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.

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!