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Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority HTAKirk Lee Aeder
Someone recently asked me, “What’s the best thing about living in California?”
The answer is easy—Hawaii (well, at least access to it). I’ve traveled to Hawaii many times over the years, visiting pretty much all of the islands and staying at many of the top resorts. However, this was my first trip to Hawai’i, the Big Island.
The minute I stepped off the plane and felt a cool breeze and very little humidity, I knew I was going to like it. While it might not be this way year-round, or even on the other side of the island, it was a perfect Big Island introduction. Check out the following 4-day itinerary for the rest of this tropical story.
My travel companion and I packed light and were able to jump into the hotel shuttle within 20 minutes of landing. Our destination was the Hilton Waikoloa Village
(hiltonwaikoloavillage.com). We couldn’t help but notice the interesting terrain between the airport and the hotel: lava rock. Before we knew it, we were checked in, getting changed and off to lunch. We caught a quick bite at the pool and then it was time for our first activity—a couple’s massage at the Kohala Spa. Although situated on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, I was a tad reticent at first; however, that melted away after one minute on the outdoor cabana table. It was truly an enjoyable experience, especially with my significant other. We then took a stroll around the property, enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery and coastline I’ve ever encountered in Hawaii. That evening we had a nice dinner at the poolside café and enjoyed another stroll.
The next morning we enjoyed a “Big Island breakfast” at the hotel’s buffet, which offered just about everything an appetite can imagine. The server was an extremely nice man who gave us lots of ideas about what to do around the resort. Following lunch at the on-property Boat Landing Cantina, we set sail for our scheduled Dolphin Quest. I’ve seen a number of resorts where you can swim with dolphins, but this one was more focused on learning about and respecting the beautiful mammals, as well as getting an up-close look at them interacting with humans—an amazing experience. We learned an awful lot about them and came away with a healthy respect for how the Hilton and its staff take care of the creatures. Later, we met up with a close friend at his home and decided to have dinner at the Kona Inn—an iconic Kailua landmark for more than 50 years. As expected, the food was excellent, the service attentive and the ambience pure Hawaii.
After another delicious breakfast at the buffet, we hit the road to see the area and visit with newfound friends. Upon our return, we dressed and went for a spectacular dinner at the resort’s premier restaurant: KPC (Kamuela Provision Company). Perched at the edge of a rock wall with the ocean below, we both enjoyed cooked-to-perfection lobster and an excellent California Pinot Noir (which, by the way, is the second best thing about the Golden State).
Did I mention that one of the best things to do in Hawaii is relax? Our final full day there, that’s exactly what we did—sat by the pool and the four-acre saltwater lagoon soaking in the beautiful atmosphere and weather. The resort is big, big enough that there’s a tram, as well as a canal with boats traveling from one end to the other—a wonderful way to see the property and get a feel for all that it has to offer. We decided to do a little shopping at the King’s Shops, just a short walk away from the resort’s entrance. Here you’ll find stores and boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Tommy Bahama, Tori Richard, Tiffany and many more, as well as restaurants like Roy’s and Three Fat Pigs among notable others.
While this trip was more about relaxation than sightseeing, we plan to return and really see the rest of the island—particularly Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Plus, there’s something to be said about just kicking back and hanging out without a busy agenda. I highly recommend it.