Hawaii is truly one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. Ever since we visited Maui this April, we have been dying to go back and visit a different Hawaiian island. (Our plan is to visit all the Hawaii Islands in the coming years). Therefore, for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to go to the Big Island.
Famous for its volcanoes and sometimes spectacular lava flows, the Big Island has actually many other treats in store, its lush green rainforests, black sand and green sand beaches, 14,000 + feet high volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and more. There is just so much to see, do and explore. Below you will find out all about our trips in terms of where to stay, what to do, hikes/beaches, where to eat and more. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me any questions you have.
Where to stay:
We started and finished our trip (celebrated Thanksgiving) the wonderful hotel of Fairmont Orchid, which is located on the Western side of the Big Island, near Kona. This is another hotel we found through Kiwi Collections (which a collective of best hotels in the world!). The reason we chose Fairmont is simple, it is one of the best family-friendly hotel chains there is. We stayed Fairmont San Francisco as well as Fairmont Kea Lani before, and had such a wonderful time. If you are looking for a hotel that offers the best service, friendly staff, delicious and healthy food, and activities for all ages, then Fairmont Orchid will not disappoint you. You can really feel how they take extra steps to make you feel welcome and comfortable during your stay.
Room: We stayed at a family suite with ocean view, which has two rooms, including one king-sized bedroom for the parents and a living room with a super comfy pull-out couch bed for the kids. Since my kids are relative young and don't mind sleeping in the same bed, they were totally fine with the arrangement. But I was told that they can put extra bed in the room if the guests prefer. The room was very clean, newly decorated and has the best amenities (mostly supplied with Le Labo beauty care products).
Food: We had our daily breakfast in the hotel because they are just so good! Great selection of fresh tropical fruits, juices, sweet and savory dishes. Freshly made pancakes, crepes, and waffles. Dim sum, hash browns, and more! We also attended their traitional Hawaii Luau Dinner one evening and it was fantastic. Not only you get to eat such a fantastic buffets packed with traditional Hawaiian dishes, but also watch a informative and entertaining cultural dances, music and shows. Whatsmore, we celebrated our Thanksgiving also in the hotel. They had a Thanksgiving buffet for the guests, which had a great selection of tradtional Thanksgiving dishes and more. We tried five different pumpkin-related pies/cakes/donuts for desserts alone. (Don't judge! If you have seen them, you would have done the same! ;-))
Activities: We swam with the sea turtles at the lagoon of the hotel!!! How about that for an activity?! At Fairmont Orchid, they provide you with all the snorkelling gears, as well as stand-up boards, kayaks, and many other water-sport equipments. We swam around the lagoons with the kids and saw sea turtles every time. They actually live on the beach of the hotel (Fairmont Orchid does such a good job to keep them safe!).
Spa: This is definitely one of my favorite moments during our stay in the Fairmont Orchid. I had a 110-minute Ali’i Experience treatment in a waterfall hale in their Spa Without Walls. The Ali'i (Royalty) Experience, which began with a 50-minute Hawaiian lomilomi massage and foot wrap, and then followed by a compress of specially blended Hawaiian herbs applied to the body. I could feel how my body relaxes more and more as the treatment went on. Listening to nothing but the sound of the waterfalls, I was sure I was in a different world. The highlight of the treatment was when the therapist poured warm coconut oil slowly over my hair and scalp. It was such an amazing sensation and experience. When you stay at the hotel, I would highly recommend you to take this treatment!
- Don't count the sheep at night, but the stars! There are millions of stars at night at Fairmont Orchid. Absolutely worth it to wake up in the middle of the night, step out and go stargazing! Sometimes, you can even see milky way with your naked eyes.
Things to do: Hike to Makalawena Beach (Secret Beach)
There are quite a few stunningly beautiful beaches on the Kona Coast, but Makalawena beach was by far my faviate. Since it can't be reached by road, you have to take a hike out to Makalawena and this keeps the crowds away, especially on weekdays. To access the beach, take Hwy. 19 north of Kailua-Kona and Kona International Airport. The rough dirt road to Mahai'ula Bay is between the 90 and 91 mile markers. Drive through the dirt road, park the park along the street. Hike north to Mahai'ula Bay and find a well-defined trail through an ʻaʻā lava field with big views all around. The lava field transitions into a field of huge white sand dunes covered with pōhuehue, beach morning glories. Hike through the dunes toward the back of Makalawena beach. At the northern edge of the dunes, find a short spur trail to a small brackish pond set in a stand of palm trees.
Driving up to Mauna Kea Observatories
The summit of Mauna Kea is not just one of the most sacred places in traditional Hawaiian spirituality — it's also the largest collection of astronomical telescopes in the world. On the summit, the oxygen level is 40% less than what's on the sea level. Therefore, you really have to have careful when you drive up. Make sure you take a good 30-40 mins break at the visitor center before continuing to the summit. We didn't take the kids (it is adviced not to take kids until 15-16 to drive up).
Where to Eat on Kona Side
Under the Bodhi Tree - Our favorite vegan restaurant on the Big Island. Located just outside the Fairmont Orchid resort, the restaurant is run by the former chef from Fairmont Orchid. The dishes are made with locally produced organic ingredients, which are packed with flavors and colors. When we went out of the resort for day trips, we always went there to order take-aways. Our favorite dishe is: "Tropical Collusion" - raw coconut-dusted papaya salad with spinch, carrot, macademian nuts with papaya seeds dressing.