Subject: Hawaii Notes - Hawaii (the Big Island)

HAWAII, The Big Island

We flew into Kona Airport and drove south and east purposely (but the drive was not as scenic or interesting as we anticipated except for the Black Sand Beach which we opted to skip) for over three hours to arrive at Volcano National Park in time to see an overview film for the next dayís plan.

Volcano Cedar Cottage (808-985-9020) is a cozy B&B run by delightful recent California transplants, Barbara and Ernie Thiesen, outstanding hosts who provide countless extras and a most delicious breakfast. Conveniently, it is just down the road from the Park allowing for a day and night-time visit if one is so inclined.

Dinner at the Lava Rock Cafť in Volcano was a disappointment so we would have opted to enjoy the buffet at the Volcano National Park Lodge had we known....and another time we would opt to fly into Hilo which is a shorter drive than from Kona.

Our next morning visit to the Park took us on a 3 hour loop around the Park which was sufficient to get a feel of the area and to tread the barren scape which the volcano hit. Options abound here for a variety of driving tours, hikes and an evening tour to view lava sites.

On the way to Hilo Seaside Hotel (800-560-5557) we stopped to see an anthurium farm, passed the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation and viewed several southeast beaches.

Hilo itself is a pretty busy city...our hotel was within walking distance to recommended Kenís Pancake House where we enjoyed a great dinner and breakfast next morning (mac nut pancakes are terrific).

Day Three on the island included a stop at the weekly Farmerís Market where locals display their wares, before heading north along the east coast to Honokaa and the Waipio Valley.

Unless one is really adventurous driving down and up a steep dirt road, we hardly would recommend our unique studio lodging for the night. Waipio Ridge Rental (808-775-0603) while reasonable with a truly fantastic view of the Valley and Ridge was a challenge from which to get in and out !

Unfortunately, rain prevented our taking either a Wagon Tour (808-775-9518) or Four Wheel Shuttle (808-775-7121deep into the valley itself which would have given us a close view of spectacular waterfalls as well as a guided historical tour of the area.

Another time, tho, we would opt to make this a morning or afternoon visit and continue on to the Waikoloa area, a convenient location should one want to visit the Mauna Kea Resort mentioned later and the Mauna Kea Volcano/observatories.

Day Four took us thru Waimea but we missed going to the Parker Ranch and Merrimanís Restaurant, both closed on Sunday. However, we had a delightful brunch at the highly popular Daniel Thieraultís Gourmet Restaurant, billed as one of the best 100 restaurants in the World! (808-887-2200) Aunt Betty, the hostess, greets you wearing eye-glasses featuring comic and unique frames (hula dancers/beer mugs/ etc) and changes them almost by the minute, certainly an eye-catching novelty!

We continued on thru Waikoloa Village and then headed north up very scenic state road 250 to the small town of Hawi which amazingly has one of the best restaurants (name escapes me) on the island , closed Mondays as luck would have it. We checked into the Kohala Village Inn (808-889-0404) reminescent of an old plantation house and later took a drive out to the Pololu Valley Lookout, a sight to behold.

Continuing south down the Kohala Coast, we stopped at the strikingly beautiful Mauna Kea Resort to inquire about their famous $$ Clambake (can you believe an Hawaiin clambake!) but, again, it is held only on Saturday night and we were so very sorry to miss it..their Tuesday night Luau must also be outstanding (1-800-882-6060).

The next three nights were spent at Ali Villas Condo #322 in Kona, a lovely unit with beautiful ocean views from both the unit and lanai; however, no air conditioning is allowed, so we hesitate to recommend this if one travels in warmer weather altho fans are all over the apartment. The sunsets here were fabulous!

The Kona area offers great restaurants, shopping, tours and colorful sights; many hotels and condos are situated along the main avenue up to a few miles away where we were located.

We dined at funky-decor Quinn's as often as possible, really wholesome food at good prices.The last night we attended the King Kona Hotel Luau which featured hula lessons as well as a variety of entertainment, not to mention ample drinks and a plentiful array of delectables.

>From Kona we drove down the coast a bit and toured a coffee farm but most of our time was spent at the beach a short run up from our condo and relaxing at the pool. Not a bad life!

Aloha! Dom & Lucille Gioello - West Hartford