The islands of Hawaii are some of the most beautiful, tropical destinations to explore. We recently traveled to The Big Island (Hawaii) and unlike most of our trips that are packed full of adventures, this one was a lot of RnR thanks to our incredible resort. If you're looking for an island getaway that includes lots of relaxing in the Hawaiian sun and lots of yummy food, this one's for you.
I wanted to share where to stay first because one, you'll probably be a little jet-lagged and want the perfect place to catch some zzz's and two, our resort really made all the difference on this trip - I truly don't think our experience would have been as enjoyable without it!
I'm all for boutique hotels and roughing it, but I'm so glad we went the luxury resort route this time around by staying at Hilton Waikoloa Village! I highly recommend staying at this beautiful resort and believe it was worth every penny! Although resorts are more expensive, Hilton Waikoloa Village is worth it, let me tell you why:
Most of the island is lava rock. This is not to say it's not a good island, it's just not the lush green forests and abundance of white sand beaches like the other islands. Although the lava rock against the bright blue water makes for a pretty scene, if you want breathtaking ocean views and palm trees, you have stay here at the Hilton! The resort has a natural ocean water lagoon, so honu (sea turtles) and fish swim right in whenever they please! This was the first time I ever got to see sea turtles so I'm really grateful for the lagoon at the resort. This makes it a great place to snorkel - if you're new to snorkeling, this is literally the best place for you to learn and see sea critters. You can also rent paddle boats, kayaks, and SUP boards to play around the lagoon in.
Right up the street, is Lava Lava Beach Club (I'll share more on them in a bit) but they have a stunning white sand beach - you can ride bikes down to Lava Lava since it's in the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort area, making it super accessible and the perfect beach to hang out at!
The resort has tons of restaurants, a tram and boat that take you around the resort, a spa (that offers oceanside massages I might add), gift shops, a golf course, shopping...
And the pools - they are insanely amazing. There's waterslides, waterfalls, caves, hidden hot tubs, cabanas, a swinging bridge, a pool with sand... I've never been much of a hang at the pool all day kinda girl, but I was here. The pools were the perfect balance of relaxing and fun!
As for the rooms, they were super comfortable and I actually loved having a balcony facing the mountains because the sun rising over the mountains and shining through the palms was the perfect way to start the day!
My favorite part? The dolphins. Hilton Waikoloa Village has a program called Dolphin Quest where they raise and study bottlenose dolphins. Trust me, I asked so many questions before participating or sharing about this program because I always want to make sure animals are being treated properly! Bottlenose dolphins are a shallow water breed so the natural, ocean water lagoon (same one the sea turtles swim into) is the perfect place for them to live a long, happy life. They have plenty of space and tons of fun! I loved that they were a family along with some bachelors (yep, single boy dolphins are really called bachelors). They are fed restaurant quality fish and they literally check every. single. fish. to make sure it's good enough for them to eat. A lot of the research study done with the dolphins here has actually benefited dolphins in the wild as well, which is really awesome!
Let's talk food. I ate some of the best food of my life on this trip.
Eating at Lava Lava Beach Club is an absolute must.
I don't eat fish or seafood, but I tried their Ahi Nachos (a red rub, blackened ahi) and WOW - mind. blown. We also loved their Beer Battered Maui Onion Rings with Guava BBQ sauce and the Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice Bowl. As for drinks? Get the Lava Lava Flow!
At Hilton Waikoloa Village, there's a ton of yummy options but Nui was my favorite and easily became one of my favorite restaurants of all time. Get their Fettuccine Alfredo or Four Cheese Pizza! So much deliciousness and hands down best fettuccine alfredo I've ever had. They also have super yummy cocktails!
For breakfast and coffee, go to Daylight Mind Coffee Company! Really good food made with local ingredients. I loved their pancakes with their coconut syrup and an iced vanilla latte with macadamia nut milk! Most people recommend the Kona location for the views, but I honestly preferred the Waikoloa Village location - the staff was 110% more friendly along with amazing service and the food was just all around better at the Waikoloa location.
If you're into brews, of course, go to Kona Brewing Co! Again, Hilton Waikoloa Village has a Kona Brewing Co taproom with pub style food, so we just went there thanks to it being at the resort! The Kalua Pork Nachos are amazing.
Ready to hit the beach?
As mentioned before, Lava Lava Beach Club has a beautiful beach. It's not super crowded, the water is gorgeous, and you're close to good eats and drinks. Plus, lots of places to cool off in the shade which is a plus.
It is a bit harder to find beaches on The Big Island due to all of the lava rock, but here's the ones I'd recommend outside of the Waikoloa Village area:
49 Black Sand Beach - it is black sand and there's no shade, so it is super hot here, but the snorkeling is prime! Calm water, not a ton of people, and so beautiful.
Kua Bay - I'm assuming this is the most popular beach on Kona side so it does have a lot more people but again, beautiful blue water with good snorkeling!
This trip was a lot of relaxing for us, which I loved but, we did go out and explore a bit and the one place I really loved was Rainbow Falls! It's a waterfall right off the road but there's a really cool Hawaiian legend that goes along with it. Take the trail up to the top where you'll see the "boiling pots" and an insanely gorgeous forest.
Definitely go explore the Kona Farmers Market! You'll find fresh, local fruit for super cheap and lots of cool little locally made things.
A couple places we didn't have time to check out but would have loved to see were Akaka Falls and Waipio Valley.
We loved our time on the Big Island, sometimes a trip that is spent doing a whole lot of nothing, is exactly what the soul needs.
A few tips I wanted to share for first-time Hawaii travelers:
+ buy and bring your own snorkel gear, saves you tons of money
+ use reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the ocean
+ remember to leave no trace when exploring both land and sea, aka if you brought in trash, take your trash with you and dispose of it properly - it's so important we keep our oceans, beaches, and lands clean
+ don't touch the honu - it's against the law! plus they are wild animals and deserve the respect and space