The Big Island – Socially Distanced Approved Adventures
One of the most tropical destinations and largest island to visit within the United States is the Island of Hawai’i. Its diverse terrain includes a lush rainforest, two active Volcanoes, colored-sand beaches and plenty of popular snorkeling spots. Luckily for us, the Island of Hawaii is about a five hour flight from LAX to KOA.
AdventurPro Tip: Although there are many great airlines one can fly, we always recommend flying Hawaiian Airlines due to its authentic feel and friendly customer service. The layout of our airplane also had 2-4-2 seating arrangements which allowed parties of two to travel separate from the other passengers.
Imagine having a window seat view of turquoise waves crashing into miles of Volcanic landscape as you fly into paradise. The Big Island, also known as Kona, quickly became our favorite Hawaiian Island because of all the activities there are to do above and below the surface. In this article we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite adventures we recently experienced during our visit including night snorkeling and night diving with Manta Ray, a casual swim with a Waikoloa Dolphin, a day trip up to Hilo, a variety of luxury dining recommendations, a couple hidden beach locations and an aerial Volcano adventure from above with Paradise Helicopters. In the words of your neighborhood friendly locals, Aloha and E Komo Mai!
Hawaii’s weather is warm all year round with daytime high temperatures ranging from 78 Fahrenheit in the “colder” months to 88 Fahrenheit in the “hotter” months. Due to its proximity to the equator, the weather is tropical and consistent throughout the year. Did we mention that flowers are always in bloom? That being said, the best time to visit Hawaii is between March and September. During this time the Islands will see the highest temperatures and lowest amount of rain. We decided to take our trip at the beginning of April 2021 which happens to be Ashley’s Birthday, perfect time to celebrate and take full advantage of the weather. One thing to note before we get into our amazing experience is the current travel restrictions and requirements needed to visit these Islands of Paradise.
Current Travel Restrictions in Hawaii for late 2021 and early 2022: updated August 30, 2021. Hawaii has a 10-day Trans-Pacific Quarantine for all the major Hawaiian Islands in effect until further notice stating that all travelers who are not currently vaccinated within the USA must Quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. In addition, pre-travel testing may be implemented in the near future once again for all travelers (including vaccinated travelers) due to the surge caused by the Delta variant. Also, visitors must complete the State of Hawai’i’s Safe Travels Hawaii program application form, upload a negative COVID-19 test result or vaccination record document (if applicable) and obtain a QR code PRIOR TO departure which will significantly reduce your airport screening and processing time at arrival.
Now that formalities are out of the way, let’s get back to our recent visit. Upon arrival at the Kona International Airport, we instantly noticed The Big Island’s diversity of volcanic rock and lush foliage. We booked a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village which is about a 25 minute drive from the airport and easily accessible by rideshare programs such as Uber or Lyft. This property would be our home for the next seven days and we were excited to explore this beautiful Island. The hotel staff was very friendly and the grounds were HUGE! The entire resort spanned 62 acres and felt more like a luxury theme park hotel.
Face masks were required to be worn at all times throughout the property for employees and guests. The best towers to stay at are the Palace and Lagoon towers. The Lagoon tower neighbors the Hotel’s Lagoon, Dolphin Quest, and the Kona pool. The Palace tower is centrally located and very quiet for guests looking for a relaxing experience. We opted to stay at the Palace tower because it was close enough to the black sand beach on property, however, far enough away from the crowds. There are three trams located at the Hilton Waikoloa Village called Kainoa, Hopoe, and Paoa. Each tram is air-conditioned and Swiss-made. The main lobby where guests check in has a central tram pick up point that crosses paths every twenty minutes or so. After check in we grabbed our backpacks and boarded the Kainoa tram to our room at the Palace tower!
The entrance to the Palace tower is grand and luxurious. On the front side there is a perfect view of the ocean and an instagrammable arch location. As you enter the tower walls there are decorative artifacts and international statues & art. Our room was located on the fourth floor with an ocean view balcony. The room was spacious with regular amenities and our luggage had already arrived. We decided to watch the sunset over dinner and get ready for an exciting excursion we had been wanting to do for quite some time!
Welcome to Sea Quest Hawaii which is the best place (in our opinion) to experience the night Manta Ray snorkel. This happens to be one of the top activities to do in Kona, and we had been dreaming of it ever since we watched a YouTube video. The tour guides provided 3ML shorty wetsuits and snorkel attire for our activity. After a brief introduction and orientation we were escorted to a small boat and taken to the ultimate snorkel spot! It was only minutes later we had arrived and were ready to jump in. A large waterproof fluorescent light was floating in the water where we would be jumping and within seconds everyone except the captain was off the boat. The instructions were simple, each of us was to hold onto one of the handles on the sides and gently swim with the guide a few meters to the location.
Each watercraft is designed to limit the number of passengers and space out each guest due to COVID-19. Even though it was ten o’clock at night the water temperature was rather warm at about 78 Fahrenheit. Another thing to note is there are other tour boats in the area with additional small groups looking for the same thing, Manta Ray! A few minutes later our guide told us to look into the water and watch the show. This was the moment we had been waiting for and without hesitation we turned on our GoPro’s and looked at the magnificent creatures beneath. There were so many Manta Ray at our exact location we lost count! Each one was gliding beneath us while performing what the guide called, “ballet.” Over the next hour we watched in amazement as these gentle giants danced their way into our hearts. This excursion was definitely our favorite while visiting the Island and we recommend it for all ages who love marine life. If you are looking for an up close personal experience with Manta Ray then this tour is for you!
The next morning we were still coming off Cloud 9 as we went to breakfast and explored the Hilton Waikoloa property. In the middle of the resort is a four-acre ocean fed lagoon complete with salt water and white sand beaches. Did we also mention the protected lagoon has a variety of tropical fish and rare green sea turtles swimming about? The lagoon truly is a paradise within a paradise. Lagoon activities that guests are able to do include pedal boats, paddle boards, kayaks and snorkeling gear which can be found at the beach shack. If you are traveling with a large group or family the cabanas also are a great choice to enjoy a day at the Hilton Lagoon. We spent the afternoon snorkeling and found parrot fish, angel fish, one sea turtle, and a moray eel. The lagoon is perfectly situated in the center of the resort, and great for all ages. Once we had our tans and enough salt water play we headed to our room to get ready for the best show on the Island!
Welcome to the Legends of Hawaii Luau “Our Big Island Story” located at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort! Ok so maybe this may have been another major reason why we chose to book here but nevertheless, we were still very excited to attend. The Luau began at seven O’clock and we had been upgraded to the Ali’i VIP table seating right by the stage! Immediately we noticed the colorful Hawaiian themed decor and sunset backdrop. This Luau is the most famous on the Island mainly for the award winning fire dancing finale. Like every traditional Luau we experienced a welcome musical show with Hawaiian drums and Hula dancers, a roasted pig displayed for all the guests to see before dinner, a buffet with authentic Island cuisine, and a friendly host. As the evening progressed we witnessed a Hawaiian story unfold about the Legends of Hawaii complete with an award winning torched fire dancer. The food was delicious and the drinks were tropical. At one point the crown gets to interact with the host while singing and learning how to Hula!
Our third day started off with an onsite activity where we were able to meet, interact and swim with the resident Dolphins! Dolphin Quest Hawaii is owned and operated by marine mammal veterinarians and conveniently located inside the Hilton Waikoloa Village grounds. Since COVID-19 the Dolphin interactive programs have been modified with enhanced safety measures and designed for a small number of participants to support social distancing. Face coverings were to be worn by Dolphin Quest Crew and guests except during in-water activities. Note that hand sanitizing is required before interacting with the Dolphins. Every Dolphin interaction takes place outside and is designed for a small number of participants. (no more than 6 people in a group) Our experience was nothing short of amazing and we recommend it to all ages. We met and interacted with Dolphins up-close and learned all the ways we can protect them in the wild where they need our help now more than ever. These gentle mammals are well-loved and well-cared for, and their programs support wild Dolphin conservation. Dolphin Quest has contributed over $5 million in support for marine mammal conservation, education, and scientific study to help protect wild Dolphins and Whales. This establishment is also Humane Certified by American Humane and accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums. After countless splashes, an underwater swim, and a few photo ops we waved goodbye to our new found friends.
On our fourth and fifth day we decided to rent a black convertible Mustang and head up the coast to the north side of Hilo. Due to the lack of rental cars on the Island, we found that if you rent a car up towards the North Shore you can actually find inventory for a great price! The Fairmont Orchid is located about 15 minutes away and has a Hertz car rental on property with a great selection of Island type vehicles. The drive to Hilo from Waikoloa was about an hour and a half. During this drive we experienced a mix of sunshine, clouds and heavy rain in certain areas. Hilo is a town on Hawaii that is known for Wailuku River State Park, a personal favorite called Rainbow Falls, the bubbling basalt-lava rock pools known as the Boiling Pots, and Volcanoes National Park. This particular day was special because we had scheduled a helicopter ride over Volcanoes National Park with guaranteed viewing of the active Volcano called Kilauea.
Welcome to Paradise Helicopters which has been locally owned and operated since 1997. They provide an authentic piece of Hawaii’s culture and Aloha spirit that makes the islands unique. After a brief video and introduction we were escorted to our helicopter along with four other guests including ourselves. The boarding was quick and within minutes we were up in the air. During the flight we witnessed incredible waterfalls and lush rainforest throughout our journey. At the middle point of our tour we had flown right over Kilauea which is the world’s most active and unpredictable volcano. In all honesty, we loved the volcano and this heli tour was good, however, when compared to the Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour in Maui this unfortunately takes second best. Overall, our pilot was courteous and we felt safe due to the current restrictions and limited availability regarding COVID-19. We would recommend this excursion for someone who has never flown in a Helicopter above any Hawaiian Island to eliminate the possibility of comparison. It is now time for our top recommendation when visiting The Big Island of Hawaii!
Welcome to Kona Ocean Adventure! It was with this awesome company that we had that “wow” experience during an unforgettable Night Scuba Dive with Manta Ray. This one of a kind activity requires their guests to be Open Water certified and is perhaps the best place on earth to witness an experience like this. Listed as one of the top ten dive sites in the world according to National Geographic, Kona Ocean Adventures transports their guests to an underwater world of giant Manta Ray called the “Campfire.” Our excursion started around 7 pm with all the guests dressing up in 3ML wetsuits and climbing aboard the designated boat. Their tour takes everyone to an area where Manta Rays gather to feed in the evening on plankton that is attracted by fluorescent waterproof lights provided on the tour. Picture jumping into the ocean at night with only an underwater flashlight in hand, and a single file line of scuba divers leading you to an area in the dark full of bright lights. The Campfire is a large group of scuba divers from all different tours sitting around in a circle 60ft beneath the surface watching countless Manta Ray dancing everywhere around them. We felt transported to another world as these giant oceanic rays performed ballet in the most exotic way across currents of the ocean. Our recommendation would be to book the sunset Manta dive. The sun sets on the horizon as you slip into the ocean glow before entering the water. This allows for guests to be comfortable with the evening transition from daylight.
As tourism begins to climb and people start to travel we feel it’s beneficial to share our experience with the world about each place we visit. We felt our first trip to the Big Island was a complete success, and we look forward to our future travels to the Hawaiian Islands again soon. Thank you to all who continue to read our articles and support our social channels. Stay safe, stay healthy, and above all stay positive! Aloha! 🤙🏻🌺