Archive for the 'Hawaii' category

Review – Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

| March 27, 2008 7:29 pm

The Good – The hotel has a great location near many great sites. Waterfalls, black beaches, snorkeling coves, Observatory and other activities are nearby via car. This hotel also features onsite laundry if you need to wash clothes. The hotel staff were VERY friendly and accessible.

The Bad – The hotel is a bit dated with a desperately needed refresh of the decor. It is a hotel that we’ve stayed in a while that actually had the old key/lock system instead of magnetic card reader . The restaurant buffets were less than stellar although a few good items were on the menu. The swimming pool was a bit small but the island park across the street made up for it. There are various areas in the park to swim and play in even for small kids.

The Damage – The final bill was close to $450 for 3 nights and this was one of the better hotels in Hilo. The restaurant buffet will run you about $30 per person and the hotel did have limited spa services.

The Recommendation – This was one of the better hotels in Hilo and the location was fairly good as it was close to shopping, beaches, and other activities. Our plan called for staying a few brief nights in Hilo and this hotel worked fine for our situation but I wouldn’t stay longer than a couple of nights here until the hotel gets a good remodeling.

Hotel Website.

Review – Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

| 7:15 pm

The Good – The hotel has a great beach and excellent pools for young kids, heated spas for adults and even has a slide for both. The room we stayed in had a spectacular view of the ocean, lagoon and sunset. There were many great activities available at the resort including canoing, snorkeling adventures, Luau show (Wed & Sat), water biking, and more. We were concerned that the hotel would be over run by drunk spring breakers but it finally dawned on us that Hawaii is a state with a legal drinking age of 21 so there weren’t any spring breakers to be found. There were many families with young children (infant to 14) here at the resort but no drunken disorderliness. This hotel is located about 15 miles from town and is fairly isolated but there are nearby shops and a convenience store (expensive) to buy various food items. The nearby restaurants are moderately expensive but the food is good.

The Bad – Finding a waiter to fetch a drink at this hotel is impossible. The mandatory $20 resort fee is ridiculous, if it is mandatory then it should simply be rolled into the price of the hotel room per night. Why charge separately?

Unfortunately, our room was prone with problems: The room fridge was not working so it had to be replaced. The A/C needed to be repaired with a replacement filter but we were unaware of a magnetic “lock” on the sliding glass door window that needed to be close enough to activate the A/C. Evidently our door was ever so slightly open that the sensor never activated to turn the A/C on.

The Damage – The final bill was close to $2200 for 5 nights and this included a $300 Luau fee for Wednesday night. Dining & drinking at the hotel is expensive and we opted (like so many others) to shop at nearby Wal-mart in town and load up on beer, wine, snacks and fruit rather than spend money at the resort. Food (and other things) in Hawaii in general are expensive. Expect to pay $6 for a box of cereal and $4 for a gallon of gas (March 2008).

The Recommendation – We liked the hotel and would stay here again but I would highly recommend you rent a car to view the rest of Big Island during your stay. If you have kids, love the beach & pools and outdoor activities then this is the place for you!

Hotel Website.

Hawaii – Day 9 (Final Day)

| March 25, 2008 11:32 pm


I’m at the airport as I write this and it is 8:31 p.m. here in Kona. Our final day was a pretty good day. We got up early to take flight on Blue Hawaiian Helicopter rescheduled from Monday. Our 45 minute flight was well worth the $700 price tag as we soared over Big Island, flew by lava flows and the volcano crater itself! We then proceeded to the sea where lava met ocean in a spectacular array of colors attributed to the sulfur and other elements hitting the sea.

Blue Hawaiian

Blue Hawaiian Family

After our aerial escapade we drove back from Hilo to Kona and stopped at the Botanical Gardens along the way and I took over 100 photos of different fauna and waterfalls.

Flower 1 Flower 2 Flower 3 Flower 4

After our visit to the gardens we headed back to Kona and stopped at a few small towns along the way including Hawi, a small town inhabited by Hawaiian artist community, and Mahukona Beach Park where the kids played chicken with the ocean waves crashing upon the rocky coast.


Unfortunately, I can’t post any photos today as my laptop battery is running low, I’m charging my cell phone and don’t have any spare ports on the computer to do it all simultaneously.

Our flight leaves at 10:45 p.m. and we’ll be home sometime tomorrow around 4:00 p.m. I’ll post reviews of the hotels and our overall trip over the next day or two.

Mahalo for being with us on our journey to the Big Island Hawaii.

Hawaii – Day 8

| March 24, 2008 11:59 am

We started the day with a quick breakfast at Ken’s Famous House of Pancakes.  The food was OK but the coffee was horrible.

Kens House of Pancakes

Today was Waterfall day and we stopped at three different waterfalls:  Rainbow, Boiling Pots and Other (don’t remember name).

The first was the most spectacular as it had a large drop off and scenic surrounding.

Rainbow Waterfall

Boiling Pots was good too but to get the real beauty of this waterfall, you had to climb down a steep embankment to get a good cinematic view.

Boiling Pots

The third was just a plain old waterfall but good to look at nonetheless.

After the waterfall tour, we went for a brief time over to Robertson Park (black beach) where I did a little snorkeling for a couple of hours.  I took some more amazing photos of the aquatic life but they won’t be developed for a few days after we get back.


In the evening, we decided to drive up to the observatory.  A four wheel drive vehicle was needed to get to the actual summit so we got a high as we could to view the stars.  The welcome center had telescopes setup to view the stars above.  Unfortunately, we waited for two hours and the visibility was horrible due to low level clouds and they didn’t seem to show any chance of waning so we headed back down fairly disappointed.

Hawaii – Day 7

| March 23, 2008 11:03 pm

We started day seven of our Hawaii vacation eagerly anticipating we would be flying around in a helicopter taking an aerial look at Volcano island but unfortunately, our flight was canceled due to poor weather conditions.

Helicopter Canceled

Since we couldn’t see Volcano by air, we decided to drive and see Volcano by land. The park didn’t open until 2:00 p.m. so we had to kill some time and we decided to visit a nearby “black beach” given that name because the sand is pitch black. The sand is actually pulverized black volcanic rock that has been pounded by the sea over and over again to the point where the sand is fine grain.

Black Beach

After visiting the black beach, we headed over to the area of the beach where lava was freely flowing into the pacific ocean on the east side of the island. Despite the large plums of steam from the lava colliding with the ocean, we did manage to take a few shots of the actual lava pouring out of the rock.



We then headed to the top of Volcano Island where we drove up 3500 feet above sea level to check out the volcano’s craters. Unfortunately, because of a recent eruption (a couple of weeks ago) most of the roads were shut down and one was covered with molten rock (see picture). There was serious sulfur dioxide emissions coming from the volcano so most of the park was close. Add to it the poor rainy weather conditions and you’ll understand why we only managed to get a few good shots of the crater.


While at the park, we did manage to visit an old lava tube from the inside. This particular tube spanned about 300 yards underground and we managed to walk the whole thing without incident. The tube was dripping water from rain above, slippery and had quite a few puddles that needed to be navigated in near pitch black conditions.


After our Volcano Park visit, we headed back home. It took a while to drive from the beaches to the top of the mountain and back down again so much of our day was spent driving between locations and the drizzly weather didn’t help much either.

Hawaii – Day 6

| March 22, 2008 9:19 pm

We check out of the Waikoloa Marriot Beach Resort this morning and got on the car to head to Hilo. We made a few stops along the way to make the most of our trip. The drive was fairly scenic along the way. From our car we peered out at the mountain we’d be driving up and around and marveled as the clouds hugged the mountain top.


Our first stop was the Hapuna Beach Park.  A picture speak 1000 words.


Our second stop was a small little town nestled in the mountain. We drove by a farmer’s market and were stunned to see a sign reading “TAMALES” with an arrow pointing to the camp ground. We parked the car and looked around, bought some tamales and other knicknacks and headed out. We were fascinated to find that thousands of miles from the border over pacific ocean, we spotted Mexican food on a mountain top!

Farmers Market

Our third stop was Laupahoehoe Point Park. This is a site of mass devastation when a tsunami rolled through here in 1946 killing many people. The view was amazing as the sea collided with the rock sewn about the beach head and in the far distance, you could see waterfalls from the cliff tops cascading down to the ocean.

Our fourth stop was Botanical Gardens. The fauna inside these gardens were beautiful! I photographed flowers I’d never seen before any where. The most amazing thing was the wide variety of flowers growing in different shapes, colors, and sizes.


Inside the Botanical Gardens, we stopped by an amazing three tiered waterfall called Umauma Falls. It was spectacular! We then walked along a tropical rain forest inside the gardens for a while. We spent a few hours here and the $36 admin fee (for 4) was well worth it!

Umauma Falls


Our fifth stop was Akaka Falls which featured an amazing 442-foot fall. Unfortunately, it was a hike to get to the falls and I didn’t take the wide angle lens. So I took high res photos with my 70-200mm Canon 4L lens and the shots came out great but I’ll need to stitch them together to get a final product. It also began to rain so we didn’t get a chance to take too many photos.

Akaka Falls

After the falls we stopped at the nearby town shops for a quick lunch. We ate some Ahi burgers and chips and quickly moved on to our final stop – the hotel in Hilo.

Hawaii – Day 5

| March 21, 2008 11:59 pm

We began Day 5 of our Big Island stay with a quick morning trip to Wal-mart to pick up the CD with the underwater photos. The images came out nicely and have been uploaded here.

After a quick morning bite, we headed to a nearby historic park to view hundreds of acres of lava rock of all sizes.


We walked about for a short period as we were trying to kill time for our main event: Whale watching.

We headed out to the marina where we boarded Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whalewatch who guaranteed that we would see whales on our voyage.

Whale Watcher

We spent about 3 hours on our voyage and we did get to see humpback whales along with some other interesting items.


For one, we got to see Marge vomit in a bag from sea sickness. I then got to see the kids sleep for about an hour of the trip on the way back.

Sea Sick

I can’t complain because I got a couple of minutes of shut eye on the trip myself. The hot beating sun with the cool sea breeze mandated a quick nap.

After our exotic trip whale watching, we headed back to the hotel where Marge, Bart and Lisa lounged around the pool. I took a quick walk around the grounds and took some pictures of the nearby fauna. You can see the the big island fauna here.


We headed back to our room to watch our final sunset from this hotel as tomorrow we move on to Hilo.


Hawaii – Day 4

| March 20, 2008 11:02 pm

I’ve got snorkeling fever! We had another adventurous day today as we started the morning out at Kahalu’u Beach. This is THE BEST PLACE on the island to go snorkeling and we weren’t disappointed.

Kahaluu Beach

I snorkeled for a couple of hours and I saw the most amazing colorful fish (like the movie NEMO) inside this sheltered reef. I did manage to take many pictures but unfortunately, the CD was taking too long so we left it and hope to pick it up tomorrow.

Here are some shots of us around Kahalu’u Beach.


Check out Mr. Snorkel in the water!


After snorkeling we headed back to Wal-mart to pick up a few more items and get the aquatic underwater photos developed. We got the prints but no CD until tomorrow. We lunch headed back to the hotel and hung around the pools and heated spas then went for an hour long walk along the beach where we encountered four large sea turtles hugging the shoreline so I jumped in with my snorkel gear and took some underwater shots. Unfortunately, this is a new roll and it’ll probably been a while before we use up the roll and get it developed.

With overcast skies we ended the day by heading out to dinner to a place cost Pesto Diner which claimed to have served the best pizza & paste this side of the pacific. We weren’t disappointed. We had Shrimp Nachos that were absolutely delicious. We had Luau Pizza and Mehigi Pizza that were delicious!

Update:  We got the CD and all photos are posted here

Hawaii – Day 3

| 12:18 am

We had an action packed day today. We got up early enough to see the sun rise behind the mountain and were able to capture the moment with this great shot.


We headed into town again to eat breakfast as the kids were in the mood for some pan cakes so we stopped off at Dennis. We then hit the tourist zone where we went shopping for some more knickknacks, sun tan lotion and snorkeling gear. Despite using sun tan lotion our first two days here we really got sun burned so we upped the SPF from 30 to 50 and we hope tomorrow we won’t be as burned.


After shopping we headed to visit some historic sites. We walked by one of the Hawaiian Kings original homes called Hulihe e Palace but was closed for repairs. We then headed to an older home called Ahu ena Heiau and took some shots (one is pictured below).

Driving back from our historic visit, I spotted a giant lava tube as I was driving down the main road so I looped back and we all got off to explore a bit. The lava tube went on for a long distance and we opted to leave it as the area seemed to become more perilous as we journeyed further and further away from the main road. Although Hawaii is often perceived as a lush tropical vegetative island, the big island has a great deal of barren rock laden land for miles and miles as far as the eye can see.



After our brief excursion we stopped lava tube cave near Kiholo Bay and visited the nearby Queen’s Bath. Some interesting highlights are pictured below. The water in this cave was pristine clear and very cold.


We ended the day by spending a couple of hours poolside then headed back to our room to get ready for the big luau. On Wednesdays, the hotel cooks a large pig buried deep inside the ground. The pig cooks all day as it is “buried” in the morning and “exhumed” in the evening. We ate dinner (not the pig) and then watched a fascinating show with various island cultures expressing their dancing technique. Islanders from New Zealand, Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Hawaii all did a routine or two.


I could write more for hours but this action packed day really zapped the strength from us and we’re dead tired but not too tired to take this picture perfect sunset from the luau.


Hawaii – Day 2

| March 18, 2008 9:48 pm

We must have slept 12 hours last night since we went to bed at 8:00 p.m. and woke up at 8:00 a.m. but that’s jet lag. This is the view we woke up to from our room.


We started the morning by heading to town (near airport) where we stopped at Dennis for breakfast then a quick run to Wal-mart to acquire some food stuffs and gifts for the return trip. I forgot to mention that yesterday after we had lunch we stopped at a convenience store to buy a few snacks. The items in the picture below cost $50!


After Wal-mart we made a quick pit stop at Costco to pick up some wine. We picked up wine at Wal-mart but wasn’t quite sure of the quality so we needed to have an emergency backup. After shopping we headed back to the hotel where we spent all day between the beach and the pools. I went snorkeling for a couple of hours and saw some fascinating coral and tropical saltwater fish. The coral was huge and looked like an eerie giant brain.

Below is a picture of one of the fish I saw (no I did not take this photo).


Below are some photos of us at the various pools at our hotel.




We finished the day watching the sunset from our room sipping some Macadamia Nut Honey Wine from Volcano Winery here in Hawaii….