The Big Island of Hawaii, with Kids and Grandparents – Part 2

“A Tale of Three Beaches”

I knew when coming to the Big Island that it wasn’t known for its beaches – more for the activities, adventure, volcanoes, etc.  I knew that there wasn’t a beach in front of our hotel and that would be the case with most of the hotels on this island.  When you come to Kona, you need to be prepared to explore and find the best spots on the island and you definitely need to have a car.  Being prepared for all of that, we have set out on a quest to find some of the best beaches this week.

 

pexels-photo-91474 snorkel fins beachBeach 1:  Kahaluu Beach Park.  This is the closest beach to our hotel.  It is about a 15 min walk or 3 minute drive down Alii Drive.  It got almost 5 stars on a review site and was reported to be one of the best snorkeling sites on the island when it comes to quantity and variety of fish.  We were told it was a lot of lava rocks, but there were sandy ways to enter the water.  Reality:   This is a very small rocky, black sand beach.  There were TONS of snorkelers here, so I assume the snorkeling was very good.  However, the “sandy” paths to enter the water were very rocky and hard on the feet and there were a lot of sea urchins.  You shouldn’t come without proper water shoes and it was very dangerous and slippery for little guys and old guys.  I would come if you are an experienced snorkeler but not with little kids.  We stayed all of 5 minutes, packed up and went back to the pool.

 

Spencer Beach Park 2Beach 2:  Spencer Beach Park.  After the disappointment of Kahaluu, I called in the experts.  Our friends who have been here with their kids numerous times.  I asked them what a few of their favourite beach spots were for kids.  On their recommendation, we decided to drive the hour or so to Spencer Beach Park up on the Kohala Coast.  There was a bit of traffic as we made our way through Kona, but after that it was smooth sailing and an interesting drive through lots of lava fields.  I think I was most surprised by theSpencer Beach Park number of wild goats!  We arrived at Spencer Beach Park early around 930am and it was a beautiful spot.  It’s a calm bay, good for kids to go in the water and there was snorkeling in the rocks on either end of the beach and the reef a bit further out.  There were two sets of bathroom facilities – one on either end – plus tennis courts and camping areas.  It wasn’t very busy or crowded and was a pretty and safe beach.  I felt it was well worth the drive and we enjoyed our couple of hours there.  On a recommendation from the same friends, we also tried Kohala Burger and Taco – a 4 minute drive from Spencer Beach Park.  It was a friendly little spot that had takeout as well as a few picnic tables to dine in.  The food was wonderful and all the burgers are homemade.  For burgers, chicken, fries and onion rings for five of us, it was about $60, which isn’t too bad for island dining prices.  We didn’t try their tacos, but it was Taco Tuesday and we could have gotten 2 tacos, fries and a drink for $6 which is a really good deal. If you are headed up towards North Kohala, give this place a try!

 

Magic Sand Beach 2Beach 3:  Magic Sands.  On our drive back from Spencer Beach Park, we took Alii Road along the coast, instead of the highway.  We saw the beachfront/touristy part of Kona for the first time and we also noted a nice little beach near our hotel (about 1 mile further than Kahaluu).  It was called Magic Sands Beach and we decided to give it a try the following day.  I read online that the shorebreak could be dangerous and to use Magic Sand Beach 1caution in the water.  We arrived at Magic Sands early as parking is really limited.  It was another beautiful, sunny day and although there was lots of room when we arrived, the beach started to fill up quickly.  There is a lifeguard on duty all the time and it’s a good thing as the waves were big and they constantly kept reminding people to watch their kids in the water and be careful of the shorebreak.  It was very easy to get tumbled around a bit and you need to keep your kids near and hang on to the little guys at all times.  The white sand is like sugar and the water is clear and blue.   It is a very pretty little bay and probably one of the best beach spots in the Kona area.  There are basic bathroom facilities on one end.  We liked this little beach spot and because it’s so close and convenient, I’m sure we will be back.

 

Aloha!

The Big Island of Hawaii, with Kids and Grandparents – Part 1

Our family loves Hawaii, we have been here numerous times.  When we started planning our holiday for this year, we decided to try a new island – The Big Island.  My oldest daughter, who is almost 10, wanted to see the Volcano and the rest of us were up for exploring something new.

 

I booked our 2 bedroom condo with the Kona Coast Resort for my family, as well as a 1 bedroom condo for my parents.  This resort was getting great reviews online and looked to have everything we needed.  When it came time to book our flights, Air Canada had a connection on the way here that allowed us to only stop one time in Vancouver and arrive early afternoon.  This seemed like a nice change from always arriving late at night, so we decided to give that a try.

 

Saturday morning saw us all getting up bright and early so we could catch our 4am shuttle to the Saskatoon airport for our 600am flight.  We had pre-arranged a van with Provincial Car Service that would fit all 7 of us with

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Kid’s backpacks with AC Altitude Skyrider tags

lots of luggage.  As usual, they were on time and the driver was excellent.  We breezed through check in with a friendly and helpful AC agent and there was almost no lineup at security.  Our flight boarded on time and all seemed to be going well.  That’s where the ‘easy’ stuff ended. 

 

We were sitting at the gate, boarded and ready to go, when the pilot came on to announce that the fog was making the visibility too limited and we had to wait for the fog to clear a bit before we could take off.  We had a two hour connection in Vancouver so I wasn’t too worried about a few minute delay.  A half hour later, the flight attendant came by to make sure I knew that I would have a tight connection.  I said “but we will still have about an hour and a half right”….she gave me a look that said I was clearly living in a fantasy world, but kindly said “at best” with a sympathetic smile.  A half hour later we were finally cleared to leave, but had to de-ice.  By now, I was sure we were going to miss our connection.  Panic set in, but two things kept me going: 

1) I had called one of the Uniglobe Travel agents at my office and she looked up the next best option – a flight leaving Vancouver that evening and was ready to purchase them for us when we landed in Vancouver if necessary. 

 

2). We had the all-encompassing Manulife Premium Protection Plan insurance.  I knew if we needed to purchase new tickets, get an overnight hotel, extra meals, taxi’s, etc. – all the things that come from unexpected missed connections – that they would pay for these unexpected charges and I wouldn’t be out of pocket all that money.  I also knew that if we made it and our bags didn’t that I could go and buy our necessities until our bags arrived.  Major peace of mind during a crisis!

I have to give Kudos to our AC flight attendant.  I wish I had her name.  During the flight, she knew we were stressed.  She called ahead to Vancouver to make sure they had our gate checked stroller off first, asked if they could get a cart for us (they would try) and made an announcement that we had a tight connection and needed to get off first.

 

Our plane had made up a bit of time, so when we landed we had 1 hour to get across the airport, through security, through customs and to our gate before our plan left.  We had 20 minutes until our flight was boarding.  Eeeek, it was go time.  Our stroller was waiting when we rushed off the plane, but sadly there was no cart available.  Luckily, I knew exactly where we were going and had made that connection a few times to the USA through Vancouver.  I ran, dragging my husband, three little kids and my poor parents through the airport, huffing and puffing and sweating, we made it….to a huge lineup at security.  The longest lineup I had ever seen there.  I asked the AC agent there if we could be put through quickly for our connection.  She assured me we would be fine in the regular lineup.  I had my parents go in one line and us in another in an attempt to speed us up.  Then our lineup stopped.  Dead stop.  They were checking someone’s bags in great detail.  We finally got up to the front and were told our stroller couldn’t come in that line, we would have to go in a different line.  I was about to lose it when my little 3 year old boy looked at me and said “mommy, you’re so pretty”.  He may have saved the day as I then took a deep breath and asked if we could move to the front of the next line.  They agreed and off we went to customs.  I entered all our passports into the machine and we hit another snag.  It didn’t like my daughters passport and told us to see a customs agent.  At this point, I was sure we would miss our flight.  Then they shooed us to the customs agent right away, with barely a look our passports, he sent us on our way.  As we came running out of customs, there was an Air Canada agent asking our name and if we were on the Kona flight – like cheerleaders, the agents were spread along our route waving us on in the right direction to our flight and phew – we made it – the last to board, way past final boarding calls with everyone else seated and ready to go.  What a roller coaster!  I quickly sent a message to our Uniglobe agent that we made it and didn’t need alternative flights and we were on our way.

 

The flight to Kona with AC Rouge went well – smooth and on time, even with our slight delay.  We had lunch onboard since we didn’t have time to eat in Vancouver.  The sandwiches and cheese plates were quite good!  When we arrived in Kona, our bags were the first off (obviously the very last ones put on!) and we were quickly on our shuttle to the Hertz rent a car location.  Within 20 minutes or so we had our minivan and a car for mom and dad.

Our rate was significantly better than the current rate – it really pays to book car rentals early in Hawaii – last minute rates tend to get much higher.

Sunset from patio

Sunset from our lanai

It was about a 20 minute drive to our resort.  The Kona Coast resort is lovely – beautiful resort-like grounds with lots of landscaping and flowers.  There is a quiet pool at the back of the resort with a hot tub, a hot tub and playground right outside our door in the middle of the resort and a family pool, hot tub and restaurant at the front of the resort.  The resort is oceanfront, but there is no beach right at the hotel.  Our two bedroom unit is in Phase 2 and over the past year they have all received new carpet, new furniture, new granite counters in the kitchen, new bedding and curtains.  They have AC for a small extra daily charge, in suite laundry and dishwashers and the kitchens are well stocked. 

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There are three BBQ’s right outside our patio by the hot tub and playground.  Our location is excellent!   Across the street from the resort is a shopping center with lots of restaurants, a few shops, a large grocery store, a Longs Drugs, a medi-clinic and a movie theatre – very handy.  I’m about to head over there for our first Shave Ice of this vacation and will keep you posted on our adventures as we go through the next two weeks!  Aloha!

 

COLLEEN VISITED UTILA, HONDURAS

Recently we were in La Ceiba Honduras and decided to take the ferry over to the island of Utila and I am very happy that we did.  Utila is a very small island about ½ hour ferry ride from La Ceiba that is your perfect island getaway.  It is only 11.2km long and 3km wide so it makes it easy to walk almost anywhere.  It is known for its great diving as it is situated on the edge of the Mesoamerican reef which is the second largest living coral reef in the world.  I was told that it is also the least expensive place to get your PADI dive certification.

 

IMG_2189 (2)When our ferry pulled up to the dock we were met by different dive companies picking up passengers and hotels looking for customers.  We already had a reservation at the Jade Seahorse so we just jumped into a Tuk Tuk and we were off.  Because the island is so small, there are no cars.  Only Tuk Tuks, bikes or motor cycles.  We had heard great things about our hotel but we were not prepared for the beautiful artwork that makes up the grounds at the Jade Seahorse.  At the back are the 6 cabins that you can rent, each with its own decor and art work.  I say cabins but they all had a fridge, air conditioning, basket of toiletries and floor fans.  We stayed at the Fantasea which is on the top floor with roof top patios that have views of the ocean.  You would have to see it to believe it.  If you are not staying there, you can come in and have a look around.

 

The island is known for its greatIMG_2203 (2) restaurants and night life.  With names like Rehab, Relapse and Skid Row Bar and Grill it makes you think there is a theme there.  Utila is very inexpensive!   Beer is around $2.00 and suppers are no more than $20.00 .  If you are looking for someplace new to go where the water is fine and the living is easy, you should check out Utila.  We will definitely go back!

 

 

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Correna’s Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Princess – Part 3

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lotus spa logo provided by Princess Cruise Line

So today we were in St. Lucia. It was very cloudy and extremely humid. I had my 12,000 steps in before 1030am and decided the moment I got back to the ship I was going to make a trip to the spa. The Lotus Spa on the Royal Princess had a great port day special. They had a Top to Toe massage and facial for 129.00 USD. The spa was amazing and a shout out to Danni who gave me the best message and facial ever.

Did you know that when you arrange your next cruise with a travel agent you will usually receive an on board credit that you can apply to your on board services and purchases.

The regular price of the massage and facial was $219.00 USD so take advantage of great savings when you visit the spa on port days! If you have plans to visit the spa while cruising your busiest days are on sea days as well the most expensive. Just your tip for the day. 😊

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Correna’s Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Princess – Part 2

We arrived into St Thomas this morning. It is a beautiful island but you can still see some of the damage caused by the hurricane this past summer.

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Here is a little tip for you if you are looking for Wi-Fi. There is the tourism office right at the cruise port and they do offer a lot of information as well as free Wi-Fi!  This is a hot commodity as Wi-Fi can be expensive on the ship. I was able to help a couple who were trying to use WhatsApp instead of having to pay the higher rates with their cell phone provider. When in doubt about using other services like WhatsApp, iMessage or Skype through Wi-Fi instead of your cell phone data talk with your tech savvy friends and family before you leave. They will be able to fill you in for sure.

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