R&R in Hawaii | Kona & The Big Island, Part One


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Pu'ukoholā Heiau, big island, hawaii, national parkPu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site.Even though I sometimes felt like we were spending more time in transit — by plane, car or boat — than actually vacationing in Hawaii, there were some definite upsides, and seeing more of the state was just one of them. Our R&R in Hawaii was essentially three vacations in one.After a 20-hour journey from San Salvador (via Houston and San Francisco), we landed in Kona, on the Big Island (Hawaii), picked up a sweet Mustang (not our choice) and checked into the King Kamehameha Hotel (aka Courtyard Marriott), site of the Island Breeze Luau. And so began our five-day stay in Kona, the first of three legs of our trip.hawaii big island, kona, kona farmer's marketFresh leis at the Kona Farmer’s Market.We then spent two days on the island of Oahu, exploring the North Shore and Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, among other places. For the last couple days of our trip, we returned to the Big Island but stayed on the other side, near Volcanoes National Park. Don’t worry — I’ll devote separate posts to these parts of the trip later. If you thought my Hawaii-related posts were almost over, you are sorely mistaken! Just to give you an idea of how much we did, our snorkeling cruise and luau were on the same day the first weekend we were there, so there’s a lot to write about yet.hawaii big island, kona, kona breweryAs I mentioned in my “R&R in Hawaii | By the Numbers” post, we visited five national parks during this trip. Kail asked me to clarify that, while they are all managed by the National Park Service, they are not all “parks,” per se. And during this first part of our trip, we visited Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site and Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, also known as City of Refuge.Pu'ukoholā Heiau, big island, hawaii, national parkThe temple on Whale Hill.Pu’ukoholā Heiau is a temple built by King Kamehameha I dedicated to his family war god in an effort to guarantee victory in his quest to conquer all the islands. Workers — including Kamehameha himself — formed a human chain 20 miles long to transport the rocks from hand to hand from the bottom of a seaside valley to the top of the hill. (In the interest of full disclosure, Kail did bribe me into a historical tour by promising lunch at Village Burger in Waimea and an afternoon of lounging at Hapuna Beach State Park.)Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau, or City of Refuge, was a sanctuary where defeated warriors and non-combatants could seek refuge during times of battle, and where lawbreakers could flee and avoid penalty (death). It is also right next to “Two Step,” one of the places we went snorkeling. (Burgers and the beach: the keys to getting me to do history-related things.)hawaii big island, kona, lava fieldLava field.The Big Island is, well, big — as its nickname suggests. We basically drove the perimeter of the entire thing. During the first part of the trip, we covered a good chunk of the west coast. But we wanted to balance seeing and doing everything we possible could with relaxing and being on vacation. The fact that I was sick for about half the trip (hence the 14 Dayquil and 16 Sudafed) helped slow us down a bit.All in all, I think we had a good mix of the kinds of activities Kail likes to do on vacation (visiting historical sites, hiking), the kinds of activities I like to do on vacation (eating, shopping, lounging beachside/poolside) and the kinds of activities we both like to do on vacation (kayaking, running, reading).hawaii big island, kona, kona breweryKegs.Another fun thing we did was tour Kona Brewing Company, which was located just a couple blocks from our hotel. This brewery provides all the kegs for the Hawaiian islands. Interestingly, they don’t bottle any beer in Hawaii. So any Kona beer you may have had on the mainland (or elsewhere) was brewed and bottled on the mainland. Even bottled Kona beers on the islands (which they have) are brewed on the mainland and shipped to the islands.Despite our busy schedule of sightseeing, snorkeling, luau-ing, running, kayaking and driving, we did manage to carve out some time to relax and enjoy our hotel, downtown Kona and of course, Hawaiian food! Or I should say: Hawaiian food and food in Hawaii.hawaii big island, kona, big island grillKalua pork, Korean chicken wings, potato-macaroni salad and brown rice.My favorite restaurant of the whole trip was Big Island Grill, recommended by our friend Shamenna (who is from Hawaii) as the place where her dad (who still lives there) takes visitors who want to try local food. It was so good! Good enough that we went twice. Both times, I got a combo platter with potato-macaroni salad, brown rice and two meats (kalua pork and chicken katsu on our other visit). We also had taro cheesecake there. Healthy!hawaii big island, kona, big island grill, taroTaro cheesecake with macadamia nut graham cracker crust.Another place we frequented was a bakery/sandwich shop called Buns in the Sun for a good mix of standard breakfast (bagels), deli sandwiches (rubens) and unique Hawaiian fare (egg, kalua pork and cheese on a croissant). Good Kona coffee too.hawaii big island, kona, huggo's on the rocksKail enjoying the terrace at Huggo’s on the Rocks. We did spring for the $7 fresh lei.A good lunch spot in Kona is Huggo’s on the Rocks, which has a nice seaside terrace, good beers and tropical cocktails and yummy foods. We also enjoyed being in the U.S. and had our fill of foods that are hard to come by in El Salvador, namely Thai, which we had three times, during each part of our trip.I think I am just now getting back to my pre-vacation weight! We were pretty active but we also ate a ton — and I haven’t even talked about macadamia nuts yet.Do you like to pack as much into your vacation schedule as possible, or do you prefer to have a lot of downtime?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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