This post will kickstart a series that I will call ‘Few of my Favorite Things,’ highlighting the parts of my travel experiences that I find to be representative of my time in that specific locale: a restaurant, an experience, and a place. Stay tuned for more posts like this one!
In August 2016, I visited the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii. It was my first time ever going to the Hawaiian islands, and it most definitely will not be my last!
After driving around the island in our rental car, I think it is safe to say that I saw a lot of what the Big Island has to offer. I was enamored. Hawai’i hosts an incredibly diverse amount of climate zones– it would be a sunny and beautiful morning in Keauhou Bay, and then rainy and hazy as we made our way into Hilo in the afternoon. Unpredictable? Yes. Inconvenient? Never! The weather kept us on the tips of our toes and made us appreciate our experiences even more!
I miss Hawai’i so much already, and it’s only been three months. The Big Island has so much to offer in terms of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and exciting excursions, that it was hard for me to narrow it down to just a few recommendations. While my family and I were staying at a resort in Keauhou Bay, we spent a lot of our time in and around the city just slightly north: Kona, Hawaii. Read on for just a few of my favorite things, Kona edition!
Restaurant: Kona Pub and Brewery
Kona Pub and Brewery is the first full-service restaurant offering from Kona Brewing Company, a local Hawaiian beer label.
While the small craft brewery is no longer small (being distributed by Anheuser-Busch, the owner of Budweiser, will kind of do that to you!), the restaurant hasn’t lost any of its island charm.
The atmosphere was fun, with oil lanterns, palm trees, and surfboards decorating the outdoor seating area. It truly felt like we were sitting in a laid-back, tropical paradise! To top it all off, the beer tasting was delicious and the service was impeccable.
If you come to the brewery and don’t drink, don’t worry! Kona Brew Co. has a great selection of pizzas and other dishes that will keep you satisfied. However, if you’re keen on tasting some beers, take the sampler route— I asked for a sampler of brews and explained to my server that I wasn’t a huge fan of heavy beers, or beers that leave an aftertaste on the tongue. He recommended a few, and each brew I tried was very enjoyable!
My personal favorite was the Big Wave Golden Ale, which is available to buy in the craft brews section of many grocery chains stateside. A close second was Longboard Island Lager, which is also available in your local grocery store!
Experience: Anelakai Adventures
There is one thing you need to know before you embark on this outrigger canoe adventure— manta rays are not dangerous. They don’t have a stinger on their tail end, and they don’t have a barbed tail. In fact, you’re more dangerous to them if you touch them! Manta Rays are covered in a slimy substance that protects them against bacteria, which human skin may introduce upon contact.
Marine biology lesson aside, this outrigger canoe excursion brings you up close and personal with the nocturnal creatures as they feed on plankton attracted to lights. You’ll row out from Keauhou Bay, lower a large light into the water, and then float next to them in the water, watching through a snorkel mask as the manta rays do flips underwater feeding on plankton.
The entire crew were kind and joking with us the entire time. They walked us through rowing, securing our snorkel and floating equipment, and entering into the water in a way that wouldn’t scare or harm the manta rays. It was obvious that they were passionate about their jobs and wanted to share information about these incredible creatures with us. They definitely made this nighttime adventure less intimidating for all of us!
The website lists its pricing as $99 per person, but Iko (the owner of the company) worked with us to find a more manageable price since we had such a large group. If you have a flexible budget and don’t mind an excursion more on the pricy side, then I must recommend Anelakai Adventures for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Place: Manini’owali Beach
Manini’owali Beach is a decent-sized, isolated little cove hidden by highway 19. Take Kua Bay Access Road (located between mile markers 88 and 89) and follow it to the very end, where it widens into a parking lot. From there, just keep on walking to the end of the paved path!
The first thing you really need to know about this beach is that there’s minimal shade. My family and I rented beach umbrellas from our hotel, so we didn’t find this to be an issue. But if you’re prone to burning in the sun, definitely slather on the sunscreen!
Although this is a popular snorkeling destination, the water was choppy on the day that we decided to visit Manini’owali Beach, so we weren’t able to snorkel near the rocky coast. Despite the fact that the water was pretty clear, we also didn’t see many fish or turtles in the water (probably due to the water conditions.)
Overall, the beach was a great mix of lava rock and smooth, soft sand. It had the volcanic appearance of much of the island and was a nice place to relax after stuffing our faces with great food!
What were your favorite spots on the Big Island?
For an interactive Google Map of these awesome spots, click here.