Big Island of Hawaii – Onsdag Wanderlust – Volume II

Onsdag means Wednesday in Danish. I realized today, on this Onsdag, that I started something back in Januar and then promptly let it go, sleepily, by the wayside. My current mobility-impaired perspective from my 5th floor perch, as I sit here elevating my broken ankle and watching the epic Danish clouds float by, promotes a resurrection of my original Wednesday wanderings post. Maybe my lack of mobility makes virtual escapes more valid. As a side note -– you will be pleased to know that I successfully exited the flat, boarded an aircraft and spent a long city-break in London and Liverpool recently. It was exhausting on crutches, but so worth it. But that will be for another post. So further than my apartment in Østerbro and even further than the United Kingdom, I can virtually go and take you with me today, if you are willing this Wednesday.

A little back-story from my first post on Onsdags, also known as Oden’s day: “For me Wednesday is a longing – we still have things to do on Wednesday. We have responsibilities. We don’t get a break yet. So from now on, Wednesday is furthermore dedicated to wanderlust. Let’s look outside, maybe even gain a little knowledge, plan travel, cement dreams. Thanks Oden – we could use the inspiration.“ Today, I will take you to the Big Island of Hawaii. Have you been there? If you are reading this as one of my Stateside friends, especially those hailing from the best coast (the West Coast, also known as the Left Coast) you have most likely been to at least one of our 50th State’s beautiful islands and most likely have your own favorites based on your families’ priorities. I love the Big Island. (I also love Kauai and Oahu for different reasons. And Maui, I know you have your fans, but as I haven’t laid feet on your soil since I was sixteen, I don’t feel I can offer advice and will defer to those better suited to wax on about your virtues.) But the Big Island is just that. Big. No island fever here, too much to see and do. There are 8-10 different micro-climes on the Big Island alone. From arid desert-like conditions, to mountains with snow, to lush green rainforests, to volcanic lava fields, to beautiful beaches – there is something for everyone on the Big Island. “Take your pick. On the Big Island you can (to paraphrase an old song) live where the weather suits your clothes.”[1]

Here are some of my favorites from the Big Island – this list is not exhaustive or comprehensive, but these did please a wide range of ages (from wee baby to teens and grandparents) and accessibilities (including me on crutches/in a wheelchair.) Here are our favorites for Best beaches: Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area – north of Kona – a giant crescent of soft white sand with bathrooms, showers and lifeguards. It can get very windy here, check the weather before you make the effort to get here. And unless you are staying at the Hapuna Prince, you have had to make your way here. A little pre-checking can help avoid any riptides that might prevent the perfecting of your boogie boarding prowess or winds that can and will blow sand in your littles’ eyes as they build their castles on the beach. If it is just breezy, no worries, you’ll be grateful. Pack a picnic, bring an umbrella and lots of sunscreen (very little shade) and beach chairs – the sand can get hot. There is pretty good access for mobility impaired with a handicapped entrance down below the regular parking lot and paved sidewalks with many access and vantage points to the beach itself. If you can make your way down onto the sand – it is so worth it, soft and fine. There is snorkeling along resort end of beach crescent, but depending on wind, visibility can vary.

Kua Bay: Manini’owali beach – north of Kona – access road from Mamalohoa Highway across from Veterans Memorial Cemetary. A beautiful, if smaller beach – hidden and secluded – but definitely not a secret. While there are showers to rinse off and public bathrooms, there are no lifeguards here and the access to the beach is rocky and challenging to maneuver. Kids loved jumping the waves and boogie boarding here – but be careful, the waves are bigger than Hapuna. Beautiful white sand and very clear water. Those mobility impaired have vantage points from paved sidewalks and picnic tables (in the shade) above the beach, but access over rocks makes any further progress beyond reach.

Best snorkeling: Two Steps – next door to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (formerly known as City of Refuge). Make a day trip to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau and see how the ancient Hawaiians lived. We loved the fish ponds and real tikis right on the water.

Now that's a wheelchair
Now that’s a wheelchair

And for the mobility impaired there are pretty awesome giant beach wheeled chairs to make it around the sandy paths. My kids loved that. Little ones can complete the Jr. Ranger activities provided at the welcome center while they explore and earn a badge.

Tide Pools at Two Steps
Tide Pools at Two Steps

Two Steps is not in the Pu’uhonua complex, but you can see it while there. From the parking lot, take the 2nd little road towards water on the left. Port-a-potties and for-pay parking will be on the right. You will see people on the rocks to the left. There are “two steps” in the rocks where it is easiest to enter the water. Ask anyone around – they will probably know where. Be careful getting back out as urchins can scrape knees as the surf pushes you back up on the rocks. Time the waves and you should be ok. The snorkeling here is fantastic, one of our favorite spots. Excellent coral and myriad of fish. Out to the right from the steps it can get quite deep, but you may meet spinner dolphins that frequent the cove. Listen carefully and sometimes you can hear them – or passing Humpback whales! As for mobility impaired – you can sit by rocks and watch from afar, but there was a handicapped Honey Bucket when I was there! Bonus. Kahulu’u Beach Park – closest to Kailua-Kona resorts and condos. This is one of the easiest snorkeling sites to get in and out of. Great for beginners if the surf isn’t up. There are always fish here and you can usually spot Honu (sea turtles) – always a plus. Just don’t touch. It’s illegal here. We have even seen monk seals on this beach and in the water. You can stay as shallow as you want here and it is where we taught our daughter to snorkel. Make note what day the cruise ships are in the harbor as this beach is one of their day trips and it can get packed. Bathrooms, grills, picnic tables, a food truck with shave ice, showers and shade all make this an easy afternoon destination. If you want a nice beach to go along with your snorkeling – this isn’t it though. It’s pebbly and slightly rocky, not that coveted fine white sugar sand. For mobility impaired – there are ramps and tables in the shade. To the right of the main building – there is little view of the water – I recommend the left side where you can catch the breeze, watch the waves and people.

Lifeguards watch over Kahalu'u
Lifeguards watch over Kahalu’u

Kealakekua Bay – Captain Cook’s Monument – south of Kailua-Kona towards town of Captain Cook. This protected bay has exquisite water and epic snorkeling opportunities. With limited (read controlled) ways to reach it, the journey there becomes part of the fun in reaching this highly recommended destination. You can take kayaking tours, paddling across the bay to snorkel before heading back. Or as we did, take a catamaran mini-cruise from either Kailua Harbor or Keahou Harbor. We used the Fair-Wind vessel from Keahou and can highly recommend, as they are only group with a dedicated mooring in Kealakekua Bay. We did the afternoon cruise (cheaper) which does not include a meal, like the morning trip. In the afternoon you will be afforded snorkel gear, juice, water and snacks and adult beverages for purchase on the return trip. Two slides and a jumping platform into the water makes an instant bonus for the kids and adults alike. Not fully wheelchair accessible, but if you can maneuver a few stairs, your wheelchair (and you) are welcome on board. I could see fish swimming in the clear water from the top deck and my family witnessed throngs of fish, free-swimming eels and an octopus out and about snorkeling. Spinner dolphins are also regulars in this bay, which quickly extends to enormous depths away from shore. Whales were spotted on our way home – friendly tale slaps waved at us and fishing lines set off the back for those interested to reel in if anything is snagged. A 20lb Ono hooked on the morning’s ride was on display and filleted for those interested. Yes, it isn’t the cheapest route to snorkeling, but if you consider that you got a (near) sunset cruise, snorkeling trip, whale-watching trip and possible fishing outing – the price is worth it. Charming and friendly staff included.

Best eats: Although we didn’t eat out that much – with a large extended family and a fully-equipped kitchens in our condo, we didn’t need to – here are some of our favorites for eats and treats. Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers – right on Mamalahoa Hwy in little town of Kealakekua. Not exactly on the beach, but it doesn’t matter. This is definitely worth a stop – make it a priority on your way back from a morning with the tikis and humuhumus at Pu’uhonua and Two Steps. Organic, grass-fed, island-raised beef goes into the deliciously huge and tasty burgers here. Big enough to share. We love the South Point BBQ burger with the purple potato salad and fresh local beer on tap. Even my purist son, who likes his burgers perfectly plain plus bacon loves it here. The meat is that good. So good. If you’re into it, they have the best chocolate pudding we have ever tasted. Scandinavian Shave Ice – in the heart of Old Kailua Town. Many places have Shave Ice in Hawaii. You may be familiar with this icy treat. There are standard versions and then there is Scandinavian Shave Ice. Now you may think I am biased because of where we currently reside and the fact that we associated with the name. But rest assured, we had fallen in love with this little corner treat shop well before moving to our own Scandi-land.

Scandi Shave Ice Yum
Scandi Shave Ice Yum

The secret to good shave ice is obviously the texture of the ice. It has to be shaved off the block in such a way to create the finest texture – as they say – like fresh fallen snow. Expertly, they execute the ice mound right before you, all the while chatting and charming the customers. A careful (plastic gloved) pat-down of the ice makes the perfect base for your personalized flavors – up to three for each size. I prefer the tropical flavors – coconut, mango and papaya. My kids go for the most tongue color displacement they can achieve before it melts – we saw electric blue raspberry, sour brilliant green apple, purplest grape, or a double-fuschia cotton candy and bubblegum mix across each of their wide smiles in our week. Kope LaniAli’i Drive in Old Kailua Town – a block from Scandi’s Shave Ice. Ok – so sugar flavored ice isn’t your thing. Really? Not your thing? Did you try it? Try it again (see listing above.) Ok. You want something a little creamier. You like ice cream better. I hear you. Kope Lani is the place to go on this island. Great for coffee lovers too (although I have a better location for you if that’s what you’re only looking for.) Excellent 100% Kona coffee. I prefer mine iced, but they’ll do it however you prefer. But you said ice cream. I did. I did. And its fabulous. The toasted coconut is my fave, but it’s a toss up between that and the Kona Coffee flavor (are you sensing a theme with me?). Even the classics are delicious here if you are more of a traditionalist. Java on the Rock/Huggo’s on the Rocksend of Old Kailua Town on the water. This double entry was walk-able from our condo, so proximity (especially in a wheelchair and on crutches) may have swayed us here, but consistency and character makes it definitely worth visiting, no matter where you are staying. Where else can you enjoy your 100% Kona Coffee with toes in the sand overlooking the water? In the morning, this location is known as “Java on the Rock.” Get the punch card, you’ll be back. The coffee is delicious. They grow it, roast it and serve it to you. Try the three stone for pure Kona taste or the iced Kona coffee. They have light breakfast options – I loved the fresh papaya bowl with yogurt and granola – fabulous. You can order fruit plates by the pound to share – try the furry lychee fruit – just do it, but watch out for the seed in the middle. They’re really very tasty. Coffee and breakfast is only served until 11am. At 11:30 – operation switches over to the iconic Huggo’s on the Rocks – beach bar and grill. If you’re looking for fancier dining – move to their upscale brother Huggo’s next door – equally excellent views, no sand on your feet. We prefer the laid-back, toes in sand, kid-friendly, live-music playing at On the Rocks. The poke and shrimp lettuce cups on the pupu menu were really excellent and I can highly recommend the Korean beef tacos or fish tacos. For kids, especially little girls, the hula dancer that entertains is a highlight. She invites them up on stage to dance with her and we always enjoy. Entertaining your very young with a few tools in the sand below your table keeps the adults tolerating any potential waits here. We were able to garner tables together for a family 15 with a little patience post-sunset.

The Coffee ShackMamalahoa Highway – back towards Pu’uhonua and Captain Cook Ok, you’re heading to the Volcanoes National Park or Green Sands Beach or all points south of Kona on the Big Island (including Captain Cook and Two Steps) – you should absolutely stop here for breakfast. It doesn’t look like much from the road, but the outdoor porch with views through the lush canopy to the ocean is amazing. Breathtaking. Flowers, trees, birds, ocean. Beautiful. We called ahead to garner a table for the 10 in our group and they were happy to accommodate, helpful as there are usually good wait times here. For good reason. The food and service was lovely. They make their own bread here – several varieties which is utilized in the delicious French toast, the breakfast sandwiches and all other lunch options. True to form, I tried the house specialty the half papaya with lilikoi (passionfruit) yogurt, coconut and fruit. Very fresh and delicious, not too sweet. The warm fresh coconut pound cake that accompanied it, to die for. Again, the coffee here is fabulous. 100% Kona is the way to go, don’t doubt me on this one. For the littles, as entertainment beyond crayons and coloring sheets, there are wee little green geckos that frequent tiny pots of sweetened water placed around the patio railing, that are sure to delight.

Da Poke Shack – south of Kailua on Ali’i Dr. in the parking lot of the Castle Kona Bali Kai Poke is a Hawaiian word for cut, cubed or sliced. To me, it translates to delicious. You know those personal surveys that float around the internet with probing questions you answer so people learn more about you? Like if you only had one meal to eat for the rest of time – what would it be? POKE. Seriously. POKE. (It’s pronounced po-kay by the way. Not poke. Like the old weird Facebook thing some people used to do.) Hawaiian poke can be offered in tons of different equally delicious variations, but the base consists of fresh, fresh, freshly caught Hawaiian ahi (you may know it as tuna, but not in a can) cubed and seasoned and served alone or over rice – I prefer mine in a bowl with brown rice and with a side of house-made seaweed salad. Plenty of Sriracha and furikake seasoning on top. YUM. Heaven. Yum. Did I say yum? What is really best about Hawaii is the attitude. It’s called Aloha. I a-love-it. Mahalo for another amazing, soul-filling, awe-inspiring, breath taking week. Have favorites to add? Please share! Heading to the Big Island soon? I’m not a local, but I do adore the place – happy to answer a question! Like the Onsdag Wanderings? Let me know – I’ll keep it up. Cheers from Denmark! Tusind tak and Aloha! [1] Aloha Living.com

I’m linking up with other great travel bloggers – My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. Go check them out for more worldly travel inspiration!

My Travel Monkey

8 thoughts on “Big Island of Hawaii – Onsdag Wanderlust – Volume II

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  2. What a incisive and informative post – I have always wanted to go to Hawaii. I love all your photos. I know what you mean about being nostalgic on certain days. I really like the idea of Onsday wanderlust! Thanks so much for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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