One problem I was having when booking this trip was the price of rental cars. They were absolutely outrageous, coming in at well over $100 a day for a compact car. Ugh, and that was on the cheapest sites. I spent some time on google, and eventually came across Discount Hawaii Car Rental dot com. Checked their rates…and it seemed too good to be true…plus they weren’t even asking for a credit card to confirm it! I booked, they told me it had been booked with Alamo, and I checked Alamo’s website…and it was there. Wow.
Fast forward to Kona, and I get to Alamo to pick up the car. As promised, it was a two door jeep, and the price was as promised as well. Wow…score another win for teh interwebz!
Short 20ish minute drive, and we were at our hotel, the Kona Sheraton. Parking was an absolute bear, with no spots at all in the lot. Eventually I just gave up and gave the car to the valet…which turned out to be good, because when I checked in it turned out valet was complimentary for Starwood Platinum members. Something they should probably alert you about in advance maybe?
There was good news, however. We’d been upgraded to an “Ohana Suite” which was an amazing room with an oceanfront view. Found out one other disappointing thing at check-in: it was 9:15pm and all the hotel restaurants were already closed. Seriously, I know it’s a resort and it’s Hawaii, but no food after 9pm?! We ended up ordering room service (which delivered only until 10) and had two outrageously priced burgers and beers for like $60. At least they were quite tasty.
Then, it was time to brush the teeth…or so we thought. Turned on the faucets…and a stream of brown water came out for like 30 seconds. What is this, Sochi? I know well enough to avoid “dangerous face water” but it was running clear after a minute, so figured it was at least good enough to shower in. Called the front desk, they apologized profusely, and sent up several bottles of water for drinking…and then we passed out.
Woke up reasonably early, maybe 8a and the view outside the room of the pools was amazing:
The hotel had a great little coffee shop/stand, and we grabbed some great kona coffee and small snacks for breakfast. This is something I wish more hotels had: a local coffeeshop with great food and drinks so you don’t have to have a giant breakfast in the morning.
The pool looked awesome out our room, so we opted to spend the rest of the morning being completely lazy and sitting by the pool until check-out time. It was fantastically relaxing and just what I needed to start the trip off. Yes, I said check-out. We were in Kona for three nights, but ended up booking each night at a different hotel. When I booked, the Sheraton was only available the first and last nights, and the King Kam Courtyard was only available the middle night. Odd, but at least I’d get two Starwood stay credits!
We checked out at exactly noon, and drove to the King Kamehameha Hotel to check in. It’s right in the middle of the city, and I’d stayed there many times 15+ years ago when I used to go to Kona each fall to volunteer at the Ironman. The hotel was in much rougher shape than I remembered, but maybe that was partly to do with the lack of the festive atmosphere I remember from Ironman…who knows. They did give me a free box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, however, for being a Marriott Gold Member. Heh. The hotel was so-so and really musty smelling, and I don’t know…I just had really good memories of it and it was a bit of a let down.
Walked to lunch at the Kona Brewing Company, about a 10 minute walk from the hotel:
Very tasty Cuban sandwich with Kailua Pork, and even tastier samplers:
After lunch, we took a short nap (it wasn’t the beer, I swear) and then went for a short walk around the centre of the city. First, the finish line of the Ironman:
Walked around a bit longer, hung out at the Pier, and then eventually retired to the hotel’s lanai to do a bit of relaxing. A long day in the sun had taken its toll, and we were relaxed. The hotel still seemed quite run down, but did have an amusing drinks menu:
I always thought the South Park episode was a joke, but yes…there really was a drink called the Chi Chi! Of course, being a giant South Park fan, I couldn’t resist! Meanwhile, they were doing a show/ceremony on the beach for a giant tour/conference group which had overrun our hotel. Not quite sure the significance, but…
…and the Chi Chi. Now, where’s my Mahalo Rewards Card?!
Grabbed an early dinner, and were passed out cold by 9pm. We had lots planned for the next day, and wanted to get an early start. Woke up around 7, checked out of the King Kam, and headed out on our daytrip. First stop was Island Lava Java for breakfast. I remembered this place from my Ironman days, and they were certainly a lot busier than I remember, but the crowd was just as fun. Fueled by a giant cinnamon roll and Kona coffee, it was time to head out on the drive to Volcanos National Park. A vista along the route:
After about two hours, we were finally at the entrance to the park:
Stopped briefly at the visitors centre, and then headed out to a hike I remembered being lots of fun. It started around a mile from the visitor’s centre, and was a total around 4-5 mile hike through the Kīlauea Iki crater. The first mile or so wound through the jungle, and then we emerged at the base of the crater, where it was scorching hot:
Hiking across the crater:
All total with stops for pictures and water, we took maybe two hours to do the hike at a really casual pace. At the place where the hike ends in the crater, it then winds straight back up the side in the jungle, in a series of long switchbacks. At the exit back onto the road is a large Lava Tube. A shot back from inside:
After the hike, we headed to the museum, where there’s a cool outlook onto another still active crater:
Inside the museum, a great photo of Goddess Pele. Maybe my next tattoo? 😉
We decided to take a different road back across the centre of the island (we’d come to the park along the south road) and stopped in Hilo to get a small lunch because we were starving. We found a nice little cafe, where I had a delicious open-face sandwich with some really unusual purple potato salad:
The road back across the centre of Hawaii is a bit longer, but most of it is a great highway where it’s easy to do 55 mph, as opposed to the southern road which meanders at 20-30mph. It’s also much higher, several thousand feet above sea level:
It was a straight shot back to the Sheraton, where we were spending our final night on Kona. The time had gone way way too fast. When we finally got back to the hotel and gave the car to the valet, we noticed we’d attracted a hitchhiker along the way:
We went straight to Rays on the Bay, the hotel’s bar and restaurant, just in time to have a sunset Mai Tai:
Then, it was off to another delicious dinner at Kona Brewing Company, where I had another sampler with four more of their beers:
The Sheraton had given us an upgrade to an Ohana Suite again, but this one was a bit further down the building, and had amazing views of the ocean, as opposed to the pool in the other one:
We had to get going semi-early, but had time for one more delicious breakfast at Island Lava Java on the way to the airport. Dropped off the car, and then it was time for the flight to Maui!