Marco and I met at Harrah’s Carnival Court on the Las Vegas Strip on Halloween in 2009. While I was dressed as Sookie Stackhouse from the True Blood series - complete with a blond wig - we learned that we both enjoyed going mountain biking. Our first date was a mountain biking ride at Bootleg Canyon near Boulder City, Nevada. On April 21, 2012, we were married and ready for a honeymoon that combined adventure and relaxation. We decided that the Big Island of Hawaii offered the range of activities that we were seeking.
We chose to use Traveler’s Joy as our honeymoon registry because we were already established home owners who didn’t need many of the items that are traditionally given as wedding gifts. We needed help paying for the honeymoon, but felt uncomfortable asking our guests to give us cash. Traveler’s Joy was the perfect solution for us because it allowed us to build a personalized registry that enabled our guests to select the item or activity that they wanted to purchase. Another great feature of Traveler’s Joy was having the ability to access the funds at any time to pay off items such as the airfare ($1,285 round-trip for two) before the wedding and honeymoon. As a teacher, I have limited time off during the school year, so we planned for a week-long honeymoon from April 22-29, 2012. Marco and I started our adventure on Sunday evening when we departed on a red-eye flight to Hawaii aboard Hawaiian Airlines. We were both exhausted from the wedding and tried our best to get some much needed rest on the airplane. When we arrived in Hilo on Monday morning, we rented a Ford Escape because we planned to explore as much of the island as possible.
Hilo lived up to its reputation of being the wettest city in the United States. We experienced a light, yet steady rain the entire first day. Being from Las Vegas, the rain was a pleasant departure from our usual sunny, dry weather. We didn’t let the weather interfere with our plans. We started our journey by heading north to see the Waipio Valley lookout. Along the way, we stopped at Rainbow Falls. The overlook to Rainbow Falls was surrounded by massive banyan trees and sweet-smelling flowering plants. We were convinced that one of the scenes from Robin Hood (Kevin Costner version) was filmed at this location. As we continued on our journey, the next stop was Akaka Falls. The falls were a short walk from the parking lot which led us through beautiful flowering plants and gigantic ferns. That’s when we decided to have the perspective that you can’t have such a lush rainforest without ample rain.
After we left Akaka Falls, we stopped in the small town of Honoka to eat at Jolene’s Cafe, which looked more like a local’s dining room rather than a restaurant. You could tell right away that this restaurant was not a typical tourist trap. The hamburger loco was delicious. After all, you can’t go wrong with hamburger served over rice and topped with brown gravy and fried eggs served with a side of macaroni salad. Then our journey continued north to the Waipio Valley overlook which provided enchanting scenery with the misty low cloud ceiling. Late that afternoon, we returned to Hilo where we checked into the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. The hotel had a beautiful open-air lobby with a classic Hawaiian motif and we had a stunning view of the ocean from our room.
On day two of the honeymoon, we had reservations with Hawaii Bike Tours for a mountain biking and wine tasting tour at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The tour company picked us up at our hotel and transported us to our starting point which was near the Jaggar Museum. Traveling through the park via mountain bikes was truly amazing. We started our bike ride near the summit and rode to the Thurston lava tubes, stopped at several overlooks, and ended with a boxed lunch on the coast. The coast was magnificent. The lava fields leading up to the water looked like freshly baked brownies. While we ate our lunch, we watched the blue ocean water crash into shore creating a relaxing, yet powerful sound and ocean spray. The bike tour concluded with wine tasting at the Volcano Winery which provided an interesting selection of wines made from local honey and island fruit including jaboticaba and yellow guava. That evening we traveled to the small town, Pahoa, where we ate at Kaleos’ Bar and Grill. The Kalua pork wontons, seafood dynamite, and Big Myke’s blackened mahi BLT were delicious.
The third day of our honeymoon started with a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour that departed from the Hilo airport. We upgraded our tickets to fly on the Eco-Star series helicopter. Since it was our first time in a helicopter, we were extremely anxious and excited. The sound track that played through our headphones included the Mission Impossible and 007 theme songs. The music and knowledge provided by the helicopter pilot made for an adrenaline-filled and entertaining experience. The views during the flight were absolutely breathtaking. As we left the airport, we flew over a macadamia nut plantation and headed toward the Pu’u O’o vent. The helicopter circled the volcano and through the steam and vog, we were able to see the lava bubbling in the caldera. Then we continue toward the coast to view the newly formed lava field that extended to the ocean. The helicopter tour concluded as we flew over pristine waterfalls and lush rainforests.
The views of the fields of metallic lava from the helicopter inspired us to travel to the lava fields on foot. That afternoon, we made arrangements for an evening hike to the active lava fields. We traveled to the town of Kalapana along took Route 130 which eventually ended because it was blocked by the 2011 lava flow. Using the detour, we arrived at Kalapana which was a quaint town next to a black sand beach covered with young coconut palms. We headed out to the lava fields on foot - wearing sturdy hiking boots and holding flashlights - with a guide from the Kalapana Cultural tours. We traveled three miles across the glass-like lava fields at dusk in search of the active lava flow. As we approached the active field, you could see the heat radiating from the ground as it distorted the air above it. Soon after we saw the heat, we felt the temperature of the air around us increase. While we were taking photographs of the glowing red cavities that dotted the field, we heard a crash and lava started flowing. We had the opportunity to witness a “breakthrough” in the crust. The lava tubes which typically flow under the surface occasionally rupture the surface. We were fortunate to be in a safe location to witness the flowing lava. The heat and the motion of the lava was magnificent. After spending an hour watching the lava as the sun set, we hiked three miles back to town using flashlights was our guide. On the fourth day, we left the east side of the island and traveled along Saddle Road to the west coast. During our journey, we encountered rainforests, lava fields, ranchland, soaring mountains, and sunny beaches. Along the drive, we passed the base of Mauna Kea then continued to the Kohala coast in the town of Kapaau where we stopped to shop and to take a picture with King Kamehameha’s statue. After a day of frequent pauses to marvel at the varying landscapes, we reached our destination of Hapuna Beach. We checked into the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. This began the relaxing portion of the honeymoon. Over the next two days, we enjoyed walking along the beach, swimming in the ocean, sunbathing, and watching the sunsets. Hapuna Beach was clean, the sand was soft, and the ocean was clear and warm. On both days, we encountered a massive sea turtle that swam next to us as we waded in the ocean.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel was a beautiful property that provided an amazing view of the ocean. The sliding glass doors in the room allowed us to keep the door to the lanai open so we could listen to the ocean as we slept. The hotel offered an excellent selection of dining, but we traveled to the Hilton Hawaiian Village on day six to experience a luau. Complete with a lei and our Hawaiian attire, we ate an enormous amount of food and enjoyed the entertainment. We also had the opportunity to explore the elaborate property of the Hilton Hawaiian Village which was complete with numerous shops and restaurants, several swimming pools, and a dolphin habitat. The seventh day of our trip concluded our stay on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our morning flight departed from the Kailua-Kona airport with a connection in Oahu. As we traveled to Oahu, we saw four other islands from the airplane window and wondered what adventures could possibly await us there. A week on the Big Island provided an opportunity to experience the diversity that the island had to offer, but I wish that we had a couple more days to explore. Our honeymoon of seven days and six nights including airfare, car rental, hotel, and all activities cost approximately $3,900. The gifts that we received through our Traveler’s Joy registry covered a majority of the costs of the honeymoon.
The Big Island of Hawaii provides a wide variety options to meet the needs of any traveler. There are few places that offer a rainforest, snow-capped mountain with a telescope observatory, and an active volcano within an hour of each other. The quintessential Hawaiian features such as waterfalls, luaus, exotic flowers, and white or black sand beaches are also found on the Big Island. This destination can be the perfect compromise for a couple who wants to journey off the beaten path or experience a relaxing romantic getaway. In the future, we plan to visit the Big Island of Hawaiian Island again and highly recommend it as a honeymoon destination.