I visited most of the Hawaiian islands (all of the touristy islands) but had not yet added the Big Island (Hawaii) to that list. I’ve always wanted to visit for the volcanoes, the coffee plantations, and the Kona brewery. I must admit, the Big Island is not what I expected!
I would go back in a heartbeat. But here are a few tips for visiting the Big Island with young kids:
- Choose your villa rental wisely. This island is not like Kauai or Maui. That’s one of the unique and beautiful things about Hawaii – each island has its own personality. The Big Island really is volcanic rock. There are some spots with lush greenery, but as soon as you depart KOA, you’ll see what I mean about the different terrain. Most of the ‘beaches’ that you’ll want to bring your kids to are man-made beaches built by the resorts. We at Travel Keys have selected the best homes in top vacation destinations. For our trip, my family stayed at F3 Waikoloa Beach Villas. This two-bedroom condo was perfectly situated, great for our family, and even included a Hilton Pool Pass. Call our Villa Specialists to learn which area of the Big Island is the right fit for your family.
- If your villa rental includes resort access, take advantage of it! We spent a lot of time at the Hilton. We were able to enjoy their huge pools, lagoons, restaurants and parking, and yet get away from the crowds and Hilton expense by heading ‘home’ to our condo, a mere three-minute drive away. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the pool pass/resort access:
- Swim with the dolphins (we can arrange this for you). One of our highlights! My kids were ecstatic. We opted for the 9 a.m. session, and it was only a few minutes away from our condo, highly suggested!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:
I fought for visiting the Big Island because I thought my kids would love to see a volcano (okay, okay, really, I wanted to see the active volcano). It was a LONG day; we spent approximately 10-12 hours on this adventure. At 10 or 11 p.m., exhausted, in the pitch black and in pouring rain, we finally made it back to Waikoloa. Do you know what we passed on the way back to our condo (literally five minutes away)? The helipad to one of our helicopter tours. Tip #1 to consider? Take the helicopter tour!
*If you still want to drive it, I am still here to help. 🙂 I get it, I do. We decided to save the money and drive/explore everything ourselves. We checked out the heart of Kona and stopped by Kona Brewing Company for lunch. We stopped at Kona Joe’s to explore the coffee plantation. We stopped several hours into our day (in kind of the last stop before remote roads) to get ice cream; anything to get our kids out of the car and moving. We stopped at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach and saw huge sea turtles snoozing on the beach.
Our first stop in the National Park was at the Visitor’s Center. I highly suggest this stop to see where the current lava activity is. Unfortunately, we were told the best chance of seeing the best lava was an additional three hours of a drive within the park. Not happening with a two and four-year-old in the car. A little disappointed, we drove to the steam vents on Crater Rim Drive. It was COLD and RAINY but we had a blast running out of the car to stand by the volcanic gas steam. It really does smell like rotten eggs! It was HOT, and really felt good to stand there for a minute.
We drove a short distance to the Jaggar Museum to see the lava. Remember, it was cloudy and rainy and cold. See our first [daytime] picture of the lava below. As that view wasn’t quite what I had in mind, we decided to explore the museum, have dinner at Volcano Hotel, and come back to the Jaggar viewpoint after dark; a great decision, though it made for a late night.
On the drive back to Kona, we drove through Hilo. The roads seemed nice, but it was POURING and there was quite a bit of construction (too late for the crews but the cones and lane restrictions were still in place).
An overall wonderful day that I would do again, though I will admit, when we were five minutes from our condo and saw the helipad for our helicopter tour, the price for those helicopter tours didn’t seem too bad! Call us, and we’ll help you decide which tour best fits your family.