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Hilo or Kona?

Burleigh Heads...
Level Contributor
34 posts
Hilo or Kona?

We (4 couples) are travelling to Hawaii in September for a friends 50th birthday and spending 8 nights in Waikiki. We would also like to spend 4 nights on the Big Island. Our question is should we stay in or near Hilo or Kona? We want to see the Volcano, Thurston Lava Tube, Hilo Waterfall, Jaggar Museum, Black Sand Beach. I am sure there are probably other great places we should see also.



Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,663 posts
312 reviews
1. Re: Hilo or Kona?

Well, that's Hilo side. You might prefer staying up in Volcano VIllage to be nearer the park, in a B&B or Kilauea Lodge, rather than in Hilo iteself. But be aware if you want to do a lot of snorkeling, visit several beaches, see Place of Refuge, etc. those are Kona side. So to do both would mean fly into one airport (KOA or Hilo) stay a couple of nights, then go to the other side for a couple of nights. A bit of moving around but feasible--you'd need to weigh the advantages/disadvantages based on your own preferences.

Edited: 19 May 2011, 10:20
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
540 posts
11 reviews
2. Re: Hilo or Kona?

How about four nights in Waikiki and eight on the BI, then you could cover both sides of the island without having to choose.

Level Contributor
41,165 posts
4 reviews
3. Re: Hilo or Kona?

Thurston Lava Tube and Jaggar are at the Volcano, so that's one stop. Black Sand Beach (Punalu'u) is maybe 40 minutes away, so no need to change lodgings. The better waterfall is 30 minutes north of Hilo, or about 75 minutes from Volcano. The whole range is within two hours, and Volcano would be a fine place to stay.

This is 2-3 days of sightseeing.

Keep in mind that the Lava tube is a tourist trap frequented by busloads of people, and not too exciting, and Jaggar museum is a small thing worth about 30 minutes. The overlook after dark can be very good depending on activity of the vent and the weather.

The black sand beach is good for maybe half hour of entertainment. It is hot, windy, and not swimmable.

The VNP itself has a lot to offer you.

I think the west side is pretty great, but you should stay on the east side to accomplish the goals you named.

I would do 5 Waikiki, 2-3 Volcano, and 4-5 South Kohala -- unless you don't like beautiful and less crowded beaches and ocean.

Portland, OR
Level Contributor
1,886 posts
37 reviews
4. Re: Hilo or Kona?

+1 to what KK said.

Level Contributor
23,014 posts
5. Re: Hilo or Kona?

I agree with CMD. Big Island requires more than a full week!. I'd save it for another trip. You could split the Oahu stay between Waikiki and Turtle Bay, or you could 'see' little Kauai in less than a week.

Kansas City...
Level Contributor
2,942 posts
63 reviews
6. Re: Hilo or Kona?

Agree with the one who suggested 8 days in Waikiki is too much compared to 4 on the big island.

TBH, 2 days on Waikiki is too much for me. My least favorite part of Hawaii.

Level Contributor
1,447 posts
14 reviews
7. Re: Hilo or Kona?

If you are set on the time frame, I'd do Hilo, based on the info you gave. You can see the volcano, and the gardens on that side. There is also a zoo that's interesting. The Kona side is better for beaches.

Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
3,065 posts
40 reviews
8. Re: Hilo or Kona?

The southeast end can easily fill up 4 days of sight seeing but don't expect any really great beaches on that side of the island. Allow 1 full day at Volcano National Park (maybe as far west as Black Sand Beach), 1 full day doing a scenic loop of lower Puna, 1 full day doing a Hamakua Coast tour starting at Hawaiin Tropical Botanical Gardens for a couple of hours, What's Shakin for fresh fruit smoothie, Honomu town and Akaka Falls, maybe a side trip to Kalopa State Park nature loop and as far north as Honokaa town and Waipio Valley overlook. then 4th day just chill in Hilo town and small scenic tour of zoo/Rainbow Falls/Japanese Gardens. Hilo would be a good place fly into and stay at maybe the Shipman House for best accomodation or Dolphin Bay Hotel for budget accomodation. Here's a good drive guide to help you sort it out.


Palm Springs...
Level Contributor
11,494 posts
127 reviews
9. Re: Hilo or Kona?

for what you want to do Volcano Village is the ideal location as it will be a 2 hour daily rt drive to the Park..

Hilo is also not set up as a toursit destination, it an old few blocks of 1900 down town and ther rest a collection of Malls, warehouses, car dealers, govt buildings and tank farms. 80% in industrial as it is the second largest city in the state. Beaches and recreation are almost non existant.

The locals like it that way and keep it

Volcano village way more set up for the visitor with outstanding lodging and meals... Kiluea Lodge the best.

The NPS has wonderful daily ranger walks and talks to take all free, If you like Thurston take at 1:30 the "Above and below" walk, 2 hours which includes a forest walk and a tour of both sides of Thurston with a Ranger natiralist who provides lights.

There are alos other Lava tubes that offer tours Kiluea Caverns in curtistown and Huli Kai Cave in Ocean View.. both wild and trail tours by reservation

It is not a cute little tranquil port in the backwash of time......

Burr Ridge, Illinois
Level Contributor
4,306 posts
102 reviews
10. Re: Hilo or Kona?

Kona side if you want resorts and touristic feel. Hilo side if you want to feel like a traveler.

If you are looking for mid range hotel then Hilo is fine and a stay at the Castle HH is going to please.

If you prefer upscale and a unique experience then I suggest Village Volcano Lodge, that is if you can get a reservation for your entire group.

While some say 8 days is too much in Honolulu, my family and I love all the activity in Honolulu and Oahu. One size of travel doesn't fit everyone.

Hope you have a fantastic trip!