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!

Travel: Hawaii

For the next week or so Sew You Think You Can Cook will be transformed into a travel blog! Get excited – I know I am! The last week in August, Stuart and I travelled to The Big Island to celebrate my 25th birthday. I will be sharing our pictures and adventures with you – providing opinions on activities, restaurants, and more.

This specific post will be an overview of our trip – where we went, what we did, what we’d change. The following posts will more specific to location.

Disclaimer: All posts in this series and all mentions to companies are my personal opinion and I am in no way being paid or sponsored.

Travel

In February we started to plan (okay, day-dream about) my birthday vacation. I wanted to go somewhere/do something fun for the big two-five. For Stuart’s we had gone snowboarding in Colorado for a week (Jan 2012). The idea for Hawaii came to me because The Weather Channel had a slide show of volcano/lava photos.

So I started my research.

Photography by Stuart Everson
Photography by Stuart Everson

When going to Hawaii, there is one question that you must answer first: Which island? Hawaii Gaga has a great quick quiz that you can take and it will recommend the top 4 islands for you. They also break down their description of how they determine island rankings. When I took the quiz The Big Island tied for 3rd. So why did I still go to there?

Because of my answer to question number two! What is the number one thing you want to do/see? My answer: Lava! Being home to one of the world’s most active volcanos, I knew the Big Island was my optimal destination.

Travel

I’d also considered doing an island hopping cruise. It’s not particularly easy to island hop and if you want to see the most of the 50th state this might be your best choice, however it’s not the cheapest way to visit Hawaii. Granted, unless you know someone living there, there isn’t really a cheap way to do Hawaii.  I checked and compared every travel website as well as calculated a total of booking everything (hotel, flights, car) separately.  I finally settled on booking through Delta Vacations – it ended up being the same price as Expedia for the exact same trip, and I liked having the peace of mind of booking a Delta flight through Delta Airlines. I can’t promise you it’ll be the cheapest option for your trip, but it’s worth it to check vacation deals through hotels and airlines too!

After you decide on your island destination you have to pick where you’ll stay – whether you’ll rent a condo/house, stay in a hotel/resort, or find a hostel. We stayed at The Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. It had a great location (within walking distance of food, shops, beaches), beautiful views (ocean view rooms available), and was recently renovated. Ultimately, it’s everything you’d expect from a Courtyard Marriott.

However, this point brings us to the first (and only) thing I would have changed about our trip. King Kam is located in Kailua-Kona on the Western side of the island. You could very easily spend your entire vacation in the Kona districts, if you’re looking for great snorkeling and nice beaches then that’s all you need. If you’re interested in “Adventure Hawaii” as I like to call it, Kona might not be the ideal landing spot. On our next trip (yes, we’re already ready to go back!) we’ve determined that it’d be best to spend half of the trip in Kona and half of the trip on the opposite side of the island in Hilo. Great hiking can be found in Hilo and it’s closer to the Volcano. We actually spent a great deal of our vacation in the car getting from one side of the island to the other. But, driving on Hawaii roads is much more enjoyable to mainland interstates!

Road Trip HI

Cell phone photography by Lauren Everson

On Tuesday we spotted a cruise ship off the Hilo coast and again in Kona on Wednesday. Most island hopping cruises make these two stops on the Big Island. Stuart and I both were glad that we didn’t opt for a “Cruise Hawaii” vacation. By renting a car, we had great freedom with our schedule and never felt rushed. 

I bought a travel book (Lonely Planet Hawaii: The Big Island (Regional Travel Guide)) and read it on the 9.5 hr plane ride. I preferred this book to others because it broke the island up into districts which allowed me to “plan” each day by location and see as much as possible without being inefficient in our travels. We hit each of the 9 districts in Hawaii County. In fact, this vacation was the first time I’d ever not had a plan for every minute of every day – it was such a strange feeling and by Thursday I was over it and ready for an official schedule!

If the Big Island isn’t on your bucket list already, I urge you to add it and hope that our photographs do the island the justice it’s due. (When I figure out how, I’ll create an album on my blog for the photos that don’t make the posts directly.) Here is a link to my Facebook photo album from our trip!