Thursday, July 24, 2014

Best Places for young kids to play on Hawaii Island

The Big Island of Hawaii has some wonderful places for toddlers and young children to play and have fun. The places listed are accessible by stroller with nearby parking and restrooms.

Best Kid-friendly Beaches:
Kamakahonu Beach is in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua-Kona.  It is a white sand beach within a protected bay. 
Kamakahonu Beach in Kailua-Kona
Young children can play in the soft white sand without nearby crashing waves.  Parking is behind the hotel and strollers can be used to transport beach stuff to the sand.  There is no shade, so an umbrella is a good idea. Restrooms and showers are on the pier next to the beach.  The hotel charges for parking.

Kikaua Point at Kukio, south of the Four Seasons Hotel, is a man-made beach with white sand and shaded, grassy areas. 
Protected cove at Kikaua Point
A small cove surrounded by lava rock provides a  protected swimming area for young children.  There are no lifeguards and currents are dangerous beyond the protected cove.  A paved path, perfect for a stroller, leads from the parking lot to the beach.   The beach has restrooms and showers.  Parking is free, but limited and requires a pass from the Kukio gate. 

Best Parks
Liliuokalani Gardens is next to Hilo Bay with some large grassy areas next to huge banyan trees for children to roam and run. 
Grass and trees in Liliuokalani Garden in Hilo
Paved paths through flowers and statues are stroller-friendly. 
Banyan Trees at Liliuokalani Garden in Hilo
Nearby is the bridge to Coconut Island.  Banyan Drive has a great sidewalk for strollers.  Hotels are located along Banyan Drive with cafes and restaurants overlooking Hilo Bay.   At the end of the road is Reed’s Bay which has recently been upgraded with new restrooms.  Reeds Bay is a beach in a protected cove and no waves.  There are parking lots at Liliuokalani Garden and Reed’s Bay.

Harold H Higashihara Park is located on Highway 11 south of Kailua-Kona. The Kamakana playground within the park has a multi-story wooden castle, large playground, and fenced area. Children can explore, climb, swing, and run.  The public park has lots of shade, nearby parking, and restrooms.

Best Museum
The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center is a small museum located at Kona’s airport.  The museum is dedicated to an astronaut from Kona who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.  The displays and videos are aimed at young children with exhibits about space flight and life in space.  Activity tables are set up where children can sit down and become absorbed with the materials provided.  It is a great place to spend a couple hours between activities or while waiting for a flight.  There is a charge for the museum and for parking at the airport. (

Best Zoos
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo is the perfect place to take young children for a stroll or to let them explore.   
Roaming peacocks at Hilo Zoo
The small zoo has paved paths that lead past animal cages in a tropical garden. The exhibits focus on animals, birds, reptiles and insects from the tropics.  The animals are easy for children to see, there are plenty of places to sit, and there is an area with play equipment.  A petting zoo is open on Saturday at 1:30-2:30PM. Parking and entrance are free.  (

The Hilton Waikoloa Village is like a mini-amusement park with sidewalks and covered walkways through the 62 acre resort.   You can stroll your children past waterfalls and cages of exotic wildlife including flamingos, cockatoos, swans, cranes, parrots, and Hawaiian nene.  There is a viewing area of the dolphins next to Dolphin Quest and a white sand beach next to a protected lagoon filled with fish and green turtles.  An air conditioned train runs across the property  (free from 6AM to 12AM) and canal boats float through the resort’s  waterways filled with tropical fish and a four-foot barracuda (free from 2PM to 10PM). 
Canal Boat at Hilton Waikoloa
The Hilton hotel charges for parking

Best Shopping Centers
Queen’s Marketplace at Waikoloa Beach Resort has a large koi pond, fountains, and ponds in a center courtyard area. There is a lot of sidewalk for strollers, shady areas, and a gazebo.  Koi feeding is daily at 9:30AM and 3:30PM. Parking is free (

Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo is the island’s only indoor mall with wide corridors, stores, food court, restaurants (IHop and Zippy’s), and movie theater. 
Hilo indoor mall
The mall has a Toy R Us Express and the older kids may like Game Stop and Tilt (video game parlor). There are often shows and activities at the center court.  The mall is open daily at 10 a.m., though the restaurants open earlier for breakfast. (

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation

Hapuna Beach in South Kohala on Hawaii Island
Seven years ago we came to Hawaii Island to take a year off. We had so much fun that year we never left.  We became full time tourists and explored every part of the island. Since we live on the island, we are often asked for directions and advice on what to see, the best way to get to Volcanoes National Park, the best beaches, where to snorkel, what to see in Kona, and more.  We end up drawing blurry maps on napkins and writing down directions to our favorite sites on the island.

We wrote Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation: A Guide for Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii to provide clear directions to all the fantastic sites around the island that are easily accessible by a regular car.

We started by drawing maps and taking photos of each place -  150 of them. We drove to the sites in a regular car to verify our maps and the directions. We redrew the maps many times so they made sense of what it felt like driving the road. We took photos to help identify the sites from the road, not to be artistic. The photos are in black and white to keep the price of the guide below $10.  We leave photographing Hawaii’s brilliant colors and beauty to you.  

The guide includes a great deal of information about areas barely covered in other guides like the incredible sites in the districts of Kau, Puna and Hilo.

For example, the guide tells you how to get to the actual South Point (the most southern point in the US), not the place tour buses and 99% of people visit thinking is South Point.  The actual South point is a quarter mile walk from the parking area and an incredible sight to see.

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation guide tells you how to get to Kahuku Ranch – a huge new addition to Volcanoes National Park with its own entrance in Kau.  It is not open every day and the gate is hard to find. We show where it is and tell when it is open.  Though remote, it is a fantastic place to visit.

The guide tells you about an amazing open air church above Punaluu Black Sand beach with a spectacular view of the beach and surrounding bay.  Though Punaluu’s Black Sand beach is visited by tens of thousands of tourists every year, most do not even know about the little church and incredible views just a short walk from the beach parking lot.  The church is dedicated to a young man who traveled to America in the 1800’s and became the first Hawaiian Christian. The book tells the incredible story of how this young man from Punaluu changed the course of history in Hawaii.

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation guide covers sites along Puna’s coast like a lava heated hot springs and a haunted ocean park (it really gave us the creeps).

The guide includes all the places Hilo is known for but it also has:
the hidden Happiness Garden; the best fish market; the location of a banyan tree planted by Babe Ruth, and where to look into the Wailuku River to see the fabled rock formation called “Maui’s Canoe”.

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation guide has the historical Hawaiian cowboy and ranch sites in Waimea, but it also has directions to a secret Military base where Marines trained during World War II.

Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation guide includes the location of the State of Hawaii’s only remaining Chinese Society Building in North Kohala where the secret white lotus society plotted the overthrow of the Chinese government.

When we toured Europe, we loved the guides that described the historical events that took place at the sites we visited. We remember a bus tour to a remote grassy field outside of Rome.  It was a boring view of grass and stones until we read about the Appian Way and how it changed the course of history for the Roman Empire. We wanted to create a travel guide for Hawaii Island like those European travel books that told about the people, the history and events that made Hawaii the place it is today. We researched the island’s history from diaries of early travelers and missionaries.  We read biographies and found old newspapers and books about the island.  The guide has historical information in bold lettering interleaved with photographs and site descriptions.

Including the historical stories and legends in the guide makes it an interesting read for visitors as well as armchair travelers. Researching and visiting the sites on the island gave us a deeper appreciation of the people and events that occurred on the island and makes it feel even bigger and more amazing than before.

If you have a Kindle, the guide book is available in two parts, Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation East Side covering Hilo, Puna, Volcanoes National Park, Kau, and the Hamakua Coast and Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation West Side covering North Kona, South Kona, South Kohala resort area, North Kohala, and Waimea.  The Kindle versions have many more pictures than the paperback version and they are in color.

Our hope is that Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation guides provide you a deeper view and appreciation of Hawaii Island and a more fun Hawaii vacation.