Hawaii Photo Diary & Travel Guide
BIG ISLAND, HI
After what seemed like forever Kevin and I finally decided it was time to jet off on our honeymoon! Ok, so it wasn't forever, but after a year of trying to figure out where to go, we ultimately decided on the big island! After chatting with family and friends we knew we wanted to go to an island that had a good balance of relaxation while still having options for shopping, entertainment, and adventure, and this trip was one that did not disappoint. I've been lucky enough to travel to many of the other Hawaiian islands in the past and can honestly say the Big Island is my favorite by far. We found ourselves not only incredibly relaxed but also surrounded by welcoming friendly locals and other travelers which made for a great overall experience.
The beaches on Hawaii are world renowned for a reason and are just as gorgeous as the pictures you see on the pages of Travel and Leisure! We had such an incredible experience and will be back very soon. Keep reading to see our favorite places to eat, beach it, and hang!
BEST BEACHES IN HAWAII
MANINI'OWALI BEACH (Kua Bay)
Hwy. 19, Paved Road With Sign,
Near Marker 88,
Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI
KUA BAY: This stunner of a beach is one you don't want to miss. Between the silky white sugar sand and crystal water, it's a clear favorite and one we'd head back to on our next visit. The beach itself is located just a drive from the Kailua-Kona airport making it the perfect first place to take a dip after a long flight. I'd recommend spending the day here and heading out early to claim a spot. The one downside to this beautiful beach is that it does get packed! Even with plenty of parking spaces, leaving later in the day may mean a small hike to get down to the actual beach.
There aren't any food vendors aside from a small shaved ice truck so definitely pack snacks or a lunch if you plan on staying.
MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive
Kohala Coast, Hawaii 96743
MAUNA KEA: Since we were staying at my parent's timeshare in Waikoloa Village we wanted to get a taste of the resort life and decided to spend the one afternoon at Mauna Kea Resort. We were told by a family friend that there was public access at the far end of their beach. We lucked out were able to get one of the last guest parking spots (only about 25 spots total) near the far end of the resort. Keep in mind that the actual beach access is quite a far drive from the main gate. We accidentally made the mistake of driving into a one-way staff parking lot and had to call in to get buzzed out.
The actual beach is beautiful, which isn't a surprise considering the Mauna Kea is a portfolio resort. One of the things I liked best about this location was how chill and quiet the beach was. Even with several families with small children, the beach was very peaceful. The other key thing was the mild waters and overall conditions. There was a good slope off the beach, but nothing that isn't manageable. We brought a lunch and ended up having a picnic, but you could also purchase cocktails or lunch at the Mauna Kea bar.
Marriott, Waikoloa Rd,
ʻANAEHO'OMALU: After checking into our timeshare we had a bit of time to kill before the condo was ready. The lovely gal at the front desk recommended that we stop by Waikoloa Village for lunch and a walk on the beach. It was the perfect way to satisfy our appetite and finally experience that vacation feeling! The ʻAnaehoʻomalu beach is open to the public and one that's pretty easy to get to thanks to plenty of parking and walking paths. The beach itself plays host to the Marriott timeshares and also the Lava Lava beach club, which is where we got lunch and drinks (more about that below).
The set-up offers clean restrooms and outdoor showers for post-swim needs, and Lava-Lava also has beach rentals available. We actually ended up heading back to this beach our second day to hike along the coast to the freshwater pools of Akahu Kaimu Bay. Which although incredible, required much more patience than I had.
Akahu Kaimu Bay (freshwater Pool): Much of the hike is through lava rocks which means you have to be careful where you step if you don't want to turn an ankle. It took us about 45 mins to reach the pool, which we found after calling a friend when we thought we were lost. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, I'd highly recommend wearing sturdy shoes with plenty of ankle support and also bringing towels, water shoes, or sandals to get into and swim in the bath. The water can be chilly, but feels great after hiking in the sun!
Follow these directions to get there!
WHERE TO EAT IN HAWAII
Lava Lava Beach Club
69-1081 Ku'uali'i Pl,
Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
Lava Lava Beach Club: As mentioned previously Lava Lava was our first dining spot after arriving on the island. Per our concierge recommendation, we knew that the casual dining spot was right on the beach and the perfect place for a quick bite. We were seated promptly on the outdoor patio and our drink orders were taken right away. Our server(s) were incredibly friendly and talked us through a few of their favorite dishes. We ended up ordering fish tacos and fish sandwiches featuring their catch of the day. The food was great and definitely hit the spot after a long morning flight. Overall, I thought the ambiance was incredible, the beautiful ocean views definitely made up for the pricier meals!
Kona Inn Restaurant
75-5744 Alii Dr, Ste 135,
Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI 96740
Kona Inn: This recommendation came from my sister and brother-in-law who raved about Kona Inn's famous Mai Tai, and it did NOT disappoint! We grabbed a spot at the bar right as happy hour was starting, which meant drinks were 1/2 off. Because we're never one to turn down a good deal we each ordered two, and boy were they strong and delicious. While there we didn't order food, but the menu looked like the typical American fare.
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Ali'i Drive,
Da Poke Shack: If you make one visit to Kona while traveling makes sure you go to Da Poke Shack! Per their stellar Yelp and traveler reviews, we knew this was a lunch spot that had to happen. We ordered a combination plate of various poke, seaweed salads, a couple of beers and ate out front. We both agreed that the meal was the best poke we'd ever had, not to mention also incredibly fresh and flavorful! Just looking back at the pictures now has me craving another visit! (We ordered Wakame Seaweed Salad, White Rice, Shack Special, and Spicy Garlic Sesame.)
Island Lava Java Waikoloa
68-1845 Waikoloa Rd,
Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
Island Lava Java: Not to be confused with Lava Lava beach club, Island Lava Java is a brunch spot located in the Waikoloa Highlands Shopping Center. This corner spot is a must-eat for breakfast or even just to grab a coffee and pastry. Most of our trip we were still on Califonia time, meaning we were up bright and early each day! This actually ended up being a blessing since most times we avoided crowds or long wait times. The place itself is on the smaller side but has plenty of outdoor seating along the sidewalk. Our waitress was incredibly friendly and bubbly and really contributed to a great dining experience. We had the hardest time figuring out what to order since everything looked so good!
We both ended up going with a savory dish of "Drag it through the Garden" and "Big Island Basics". Everything was incredible, fresh and left us feeling very satisfied! If you happen to be craving carbs definitely get a slice of their housemade bread/toast - you won't be disappointed!
The Fish Hopper
75-5683 Alii Dr
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
The Fish Hopper (not pictured): This was our last dinner on the island so we wanted to make sure we had local fish and more date-night seating. The Fish Hopper is located along the coast in Kona, which was about a 30-minute drive from where we were staying. We had previously visited Kona earlier in the week and were already familiar with their lack of parking in the area. We ended up finding a spot in a designated "public parking" area but still felt that the surroundings were a little sketchy. We actually showed up a little early for our reservations, but they kindly sat us right away! The restaurant is open-air which lends itself to be the perfect viewing spot for evening sunsets.
When it came time to look over the menu I was a little overwhelmed by how many choices they had and really just relied on our waitress to share her favorites based on fish we preferred. Each dish was cooked to perfection and made for one of our favorite dining experiences!
WHAT TO DO IN HAWAII
SHOP THE POST
Have you ever been to Hawaii's Big Island? I'd love to know your go-to spots in the comments below!