We just returned from a 5 night stay on the Big Island of Hawaii. I can honestly say that I'm not sure when I was here last, but suffice to say it was probably in the 1990's...potentially 15-20 years ago. Ironically, I just do not get a lot of requests from clients who wish to visit this island, but it's a pretty incredible island and I'm happy that we got to spend some time here.
Once again, we flew over on Alaska Airlines out of SJC. This really is an easy airport, maybe too easy at some points. Security was not very busy, we had our ID's checked and it really wasn't very clear which line you could go through with your items for x-ray, but we ended up in the line for TSA pre-check and didn't have to take off shoes or take out laptops. I'm pretty sure this was a mistake, but we just did what they said to do which made for a very smooth security experience. We were not confirmed for First Class on this flight, unfortunately, but I have to say that in coach the seats were fairly comfortable. We passed the time very quickly watching TV shows and movies that Bill had uploaded to his tablet. Service was very good and they had a card on every seat letting you know what the service on the flight would be. It was nice to know how many times they were going to come around with the food/beverage carts, etc. All in all, a very smooth flight with an on time arrival.
We had a car reserved with Hertz and I am a Hertz Gold Member. Everyone should be - it's free and you get so much better service. Upon landing, I had an email waiting for me that explained what car I had and which slot it was located. Once we had collected our luggage, we hopped onto the shuttle over to the Hertz center and walked to our car. Of course, our name was on the welcome board which also advised us of where our car was located. Smooth check out of the parking lot and we were on our way. Flight-Baggage collection -Car pickup took all of about 45 minutes total, if that. We did make a quick stop at Safeway first so that we could buy a few things to take to our hotel. Hawaii is crazy expensive, so we like to purchase a case of bottled water, a few bottles of wine for our room and because I wanted to try to keep the diet in check, I wanted to pick up Almond Milk for my protein shakes and we picked up a few snack items also. Once we were done, it took us about 40 minutes to drive to our resort. Safeway was about 15 minutes south on Highway 19 from the airport and our hotel was about 25 minutes north of the airport.
Our return trip to the airport was very smooth. I had asked the hotel valet where they would suggest getting gas on the way to the airport so we could fill up and I'm glad I did because I really had not noticed a lot of gas stations while we were driving around. We had to get gas fairly close to our hotel and he assured me that it would still read "full" when we got to the airport. The gas station was in the Waikoloa Resort area.
We did secure the First class upgrade on the return flight with Alaska and there were really no preferential lines through security, which was a bit of a bummer. In fact, the Kona airport had two TSA agents working - one for the regular line and the other for the TSA pre-check line, which also included passengers over age 75 and passengers traveling with kids under the age of 12. Nothing special for First Class boarding pass holders. I really do think that they should add that to the other line at this airport. We took about 30 minutes to get through security. The Kona airport is very small, hard to believe it's actually an International airport, but it is. It is also located right along the ocean, so it's really surreal to see the ocean across from the runway! This airport is completely open air, except for a restaurant/bar which is an order/pick up type of place. Don't expect anything fancy, but the grilled cheese sandwich was pretty good! In flight services & meal were fabulous! In San Jose, we parked once again at the i.parkntravel.com location- very inexpensive and convenient.
WHERE WE STAYED:
We stayed at the Fairmont Orchid Resort, located in the Mauna Lani Resort Area. I did have an email sent to me when we landed saying that our room was ready and indeed it was. Check in was smooth-we are President's Club members which does give priority check-in, but there was no wait and we were escorted to our room along with our bags and groceries. I do recommend joining the Fairmont President's Club as it is a free program and there are a variety of resort benefits that come along with membership like free Wi-Fi, discounts on various services: for example, we rented a cabana one day and saved $10 off the rental, etc. I have stayed at this resort a very long time ago when it had first opened in the early 1990's - it was a Ritz Carlton when it opened. Still a very beautiful, luxury hotel but the foliage has definitely grown up over the last 20 years! From our room, you could not see the wing on the opposite side of the property and that is completely due to trees. We did have a lovely ocean view. Once we unpacked, we walked around the resort to check everything out. The resort has one very large pool with lots of chairs and several cabanas, a decent size health facility with cardio equipment and free weights. The resort also offers several exercise classes in the morning. Of course a nice beach with a beach rental to rent snorkeling equipment (free to President's Club members), paddleboards, etc. The beach is a coved area, so some very calm waters right at the water's edge. There is a golf course located alongside the resort with wonderful views of the ocean.
Our room was a average size with a nice lanai and the bathroom was a decent seize with a both a bathtub and a standup shower. Double sinks with a good amount of counter space for all the toiletries. Our bed was not as comfortable as I would want it to be; but it wasn't terrible either. I think I'm just getting more and more sensitive to mattresses and I was also just coming off of a back injury. We had a mini-fridge which was just perfect for the few things that we purchased at Safeway. There was a fairly large safe in the closet, but not quite large enough for my laptop. It was close.
The Fairmont, though on the large size, feels very intimate. There are a few restaurants at the resort and several others easily reached via the Mauna Lani shuttle that runs on demand within the Mauna Lani resort. The resort has a spa & full service salon on site, I did not take part in any spa treatments for this trip. There is a concierge office to help with any dining or activity reservations, a business center if you need to use the computers or printers and several shops. The resort charges a $25 resort fee which includes basic internet (President's Club upgrades to premium service for free), Self- parking, One-hour snorkel equipment rental, local/domestic/long distance/800 access calls from your guest room, nightly housekeeping turndown service with bottled water, 24 hour access to the fitness center, on-demand shuttle service within the Mauna Lani Resort, 10% discount on the Gathering of the Kings Luau, Various cultural activities including Outrigger Canoe rides, daily Arts & crafts, Cultural Hikes, Tide Pool & Snorkel Instruction. There is also a spot along the shore where you can spot sea turtles sunbathing during the day!
I did bring my protein mix with me, so I had my shakes for breakfast. Bill ordered room service one morning and had a great omelet, it smelled really good and I had almost wished I ordered breakfast with him. But I had gone out for my walk along the shore and had my shake when I got back. We did have breakfast one morning out by the pool at the bar, take out fare from Brown's Deli because we were up early to watch the 49er game at 8am. We ordered lunch poolside one day which was delivered from the Hale Kai restaurant.
Our first night we dined at Norio's Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar. We were seated outside although this restaurant is located at the main building of the hotel, so not alongside the oceanfront. We had great service and food was overall good. Second night we were on a Champagne dinner sunset sail, so we had dinner on board. Third night we met friends in town and ate at a local place called Huggo's on the Rocks, Fourth night we decided to have a sunset dinner at Brown's Beach House which was excellent and located at the hotel close to the beach. Final night we had returned from our full day tour and we didn't feel much like getting freshened up to go out to eat, so we ordered room service. We thought the pizza on the menu were personal size, but they were huge- I had ordered that and we really could have shared it, Bill ordered the salmon which he said was very good. I do post reviews on Yelp for restaurants, so if you'd like to read more about the dining at any of these places, you can follow these links:
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES:
This is the Big Island. It's quiet at night, if you want any sort of night life, then you really need to stay in the town of Kailua Kona and there are a few resort hotels in that area. We were about a 40 minute drive to town, so we just went in that one night to meet our friends. Our resort had some music at the Luana Lounge in the evenings- we did get up and dance to one song and good thing we didn't wait because it was the last song and that was about 8pm. As for activities, we did book two excursions.
First, we took the champagne sunset dinner sail with Ocean Sports and it was a great experience. The Sunset was not very cooperative that night, but the weather was clear and we did have good food, bottomless beverages with an open bar with lots of choices and they picked us up and dropped us off at the hotel. The crew were very friendly and attentive and I would definitely recommend this and would do it again. The dinner consisted of teriyaki chicken and short ribs along with mashed potatoes, salads and cookies for dessert. Then for our last day we did a circle island tour with Polynesian Adventure Tours. It was a long 12 hour day but well worth it. Along the tour we visited a Coffee house to taste various coffees, we stopped at the Black Sand Beach, we had a lunch stop en route to the Volcano's National Park and spent time there to view the top of the volcano and also walk through a lava tube. Then onto the Big Island Candy factory where we also had some samples to taste, a visit to waterfalls and then the Macadamia Nut Company where we got to taste a variety of nuts. We really had a great day. The driver/guide was fabulous and full of so much information. As tired as we were, we were kept awake during the tour because the guide was that good. I've been on tours where the bus ride just puts you to sleep. Not the case here.
Remember PAMS PATH TO TRAVEL can help you pre-book any excursions you might wish to enjoy while experiencing any of the Hawaiian Islands! It's always a good idea to pre-book so that you won't be disappointed, especially during peak travel seasons!
How can you not love a Hawaiian sunset? They are just so beautiful and so different every single day. Out most spectacular one was on our day of arrival and next best was on our last night, so I guess the sunset Gods were bidding us Aloha both days!
All in all, we had a very relaxing trip to the Big Island. It really is amazing how different each and every one of the Hawaiian Islands can be - there is definitely an island for everyone.
To View the entire photo album from this trip, please visit my PAMS PATH TO TRAVEL Flickr page here: