Planning a trip to Hawaii this year. Any information would be helpful. Looking for inexpensive places to stay, things to do, etc.
We are planning on doing Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Volcanoes National Park, Pu'u O'o hike, and a side trip to Maui for that HP as well. I have a guidebook on the big island, but am looking for some info from you all.
For starters, you might want to check out my 2006 trip report. I'll have to look up the hotel we used in Hilo...it was adequate but not the nicest place. Of course, my opinion of hotel rooms is that I'm there maybe 8 or 9 hours a day, most of which I'm unconscious, so as long as the sheets are clean and the shower is hot, I'm satisfied.
While you're in HI, plan on spending a few days on Oahu, as well. The Arizona Memorial is a very emotional place to visit. The Polynesian Cultural Center on the back side of Ohau gives you a taste of a lot of other islands' societies and customs. Hanauma Bay is easily reachable by city bus and is a great place to snorkel. (Actually, you can get to all of those via the city busses. Takes a while to get around to the PCC but the others are quite reasonable from downtown Honolulu.
I've just moved from Hawaii, and got engaged on the Big Island. This of course makes me the foremost authority. (well, maybe not)
Anyway, Hilo is infamous in Hawaii for lousy hotel options. However, there is an inexpensive, not-too-shabby option: Dolphin Bay Hotel. I've stayed in 4 or 5 Hilo places, and this is the one i'd recommend.
Personally, i wouldn't spend a ton of time driving from one side of the Big Island to the other. I'd just base myself in Hilo. Kona has a lot of sun and some great snorkeling, but it doesn't have an especially beautiful or tropical feel to it, IMO. The #1 thing to do in Hilo, and i'm not kidding, really really...the farmers' market on Wednesday and Saturday. GREAT fruit and other stuff. I'm planning in March when i go back to Oahu to take a day in Hilo just to hit the market mainly. The Tsunami Museum is interesting also. The waterfalls north of town, especially Akaka Falls, are worth a little time.
The Volcano is best viewed at night. Find out where it's flowing, and plan to walk out as close as legally allowed (or closer) in the late afternoon, equipped with a couple flashlights for coming back. Don't worry, there will be 50 or so others with the same plan, so you won't be alone. I haven't done the Pu'u O'o hike yet. It sounds really great though.
If you're using the "blue books" as your guide book, they're great. But keep in mind that you need to go online and get all the updates. For instance, the Kilauea Crater rim is now closed. Entirely. It started exploding and collapsing last year, so a whole bunch of stuff described in the book is no longer accessible.
In Hilo, my favorite restaurants are Pescatore and Ken's Pancake House. The former is a decent real Italian restaurant. The latter is basically a truck stop type of place, but a real landmark, and 24 hours. Your best bet though is the market.
On Maui, geez never mind, i realize i'm typing a novel here. Email me or ask here with more specific questions. I have lots of opinions on Maui too. We're planning the wedding for there. If you're doing Haleakala and have the time/energy for a 1 or 2 day epic, climb it via Kaupo Gap. It's spectacular, but LONG. 20 miles, 10,000 feet. If you're more reasonable/normal, drive up. Lots of nice dayhiking in the crater, and just below it in Kula also.
The road to Hana is great, but get the blue book or some other good guide. Take your time. Explore randomly. Maybe avoid Blue Pool, since there's been some serious run-ins with the locals there recently. Waianapanapa State Park is my favorite place, so i'd personally drive the Hana hwy. in the afternoon, camp at the park (permits in advance) and then come back the next day.
La Perouse for snorkeling is great. Don't waste time on the Molokini boat tours. Blah. Pacific'o is the best restaurant in Hawaii that i've tried. It's in Lahaina. But i keep hearing raves about someplace upcountry that Oprah goes to. Have to try it sometime.
Be glad to show you around if i'm back there when you are. Aloha.
We stayed 5 nights in Hilo in June 2006. Despite all the reports of lots of rain, we only had a 15 minute cold shower in all the time we were there.
We stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian on Banyan (?) Drive. Wasn't bad but everyone's right about Hilo not having alot to offer on hotels.
Ken's House of Pancakes is a great place for breakfast. We took a stroll through the town of Hilo - nice architecture and just great scenery. Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory is a cool place to check out too.
One thing we would redo is going to Mauna Kea, we took one of those tourbuses that drives up there close to evening and you get up there as the sun is setting. The sunset is awesome to see up there but after that, we were eager get going. We got bored with the stargazing part of the tour after a half hour. We'd just as soon rent one of those suv's during the day.
Also, if you're into nude beaches, Kehena Beach is not far from Hilo. However, you'll want to wear sandals - its black sand is HOT to walk on.
Good start to this thread. I'm also planning a Mauna Kea trip later this year and am trying to decide on the best way to optimize my time on the Big Island. Looking only at 2 full days with 1/2 days on either end ... I know it is wrong to travel so far for so little time, but anyway, I'm leaning towards trying the Mauna Loa - Mauna Kea combo. Not so concerned about the summit of Mauna Loa; I figure I can attempt it from the visitor's center at 11.5K on my first full day. Mostly just want to spend my first day acclimitizing and will hike as long as I'm comfortable and then turn around when I'm not. Day 2 will be Mauna Kea from the Onizuka Visitor Center. What little time I have left, I figure I'll have to find a beach.
Funny you should say that. I'm actually kicking around the idea of staying in Volcano Village. This would be ideal for a few reasons ... but the downside is that it looks like it's kind of a haul from there to the Onizuka Visitor Center for an early start on Mauna Kea.
The flows change more often than you might guess, and actually as of last month Volcano Village was nowhere NEAR where the current flow is. There are other really kewl things near the village, so it's not a waste or anything, but if the flow is nearer Puna like it is? or at least was last month, then staying in Puna or Hilo is actually closer.
Visit the southern point of the USA. You never know when you'll want to visit the geographic extremes of the USA.
Visit the winery along the road north of the south point; you never know when you'll want to visit a winery in every state.
Try to visit a rainbow of beaches on the Big Island; we made it to a white sand beach, yellow sand, green sand (near south point), and black sand (nude beach south of Hilo).
Mauna Kea is a cinder peak and Mauna Loa has a hard lava surface. To climb it, go to the saddle and turn south (north is Kea). Loa is also the highest pont of the national park; you never know when you'll want to visit the HP of all 58 national parks.
Almost tempted to add another day onto my Hawaii agenda just to give myself more time on the island. Of course, the following day would be kind of a hectic travel day to get to California (if I get my first choice on my Mount Whitney permit application that is), but I think it might be worth it. If I ever get back to Hawaii, it's likely it will be to Honolulu with the wife and kids. This is my opportunity to do all the things my wife has little interest in ... like mountains and volcanos and naturey things. What to do, what to do?
I'm planning my trip for September 21-29. I've already applied to the California lottery for the main Whitney Trail with 2 choices. The first is 9/26-28; the second is 9/23-25. IF (big if) I get my first choice, that will leave me with all day on the 22nd and 23rd to play in Hawaii with one of those days for Mauna Kea. The 24th would be the day up in the air. Do I go to CA on that day and give myself plenty of time to get to Lone Pine for a mid-morning start on the 26th OR to I leave on the 25th and have a semi-hectic travel day getting to the Whitney trailhead in time?
I like your coin flipping method and really feel like 3 days is a boatload of time for Whitney. I'm fairly confident I could dayhike it but 6K elevation gain is a lot at altitude for a lowlander and I don't want to chance it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it intensely.
Having done Whitney as an overnight backpack in 2001, with two nights at 8,000' in Mammoth Lakes and one dayhike to 11,000' worth of acclimation first, I'd be leery of flying back to CA and hitting the main Whitney trail the next day. Remember, you'll have been (literally) at sea level in HI and will have had a fairly long (5 hours) flight at cabin altitude (8,000' or so) before returning to sea level at LAX.
Much as I'd like to say "spend the extra day in HI," I vote for coming back to CA and spending a night (and preferably a day) at altitudes between 8k' and 10k' before hitting the trail for Whitney. Altitude sickness is no fun and if it keeps you from summiting Whitney, you'll be kicking yourself.
Also, keep in mind the schedule of the ranger station in Lone Pine. You have to pick up your permit in person (and listen to the requisite bear lecture) so depending on your HNL-LAX flight schedule, you might not make it to the ranger station in time to pick up your permit if you want to get an early start on the trail.
Hawaii is worth several short trips or one really long one...I've been there twice now and have yet to make it out to Maui, so I'll look forward to a third visit someday. I'm just conservative about acclimation any time I'm headed over 13k', so I think the tradeoff favors a quicker return to CA, despite my bias toward seeing more of HI.
Mark, chime in if you think I'm way off base but that's my call on the choice...
Everyone's different. As long as i pressure breathe and hydrate like crazy, i'm ok going high right away. For me the problem is sleeping above 11K. Whichever you do Mark, it might make sense to save Mauna Kea as the last thing you do before leaving Hawaii, so whatever slight acclimation benefits you might gain won't entirely disappear. It's not like anything much can go wrong (knock on koa) that would make you want to have a back-up day.
Everything you guys are saying is dead on. The biggest issue is getting to Lone Pine the day before to physically obtain the permit. Not much way around that. I'm not too terribly concerned with the acclimitization on Whitney although I do move slow about 12.5K or so. I use Diamox which helps and the time on Mauna Kea and possibly Mauna Loa the day before will benefit me.
I guess I just gotta sit on my hands at this point and wait to see if and what days I get on the permit. If the permit doesn't happen, I'll have to explore other options for Whitney. Thanks again guys.