Day/night 5 (Sunday): Driving to the Kohala Coast via Hilo, the Hamakua Coast, and Waimea— We stopped to explore Hilo via a self-guided walking tour I found online. Hilo is a bit run down, but it is on a beautiful bay and the tour gave an interesting glimpse into its history. We found a great seafood restaurant with sidewalk tables for lunch. This unplanned meal was possibly our best overall for value and food on the island.
As we drove up the Hamakua Coast we decided to take a diversion to Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park. We loved the wild feeling of the waves crashing onto rocks. Many local families were enjoying the picnic areas in this beautiful park.
After driving across the grassy highlands near Waimea, we descended into the lava fields and views of the ocean as we drove towards the Kohala area of the island, where most of the mega-resorts are located. We have never stayed at a resort like this before, but we hadn’t taken a real vacation since 2019, other than local trips in California, so we decided we could splurge on the Marriott at Waikoloa Beach. Yup, it’s overpriced and kind of bland in décor, but it’s a very short walk across fishponds to a beautiful and swimmable beach (after crossing a few rocks, which was easy during mid to high tide). We will probably never stay at a resort like this again, but it made sense for us on this trip. We were tired and ate at the resort restaurant, which was at least as good as the more highly recommended restaurants in our guidebook and online (see later). While restaurant prices in Hawaii are shocking for some, they weren’t generally much higher than in the SF Bay Area. However, the quality was generally not as good.
Day/night 6 (Monday): Waikoloa Beach and Lapakahi State Historical Park—It quickly became clear during our time there that mornings tended to be sunnier than mid-afternoon, and that chances were good that the sun would come out again, at least partially, in the late afternoon. Since we typically avoid the mid-day sun and don’t like to bake on the beach for hours anyway, we settled into a routine of going to the beach early to swim and read, leaving at noon for lunch and a drive, and returning to the beach from around 4 or 5 pm until the 6:30 sunset. The beach was gorgeous and usually not crowded, as most people tended to hang out at the much more crowded swimming pools. It makes sense to me if you have young children, but otherwise I don’t get it.
Edited to add: We saw sea turtles at the beach that morning. A girl was playing in waist deep water when she called to her family that there were turtles. I waded in to just above my knees and was able to watch them for a few minutes. Then one of the swam up to within about 8 feet of me, so a got a great look.
On this day, we drove north along the Kohala Coast to Lapakahi State Historical Park, the site of partially restored ruins of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. We walked the 1-mile loop trail and enjoyed the sights and more great views of the ocean. After sunset back at the resort’s beach, we walked to the very popular Lava Lava Beach Club for a good (but not great) dinner. But then we knew we weren’t in Hawaii for the food.