Island of Hawaii, Kohala, Hilton Waikoloa Village Review

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Robert Mitchell's review of Island of Hawaii, Kohala, Hilton Waikoloa Village

★★★★★

“We have stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big...”

Written on: 11/07/2007 by Robert Mitchell (5 reviews written)

Good Points
1) Hilton Waikoloa is a large complex.
2) Travel on grounds by boat, by rail, or walk.
3) Beautiful lobby and grounds.
4) Dolphin Learning Center located here.
5) Coupons in the airport booklets, which can also be found at other locations.

Bad Points
1) Hotel is located about 17 miles north of the airport.
2) Hotel is about 20 miles north of Kailua-Kona (Kona for short).
3) On opposite side of island from Volcanoes National Park.

General Comments
We have stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii on 3 different trips. We stayed there as regular hotel guests in 1999 and as Hilton Grand Vacation Club (HGVC) guests in 2003 and 2005. This review covers the three trips. Even though this is written in 2007, the essence is still there and therefore should still be usable.



LODGINGS

If you are HGVC members you might get to upgrade your room. The hotel grounds are quite large and very impressive as they are decorated with oriental items almost everywhere, but most prominently along the covered walkways between the main buildings. These are under camera surveillance as they are also valuable items. The hotel consists of 3 major buildings plus several smaller ones. The buildings are the Lagoon Tower near the Dolphin Learning Center, the Palace Tower, and the Ocean Tower. The best rooms I believe to be in the first and third of these towers, as close to the ocean as possible. Because these were studio style rooms we were in, there was no jacuzzi in the room. (I do not know if any rooms have them to be honest.) Jacuzzi can be found on the grounds if you look for them. There is even a lovely little wedding chapel that can be used.



The Waikoloa hotel area is north of the airport about 17 miles. There is a lighted "T" intersection with a traffic light so you should have no problem locating it even at night. Stay on this secondary road towards the ocean until you see the Hilton sign. You will pass the King's Shops on the way. You can have your car parked by valet or do it yourself in the self parking area, which might be charging a fee now.



You have 3 options in order to reach your building. You can walk the covered walkways, you can use their boats or you can take advantage of their train. If you're in a hurry and have just missed either the train or the boat, it is sometimes faster to walk than to wait for the next vehicle. There is a buffet restaurant near the Ocean Towers that we have eaten at several times. On our first trip, when we were paying customers, we were allowed 2 free breakfast meals each day. On our second trip we had to pay for our meals. There are other fine restaurants on the property, but we didn't want to pay high prices if we didn't have to. The buffet generally repeats the selections every other day. You can order off a menu if you wish.



MEALS

We found a very reasonable restaurant in Waimea on the way to Hilo but the name escapes me. Leaving the Waikoloa area turn left at the traffic light and you will be back on the main road, route 19, again. (After a short distance you will pass the heliport for Blue Hawaii.) Head north along the coast and then east to Waimea. Just before the traffic light in Waimea is a nice place for breakfast. It's on the north side of the road. Dinners are good too.



Another option is the nearby King's Court. There are shops, some restaurants, and a food court. There is a gas station here, but not a cheap one. (Best gas prices we found were often at COSTCO, near Kona.)



In Kona you can find a wide variety of restaurants.



HELICOPTER TOUR

There is another "T" intersection about half a mile north on route 19. Blue Hawaii has its base for their helicopter tours of the island here. There may be other helicopter companies in the area, but this is the only one I know of. The passengers are seated by weight to balance the load. You could be placed in the center where the view is not as good for taking pictures. Everyone wears headphones due to the noise of the motor and blades. Our pilot was good but he had a distinct language difficulty with English. I seldom understood what he was saying. As you leave the Waikoloa area look to the top of Mauna Kea, the northern of the 2 major volcanoes you will be flying between, and you might see some of the observatory there. (See a later section for this area of the island.) You should be aware that you will not get very close to the live volcanoes or lava at any time as they emit poisonous and/or corrosive gas. Most likely you will refuel in Hilo for the return flight and possibly get a view of the Waipio valley.



ACTIVITIES NOT REQUIRING DRIVING

There is one day a week that the Hilton has a luau at the south part of their property. Ours was included on our first trip hotel price. It was OK, but not anything special. I don't recall the normal price, but do remember thinking that I was glad we didn't have to pay it. Perhaps part of my memory is clouded by us being seated with a family of small children that didn't want to behave. I don't have anything against kids, but I came to see the show and enjoy my meal.



I wish we had taken the opportunity to swim with the dolphins the day we arrived. I had inquired about this prior to arriving and was told that school kids are given the early timeframe to swim. Adults would be later in the day and on a lottery basis. (I believe the price was about $125 each.) We didn't think we'd win the lottery to swim. As it turned out there were no kids scheduled to arrive for the early session, so adults interested could swim after all. Unfortunately, our swimsuits were in our suitcases with the valet somewhere as we were too early to check in. Only one couple ended up swimming with the dolphins. (FYI These are bottlenose dolphins instead of the local spinner dolphins due to the shallow pond used here, or so I was told.)



ACTIVITIES REQUIRING DRIVING

If you have any fondness of coffee, or even if you don't, you should visit a coffee plantation to see how they are grown, dried, and shipped. The name plantation is a loose term. It does not relate to what Americans usually think a plantation is. These are often small acreages with coffee trees on a hillside. Kona (named after the Kona district, not the town) coffee is excellent coffee. It is not cheap. It is somewhat strong, yet without a bitter aftertaste. I just bought some 100% Kona coffee for $28 a pound. A word-to-the-wise Kona blend only has to have 10% Kona bean to be legally called a Kona blend.



A nearby beach is Anaehoomalu Bay (often referred to as A' Bay). This is less than half a mile from the Hilton, but I suggest you drive the short distance. We walked southward along the beach and found a number of sea turtles had come ashore to sun themselves.



If you want to snorkel in a really nice place I suggest you use Captain Zodiac. There should be coupons in the airport booklets. A 4-hour trip to the Captain Cook monument from Honokohau Marina will easily beat the competition's catamaran from the Kona (aka Kailua) dock. The marina is between the airport and town and is easy to find. The zodiac boat we were in is fast and made the 14-mile trip fast enough to allow us to swim about 30 minutes before the other ship arrived. The water is very clear and many varieties of fish will be seen. Bring at least one throwaway underwater camera (with a flash for best photo results).



This same harbor is where you catch the whale watching tour. I forget the tour name, but they guarantee whale sighting or a free repeat trip. Humpback whales are the ones noted for coming partially out of the water, but there are other whales here year round. We were off season so did not hope to find any humpbacks. Our first trip did not produce any whales at all so we rescheduled for the next day (free). This time we found a pod of pilot whales. They circled the boat and did their eye-spot. They are curious to see us too. Look into the airport booklets for discount coupons.



For a different type of a dinner you might want to consider the Captain Bean dinner cruise. This leaves from the Kona dock near dusk and makes large figure eights out in the bay. Food was reasonable, not great, but not bad either. Look into the airport booklets for discount coupons.



Things to do from Waikoloa clockwise around the island:

Heading north on Queen Kaahumanu Highway (route 19) follow the coast to the intersection with route 270 for a nice scenic drive to the northern most tip of the island and then return on route 250 to Waimea.



For an alternate trip take route 19 to Waimea for breakfast as mentioned above. Take a side route to the Waipio valley lookout. Another coupon can be used here to take a wagon ride along a short piece of the valley. NOTE do not attempt to drive the road down into the valley unless you have 4-wheel drive. It is very steep.



Drive along the coast further for several miles. Eventually you will see a turnoff to the right (route 220) to Akaka Falls parking lot. Hike along the easy trail about half a mile or so and you will come to a very high waterfall. There could be mist in the air making the stones wet so walk with reasonable caution.



A little farther down route 19 is a scenic route turnoff to the left, towards the ocean. On this route you will find the botanical gardens. We highly recommend walking the gardens. The trail down is a bit steep, but we saw modified golf carts for the elderly in order for them to enjoy the gardens too. There are many signs that provide names for the plants you see. I knew I would not remember many names so I would take a photo of the sign and then several of the plant itself. Near the bottom you will find an orchid area. Most of these grow in the area, but have been gathered into one area. If you are too tired to walk back out a cart can be arranged to bring you up the trail. We chose to walk out simply because we weren't sure we saw everything on the way down. If it is raining they will provide an umbrella for your walk.



Hilo is nearby. We stopped here for lunch or dinner usually.



Depending on how much time you have left in the day you can go any of 4 ways from Hilo. More than likely you will want to spread the mentioned trips over multiple days.

1) You can go back the way you came as it is a very good road and you can make good time on it.

2) You can take route 200 across the center of the island. The road from Hilo to the turnoff that goes up to the observatory is a good road. The road beyond this point is paved, but bumpy with many ups and downs, twist and turns and generally is not a good road. It is certainly usable, but in need of repair in many places. As we wanted to see the observatory we took it twice. The view from the top is wondrous indeed. BEWARE that the dirt road is VERY steep on the upper section beyond the visitor center. I would guess 10 to 12 % grade is conservative. At night the 4-wheel drive tour vehicles provide heavy down coats for their riders. We drove up to the visitor center the first night wearing shorts and got quite a few stares from a number of people. It was getting chilly, even by our standards. Thank goodness we brought our sweaters, which made it more difficult for the folks around us to see our goose bumps. We returned the next morning and drove to the top and barely made it through the step climb. We couldn't get into any of the buildings, except into a courtesy area to view some astronomy posters. At least it got us out of the high winds. Regardless of not being able to enter, it was an impressive sight to see.

3) If you head south on route 11 and then turn off towards Pahoa onto route 130 you can end up at the black sand beach. During a 20 minute walk to the beach you might notice coconuts sprouting new trees along the path.

4) If you stay on route 11 you will eventually enter Volcanoes National Park. There is much to see here. Most people just want to see the lava flowing so they go down to the coast again. The best time to see the lava is at night. We wanted to do this as a major objective on this trip. We learned some important information from another couple that did this only a couple of nights earlier. They cautioned us to each have a good flashlight. They said they walked in about a mile before dusk. They really enjoyed seeing the lava. Then they had to walk out in the dark with someone sharing their own flashlight to help them along. The trail is not smooth and the lady fell a couple times. They said they weren't prepared. As we weren't either and we were almost out of time we had to give up on a major goal. You have to realize that you can't do everything in such a short time. At least we did get to see the whales.

5) South Point can be reached from either direction when traveling route 11. It is the southern most point in the US. The currents and waves are active here so I would not recommend swimming at all in this area.



You should be able to do items 3 and 4 in one day by driving south on route 19, through Kona going in a counter-clockwise direction. Plan on about 3 hours drive each way to Volcanoes N.P. as the roads are only 1 lane in each direction once south of Kona.

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Robert Mitchell's Response to Robert Mitchell's Review

Written on: 13/07/2007

The last paragraph should read that you can do item #5 and then #4 in one day. Alternately, you might be able to do Items #3 followed by #4. At any rate, you will want the trip to the lava to be at the end of the day. It will still be a long walk/drive back to your hotel in Waikoloa, or Kona if that is where you are staying. I do not remember any notable place to have dinner between Volcanoes Park and Kona and not many gas stations either. Another key issue is how late any restaurant or gas station will stay open. Your best chance for anything being open late will be in the Kona, Waikoloa, or Waimea areas.
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<br/>Just remember that you are on Island Time. That does not necessarily translate into 24/7 as often is the case on the mainland. Respect the people and their culture.
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<br/>One last item as a FYI. Even though brightly colored Hawaiian clothing is sold you would fit into the local scene better if you selected subdued colors. The bright colors are Hollywood's idea of Hawaii.

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