After squeezing every bit of “aloha” we could out of Maui, it was time for us to head to our second island of the trip, Hawaii, aka the Big Island.
A quick 20-minute flight from Maui deposited us on the Big Island, which is sort of like being deposited on Mars. The sandy beaches, swaying sea grasses and palm trees we’d become accustomed to on Maui were replaced with rough black cooled lava – as far as the eye can see. It was roughly 30 minutes to our hotel in Waikoloa by rental car before the landscape changed back.
For this segment of the trip, we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid, which is a fairly traditional upscale Hawaiian resort. Using a free upgrade certificate I’d gotten by asking for a status match, we managed to get a lovely partial ocean-view room with a balcony in the tower closest to their private beach area, yet paid only about a third of the standard room price.
Another great thing about the Fairmont is that by joining the Fairmont’s Presidents Club (which is free) you get a lot of added perks. We received 10% off a fantastic couples massage at the spa, $10 off our beach cabana rental, upgraded internet, priority checkin, and free bicycle rentals just for filling out the quick online form.
The bicycles were especially useful, as we used them a couple times to ride the quick mile path down to the Shops at Waikaloa where you can find a tasty little vegetarian cafe called Under the Bodhi Tree which had some of the best coffee we encountered during the entire trip. The grocery store there was also a winner and had a poke bar with the best poke of our vacation.
Our final evening on Hawaii, we went up – up – up into the clouds, to the top of Mauna Kea, one of the two twin peaks that make up the Big Island. Here we watched the sunset from 9k feet, and then participated in one of the Stargazing parties at the Observatory. Just remember: the higher you go, the colder it gets, and while we’d brought jeans and fleeces just for this occasion, we were still shivering as we tried to observe the heavens. The observatory does star parties nightly, after sunset.
Our three short nights on the Big Island flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for our flight to Oahu. Stay tuned for the final edition – aka “how to rock a 10 hour layover in Honolulu”.