Trip Coach: September 23, 2008
Conner Gorry, author of "Lonely Planet: Hawaii The Big Island," answered your questions about the Big Island.
To your second question—good one! Yes, all coast in the state of Hawaii is open to the public. Technically. Some resorts (eg Mauna Kea Beach Resort; the Four Seasons) allot a certain number of parking spaces at a time (NOT per day so if you wait for someone to come out, you can go in) to comply with the spirit of the law. Other resorts snub their nose at the law and non-guests, unfortunately. Insist politely and they'll let you by.
Petaluma, Calif.: Which is better to visit Hilo or Kona?
Conner Gorry: It all depends. Who are you? What do you like to do? Is pampering and soft sand in your vacation scheme or do you want to get muddy and see waterfall-cloaked valleys like only exist in movies? See response to Curt, the newlywed from Minnetonka for my take on the age-old Kona vs. Hilo side debate.
[My heart's in Hilo! Just over 30 minutes from Volcanoes National Park!]
Lexington, Ky.: I am a single traveler and I will be in Hawaii—the Big Island—from Dec. 6-10. I am looking for activities. Any additional information would be appreciated.
Conner Gorry: Hey Sid. I think you've thrown me the hardest question so far! What do you like to do? What's your budget? Is your primary goal to meet other people or is that precisely why your traveling alone—to get away from them? How old are you? Are you an adventure type or resort type or both? All of this plays into activites that might be fun for you. See my answer to Curt for must-see sites and go right to your favorite bookstore and buy a guidebook (some guidebook sites even let you download just the chapters you're interested in, which might make sense for a quick trip like yours). There's so much to do here, you won't lack for activities, I promise you!
San Rafael, Calif.: When will the Super-Ferry be arriving on the Big Island? And when will it reach both Kona and Hilo—or will it?
Conner Gorry: Hot question, San Rafael! For those who don't know, the Super Ferry is an interisland car ferry which has met strong resistance by environmental and other groups, while industry, tourism and government have largely rallied for it. Only after going to court and an intervention by Governor Linda Lingle did the controversial ship ever leave port. It now travels only 4x week between Oahu and Maui, but Kauai and the Big Island have stopped the Ferry for now. Knowing Big Islanders, they'll circle the wagons, dig in their heels and all the other tough metaphors to make sure this boat never docks on their island.
For the latest, see: hawaiiinterislandsuperferry.com
Raleigh, N.C.: Hi, Conner. I'd love to know what your top 3-5 hikes are on the Big Island.
Conner Gorry: Another traveler after my own heart! I've done a lot of hiking on the Big Island, Sheila, and from one hiker to another, we know it all depends on what you're after. The most spectacular scenery and lovliest camp site, right on a golden sand beach can be had on the Halape-Keauhou-Ka'aha 2-3 day loop in the National Park. Another killer multi-day trek is to Waimanu Valley beyond Waipio. Both are difficult (for different reasons) and you'll have to be self-sufficient—food, water purficiation, stove, tent, etc.
For day hikes, my favorite is the Kohala Forest REserve trail to the top of Waipio Valley; also known as the White Rd trail accessed in Waimea. The 45-minute straight downhill hike into Waipio from the end of the road on the east side of the island is not a nice hike at all, but deposits you in mysterious Waipio Valley and is worth it. In the park, the 1/2 day hike across Kilauea Iki crater is wonderful for the tree fern forest contrasting with old lava flows and native ohia trees. If you're up for it, you can summit Mauna Loa via the observatory trail, but that's for the real badass hikers out there! Have fun.
Bellingham, Wash.: I would like to go to Kauai, Maui and the Big Island in October 2009. What island what it be best to fly into first and go to second and third? Also, is that ferry a good way to go? It looks a lot less expensive and you can keep your same rental car.
Conner Gorry: Hey, Sue. The ferry only travels between Oahu and Maui so that is pretty much out for you. See the response to San Rafael above for more.
What you're proposing involves a lot of air travel unfortunately, since all flights but one between Kailua-Kona and Maui stop in Honolulu first. If you can get on that flight, I'd start in Maui or the Big Island, going to Kauai last.
Conner Gorry: That's it from here. Mahalo (thanks) everyone for getting chatty about the Big Island today. If you are looking for even more details and insider knowledge, check out my Lonely Planet guide to the Big Island, co-written with Luci Yamamoto.