you can visit the park and not worry about driving long distances.

We've been to the BI five times and are going again this next spring. We have a pretty set routine for our visits, and we go because we're escaping long winters and cold springs; we just want to play in the water and snorkel. We typically get up fairly early, go for a run, have breakfast at the condo, pick up a picnic lunch at Foodland in Mauna Lani Resort area, head to a beach to swim and snorkel, get ice cream and fish in Kaiwahae, and grill dinner at the condo. We always make a trip to the Place of Refuge and we always snorkel at Two Step while there. We often do the Pololu Valley hike. We try to have lunch at Merrimans in Waimea. And we'll get drinks at Lava Lava Beach Club for sunset a couple nights. It's pretty low key vacation and schedule.

We have been to Volcano and were lucky enough to visit when one could walk out on the lava shelf and watch lava flow directly into the ocean. It's absolutely worth a visit. We tend to come for the beach activities and haven't bothered to make the drive over there on our last few trips.

We have done the manta ray night snorkel: very cool!

My favorite property is the Mauna Lani property, but the condos there are not in our budget.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 03:04 PM
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In Hilo, I stayed at two places:

Dolphin Bay (no pool, but a full kitchen). Old school, low rise and very friendly. Noisy frogs.
SCP Hilo (pool and a good coffee machine plus a welcome kombucha). Centrally located. Rooms around the pool can be noisy.

Do go up to the volcano at night (like after 10 pm) for less traffic and better viewing. You can check the cams, it is amazing that it is still going (I was there 7 months ago).
Drive the Chain of Craters so you arrive at the south coast in time for sunset, then when you get back to Volcano your timing should be good for viewing the eruption.

My brother who has a project up at Keck is also a fan of Puako (we grew up as snorkelers and scuba divers). I don't think you can visit Keck, but maybe this helps for Mauna Kea
https://hilo.hawaii.edu/maunakea/visitor-information/

Last edited by mlgb; Aug 1st, 2022 at 03:07 PM.
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Old Aug 1st, 2022, 04:30 PM
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thanks much for these suggestions. We have been to Maui and Kaui so not interested in going there again. I will look at Molokai.
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Old Aug 4th, 2022, 03:47 PM
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which website do you use to book your condo
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Old Aug 5th, 2022, 08:30 AM
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I typically use Airbnb or VRBO.
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Old Aug 9th, 2022, 12:03 AM
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have any of you visited Parker Ranch (home tour), Anna Ranch Heritage Center or Kahua Ranch (Wednesday night barbeque)? If so, which my you recommend?
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Old Aug 11th, 2022, 09:39 AM
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I have been to Parker Ranch and Anna Ranch. Parker Ranch is more important and relevant to the history of the island, and Anna Ranch is more focused on "Anna" who herself was a character, a woman who owned the ranch and did the ranching herself. She was friendly with Mr. Rockefeller who lived close by.

Both tours are good, but Anna Ranch is more personal and "fun." It has been 10 years or so since I went on either tour, so my memory is faded. I would say if you are more interested in history of ranching, Parker Ranch makes sense. If you are more interested in eccentric characters and early feminism, Anna Ranch is delightful.

The ranches are pretty close to each other, and at Parker Ranch I believe you can walk in and look at exhibits on your own to some extent without a fee.

As for Kahua, I am a vegetarian, so I "steer" clear of BBQ.

Check out some online reviews as there are details I am missing, but these are my recollections. (Also check if any are closed due to Covid. I haven't been back myself...I have a house in Hawi so I would go quite often...and I hear from my friends there are a lot of changes and closures.)
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Old Aug 15th, 2022, 04:25 AM
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Yes, there are still some closures but both of these appear open. Thank you for your recollection.
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Old Sep 18th, 2022, 08:22 AM
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State parks are now $10/car for nonresidents, PLUS $5/PP. No cash accepted, so be warned. Prices for dining have skyrocketed, of course, and service can be spotty (like everywhere, staffing is an issue). Best bet is to get a condo (vrbo has worked for 12+ years for us). Your own coffee, drinks on the lanai, meals when/as you want them (and so much cheaper) , not to mention picnics and snacks for your outings). Waikoloa resort area has lots, and an excellent beach plus shops and decent grocery (Island Gourmet in Queens Shops). Moving around for accommodations seems time consuming and complicated, you can easily drive from Kohala coast to the east side in about 1 hour. Rent a cabin in the park area for 1 night for star/lava glow watching (shared bathroom facilities are fine), or in Volcano; timed right, that gives you the best part of 2 days for HVNP and Hilo area viewing.
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Old Sep 18th, 2022, 08:24 AM
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Forgot to mention, I was there 2 weeks ago.
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Old Sep 18th, 2022, 08:37 AM
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Oops, forgot that Keck is a small facility (the part that the public can visit is a couple of large rooms) in Waimea that explains the telescopes and the data gathering/sharing/useage. Mauna Kea visits are via tours, except for the small public visitors center near the base of the mountain, and a whole different animal (mostly star gazing; great through binoculars!)l. Telescopes and facilities are not open to the public, of course.
Don't forget to recheck your car reservation every week starting NOW (discounthawaii and autoslash are good) to save some (maybe big) bucks.
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