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Hawaii’s Big Island: A Recap Of Our Visit

Kevin and I spent a full week on Hawaii’s Big Island a couple of weeks ago, and to say we had an incredible time would be an understatement. I’d always heard that Hawaii was breathtakingly gorgeous, and as it turns out it’s even more beautiful in person than any photos can convey.

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It’s the most isolated place on the planet, and it FEELS that way (in a good sense). Kevin and I were able to really disconnect from the day to day while we were there, and it was amazing. (It was great knowing Maggie was having a blast with my parents in Atlanta while we were on our trip, too!)

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This was our first trip to Hawaii, and we opted to go to the Big Island (a.k.a. the island of Hawaii) after talking with friends and family members who had been to Hawaii before and doing some online research. We kept hearing that the Big Island was more laid back than the other islands, and that it was less touristy. It’s also, well, the biggest (it makes up 63% of Hawaii’s land mass), so there’s more ground to cover.

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Since I haven’t been to any other Hawaiian islands, I’m not able to compare the Big Island to the rest of the state, but I CAN tell you that the Big Island was wonderful, and I’d go back there in a heartbeat. (I mean, just LOOK at this sunset!):

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I thought I’d put together this post to share a bit about what we did while we were there, in the hopes that it might be helpful to someone planning a trip to the Big Island! (If you AREN’T yet planning a trip there and are looking for a great vacation spot, definitely consider adding this to your list.):

First of all, we found this website to be super helpful as we were planning our trip! It was an awesome resource.

Where we stayed: We stayed on the west side of the island, in Waikaloa Beach at the Marriott resort there. We really liked this location, and after spending a bit of time on the east side of the island definitely preferred the west.

Car we rented: Just by chance, we ended up with a Mustang convertible as our rental car. (The computer wasn’t working right when we were trying to get our car after arriving in Hawaii, so the rental car lady asked if we’d be okay with a convertible rather than the sedan we’d originally reserved. Um…YES. Yes, we were.) Not only was Kevin in heaven driving it (and it was fun to drive, for sure!), it also made it so much easier to soak in the gorgeous views we were surrounded by as we drove around the island.

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Places we ate: We had a little kitchen in our hotel room so we ended up making many breakfasts there (oatmeal + lots of local fruit), but we obviously ate several meals out as well. (SO many places were vegan friendly, which was amazing for me.) Here are a few of the places we loved! (Oh, and look for local kombucha brand Big Island Booch. It’s delicious, and it’s on tap lots of places.):

  • Under the Bodhi Tree: We ate breakfast here twice (well, I ate here twice — once on my own!), and it was my favorite restaurant on the island. SO good, and everything on the menu is vegetarian or vegan.

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  • Lava Lava Beach Club: This spot was within walking distance of our hotel, and though the food was just okay (good, but not especially memorable), it was a fun place for happy hour and a PERFECT spot to watch the sunset.

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  • Kona Brewing Co.’s restaurant: The pizza was SO good and, of course, there’s a great beer selection to choose from. (I especially loved the Hanalei Island IPA.)

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  • Dan-O’s Doner: They make a killer falafel salad, and Kevin LOVED his schnitzel sandwich!

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  • Huggo’s: This is where we ate our last Hawaiian meal, and it was the ideal place to end our trip. Our flight left at 9:30 p.m., so we had dinner at Huggo’s beforehand and sat outside by the water to watch the sunset. Kevin and I split an amazing mushroom appetizer, and then I had the Baby Greens salad as my entree, which was more than enough food and was incredibly good.

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  • Loko Wraps: I LOVED my BBQ jackfruit salad here!

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  • Cafe Ono: This restaurant was SUCH a fun find on the day we crossed the island to visit Volcano National Park. It’s a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that’s set within these beautiful, tucked-away gardens and they have items for sale made by hundreds of local artisans. The day we went (for lunch) it was chilly and rainy, so a bowl of their mushroom miso soup hit the spot!

Things we did: Kevin and I stayed pretty busy while we were on the Big Island, but we also had some good down time to really relax and soak in the time together and the beauty surrounding us. Here are a few of our favorite activities:

  • taking a helicopter tour: We toured the breathtaking valleys that line the coast of the Big Island on our first full day there, and it was the perfect way to get our bearings a bit and get a sense for the island. Neither of us had been in a helicopter before, and it was such a fun ride! We went with Sunshine Helicopters, and our pilot was outstanding.
  • visiting a coffee farm: Everyone’s heard of Kona coffee, right? We just had to check out a coffee farm while we were there! We chose to tour Sunshower Farms and really enjoyed the two-hour event which consisted of both a tour and a cupping exercise where we learned about the coffee’s flavors and notes.

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  • checking out Volcano National Park: We were so lucky — the park re-opened just a couple of weeks before our trip to Hawaii, so we were able to visit! It was very cold and rainy on the day we went, but it was still so neat to see the volcanos from a pretty close vantage point.

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  • trekking to the green sand beach (Papakōlea): This is one of just four green sand beaches in the world, so we certainly wanted to check it out. It’s on the south side of the island (which is beautiful!), and we’d read it was a bit of a walk to get there. Um…YES. It was a LONG walk, in fact, which wouldn’t have been a problem if we weren’t worried about it getting dark on us! Thankfully, we made it to the beach and back to the car with sunlight to spare, and we’re so glad we got to see Papakōlea.

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  • going to a luau: Yes, this is a quintessentially touristy thing to do…but, we were tourists! We were a little skeptical going in, to be honest, but the luau ended up being fun. The food was SO good, and the show was awesome (especially the fire dancing!). We went to the luau right down the road from our hotel at the Hilton (and apparently it’s the only one with fire dancing…)

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  • visiting a farmer’s market on a peak day (like Saturday): We went to several farmer’s markets during our week on the island, but none compared to the Saturday market in Waimea! There were tons of people there and so many vendors with items ranging from fresh produce (of course) to local jams and spreads to pottery to vegan gelato (YUM) and lots more.

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  • touring the Huliheʻe Palace: This beachside palace was a summer home for Hawaiian royalty and is now open for tours. It’s small, but so beautiful, and Kevin and I felt it was most definitely worth doing.

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We can’t wait to visit again…

If you’ve been to the Big Island, I’d love to hear what some of your favorite things about your trip were!

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