Hawaii – Kona @ Big Island

And so…after a long flight on Japan Airlines (which was awesome by the way! If you never flew with JAL, book one right now, just to enjoy the service ?) we finally arrived at Kona in the Big Island. We were super excited as the Hawaii have always been a dream for us to visit sooner or later.

Before arriving we explored some options such as renting a Harley Davidson 🙂 as we were in the US, what better way to get around? Anto managed to contact a shop that rents them and they would arranged our pick up at the airport so that we could have gone straight to their shop and got on our bike! (Harley rental) But the cost was a bit too steep for us, and instead we decided to hitch a ride to town and see if we could find a motorcycle later on in town. We walk away from the airport and the road leads straight onto a highway…it was magical how the very moment I stick my thumb out a super chilled dude pulls over and takes us into his pick up van! Our adventure in Hawaii had started perfectly!

The guy was going just short of Kona’s main area, which was however only a 10 minutes walk from where he told us he would drop us. We were super happy and a 10 minutes walk was nothing.

This was the first time for Olla in the US and the places Anto visited before were different, more city-like, but he knew that usually things are bigger in the states. Olla realized that straight away when we passed near this pickups dealership! OMG, the bonnet of this car is as tall as Olla! Crazy stuff!

A car as tall as Olla…

The pancakes are also not a joke in terms of size! Look below a “short” stack of pancakes at a local typical eatery in Hawaii.

American size
American size

After arriving at our hostel, we head straight into town to explore a bit and we quickly settle for this awesome poke local style restaurant which served us some amazing food. If you are into raw fish and typical Hawaiian poke bowls, make sure to get your fix here (this is the google maps link: (maps) when in Kona and if you are vegetarian like Anto, don’t worry as you will get your vege poke here too!

The town is not very big and during our first day we walked around a fair bit, but missed to find a decent ice-cream parkour! We decided that one day we would need to open one here and retire whilst making authentic Italian gelato. It seems that around here shaved ice is more popular and the gelato we found was just mediocre (don’t recall the name, but if you do know of some good gelato parlor in Kona, feel free to point it out in the comment section below!).

We were also very lucky to bump into this festival and managed to get a sneak peak into this Tahitian dancing competition, which was awesome! FYI, this was a dancing competition organized by Heiva I Hawaii.

We were super happy here in Kona, the town is small enough for us to get around on foot almost everywhere, people are friendly and the weather was glorious. We were excited about the days to come for some hiking in the volcano national park, the unique green beach, snorkeling and seeing tropical fish in the warm waters, perhaps scuba diving, surfing or just chilling at the beach.

Our original and usual thought of renting a motorcycle did not fade away and we went ahead. We found this super friendly store owner here (motorcycle rental). We wanted to settle with something relatively cheap and easy, but instead we went ahead and rented a CBR250! Boy the bike was awesome! Well maintained, sounded aggressive, fast and relatively comfortable. We would have been happy with a 150cc large scooter, but they did not have any available at the time we visited them. Also other shops had the same issue, which is obviously the most popular pick around here for bikers. Our recommendation though is for folks to be very careful when deciding to rent a motorbike in the Hawaii. With the hindsight we would probably rent a car next time considering we wanted to visit places that were far away from our base and that to reach we had to go via routes near the snow-peaked volcanos…the chances of experiencing 4 seasons in Hawaii are REAL and we went through them on a motorbike 🙂

Another word of advise is regarding public transport. This practically does not exist at Big Island for tourists. The only bus that goes around the island has limited timings and it is mainly a commuter bus for the locals. Best to stick to renting a vehicle to achieve freedom in this really huge island. To help you plan make sure you also check out the following two websites:

Love Big Island

Go Hawaii


Hawaii – which island to pick?

We had to pick an island…

It wasn’t very hard, but surely there was a lot to read about and there was some picking to be done.

At first the idea was hiking and nothing but hiking! Perhaps this was a bit limiting, but somehow this was the initial feeling and we were looking forward to the opportunity to get lost in the lush nature of the islands or as it happened, in the lava fields ?

When you search online for “hiking in the Hawaii”, one of the options that comes up (if not the first one, probably the second one depending on your search engine) is Stairways to Heaven near Honolulu.

Who’s hasn’t heard of Honolulu! I personally learned of this place when I was a kid watching the sword in the stone cartoon 🙂 in the Italian version of the show Merlin goes to Honolulu, but in the English version he goes to Bermuda…anyways, I guess that going there sounded like the best pick. But then, what about Maui? The Maui surf sounded a good option too, but how to do both when you find out that the places are so far apart that you need to fly to do island hopping? A bit more research and by word of mouth, we found out about The Big Island.

The Big Island or the island of “Hawaii” is, as the name suggests, the biggest of the Hawaii’s archipelago. We were amazed at the fact this place allows visitors to enjoy four seasons in one day (if one wishes to do so)! I mean, you can go skiing in the morning on top of a tropical volcano and hit the waves for some surf in the warm waters past noon… That’s incredible!

We were not planning to go skiing, in fact we barely had enough summer clothes with us, but we were definitely fascinated by the biology of the place. The island is actually existing because 5 nearby volcanos rise up from the sea and this too provided much excitement as to places to visit.*

Another thing that amazed us was that the island is basically constantly changing and evolving along with the volcano’s activity, generating more land as the lava flows to the shores of the island! We find this very fascinating knowing that some of the places we were walking on did not even exist a few years ago and that the path we may have walk through our hikes would probably be gone now under a few meters of thick lava flow.

As most visitors do, you’d probably arrive at Kona. The other airport on the island is located near Hilo on the opposite side of Kona. Our suggestion would be to be based in Kona as there is easy access to most places and amenities. Hilo is a rather small town on the wet side of the island as it is adjacent to the rainforest, it is however only 30 miles from the Volcano National Park and the lava flows into the ocean.

Another important suggestion would be the one to pick up a car instead of a motorcycle…we were intrigued by the possibility to rent a Harley Davidson which we did not do simply because it was outside our budget. We still went ahead and rented a different bike. With the hindsight though we would not rent a motorcycle again, even though we always think it is the best way to get around. We got smashed by the weather and we will share more in our next posts. The island is really really big and the rain and the cold and the distance does not make it easy to go around with a CBR250!

Hawaii motorcycle adventure
This is the baby we rented in Hawaii…not the one wearing yoga pants though 🙂

I just would like to change a perspective. People see on the news on tv or online about the volcano eruptions on Big Island and the impression they get is that the island is on fire. Yes, of course the areas impacted by the lava flows are of no access, even to those that live there and probably they are now struggling with evacuations and they may lose their home! But the island is huge! The closed areas are of relatively small size to what a tourist is interested in and there are tons of things to do and see and experience that would be so far away from the volcano that you won’t even notice it is happening.

Big Island is a magical place…even though Kona lacked a decent gelato parlor (?), we will definitely go back there, hopefully sooner rather than later!

Possible things to do (that we did):

  • Visit the green beach and go swimming.
    • Walk along the coast line for what is a short and beautiful hike near the ocean.
  • Go hiking near Mauna Kea volcano.
    • The drive from Kona to the Mauna Kea park is stunning. You will get amazing views of most volcanos on the island, plus Maui in the distance. Be prepared as it could be a bit chilly.
  • Surf or go snorkeling along Alii drive
    • Pick a spot you like along the coast road and enjoy the surf. You will find decent facilities, and few food options in most spots. Don’t forget your mask for some really nice snorkeling right off the coast.
  • Visit the Volcano National Park.
    • Due to the seismic activity and ongoing eruption of the volcano (at the time of writing), certain areas of the national park may be closed. Find out about the local conditions here: Hawaii volcano national park website
    • The site also has very detailed hiking trail information that are a very good source of information to plan your days. Be very aware that the distances in this island are substantial. You may lose the whole morning if you try to make your way to the park from Kona.

*Sadly volcano Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on hearth expressed his force with a major eruption that is still ongoing since early May 2018. The volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983 and the last major eruption seen by the island’s residents was in 2014.

Our stories are a representation of what we witnessed prior to this event and our memories are still impacted by the beauty and unique characteristics of the place. At the same time though we are reminded of how small and precarious our existence can be and we should be grateful for each moment we are allowed to bestow nature and all that we are given in this world.

Our minds however are with those that are now facing difficulties hoping that the people we met in our journey there were not affected too much and that the situation will soonest return to normal.

If you want to take action, find out more and donate to those that have lost their home, you can do so by following this link: Hawaii evacuation fundraising