The Big Island of Hawaii, with Kids and Grandparents – Part 3

Big Island Activities:

As our time on the Island draws to a close, I reflect on all we have experienced in our two weeks here.  This truly is an island for those seeking adventure and unique experiences in a beautiful, diverse and laid back atmosphere.  You definitely need a car rental to make the most of your time and you often need to drive around the island to seek out the best spots, but it is well worth the effort.  We will be going home with unforgettable memories – here are a few of our favourites:

 

Beaches:  The beaches are as different and diverse as you can possibly imagine.  From black sand to green sand to white sand and from calm waves to rocky snorkeling areas to big surf…if you don’t like the one you are at – drive down the road and find another.  My personal favourite of the four we tried was Spencer Beach Park.  It isn’t the largest or the most beautiful, but it was a really nice combination of a quiet beach, nice sand, safe water for kids, but still had snorkeling areas and nice facilities.  Great for families.

 

Island Breeze Luau:  I have been to many luaus on several islands.  This was probably my number 2.  I thought the food was great – they even had a kids buffet with chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese, etc. which was a hit, the performers were excellent, the cost was reasonable – especially their kids rates.  The only reason I liked the Aulii Luau at the Sheraton Kauai better was the setting was prettier and I thought their MC/host was better.

 

 

Royal Kona Coffee Center:  This was one of 29955270_10155305011165009_1172866991_oour stops enroute from Kona to the Volcano National Park.  It’s free:   FREE walking tour, FREE samples of Coffee and Tea and Rum Cake, they have a great gift shop, a pretty view and a lava tube you can walk through.  All in all it is a great pit stop to break up the long drive.

 

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (City of Refuge):  This is a national park area and normally there is a charge for a vehicle to enter and park.  On the day we were there, the gates were open and there was no charge.  This was another stop enroute to the volcano and was just south of the Kona Coffee Center.  It was an interesting place to learn about the Hawaiian history and a very pretty setting.  I wish we had taken our swimsuits as it was quite hot out and there was a nice little beach spot there as well.  There are no food services, but I asked for advice for a lunch stop nearby and she suggested the South Kona Fruit Stand – at the top of the hill – made to order sandwiches, fresh fruit and smoothies and you could eat in their shady tropical garden.  It was a nice, relaxing lunch spot – smoothies were excellent, sandwiches were ok.  The next stop would have been 40 minutes away and this worked well for us.

29894285_10155305008535009_492015610_oVolcano Winery:  This little gem is located about 5 minutes before you reach the gates to enter the Volcano National Park.  They make about 10 different kinds of wine – whites, reds and fruit blends. For $5 they let you sample 7 different wines – a good deal!  The ladies who were running the winery were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about their wines.  They have a unique store where they sell some gift-ware and their wines.  We enjoyed our stop here and the wine tasting.

 

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Volcanoes National Park:  Far and away, this was my favorite thing I did on the Big Island, but mainly because we had perfect Volcano viewing weather while we were there and also because we had planned to spend the night at the Volcano House hotel, giving us unparalleled views of the Kilauea Caldera at night.  The Volcano National Park is about a 2 hour drive from Kona or 35 minutes from Hilo over unfamiliar, windy roads.   We really wanted to see the Volcano at night to get the full effect of the glow, but we weren’t keen on driving back in the dark and it would have been a very long day with the kids.  The Volcano House hotel isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the cost to get the full experience.  I would urge you to consider adding this extra night into your trip budget to maximize your experience.

The Volcano House hotel is a National Park Hotel and was first built in the 1800’s.  It is rustic and quaint, not luxurious.  The lobby has a big wood burning fire place and seating with a view of the volcano.  There is a lounge and a restaurant that both serve lunch, dinner and drinks. The food in the lounge was very reasonable – most adult dinners around $14/15 USD and kids around $10 USD.  In this kind of a captive setting, I would have expected them to charge more.  The restaurant also serves a buffet breakfast that was quite good, but very busy.  Half of the hotel rooms are Crater View – splurge on the extra charge!  All night long, every time I would wake up, I would look out the window and see a glowing volcano.  This is truly a once in a lifetime experience.  The Volcano National Park has hours and hours of hiking trails through Sulphur Flats, around the Caldera Rim, to the Jagger Museum and through the Thurston Lava Tube.  You could spend days here hiking and enjoying the unique nature of the area.  They also have a Parks Center, an Art Center and the Jagger Museum, which outlines the history of the Volcano and also has the very best views of the Caldera at night.  I was glad we had a full 24 hours in the park – we could have easily spent a few more days.  It costs $25USD for a car to enter the National Park.  This gets you entry for up to 7 days.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo:  On our way Panawa Rainforest Parkhome from the Volcano to Kona, we took the cross-island route down through Hilo, then across the island, instead of going south.  We stopped in at the Rainforest Zoo – FREE (entrance by donation only).  Their main claim to fame is two tigers (one Orange named Sriracha and one White named Tzatiki).  They also had monkeys, ant eaters, alligators, lots of tropical birds and much more.  It was a nice stop and we would have stayed longer, but it was very hot out and my little guy wasn’t feeling well.

30123879_10155311770040009_8396378751184666624_oAtlantis Submarine Kona:  I was excited to take the kids on their first underwater adventure as they are too young for any real snorkeling or scuba.  Check in is located in the Courtyard King Kamehameha hotel and they offer reduced parking rates for the Atlantis customers.  Check in was smooth, all was well.  We took a boat out to the Submarine – roughly 40 people.  I walked down into the Submarine and found myself walking right back off.  I have never gotten claustrophobic in my life, but I had a minor panic attack before the hatch was even closed and knew I had to get off.  The crew was wonderful!  They let me off and back up onto the launch boat. 29791472_10155311769975009_7733040435504873472_o  The rest of my family stayed onboard and went on the adventure as planned.  I waited out the 45 minutes aboveboard on the boat in the very pleasant company of three other crew members. They filled me in on their favourite places to eat, favourite beaches, etc. and told me some of their history with the island – why they came, or where they grew up, the lava flows in recent history and how they went through a town near to one of them.  It was the most entertaining visit I have had in ages.  My family re-emerged from the deep blue sea, excited and bursting with news of the fish and eels and shipwrecks they had seen and I was quite content with my time spent on the boat.  Thank you Atlantis Submarine all around for a lovely outing.  Side note:  please don’t think you will get claustrophobic – every other person on the boat was fine and enjoyed their time undersea!

30074460_10155309712645009_728944244_oSunset MaiTai:  While in Hawaii, you need to take time to enjoy the sunsets; weather permitting, they are spectacular.  The best way to do this is to find an oceanfront spot and enjoy a quintessential Hawaiian cocktail – the Mai Tai.  My favourite place on the Big Island for this is Huggo’s lounge.  Huggo’s is oceanfront in downtown Kona, beside the Royal Kona Resort.  They have a free parking lot (bonus) and $5 Happy Hour sunset specials that include cocktails, beer and house wine.  The Mai Tai’s at Huggo’s are the best I have ever had and the view can’t be topped.  We also had dinner one night at this restaurant.  The food was very good and the service was excellent.

Now it’s time to start packing our bags to get ready for the journey back to Saskatoon.   Aloha!

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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!

 

Kyra’s Hawaii Island Hopping Adventure – Part 3

Aloha one last time!

26937521_2063688053902191_949194621_oMy trip has come to an end and the last couple days were just as exciting. We went to SteelGrass Chocolate Farm to learn about how chocolate is made. This tour also included fruit tasting and an 11 course chocolate tasting! So delicious!

We then drove up to the Waimea Canyon Lookout! It was breathtaking and a must see as they call it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!

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The Island of Hawaii and Kauai are both so magical and have so many activities for you to check out! You won’t be bored on either island! If Hawaii is on your bucket list, feel free to reach out to me for more information or to get you on your way over to beautiful Hawaii!  My email address is kyra@uniglobevacation.com or you can call me at 306-955-1449.  Mahalo!

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Kyra’s Hawaii Island Hopping Adventure – Part 2

26609986_2062457970691866_213245686_oAloha again! I am now on the island of Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle! Wow is it beautiful here! Did you know that only 20% of the island is accessible by car? That being said, the best way to see the island is by air. I had the amazing opportunity to take an hour long helicopter tour with Sunshine Helicopters! During the ride we got to see a bit of Waimea Canyon, countless waterfalls, the Napali Coast, and even some whales! It was truly breathtaking and is the highlight of my trip!

We also got to go to Koloa Rum Co to sample some of their rum which they produce on the island. So tasty!

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We then ended the day with a sunset dinner garden tour at Allerton Gardens! Walking through the jungle-like gardens we saw areas where parts of Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides and Jurassic Park were filmed! That was pretty neat! If you love nature or movie locations, this would be a great tour for you!

Anyways, until my next adventure update, mahalo!

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Kyra’s Hawaii Island Hopping Adventure – Part 1

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Aloha!

I have been on the Big Island of Hawaii for a couple of days now! I’ve had the

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UCC Hawaii

opportunity to do some pretty awesome activities such as roasting my own coffee at UCC, attending a Luau at the Royal Kona Resort, glass bottom boat tour at Anaeho’omalu Bay, Akaka Falls, picnic lunch at Rainbow Falls, orchid planting at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, and Volcanoes National Park!

Every activity has been so much fun and I would highly recommend all of them! The Luau at Royal Kona Resort includes your meal, your drinks, orchid bracelet making, sharpie tattoos, and the fantastic show! At UCC, you get to roast your own Kona coffee and they even package it up with a personalized label for you to take home!

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Glass Bottom Boat

On the glass bottom boat we saw tons of sea turtles, fish, and coral which was pretty amazing! All waterfalls seen have just been stunning! The orchid gardens are beautiful, informative, and a fun experience! Volcanoes National Park is very unique with different landscapes, craters, lava tubes, and rainbows! A tip though – make sure to wear warmer layers and a light jacket as the elevation tends to make it a bit chillier and there is misty rain!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates!

FAIRMONT KEA LANI – JAMIE’S IN MAUI PART 2

As the remainder of my time in Maui was spent mainly in conference meetings at the Fairmont Kea Lani, I think it is important to comment on their meeting and convention facilities. The meeting rooms were very nice and unlike some, the A/C was very adjustable – one day was too warm, but they were able to cool the room quickly and one day the A/C was too cold, but they were able to turn it down and warm the room quickly, making the setting comfortable for attendees, which is important. We had several coffee breaks with fruit and baked goods, all of which were good – a nice selection of coffee and tea as well. The three lunches we had were lovely, set either on the patio outside out meeting room or on the lawn – beautiful settings, a nice break from being inside and good food as well. The staff were friendly and attentive, always saying hello and asking if they could help. The WIFI worked quite well through most of the hotel, although a little spotty in my room, which was at the end of of one of the wings. Although I wasn’t the organizer, from what I could tell, everything went very smoothly. Fairmont is a high quality product and everything was well done.

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One evening we had a sponsored dinner in Lahaina. Although I have been to Maui before, I had never spent much time in Lahaina and was looking forward to going. We had a bit of time to wander Front Street and shop for a few souvenirs and the setting felt very Hawaiian with the ocean on one side and the green mountains on the other. I don’t think I found any great bargains, but I did manage to pick up a couple of things I was looking for and have a nice stroll around the area. We all met at the Pacific’O Restaurant for a sunset dinner.

The Sunset was gorgeous and the setting was perfect. Beachfront, ocean views, a nice evening with warm weather and no wind. It couldn’t have been any better. The staff at the restaurant were great, very attentive and quick at bringing drinks, taking drinks, bringing around trays of pupu’s. For dinner, we had a choice of fish, lamb or beef. As I had fish the night before, I thought i would try the beef filet with Gorgonzola cheese on top, even though it was Hawaii and fish is usually the way to go. I was pleasantly surprised! The filet was as good as any I have had at a steakhouse back in Canada. It was the best meal I had the entire time I was in Maui – a big thumbs up and the next time I go to Maui, I would make a point of going back.

I would usually rent a car on Maui as it’s necessary to get around, but as I knew I wouldn’t have time to be out exploring, I decided to use a car service instead. I used a company called Maui ATS – Maui Airport Taxi Service – for a rate of $49 USD each way, it was less than taking a taxi. The drivers were waiting on time both ways and the drivers were friendly and professional. I would recommend them to anyone needing car service in Maui.

Sadly, my time in Maui was not longer, but I was lucky to be flying Air Canada Rouge in Premium Rouge class. It made the longer flights and night flights much more comfortable. The staff was friendly and the meal service was good. I also had a 7 hour layover in Vancouver and decided to get a day room rate at the Fairmont Vancouver airport. For a rate of $129, I had a room for 4 hours. I was able to get another 3 hours of sleep after not getting a lot of sleep on the night flight from Maui and have a shower and change my clothes before having to continue my journey home. It was well worth it and I felt significantly better for having spent my time there.

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