Hawaii – How to Get To, And Get Around On, The Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii’s beauty is legendary and it has the most diverse landscape on earth-but it can be as challenging to explore as it is charming. From the icy heights of snow-covered volcanoes, to steamy jungles and tropical beaches, to flowing fields of lava, flower choked canyons and wide-open tropical grassland, its scenery is unsurpassed. By and large the quality of your trip to the Big Island will depend on how much of it you choose to see and how you set about discovering your own Big Island adventures. Below are some ideas on the options for getting to Hawaii and for getting around Hawaii, once you are here.

Another key to the quality of your time on the Big Island has to do with the spirit of aloha. The people you meet in Hawaii, by and large, tend to be more open and friendly-quick to help or befriend-than elsewhere. This is the tradition of “Aloha”. When you meet local residents, whether to ask for directions and advice or to hire services or just in casual conversation, treat them with respect, humor and openness-return their spirit of aloha and you will find your journey, and yourself, deeply enriched for it.

In Hawaii, your smile is your passport.

Getting To Hawaii
The standing joke among residents of Hawaii when dealing with the time, inconvenience and hassle of traveling to the mainland is: “This used to be so much easier before the bridge blew down”! Of course, there never was a bridge spanning the roughly 2500 miles between the Big Island and mainland USA, but the humor tends to underline the commitment, planning and time it takes to travel to and from Hawaii.

Flying to Hawaii: Certainly the most common, quickest and least expensive (note I didn’t say “inexpensive”) way to get to Hawaii is to fly. Many major US and international carriers fly to Honolulu on Oahu and and a host of local and international carriers offer flights from there to all the other Hawaiian Islands, including the Big Island. Kona’s airport is the only one on the Big Island that has direct flight connections to the US Mainland, Canada, Japan and Australia. Despite styling itself as “Hilo International Airport”, flights to and from Hilo ONLY connect to other Hawaiian islands.

Although both airports have similar facilities and services, including onsite rental car agencies and access to public transportation, shuttles and taxis, it makes a big difference to the traveller where they land. By far the vast majority of visitors to the Big Island stay in either Kona or the Kohala Resorts which are all on the west side of the island and are between 20 to 45 minutes from the Kona airport. If you are staying in Hilo, it’s fine to fly in there; however, Hilo doesn’t have the resort facilities, fine beaches and great weather of the Kona side and few tourists opt to stay there anymore. Many people booked into resorts on the west side mistakenly take flights into Hilo, due to the misleading airport name, unaware (or even misinformed by ignorant but well-meaning travel agents) that they now, at the end of an exhausting day of travel and in the fading twilight of the early tropical sunset, face a drive of almost 3 hours, across high mountains and on narrow, winding, unfamiliar roads to get to their resort. They just better hope it doesn’t start raining, too.

So-know where you are staying, fly into the appropriate airport.

Whether you are flying directly into Kona or flying to Honolulu and getting a connecting flight into Kona or Hilo, you want to be sure to reserve a seat so that you see as much of the incredible scenery as you can. Since 90% of the flight is over open ocean (which just isn’t as riveting as one might expect) you want to wring the most enjoyment out of those portions of your flight which do feature scenery. If you are first stopping in Honolulu, sitting on the port (left) side of the aircraft for this leg of your trip affords the best views as the plane screams in past Koko Head and over the top of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, turns around directly over Pearl Harbor and settles in to land at Honolulu International Airport. Sitting on the starboard side is not as spectacular, however, it offers views of Moloka’i and Maui islands, as well as views of Pearl Harbor, the Wai’anae and Ko’olau Mountains of O’ahu and downtown Honolulu just before landing.

Flying into Hilo from O’ahu, one also wants to sit on the port side of the aircraft. The flight path crosses over the islands of Moloka’i and Maui, skims along the eastern margin of Hawaii Island presenting a rich, fascinating panoply of soaring sea cliffs, jungle canyons and volcanic mountains, jaw-dropping waterfalls and crashing surf along the coast. Flying into Kona either directly or from Honolulu is no less wonderfully scenic than flying into Hilo, but one wants to be on the starboard side. This offers the traveller great views of the islands of Maui, Molokini, Lana’i and Kaho’olawe, as well as incredible views of the Big Island, Kohala Mountain, Mauna Kea, Hualalai and, on clear days, Mauna Loa as the jet cruises in over the Kohala Coast, making land right over Makalwena Beach and on to Kona International Airport at Keahole.

Cruise Ships and Cargo Ships: There are several cruise ship lines which ply the waters of the Hawaiian Archipelago, however of the ones that service the Big Island, most require passengers to book for an entire cruise, meaning that although you may make one or two stops on Hawaii, you will only remain in port for a day, overnight at most, before sailing on. Generally, you cannot arrive on one ship, disembark for a stay, and catch another ship out.

Of increasing popularity, however, is cruising to Hawaii on cargo ships-cheaper than a cruise line and with a completely open and adjustable itinerary, this is a great alternative to flying. It is both more expensive and more time consuming (average sailing is 3 days from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and times are variable for getting from there to the Big Island) than flying, but it is restful, peaceful and unique. Cargo ships offer spacious passenger cabins and, while not the floating feed-lots that cruise ships tend to resemble, the food on cargo ships is wonderful and plentiful. Perhaps the biggest drawback of riding cargo ships to the Big Island is that on the east side they dock in, let us say, the less desirable part of Hilo; on the west they dock at Kawaihae, halfway between Kailua Kona and the resorts of the Kohala coast-in other words, out in the middle of nowhere. Both land many miles from resorts and car rental agencies. However, both docking facilities are serviced by taxis and public transportation; if you plan ahead, it should present no problem.

Getting Around Hawaii
Shuttles/Taxis/Limos/Tours: Taxis, of course, service both Big Island airports, the metropolitan regions and all the resorts. The taxis, while not cheap, are not as usurious as one might fear and the drivers generally are knowledgeable, friendly, HONEST and genuinely nice-it’s that whole aloha thing. Taxi drivers are happy to answer your questions, even the silly ones you are kind of shy to ask; they will freely give advice about what to do and see and where to eat and generally try to be as helpful as possible. However, many speak in pidgin English that can be nearly impenetrable to the newcomers’ ear. Don’t be shy about respectfully asking him to repeat himself, and again if necessary-he hears that on nearly every fare he carries. Ask him to write down place names, restaurant names and such-many Hawaiian words do not look at all like they way he’s saying them and you’ll want to be able to read the words on maps and signs, or be able to ask another person, later.

Both Kona and Hilo airports are serviced by point-to-point shuttles and limos, whose prices are actually quite reasonable and certainly less expensive than the taxis. The drawback here is that there will be many people aboard going to many diverse destinations-so it takes a bit longer than a taxi.

Many of the larger resorts offer a free limo service to and from the airport and some will even arrange to have your rental car waiting for you on-property when you arrive from the airport…check when you make reservations. If available, this is the least personable, but quickest, easiest and least expensive way to get to your lodgings.

Some boutique tours offered by Hostels and the smaller tour companies will also pick you up at the airport at the beginning of their tours, if your arrival time is convenient to the tour schedule; thus, the cost of getting to your resort is absorbed into the cost of the tour. This option is worth looking into if you are not planning to rent a car during your stay.

Tipping tour, taxi, limo and shuttle drivers is not only encouraged, it’s their main source of revenue. Remember to return the aloha they showed you.

Rental Cars and Driving Tips: Although some people opt to not rent cars during their stay, relying on tours and public transportation to get around, you should bear in mind that there is a reason they call it “The Big Island”. Distances between attractions can be long, public transportation schedules are not always convenient and, face it, it’s just a lot freer, easier and more independent to have your own wheels. Be sure to thoroughly research the online booking agencies before you arrive-ofttimes great deals bundling airfare, room and car rental can be found, especially in the slack seasons.

There are two types of car rental agencies on the Big Island. The major, international car rental agencies are available on property at both airports, giving the visitor a wide selection of corporate deals and specials-particularly flight-room-car combo deals–as well as a diverse palate of available cars. The other option, frequently much less expensive particularly for long term rentals, are the off-property rental agencies. These folks won’t generally pick you up at the airport so you must make your way to their in-town offices, but the selection of vehicles, and rates, are generally wider ranged.

If you are under 21, the rental companies won’t rent to you. If you are between 21 and 24, they may add a surcharge to the rental that can be as much as twenty-five dollars a day on top of the regular daily fee.

The first question the traveller must answer for themselves is what kind of vehicle they will want while on the Big Island. Some rental agencies specialize in luxury and exotic cars–Mercedes, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and such. Others offer Volkswagen Campers and RVs. Many people arrive and decide they want to flash around the island in a Mustang or Camaro convertible-which are great and fun, but they offer no security for your personal items and they severely limit the kinds of roads you can drive on, in addition to almost guaranteeing sun and wind burn. If you are coming to explore the island, you should consider going to the extra expense of renting a four-wheel drive vehicle-either a jeep or an enclosed SUV. Much of the mountain country and many of the more interesting beaches and canyons require four wheel drive. I suggest an enclosed SUV so you do not have to shout to be heard, as you do in a jeep, and have some more protection from the elements and from thieves.

Briefly mentioned above, RVs and Volkswagen Campers are excellent ways to see the island and obviate the need for an expensive hotel. However, RVs are not common on Hawaii and there are no RV parks as such; outside of the towns of Hilo and Kona there is nowhere to drain the waste tanks, so you have to be sure to use public facilities as much as possible. But you can park and camp free virtually anywhere, although most campgrounds will charge a camping fee for an RV, even if you are camping in the parking lot.

Motorcycles and scooters can be rented in both Kona and Hilo and are a fun way to see the island, until it rains. Which happens. It is also difficult to travel with any amount of luggage on a motorcycle. You will notice a burgeoning fraction of the local population zipping about town on scooters (locally, and incorrectly, referred to as “mopeds”). For bikes with engine sizes smaller than 50cc, no motorcycle license and no insurance are necessary. The “moped” class vehicle has the same license and road regulations as a bicycle, so it is not surprising to see them zip along the the roadside, passing cars stuck in traffic, or pop up and run down the sidewalk. If you rent a moped in Hawaii, please don’t drive them the way the locals do; it just isn’t safe. I use a moped almost exclusively to get around Kailua Town where I live-do not ride your scooter the way you see me ride mine.

The cost of gas in Hawaii is even worse than you’ve been led to believe, so when selecting a rental car, bear this in mind. Costco in Kona has the absolute cheapest gas on the island (and it’s handy, near the airport); the gas station off the Akoni Pule Highway in Kohala near mile marker 76 has the cheapest gas in Kohala and the Chevron Station at the Airport turn-off in Hilo has the cheapest gas in East Hawaii. Remember that the Big Island is largely rural-gas stations, particularly in the far north and on the south side of the Island, may not keep regular hours or even stick with their posted schedule-especially if the surf is up or the fishing is good. In general, outside of the urban areas of Kona and Hilo, gas is hard to find after about 6 in the evening. I personally don’t ever let my gas tank get more than half empty, ever, just for this very reason. Certainly, you should never let it get more than half empty when on the south side of the Island; you should make a point to fill up before late afternoon when you have the chance, definitely before you go into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (you’ll stay longer and use more gas than you planned because, trust me, it’s the coolest place, ever) and before crossing the Saddle Road.

Driving times between attractions on the Big Island are longer than you might expect, given the actual mileage between points of interest. This is in part because much of the “highway” system is composed of winding, narrow, two-lane blacktop with a speed limit of 35 miles an hour. Another reason drives take longer than expected is because you are going to want to pull over and look, stop and explore, take your time and enjoy. As the bumper sticker says: “Slow down, Brah-dis ain’t da mainland!” On this note, many local residents will pass on hills and blind corners, even into oncoming traffic; they know the road, you don’t-don’t follow their lead. Trying to drive like the locals drive is like jumping into the ocean and trying to surf like they surf-it just isn’t a really bright idea. Local custom is to eschew use of turn signals and horn; this is another custom you shouldn’t emulate.

The police on the Big Island are well-trained, serious professionals. However, most cruise around in their personal cars (with a blue light on top) and can be very hard to spot (a Ford Mustang or Toyota Rav4 with a light bar? It happens…). They are particularly serious about drunk drivers, speed limits and child restraints/seal belts. Aloha, respect and honesty go a long way toward making any interactions with the Hawaii County Police more pleasant. This isn’t Louisiana or some Third World banana republic-do not even think of offering a bribe if you are stopped by a Hawaii County Police Officer. On the topic of police, it is local custom to flash your brights at on-coming traffic if there is a cop behind you. Participate in this at your own discretion, but this is the reason all those people are flashing at you.

There are feral goats and sheep (feral donkeys along the highway in Kohala!), wild pigs, feral cats and dogs that present driving hazards, especially at night. Fruit such as mango, avocado and guava frequently fall, en masse, into the road and produce a slimy hazard, particularly to motorcycles. In town, watch for cyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders (check out those guys skateboarding to the beach with their surfboards under their arms!). Kailua Kona is the proud home to the Iron Man World Championship Triathlon and many runners and cyclists fully utilize, and rigorously defend, their rights of way; smile, wave and yield, OK? You came to have fun: relax. The Big Island is also Big Sky country…driving east into the sunrise or west into the sunset is painful and hazardous; try to plan your day to avoid this.

Dog City Guide to San Francisco

Suzy my pet Shih Tzu and I continued our U.S tour of the countries best dog friendly cities with an exciting trip to San Francisco. A throbbing nightlife, panoramic views of the sun, sand and sea, warm people and great food pretty much sums up San Francisco. Famous for its bays and the picturesque view of the Golden Gate enveloped in white fog, San Francisco is a traveler’s destination to the core.

The best time to enjoy the spoils of San Francisco is from September to November, when the weather is pleasant. The city offers some of the best in International cuisine, is a paradise for shoppers and much to see. Some of activities you can get involved in include sailing, surfing, walking, cycling etc. You will often find people surfing over some of the biggest waves with their pets or dogs.

Stay

If you are looking for accommodation in San Francisco the best location is close to the ocean or at a place that can provide you with a view of the rising mist over the Golden Gate. We found one and it was the Best Western Tuscan Inn Fisherman Wharf situated at 425 Northpoint Street. They didn’t charge me any additional fee for getting Suzy and I used to leave her at the hotel’s kennel when venturing into the swimming pool. What’s more, my room had a mini-bar, coffee maker, refrigerator, hairdryer and a free high-speed wireless Internet connection.

This hotel is located right at the heart of the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and it has an unbeatable location. I get to see the Golden Gate first thing when I wake up. It is very close to the North beach, and the famous Pier 39.

Note: If you are planning to make a reservation in advance then type “I am bringing my dog.” You need to mention this clearly in the additional comments and requests box in the online reservation form.

Check-In: 3PM

Check-Out: 12PM

You can check out some other dog friendly hotels in San Francisco like:

-Campton Place Hotel -340 Stockton Street

-Crowne Plaza – Union Square -480 Sutter Street

-Days Inn – Lombard St -2358 Lombard Street

-Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco -757 Market St.

-Harbor Court Hotel -165 Steuart Street

-Holiday Inn -50 Eighth St

-Hotel Cosmo -761 Post Street

-Hotel Diva -440 Geary Street

-Hotel Metropolis -25 Mason Street

Play

The Golden Gate Bridge

Suzy and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and it was an extraordinary experience. The view from the Golden gate of the bay and San Francisco city is spectacular. It was an evening walk just around the time when the sun set and left the sky in a myriad of orange and red colors. It felt more like Suzy walking me then me walking Suzy. Dogs are permitted on the Golden Gate but only if they are on leash.

Timings:

March 11, 2007 – November 3, 2007: 5am to 9pm

November 4, 2007 – March 8, 2008: 5am to 6:30pm

Waterfront Carriage Rides

From Austin all the way to San Francisco, Suzy and her fascination for horses! It is said that if you want to see the city in the true San Francisco in style then head for the carriage rides. Suzy loved every moment of the smooth and sometimes bumpy ride around the waterfront.

Alcatraz tour

It was my Shih Tzu’s idea to visit the infamous federal prison at Alcatraz. She was the one who wagged her tail but I think it was a good idea. Alcatraz is considered to be one of the foremost tourist destinations in San Francisco and was home to Al Capone, Robert “The Birdman” Stroud and George “Machine Gun” Kelley. It can be reached by traveling in a ferry. You can use ferry services to visit:

-Angel Island

-Oakland/Alameda

-Sausalito

-Tiburon

-Vallejo

Dog Parks/Beaches

I had a rollicking time with Suzy in San Francisco as there were many parks for her to play in. I watched her chase a butterfly at some of the San Francisco off leash parks and even caught her panting for breath behind the smallest shrub. Some of the San Francisco beaches also allow dogs like the Baker Beach at Lincoln Blvd and Bowley St/Golden Gate Nat’l Rec Area. Dogs are allowed on this beach off leash but under voice control. It is situated 1.5 miles south from the Golden Gate and you can almost walk down there from the Golden Gate Bridge. Suzy and I had a long sunbathing session and then we took a walk closer to the water. Another nice beach is the Burton beach near Skyline Blvd./Hwy 35. It is a popular dog friendly beach and park.

Some of the other off leash parks in San Francisco include:

Alamo Square Off Leash Dog Park -Scott Street, between Hayes and Fulton Streets

Alta Plaza Off Leash Dog Park -Steiner and Clay Street

Bernal Heights Off Leash Dog Park -Bernal Heights and Esmerelda

Brotherhood Mini Off Leash Dog Park -Brotherhood Way

Buena Vista Off Lead Dog Park -Buena Vista West at Central Avenue Grooming

After all the sun and sand on the beach, the first thing a Shih Tzu like Suzy needed was a nice haircut and bath. You can choose from mobile grooming salons and grooming centers. I chose the classic pet grooming mobile services. They really know how to pamper a small dog and Suzy was made to feel extra special.

Their basic services include:

Shampoo

Grooming

Hand dry and brush out coat

Cleaning Pads

Cutting Nails

Ears and eye cleaning

Express anal glands

Their specialty services include:

Flea and tick shampoo

Brushing teeth

Medicated oatmeal and herbal shampoos

De-skunking

Rejuvenator or hot oil treatments

You can also try out the following grooming centers in San Francisco:

Four Wet Feet: 4599 18th St

South Paw: 199 Brannan St

Russian Hill Dog Grooming: 1929 Hyde St

Wags Pet Wash & Awesome Accessories: 1840 Polk St

Shop

Any pampered puppy needs good and healthy food, clothes, toys, and a leash. Suzy is definitely a pampered puppy. There are plenty of dog boutiques in San Francisco to choose from. We visited the B & B Pet Supplies located on 4820 Geary Blvd. They sell dog treats, toys, food, training supplies and various other accessories for exotic pets too. The staff is really good and extremely helpful. You can also find some of the most spectacular clothing and apparel for your dog. This Shih Tzu certainly did. Suzy’s favorites were the leather leashes with fluorescent colors and faux crocodile prints. Not the most bashful of small dogs.

Other San Francisco pet boutiques include Babies at 235 Gough Street. Babies has everything your pampered pet could possibly desire from luxury pet dishes to houndstooth dog beds to luxury Cosmo Dog Carriers to dog tees and hoodies from Urban Hund. Everything a growing pup needs, or so Suzy says. I’m still trying to get her to leave the store so our next tour may be slightly delayed.

Hahei – Your Insider New Zealand Holiday and Travel Guide Including Tips For Visitors

If you looking for a place to get away from it all, then look no further than Hahei, situated in Mercury bay on the east coast of Coromandel Peninsula. Just sit on the beach and you’ll soon see why the locals consider Hahei one of the most beautiful beaches in Coromandel; a region renown for its stunning beaches.

Hahei is a veritable beach paradise of pink sand and pristine clear blue sea framed by cliffs and maori pa sites either end of the beach and a necklace of islands. Combined with its vibrant community life and unspoiled natural habitat, Hahei is the perfect place to recharge those batteries and take a break from big city life.

The first place to start is on the water if you want to see the best Hahei has to offer. Sheltered from rough seas by outlying islands, Hahei is a safe family swimming beach. If you enjoy open water swimming, keep an eye out for the local swimming groups who regularly meet on the beach. They welcome all swimmers, local and visitors and if you’re lucky, you might find yourself swimming with dolphins who visit the area from time to time.

The neighbouring marine reserve is a magical aquatic world, abundant with fish and other sea life and ideal for snorkeling, kayaking or if you want to stay dry, taking a cruise on a glass bottom boat. There are several local operators who can help you with gear and equipment or take you on diving trips or boating and kayaking tours.
The marine reserve is also home to the famous Cathedral Cove, one of the most photographed locations on the Coromandel Peninsula. Accessible only by foot or water, this magnificent cathedral shaped cavern and its spectacular environs are a “must visit” site.

With so much beautiful coastline, boating is also a favourite pastime. You can launch your boat off Hahei beach or from the boat ramp at Cooks Beach just 10 minutes away.

Nearby Hot Water Beach is one of those unique experiences every visitor to the Coromandel must do. An underground river of hot water surfaces at Hot Water beach and one hour either side of low tide, visitors flock to the beach to dig their own spa pool in the sand. For easy digging, bring a shovel or you can hire one from the General store. Hot Water Beach also offers some serious surf action for boogie boarders and surfers alike.

If all this water activity has made you hungry, then start with a great coffee and delicious homemade food from Hot Waves Cafe at Hot Water Beach. While you’re there, check out Moko Artspace next door. Filled with contemporary NZ and Pacific art, this gallery features jewellery, designware, wall art and sculpture.

Or you can head back to Hahei and visit the popular Luna Cafe. Considered the best coffee in Hahei by the locals, Luna is renown for its friendly service and relaxed atmosphere.

Hahei has its own micro-climate; excellent for growing fruit and vegetables, much of which ends up in local restaurant kitchens. The Grange is a cafe by day and brasserie by night specialising in local seafood and good hearty meals and for the kids, both big and little, fish and chips and pizza. A great way to finish off a day on the beach!

If fine dining is more your style, then enjoy a sumptuous meal at the Church. Set in a refurbished old church, this establishment exudes character with high vaulted ceilings, arched windows and beautiful polished timber, surrounded by lush native garden.

After eating, stretch your legs and head to the Te Pare point historic reserve at the southern end of Hahei Beach, the site of a pa occupied by the Ngati Hei people. Or just relax on the beach and enjoy the stunning scenery as the sun sets on Hahei.