What town should we stay in on the Big Island?
August 28, 2011 9:47 PM   Subscribe

We'll be spending spring break on the big island. Our group is two families - 4 adults, 4 teenaged kids. I've found a couple posts with lots of great suggestions of places to visit on the island but need suggestions of where to stay. We'd prefer to rent a house or condo and plan to stay in one place the entire week, though we'll take day trips. It needs to be easy walking distance from a beach for swimming and snorkeling and have at least a few places we can walk to for meals and exploring. We prefer small town charm to sprawling resort complexes. Suggestions, please!
posted by ms_rasclark to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (9 answers total)
By "the big island" do you mean Hawaii?
posted by blueberry at 10:15 PM on August 28, 2011

Go to vrbo.com
posted by mikeand1 at 11:06 PM on August 28, 2011

Look on the vacaton rentals sites for Kapoho. It's a small community on the Hilo side, walking distance to hot ponds and the ocean. Lots of sea turtles. You will need to drive to Pahoa for eating out, though.
posted by Nothing at 5:14 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: You might have to choose between small-town charm and easy walks to ocean and restaurants. We've been only once, so I'm no expert, but I don't know of a place that has both.

It sounds like you'd like downtown Hilo--charming, not-too crowded or touristy, right on the ocean. The farmer's market is a must-see, and we found the residents very welcoming. Plus, there are grocery stores and a WalMart and all that, too. Not sure if you can walk to snorkeling there--we drove to the Kapoho hot ponds (which are fantastic). You can also drive to the volcano from there.

More fun for beachy stuff is the Kona area. We stayed on the south end, in a big, touristy hotel, but it was literally over the water, and I snorkeled directly under our room. It wasn't crowded and loud and awful or anything.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:26 AM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, Hawaii. We have checked out VBRO and have found houses that are suitable but still can't tell what the surrounding area by the houses is like. We're looking for charming beach community with a local feel. Hilo sounds like the right idea. We have some houses marked in Puako but it looks like it might be a bit too remote.
posted by ms_rasclark at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: If you read my blog post, you'll see that we had a dreadful time finding good food. There are amazing ingredients to be had, and we're really, really not picky eaters, but the restaurant scene was grim, especially around Hilo. Next time, we're getting an ocean-side cottage in Kapoho from VRBO and cooking for ourselves.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:49 AM on August 29, 2011

Hilo weather is not as reliable as west side weather, just so you know.

Puako looked interesting to me when I researched but I wound up at Kealakekua to have kayak access to the snorkeling at the Captain Cook monument. If you go to Puako, report back!
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: MrMoonPie, or anyone else... if you were going to stay in one local and venture out from there, would you choose the West side (Puako) or Hilo area? Where on the sunnier side is closest driving distance to the active volcano?
posted by ms_rasclark at 4:17 PM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: The food scene is fairly dire on both sides of the island. Hilo probably has a week's worth of decent restaurants, however, and they do tend to come with a smaller price tag than the west side. Hilo buys you more rain, Kona side more vog, but unless you know that you're sensitive, for swimming the rain will prove more critical.

Everybody that has led you to the Kapoho hot ponds is pointing you towards great snorkeling, but it does need to be emphasized that you will be away from restaurants. You will be close to a nice heated, enclosed community pool that is a pleasant place to warm up after a day in the ocean.

Another place to look, closer in to Hilo if the balance is more to exploring and less to great snorkeling are the beach parks around Keaukaha. This area has a rough reputation, but I live here and can't point to any personal encounters or instances and I swim at Richardson's regularly. There will certainly be condo rentals, and I expect houses as well.

However, for great beaches Kona is the clear win. Clearly the clear win. The clearest win. Enough that when we want a good beach day, we will drive two hours to go over there despite living 100 feet away from a black sand beach with plenty of turtles.

Regarding your where on the west side is closest to the volcano, it's all a long ways. I would suspect that the further south you can go, the better off you're going to be. Headed North, you're talking about 2 hours Kona-Kailua to Hilo, and then another 45 into the park.

If I had to choose for a vacation, I would pick the West side, but I can't offer any guidance picking amongst towns. I like our food options better, but they aren't good enough to risk getting rained out. The volcano is only a two day trip if you plan to do hiking more serious than the crater (which is the most accessible, dramatic hike in the park). Just to see it from car with short wandering bits is an easy day trip.
posted by minedev at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

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