Hawaiian Islands Vacation – Part I – Big Island, Kona

Only two months into our relationship my girlfriend and I decided to plan our first vacation. She had a week worth of vacation days she could square away so it needed to be a short flight. The two of us had never been to Hawaii and a few of my bucket list items were waiting for me there so we we made the decision to book our flights 2 months out (insurance included in case we decided we hated each other before the trip) and started planning our itinerary. Our flight left San Jose Wed, Mar 04, 2015. 8 Days total.

I love scuba diving and urged her to get certified, now this is why I love this girl, she comes over a week later and tells me she’s scheduled to get certified in a few weeks. She pushed around her work schedule to free up some weekend time and purchased all the required material to make it happen. She finished up her certification in Monterrey only a few weeks before the trip. Not only that, she ran out and purchased a comfy 3 person ultralight tent (Big Agnes Angel Springs UL3) to free up some leg room and allow us to fit our packs in the tent while we backpacked Kauai’s Na Pali Coast (bucket list item for me).

We made plans to visit Kona on the Big Island specifically to dive dive and dive some more. We booked 4 nights at the Pineapple Park Hostel south of Kona ($40 for a private room) and scheduled our dives of 2 day, 2 night, then 1 more rental for our own private dive with Kona Honu Divers Inc, which we highly recommend. We booked our flights to jump islands from Big Island to Kauai for another 4 days on the “Nature Island” which included a planned overnight to the Na Pali Coast. We stayed 2 nights at an Airbnb hosted by Nancy in Waimea ($75 a night) which was a rock throw from the ocean followed by 1 night at the Kauai Beach House Hostel ($75 for private room), also a rock throw from the water in Kapaa. In between the Airbnb and Hostel we stayed 1 night on Kalalau beach in our new tent. We rented a car on both island for the entire trip, once from Enterprise and again from Alamo. The price was $173 for 4 days at both rental companies.

Expenses Break-down:

For the 8 days we spent $656 total for accommodations and car rentals. Our flight from San Jose to Kona was $454.33. Our flight from Kona to Kauai was $244.60. Our flight home from Kauai was $485.60. Flight total was $1184.53.

Grand Total: $1840 for the two of us. This includes car rentals, accommodations, and flights.

The Trip Report

Scuba Diving, Hiking, and Road Tripping on the Big Island

The morning after touching down on the Big Island we headed over to Kona Huna Divers office at 7am in the morning to fill out paperwork. By 9 we were on the boat charter headed for the dive spot. We charted 4 boat dives that day, 2 in the AM and 2 in the PM (included was the famous Giant Manta Ray night dive, on my bucket list). During our morning dives the water was a little colder than expected but not too cold (at least for me) to go without a dive suit. Tasha got a little cold when we weren’t moving to the point she was concerned about the evening dives being too cold. She’s a pretty thin girl. The underwater visibility was fantastic, about 30-50 yards by my guess. The underwater fauna was great with corals, lava rocks, tons of fish, and a few unique finds.

Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Tasha waiving for the camera

Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Raccoon butterflyfish, Kona Scuba Diving Big Island Hawaii

Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Unknown fish, Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

The real highlight was the evening dives. On both dives we got to see the Giant Manta Rays that call the island home. These huge fish are around 16-18 feet from wing to wing weighing up to 800 lbs. Ever since a friend of mine mentioned this dive it’s been high on my list of dives to do. This will always be one of my most memorable dives.

Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Giant Manta Ray, Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Scuba Diving Kona, Big Island

Tasha taking a selfie

STRIPED LARGE-EYE BREAM

Striped Large-Eye Bream??, Kona Scuba Diving, Big Island Hawaii

Striped Large-Eye Bream??, Kona Scuba Diving, Big Island Hawaii

Striped Large-Eye Bream??, Kona Scuba Diving, Big Island Hawaii

The final dive for the day was incredibly special. This is a well known dive and relatively shallow at about 35′. The tide was strong which made our legs sore from squeezing rocks to keep from swaying. The dive? Incredible!

Kona Big Island Manta Ray Night Dive

Tasha waiving during the Manta Ray Dive

Kona Big Island Manta Ray Night Dive

Giant Manta Ray

Kona Big Island Manta Ray Night Dive

Giant Manta Ray

The following day we took a break from diving and did a small hike along the coast sweating our asses off. It was incredibly hot that day to the point hiking was uncomfortable. We were surprisingly sore from our 4 dives the day prior so we took it easy. We ended the day going out with a couple we met on the morning charter. Had a few drinks and danced at a bar in the downtown Kona area. We got to see some guy get an erection during a full body massage at a bar. The massage table was on the dance floor, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.

Hiking north of Ho'Okena Beach Park

Hiking north of Ho’Okena Beach Park

Hiking north of Ho'Okena Beach Park

Hiking north of Ho’Okena Beach Park

Hiking north of Ho'Okena Beach Park

Hiking north of Ho’Okena Beach Park

Ended the hike on a black sand beach making sand castles.

Making Sand Castles on Ho'Okena Beach

Making Sand Castles on Ho’Okena Beach

Making Sand Castles on Ho'Okena Beach

Making Sand Castles on Ho’Okena Beach

The next morning (day 3) we did a single tank beach dive, just the two of us! We dived off of Honaunau Beach which had an interesting entry that was a little dangerous. We managed without scratching ourselves on the barnacles. The GoPro didn’t charge that night so we couldn’t capture any pictures/video but did see a pretty big reef shark swim under us at one point. Was my first dive without a dive master (and Tasha’s 9th dive). It went well and we had a lot of fun. After our dive we stopped at a few locals places on our way back to the hostel like Donkey Balls Chocolate store and a local potato chip place.

On our last day we got our stuff together then checked out of the hostel before taking a drive north hiking lava tubes, checking out beaches, and stopping at a few small towns. We ate some Hawaiian shaved ice in Kawaihae, HI and tried some brews at the Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea, HI.

Lava Tubes Big Island Hawaii Kona

Hiking around Lava Tubes north of Kona

Baby Sea Urchin

Baby Sea Urchin at Turtle Beach, Kona

We returned back to Kona and dropped off the rental car before jumping on the plane for our next leg, Kauai!

Read Hawaiian Islands Vacation- Part II – Kauai (Coming Soon)

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