Our vacation time on the Big Island wrapped up with the standard (mandatory?) day of driving around in the rental car to kill time before a 10 p.m. red-eye flight back to the Mainland. We were lucky enough to garner a late afternoon check-out at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, so that helped with much of the time-killing. Mahalo again to all the Hilton staff for their exceptional hospitality! Obviously, I cannot recommend this resort enough, especially for those families with young kids.
After checking out, we were on our road-tripping way and headed south on Highway 19 toward Kailua-Kona. Along the way, we turned off at the road toward the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort where we’d heard there was a fabulous beach adjacent the resort with public access (and a small parking lot; parking is free). As with all these public access/ parking situations at Hawaii’s beaches, the catch is that if you are in a vehicle, there has to be somewhere to park said vehicle in order to enter with your vehicle. Usually it is the neighborhood and/or hotel-resort that controls the parking access in these remote beach areas. Lucky for us, there was space in the lot and the gatekeeper (no, really) granted us permission – and a parking permit – for entry (this was at around 3 p.m.). Of course, pedestrians are always welcome to hike down to these remote beach areas on-foot; however, the hikes are usually a mile-plus from the main highways and not guaranteed to be easy-access or easy-going with kid(s) in tow.
After driving another 1-2 miles on the private, windy road down toward the oceanfront, we parked the car where a well-worn, wooden path greeted us, along with a nice bathroom and shower facility for public beachgoers (keep in mind not all of Hawaii’s beaches have such amenities so I thought the bathroom was worth mentioning). The lovely path wound its way through a marsh to the left and the Four Seasons property to the right and eventually opens up to Kuki’o Beach.
Kuki’o Beach is a beauty. You’d never anticipate such gorgeous lava rock formations from the parking lot just 1/8 mi. away. The lava over time has worn down and created natural fish ponds and tide pools for creatures to take shelter safely the otherwise wild winter swell (though one local did tell me that a little farther down the beach was a less rocky and more sandy and surf-y version of Kuki’o… maybe next time when we’re not as rushed we’ll trek down and around the bend to check that out). Turtles were abundant at Kuki’o, some sunning themselves on the rocks and others wading in the shallow waters, both which added to Kuki’o’s kick-back, serene scene. Kuki’o Beach is a long way from crowded, specked here and there with locals and tourists of all ages engaged in all kinds of activities or no activity at all other than sunbathing. This is what Hawaiian beaches are made of, RMT’ers.
After our quick-stop at the beach, we entered Kona-proper for our last meal of the trip. After having such a wonderful dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club, we decided to head straight for their parent restaurant, Huggo’s. Founded in 1969 “on the rocks” of Kona, this bar and restaurant is one of the area’s more renowned dining destinations. However, it like Lava Lava Beach Club also follows the Big Island’s tradition of a casual elegant ambiance, making all feel welcome however dressed with its diverse menu of fresh fish and other local meats and vegetables. While not on the sand, Huggo’s views are about as awesome as those at Lava Lava. Guests can sip cocktails as they watch the sun drop on the horizon while the kids sight-track black crabs scurrying across the lava rocks in the tide pools below.
Now, for the ono sips and grinds. C and I toasted to the end of our trip with two traditional drinks of the Islands, the Mai Tai and the Chi Chi. For dinner, C had the “Original Teriyaki Beef”; it was really terrific, not too salty or too sweet. T had a usual children’s menu offering of buttered noodles, but he had a special “kid-tail” of Hawaiian Fruit Punch. No, not the red stuff but a mixture of fresh-squeezed, local fruit juices. I had the daily fresh catch prepared with a local pumpkin risotto and other locally grown vegetables, all of which was amazingly fresh and delicious. To top it all off, we enjoyed some more of that luscious Tropical Dreams ice cream, this time getting our favorite flavors: Vanilla (T) and Macadamia Nut (me). Yes, this was the first – and last – time I got Tropical Dreams’ mac nut ice cream the whole trip… it’s a best-seller in all the restaurants I guess as every other time I’d asked it was sold out!
All in all, it was a great last day to our Big Island vacation. It was chock full of firsts yet the time had come to say Aloha – and Mahalo – to Hawaii for now. It really was a week that felt like two, and time (and miles and hotel points!) very well-spent.
What’s a great family vacation that you’ve booked at the last-minute using your hotel points and/or airline miles, RMT’ers?