As an Army brat, my family moved every three years or so when my dad was stationed to a different post. When I was in pre-school through second grade, we were fortunate enough to live in Hawai’i, on Oahu. Some of my earliest childhood memories are from Hawai’i, including island hopping to the neighboring islands. I particularly remember going to the Big Island, and how cold it was, or so we thought. For a six-year-old, the difference between a balmy 80 degrees and cooler 60s was quite significant.
On a recent trip to the Big Island, these childhood memories came flooding back, and I found a few more spots I wish we’d visited when I was younger.
Hawai’i is made of up of volcanic islands, and that’s even more evident with the active lava flow happening from Kīlauea into the Pacific Ocean at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. It’s quite a hike to see the lava flow into the ocean, and steam may prevent any views. On the other hand, boat tours take lava seekers to the ocean entry point at Kamokuna for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
An easier view of the lava activity can be seen from the Jaggar Overlook inside the park. From here, the Kīlauea Caldera is in plain sight day and night, but for more impressive views, plan on visiting after dark to see the orange glow.
In addition to the volcanic activities, the park is full of hiking opportunities, across lava fields and through forests, as well as a chance to look at petroglyphs dating back hundreds of years. Plan on spending at least one full day at the park, though two or three can easily be filled.
If you’re driving from the Kona side of the island toward Hilo and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, plan some time to stop and chase waterfalls along the way. Two to consider near Hilo are ‘Akaka Falls, at more than 400 feet, and Rainbow Falls in Hilo, considered the easiest falls to visit on the Big Island. A morning visit to Rainbow Falls is the best time to see the rainbows that arch over the water.
Out of the five days I was recently on the Big Island, I went snorkeling on four of them, and saw sea turtles each time. A few of the island’s popular snorkeling spots are Mauna Kea Beach, Puuhonua O Honaunau and Kahaluu Beach Park. Not only might you spot sea turtles gliding effortlessly through the water as they seek out their next nibble, but myriad colorful fish, the likes of which you may never have seen before.
One special place sea turtle enthusiasts should check out is Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, where Hawai’ian green sea turtles haul themselves out onto the sandy shores to take a break from all their swimming. On a recent visit, my friends and I spotted a turtle basking in the sun, while his friends continued to swim and feed in the shallow waters along the shoreline. I lost count of how many we saw from the beach.
Tip: Take along your own mask and snorkel so you’re ready to hop out of the car and into the water when an urge to snorkel comes along.
One of my favorite things about visiting Hawai’i, aside from the nature and incredible beauty of the islands, is shave ice. In Kona, two to try are Scandinavian Shave Ice in the village, and One Aloha Shave Ice, a few blocks away. Instead of choosing traditional flavors like lime or grape, be adventurous and opt instead for Hawai’ian-inspired flavors like lychee, li-hing-mui or p.o.g. – my favorite combo. Or, ask the person behind the counter to create one for you using their favorites for a truly local flavor.
Giggles are sure to go around when your family stops by Donkey Balls in Kainaliu, south of Kona. The original Donkey Balls are chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, and for an extra kick, try the chocolate covered 100 percent Kona Coffee GOGO Beans. Maybe keep those caffeinated sweets away from the kids, though.
Traveling further south from Kona, the southernmost bakery in the United States is the Punalu’u Bake Shop, a perfect spot to stop for a road trip snack or lunch. Known for its sweet and moist Hawai;ian sweetbread, Punalu’u Bake Shop also has a bakery case filled with malasadas (donuts), plain or filled with tropical flavors such as mango and guava. I couldn’t resist temptation on a recent visit and had one malasada, a cinnamon roll and took a box of Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies for the road. Calories don’t count on vacation, right?
Can joining Disney Vacation Club help you save on family travel? Well, David’s Vacation Club Rentals, a source for Disney Vacation Club rentals, can provide some insight. Disney travel experts like Melissa Mullett, director of operations, David’s Vacation Club Rentals, provided some tips and insider knowledge on how Disney Vacation Club works.
United Airlines is in the midst of a major initiative to modernize its fleet over the next several years. After first announcing the plan in 2021, planes fitted with United’s signature interior are finally beginning to appear across the airline’s narrowbody fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. United flyers are sure to notice these enhancements from the moment they step on board: Each new or updated plane sports remodeled seats, seatback entertainment screens for everyone, Bluetooth connectivity and more, all adding up to a better experience on every journey.
Does your road trip crew include young kids? We’ve been there, too, and know keeping everyone busy and entertained makes those long stretches of interstate much more peaceful.
In the market for new luggage? If you’re outfitting your entire family of travelers, you may want to check out some new offerings available at Target from travel brand Atlantic. Atlantic’s new line focuses on making travel more convenient with kiddos, and includes seven pieces to choose from, all made with durable, lightweight, sustainable materials (each item is made from up to 27 recycled plastic bottles).
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
Norwegian recently launched the newest addition to its fleet, Viva, with a spectacular debut earlier this month. The ship, launched from Trieste, Italy, and finishing its inaugural run in Lisbon, Portugal, is the second in its Prima Class of ships, set to give family travelers the ultimate vacation experience.