Hawaii: The Big Island: Hilo

Hilo was probably my favorite district in Hawaii County. Hilo is on the rainy side of the island which results in fewer tourists than Kailua-Kona, lush green landscapes, and plenty of waterfalls.

Rainbow Falls is the most famous waterfall in Hilo, and as its name suggests, boasts beautiful rainbows… at the right time of day. We did not reach Rainbow Falls until close to sunset, so the lighting wasn’t right for us to see Rainbow Falls in all of its glory but it’s still beautiful. We followed another couple through a path to the left of the falls through a lightly wooded area, through high grasses and over some rocks, finding ourselves on top of the falls! I wouldn’t recommend this excursion as the river could start flowing because of rains upstream and you’d find yourself in a very dangerous situation. But, there we were so Stuart braved a peek over the top of the falls to capture an image of the falls from a different perspective, while I did my best to stay calm.

Rainbow Falls

Country CoffeeA new little coffee shop, Country Cafe opened across from Rainbow Falls. We stopped on in and we didn’t leave with just coffee. We purchased Rare Hawaiian Organic Kiawe Honey. This honey is unlike any you’ve ever tasted. It’s actually white! The following is taken straight from the label, “Organic Kiawe Honey is gathered from an isolated forest on the Big Island of Hawaii. The deep roots of the Kiawe trees have tapped an underground aquifer of fresh water that flows down from the volcanoes. This forest is in a desert and no other vegetation has tapped the aquifer, allowing the bees to collect Kiawe nectar of exceptional purity and quality.” I haven’t figure out a unique way to use this honey yet, but as soon as I do a recipe will make its way to Sew You Think You Can Cook!

Le Magic PanIt doesn’t seem like we did a lot in Hilo, but there was a lot we wanted to do. So why is it my favorite district? Honestly, because of one little restaurant and the best meal we’ve ever had. Le Magic Pan is an adorable French restaurant specializing in crepes in Downtown Hilo. We started our night with a cup of French Onion Soup. Stuart ordered the Polish dinner crepe with Polish sausage, tomatoes, mushroom, olives, spinach, and mozzarella cheese. I went off menu with their special of the night, spicy shrimp, tomatoes, basil, and avocado. It’s actually impossible to go to a crepe restaurant and not get dessert – I wouldn’t even dare you to try it because not getting a dessert crepe would be a sin! We split the Italian crepe with nutella, bananas, and whipped cream. They even added strawberries at my request! We actually tried to return to Le Magic Pan the next night for a dessert crepe, but didn’t reach Hilo after our excursion in Puna before closing. I am now determined to master the art of crepe making. Note: These photos were taken with a cell phone and do not do Le Magic Pan justice!

Without a doubt, our next trip to the Big Island will include lodging in Hilo!

Things to do on our next trip (aka things we didn’t have time for but wanted to see)

  • Hilo Farmer’s Market; corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue. This farmer’s market opened 25 years ago in 1988 and now has 125 vendors selling local produce, flowers, and fish. The farmer’s market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7-noon.
  • Pe’epe’e Falls & Boiling Pots; Wainuenue Avenue. A little past Rainbow Falls is a dramatic series of waterfalls that crash into pools of swirling water that appear to be boiling.
  • Wai’ale Falls; Wainuenue Avenue. Going further down Wainuenue Avenue and hiking a quarter mile through forest will take you to the top of Wai’ale Falls and a view of the ocean.
  • Kaumana Caves; Kaumana Drive. The Kaumana Caves were formed in 1981 by an eruption from the volcano Mauna Loa.
  • Yoga Centered; 37 Waianuenue Ave. We thought it could be fun to try a yoga class in Hawaii, what better way to find inner peace than in the most beautiful of locations? Yoga Centered offers vinyasa yoga classes and has a drop-in rate of $15. Check out their website at yogacentered.com!

Hawaii: The Big Island: Kailua-Kona

Because our hotel was in Kailua-Kona, we did a lot of our eating along Alii Drive!  Alii Drive is the “main strip” in downtown Kailua-Kona. There are plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance of each other and is along the shore so everywhere you go you have a view of the ocean. The weather in Kailua-Kona is always perfect too!

Breakfast:

  • Our favorite breakfast place was Splasher’s Grill for their French toast. The French toast is made with Hawaiian sweet bread! The Portuguese sausage on the side is a great accompaniment to the sweetness of the bread. Their hash browns were perfectly crispy too.  The staff at Splasher’s was always friendly.
  • Live Music at Island Lava JavaWe had also gone to Island Lava Java for breakfast one morning. Sit outside for a spectacular view of the ocean and to listen to live music. Stuart got the Luau Omelette which featured kalua pork and grilled pineapple.  Lava Java was always busy for breakfast, so I was surprised to have slow service – but in Hawaii you’re never in a hurry, you’re on “Hawaii Time”.
  • Another perfectly located restaurant was The Fish Hopper, where we saw dolphins jumping in the ocean and three freshly caught ono, over five feet long, were brought in and taken straight to the kitchen! Stuart got the Catch of the Day Benedict and the French Pressed Kona Coffee. I ordered the Macadamia Nut French Toast. The French toast was garnished with shredded coconut, which I am allergic to, but the wait staff and kitchen staff were very friendly and quick at getting me a fresh order.
  • Hand Drip Coffee at Kona de PeleTwice we stopped at Cafe Kona de Pele for their hand dripped Fancy Roast coffee. They also have ice cream and I enjoyed a coffee blended with coffee ice cream. The staff was very friendly and we spent time talking to locals, getting recommendations on sights that weren’t to be missed.

Lunch:

  • We weren’t often still in Kailua-Kona around lunch time, but we did try Island Lava Java’s lunch menu. Stuart’s Fresh Island Fish Sandwich with tomato-fennel jam was his favorite. And my Kilauea Sandwich with turkey and caramelized onions was surprisingly good. The secret is their freshly baked bread!

Dinner:

  • Most nights we didn’t get back to Kailua-Kona until 10pm or later! But one evening we did go to Humpy’s for a burger and delicious Caesar salad. They have a large menu and fantastic beer list featuring a lot of local brews.

Dessert:

  • Shaved Ice is a Hawaiian favorite treat. It’s essentially a SnoCone. We first tried it and were not impressed – SnoBiz in Auburn blew this shaved ice out of the water! We then discovered that for authentic shaved ice we had to go to Scandinavian Shave Ice. So we did! The difference was huge. At “Scandi’s” they allow their ice to start to melt before shaving it which allows the ice to become clear. They had many more flavor options to choose from too. After drenching the ice in your choice of three flavors they pack it down. The ice was so smooth and you could really taste the flavored syrup. Stuart and I split a kid’s size.

Shopping:

  • We really didn’t do shopping on our trip, however one thing that I absolutely have to purchase on any vacation is a Christmas ornament. We finally found one (August isn’t exactly Christmas time) at the Eclectic Craftsman! It was a great store featuring local artists.
  • My mother-in-law always hits a quilt shop on a vacation. She likes to see what different fabrics stores in different parts of the country carry. It’s a different way to see a crafting culture. I followed suit and went to Quilt Passions right next to our hotel. The ladies there were so friendly, and insanely patient with my browsing and were never pushy. They actually carry a couple patterns that were developed exclusively for their store, so I had to pick up one of them! I also have to give a shout out to my husband for not only being patient with me, but also helping select fabrics and providing an opinion on the patterns we selected. I decided to create my own jelly roll out of 12-13 different batiks.
  • Stuart and I do not agree on painted art. Stuart loves intricate detail and while I enjoy detailed landscape paintings, I’m drawn toward abstract pieces. We’re also drawn to different color palates too. We are aware of this difference, so when we enter an art store we’re prepared for some disagreement. We peeked into just about every art store on the Alii strip and found one we could agree on, Colors of Paradise. We met one of the artists and his wife while we were there, such friendly and talented people. If you’re ever in Kailua-Kona I urge you to check out this great studio.

My favorite thing about Alii Drive was Kailua Bay and Niumalu Beach, where we found two sea turtles eating off of the rocks along the sea wall. I named the turtles Seth and Sandy. When we spotted them we were heading back from Island Lava Java to get in the car and head to South Point. We made the biggest tourist mistake of not having the camera with us, so we prolonged our road trip, got the camera, and rushed back to the beach. Luckily they were still there and we got some fantastic photos. The following morning Seth and Sandy were back and chomping away. We were informed that there were others along the sidewalk too! Sylvester was hanging out by himself enjoying the greens growing on the rocks.  A little further down Sanchez and Selena were fighting with the waves for their meal. Selena was Stuart’s favorite turtle – she had beautiful copper coloring to her shell and the sunlight bouncing off it gave it a jewel-like quality.

Turtles

Big Island Country ClubOne of the things that Stuart really wanted to do on vacation in Hawaii was play a round of golf. We made a Sunday tee time for noon at The Big Island Country Club. The public course was beautiful with spectacular views and plenty of wildlife throughout the 18 holes. Sheep were freely grazing; Nene, turkeys, quails and other small birds were also pecking at the grass.

Things to do on our next trip (aka things we didn’t have time for but wanted to see)

  • One of the top ten things to do according to the Discovery Channel is to do a Manta Ray Night Snorkel/Scuba. The manta rays do not have stingers and feed on plankton.  They are attracted to the Kona coast by spotlights placed on the ocean floor.  The light illuminates their prey. Unfortunately we weren’t able to fit this excursion into our schedule, and because we didn’t have our GoPro with us we settled with “next time”. It wasn’t until our final day that someone told us they can be seen offshore from the Sheraton Kona Resort – bummer!
  • Kona Brewing Company; 75-5629 Hwy 11. Kona Brewing Company is a microbrewery that began in 1994 and has expanded on a world recognized level with over 85 awards and exports to the mainland and Japan. They have free tours, including samples. (Side note: Our local Buffalo Wild Wings offered Kona Longboard when I was there last night!)
  • Kona Farmers Market; corner of Kaiwi St and Luhia St. I thought it would’ve been a great way to learn the food culture of the Big Island by going to a farmer’s market, not to mention a fun way to play with the camera. This market that focuses on fresh produce is open on the weekends.