The Big Island, Hawaii

When I Went: March 12-March 20, 2011

Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? We traveled in mid-March. I’m not sure there is a bad time to visit Hawaii, and we avoided winter high-season crowds, which was nice. However, leaving the day after a massive tsunami was not ideal. Our hotel was fine, while others were forced to close due to damages.

Why I Went There: One summer, while my brother and I were away at camp, my parents treated themselves to a trip to Maui. They fell in love with Hawaii, and this time, years later, they were finally ready to bring me along. They wanted to experience a new island, so we decided on Hawaii’s Big Island, where we could explore Volcanoes National Park and the local towns, and still save time to enjoy Hawaii’s famous beaches.

We Stayed Here: We stayed at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, which shares 1,839 oceanfront acres with the Mauna Kea Resort off the Kohala Coast, famous for its Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay designed golf course.

Lowlights: Breakfast on the patio and lunch by the pool are recommended, but better to plan to leave the hotel for dinner; wireless Internet access does not come cheap; and finally, although Mom thought the nightly live Hawaiian music by the bar was quaint, Dad and I decided that after the first couple of nights, the “yodeler” gave us a headache.

Highlights: A central location on the island, a No. 1 rated white sand beach with an almost 50-yard pool by the ocean, swimming with the sea turtles in a cove off the hotel, and whale watching from the hotel room.

You Won’t Want to Miss: Volcanoes National Park, with views of glowing lava from the active volcano, and hikes through rainforests and craters; the black sand beach where there are as many sea turtles as there are tourists; the green beach at the southernmost tip of the United States. On the way, stop at the Punalu’u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery. You will want to eat something before the trek to the beach. Take a short hike to see the waterfalls in the Puna district, and finally, don’t forget to grab a beer (and a T-shirt) from the Kona Brewing Company.

Eat Here: Each of these recommendations are found in the small cowboy town of Waimea. Merriman’s: upscale Hawaiian regional cuisine prepared from only the freshest local ingredients. Food so nice we ate there twice (in one week). Red Water Café: a local favorite for sushi and other Asian-inspired plates. Waimea Coffee Company: a cozy place to enjoy a cup of coffee that was truly made with love.

Play Here: Kohala Ditch Adventures: an eco-adventure that includes off-road excursions on ATVs, a short hike over a 150-foot flume, and a 2-mile kayak cruise through rainforests and earth tunnels.

If I Went Again: The Big Island really is big, which means a lot of time is spent in the car traveling to each of your destinations. If I were to return, I would stay for at least two weeks, allowing time to alternate between road trips and days spent on the beach.

How Did You Get There From Dallas? Fly from DFW Airport into Kona International Airport. I flew United with a stop in Denver on the way, and a connection in Los Angeles on the red-eye flight back to Dallas.

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