We have been to Hawaii before (Oahu, Maui and Kauai) but never to the Big Island. Everyone says the Big Island is where you “feel” the nature forces and that it’s an place that shouldn’t be missed.
We booked one week there, splitting our time between Kona and Volcano. There’s a lot of driving involved on the island, so we planned to have two days at Volcano in order to be able to appreciate Kilauea crater by night without the need to drive several hours in the dark, something I usually avoid whenever possible.
We flew from YVR (Vancouver International Airport) to SFO (San Francisco International Airport) where we got a plane to HNL (Honolulu International Airport). From Honolulu we got on a short flight with Hawaiian Airlines to KOA (Kona Keahole Airport).
When we got to the Big Island we rented a vehicle from Hertz and drove to the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
We divided our staying on the island in two hotels. Most of the time (5 nights) we stayed at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the two last nights we stayed at Kilauea Lodge. Unfortunately, I do not recommend any of them.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa: It is in a good location, three minutes walking to a shopping mall that carries several stores, including a Starbucks (where we had breakfast daily, spending a fraction than we would pay at the hotel) and one supermarket.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott has a large room lacking comfort in some details, like:
To turn the bed lights on & off you need to stand;
There’s a glass wall separating the sleeping area to the bathroom area, and when the bathroom area is lit the light invades the sleeping area
No robes or sleepers in the bedroom. For me a hotel that uses the pompous title “resort and spa” should have both!
The swimming pool at Waikoloa Beach Marriott is just “ok”. There’s also a policy to use cards to get beach towels (that, bye the way, are shabby). Awful policy. (We stayed in Oahu in a Marriott’s property where the towels were new and were just there, folded, waiting for guests to pick them up. No “exchange cards” needed. I think customers who can afford staying at a Marriott Resort property are not the kind of people who will steal towels, so I found the policy of Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa unacceptable).
The beach in front of the hotel is “ok”. There are better options not far away.
The restaurant was relatively good, but again, there are better options close by.
All by all, it’s an average hotel, and for sure I wouldn’t stay there again.
Kilauea Lodge: We stayed two nights at this hotel due to its location close to the crater (I planned to see the crater after dark and I don’t like to drive after the sun sets). This was the only reason for booking a room at this hotel.
Reception: Awful. The lady almost didn’t say “good afternoon” when we arrived. She only wanted to have my credit card for “securing any damages”, as our bill was been paid in full several months prior to our arrival.
When we asked if there was someone to take our luggage to the room, located on the second floor, she said that the person who would do this had already left, although we checked-in during the regular period: At 3pm, to be precise.
We had to take the luggage ourselves, risking to fall from the stairs.
The room @ Kilauea Lodge: Large room without air conditioner. It wasn’t warm, but the place is too humid, an air conditioner is mandatory in a place like that. There’s only a fan in the bedroom! Awful experience.
Mattress was comfortable, pillows were awful (as hard as bricks).
Bathroom was large and had a water fountain, that was useful for our daily hiking.
Hot tub is part of the advertisement in this hotel but was covered and not to be used all the times we went there to check, even during the advertised “hot pool hours”.
Breakfast is just pretentious. It’s included in the room rate but one of the options, like the omelette with potatoes that comes “plain”. They don’t serve one single slice of bread accompanying the meal! I guess one single slice of bread is “mandatory” as it’s also usual in any 2 starts motel located on highways.
We had dinner there twice (I don’t like to drive in the dark, so there is no other option). The “special of the day” is not “of the day”, it’s the special of “everyday” as it was exactly the same on both nights. We also don’t enjoy the meals, and you cam read more about it in the “restaurants” section of this post.
I wrote a bad review on GoogleMaps and Tripadvisor and got a reply from the owner apologizing and stating that she was not there at the time of our staying and that she would take measures to improve the service. We weren’t offered any kind of compensation for our bad experience there.
Kilauea Lodge? Never again!
Big Island has several remarkable attractions! we didn’t stop during our staying there!
Green Sands Beach: If you go to Green Sands Beach I recommend you combine this attraction with South Point. It’s better to go to Green Sands Beach first and visit South Point by the end of the day, in order to enjoy the sunset there.
To go to Green Sand Beach you need to drive to a parking lot and from there, it’s a great idea to ride on one of the locals’s vehicles. Do not drive there all the way to the Green Sands Beach, even if you rented a 4 WD jeep! There’s no way to know the correct path and there are holes on the dirty road that are beyond huge.
As soon as we got there, a girl offered to take the four of us to the beach and bring us back for $15 / each. We offered $50 and she accepted. By the end we gave more, because she was really nice. During our trip to get there, we saw several people having trouble driving. Walking is also not a good idea, as it’s quite far and depending on the weather it can be really hot (there are no trees/ shades on the way). Last but not least, it’s not an “obvious path”, so, its easy to get lost or to walk more than needed.
Tip: Help the local economy and hire one of the drivers that will be offering their services at the parking lot. You will be glad if you do so.
After you disembark, you need to walk all way down to the beach. There’s a narrow path between the rocks and a small ladder as well. If you have small children or a lot of stuff, the path can be tricky. Use caution.
The sea, although beautiful, isn’t calm there. The sand color looks pretty when you are there “in person” than when we look to the pictures. The color comes from “olivina”, a volcanic material. You can read more about it here.
We found a nice spot to stay, like an “open cave”. It was really amazing to watch the surf from there.
South Point: After some hours on the beach, our driver took us back to the parking lot where we got again in our rental cars. We drove to the “South Point”, the furthermost south point in the United States of America.
Sunset there is gorgeous and we were able to watch some brave (crazy?) people jumping into the ocean. Wow!
On the next day we went to Pololu Valley. Located on the north part of the island, it’s a beautiful drive from Kona.
After parking the car (free parking) we walked on a trail down down down all the way. It’s not “super steep” but it can be treacherous as there are some parts pretty close to the cliff.
After we walked almost 2/3 on the route to get to the black sand, it started to rain and we decided to return, as the path was getting slippery. Although we didn’t walk all the way to the black sand beach we had a great time enjoying the views along the way.
PS: We managed to go to another black sand beach that is even prettier than this one… keep reading! 🙂
Tip: If you decide to go to the Black Sand Beach, on Pololu Valley, use comfortable shoes (no flip flops), and carry almost nothing (= travel light!). Of course, drinking water, sun protector, mosquito repellent and a hat are mandatory.