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We spent a glorious two weeks on The Big Island, Hawaii last month and it was the most glorious vacation! We loved our time in O’ahu and Maui several years ago (with one less kid) and thought this would be the perfect vacation. I keep telling people it’s the vacation we never knew we needed. It was so nice to get a break from the daily grind. I don’t think Gordon or I even realized the kind of stress we were carrying around until we landed in Kona. I’m so glad we booked the trip for a full two weeks. We didn’t feel like we had to rush to do anything and it truly was as relaxing as could be! I’m going to go over the highlights and our favorite parts, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop them below in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
I created a google map with all the places we went plus all the extra places we wanted to visit. I hope you find this helpful!
Also, we traveled to The Big Island with some family friends who have five kids! We’ve known them for 8+ years and our kids line up in ages with their kids, so it really was a good setup! It felt like more of a vacation for all of us because everyone had a buddy to play with and the parents could tag team date nights. It was wonderful! So if you see a few random kids that don’t look familiar in these photos, that would be them.
Where We Stayed
The question we got the most!! We ended up booking a vacation rental in Mauna Lani, north of Kailua-Kona by about 25 minutes. It was a great location and the house was amazing! And funnily enough, the owner of the home follows me on instagram and messaged me saying “you’re at my house!!” Such a small world. The vacation rental link can be found here. It was a lovely home with a lot of amenities like access to a small gym, several pools within the community, plus a pool in the backyard with hot tub. It was perfect and just what we were looking for.
Black Sand Beach/Punalu’u Beach
We ended up driving to the southern part of the island as a day trip to see the black sand beach in Punalu’u, hoping to see some turtles and this beach did not disappoint! Several sea turtles were on the hot sand which was really fun for the kids to see. You aren’t allowed to get very close to the turtles, so it was cool to view them from afar. We hung out here for at least an hour, exploring.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach
I didn’t visit this beach, thanks to Porter refusing to nap. But our family friends took Brooke and their kids and apparently, it was quite the adventure to visit! You absolutely need a four wheeler/car with four wheel drive to get there or plan to spend a pretty penny for locals to shuttle you to and from the beach. Also, its a steep climb down to the beach, but apparently its worth it.
This was the most recommended beach for us to visit and it certainly was beautiful! Perfect for the littles just wanting to play in the sand and the older kids who wanted to boogie board. Plenty of space at this beach!
Only one or two of you recommended this as a good spot to visit and on our very last day, we went here and man oh man, it may have been my favorite! Crystal clear water, white sand, big waves, amazing boogie boarding! Not the best for little ones because of the bigger waves and seems crowded because its on the smaller side (get there early or after lunch when people are leaving). It was wonderful!
Best Excursions & Experiences
Rainbow Falls- a free and easy stop in Hilo. There are lots of waterfalls on The Big Island, but we didn’t prioritize going to see many because of how many people were in our group. But this was a simple one to visit.
Hawaiian Crown Plantation and Chocolate Factory Tour- in Hilo! We wanted something “educational” while still fun for everyone. We ended up here at the Hawaiian Crown Plantation and it was great for everyone, except Porter who hated being strapped to me in his baby carrier. He screamed a lot. SO FUN. We bought a ridiculous amount of chocolate at the end of the tour which I wasn’t mad about.
Snorkel Cruise- we took a 3 hour afternoon snorkel cruise with a company called Ocean Encounters and besides Blake and Eddie refusing to get in the water, it was great! Ha! I stayed on the boat for 2 hours and 45 minutes of this tour with all three of my boys while everyone else snorkeled. We saw dolphins, lots of fish and one of the guides even caught an octopus so the kids could pet it and see it up close! That was a highlight for sure.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour- this was a bucket list thing that Gordon and I did. A little pricey, but I’m so glad we did this. It was incredible. We did the longest tour they offered and toured the entire island. The landscape is so beautiful. All the pictures I took don’t do it justice. I would highly highly recommend this! We booked at the last minute and would suggest booking sooner rather than later.
Puako Petroglyph Park- this was a free little hike and was certainly interesting. The terrain wasn’t necessarily easy, but it wasn’t hard either. Lots of turns, ups, downs, random tree branches and roots. If I were to do this again, I’m not sure I’d bring the little ones. But Brooke and Blake were fine along the trail, despite their complaints.
Kona Farmer’s Market- there were several farmers markets I wanted to visit, but we only ended up at this one, which ended up being a pretty great stop. Inexpensive produce and fun little knick knacks. Our kids got their souvenirs here.
Scandinavian Shave Ice- the irony that we got scandinavian shave ice in hawaii, but I figured they all are basically the same?! Who knows, but it sure was good! Probably takes a lot for this to be terrible, though.
GetSum’ Pizza- We ordered the Bad Mutha’ and it was LOADED with every topping they have! Be sure you have plates, forks and knives!
Brown’s Beach House- this is a restaurant in the Fairmont Orchid, just down the road from where our vacation rental was. This meal was phenomenal. I knew it would be good, but everything everyone ordered was fantastic. If it wasn’t so expensive, we would have eaten here three more times, at least.
Punalu’u Bake Shop- the malasadas here are so so good! The Lilikoi (passionfruit) was phenomenal. Brooke and I both agreed that it was the best thing we ate our entire vacation. The other ones were good too, but if you’re going to go here, for sure try the lilikoi! It’s sweet and tart and everything you want in a malasada.
Island Ono Loa Grill-while we came here mainly for burgers, I would come back again and only order the onion rings! They were so.freaking.good!!
Meridia- this was another nicer (more expensive) restaurant within the Westin at Hapuna Beach. Our wait time for food was longer than we wanted, but I got some pretty stellar short ribs and mashed potatoes that I wasn’t mad about.
Other Random Items
I’ve gotten quite a few questions that I’ll do my best to answer here, mainly about our swimsuits and clothes.
Porter’s one piece rash guard swimsuit (the exact same suit in blue and yellow) is from Hanna Andersson. I love these swimsuits because they have UV protection built right into them, so he is unlikely to burn. While these exact suits aren’t available anymore, I linked to extremely similar ones here.
I got our family matching swimsuits and never took pictures of all of us in our matching swimsuits. #fail But, I wanted to make sure I link to them because there are plenty of photos of us in our swimsuits that you all are asking me about! This one is a great one-piece swimsuit I wore from Land’s End which was way more comfortable than I ever thought. Brooke and I both got the same swimsuit. (I’d suggest sizing up to make sure it’s a comfortable fit.) I got my middle boys these matching swim trunks with matching rash guards. I am a big fan of covering up my kids as much as possible. Gordon and I burn easily and so do our kids. Brooke did not take the cover up approach and learned to love sunburns. Ha! Gordon’s swim trunks are here with matching rash guard here. I got all the swimsuits 50% off back in February, and currently, there is a 40% off sale. Not sure if everything is on sale, but I thought they were absolutely quality for the price.
The white and light blue striped swimsuit is also extremely comfortable from Albion Fit. I wore it on the snorkel cruise and it was just the kind of suit I needed for what was required of my body. Chasing kids on a boat and snorkeling. It’s several years old, but here is a similar one. Albion Fit also has extremely high quality swimsuits.