Road Trip: Hawaii's Big Island
By Rima Suqi
The Big Island of Hawaii is vastly underrated. If it?s nightlife you?re after, go to Maui for a couple of nights before landing here?in many non-resort towns, restaurants close by 9 p.m., which is indicative of the early to bed, early to rise and surf (or paddleboard, snorkel, hike) local lifestyle. The Big Island is the place to go for vast and unparalleled nature. Indeed, 11 of the world?s climates can be found on this 4,028-square-mile island, which is still growing thanks to continuous lava flow from Kilauea, one of the world?s most active volcanoes. It?s also home to the Ironman World Championship, sea turtles, and spinner dolphins galore.
Day 1: Kona to Captain Cook
Morning: No matter where you come from, you?ll experience a degree of jet lag and greenery shock. Drive 20 minutes north from the Kona International Airport to the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka?upulehu (72-100 Ka?upulehu Dr.; (808) 325-8000; FourSeasons.com/Hualalai) for a treatment in its brand-new spa, with an apothecary where guests can choose from more than 20 indigenous ingredients to customize a scrub or wrap.
Afternoon: Head about 20 minutes south on Queen Ka?ahumanu Highway (Highway 11), taking in the ocean views, until you reach the Palani turnoff and the former fishing village of Kailua-Kona?now six beachfront miles of shops, restaurants, and hotels. Stop at the farmers market to pick up apple bananas, raw macadamia nuts, and inexpensive souvenirs (Alii Dr. and Hualalai Rd., KonaFarmersMarket.com).
Check into Ka?awa Loa Plantation (82-5990 Napoopoo Rd.; (808) 323-2686; KaawaLoaPlantation.com), a fruit, nut, and coffee plantation and gay-owned bed and breakfast. They?ll tell you how to get to Two Step, an unmarked local lava-rock beach just inside the Pu?uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. The park (admission $5) is located on sacred land that has housed the residences of Hawaiian chiefs and priests for centuries. Today, the grounds and temples have been recreated to resemble the original royal villages. From there it?s a short drive to Kealakekua Bay (where Captain Cook was killed in 1779) and some of Hawaii?s best snorkeling. If you return around 6:30 a.m. you?re likely to find yourself swimming with spinner dolphins.
Evening: There are no streetlights on the narrow, winding Highway 11. Thankfully, the closest restaurant to the plantation is also one of the best in the area, Mi?s Italian Bistro (81-6372 Mamalahoa Hwy.; (808) 323-3880). It?s in a strip mall, but inside the atmosphere is lovely. Or call ahead for takeout and dine on the spacious lanai (porch) at the plantation.