Photo Essay: Big Fun on the Big Island

by Ekua on December 21, 2009 in captured on memory card,Hawaii

I first visited Hawaii’s Big Island when I was on tour with a band. We arrived in the afternoon and headed over to the venue. One of the concert organizers chopped the tops off of coconuts and we sipped juice from them while we prepared for the show. Our hotel was rustic and basic with rooms overlooking the ocean. I sat on the balcony looking out at the sea while I practiced my music. An old man below smiled and waved at me as he cut and collected large banana leafs.

At the venue, they served us a dinner of vegetables, brown rice, and some of the best tofu I’ve ever had. The crowd at the show was an interesting assortment of bohemian misfits. One of them felt inspired enough to hop on the stage and dance with us. The next morning, the concert organizers brought us fresh lychees for breakfast; it was my first time trying this amazing fruit.

On that trip, we’d also visited Oahu and Maui, but I’d loved the slow-moving-hippie-whole food experience of the Big Island the most. Last year, around this time, I was getting ready to head back to the Big Island. I was very excited to return to the island I’d enjoyed so much and have more time to explore it. But I was wary of our hotel. We’d gotten a good deal on huge resort called Hilton Waikaloa Village.

Upon our arrival, gaudy statues at the entrance let me know that I was right to be nervous about the resort. Take your typical beach resort and imagine Disneyland throwing up all over it. The place is so big that it has a tram running through it. There is also a fake river with a boat ride. The boat runs on tracks, of course. I half expected puppets to pop up beside me singing, “It’s a small world after all!” There is a shopping center, plenty of overpriced restaurants, and a golf course. The pool scenes were buzzing and very few guests bothered to venture over to the ocean. This place embodied pretty much everything I hate about tourism.

But nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my second trip to Hawaii. When I was at the resort, I tried to view it as a humorous peek into a different kind of tourist world. And my family and I kept ourselves busy with many activities to ensure that we spent as little time on the resort as possible. Here are some of my favorite pictures from that trip:

Flying over the ocean, getting a sense of planet Earth.

Gorgeous greenery on the way to Akaka Falls

Gorgeous greenery on the way to Akaka Falls

Lots of rain, lots of rainbows

Lots of rain = lots of rainbows

A Christmas Tree with Santa and plumes of smoke from lava flowing into the ocean.

A turn down an unmarked road led us to the unique Waialea Beach

A tranquil sunset with Buddha on Christmas day

Swimming with the fish in Kealakekua Bay

A fire dancing show, a nice ending to an otherwise cheesy luau

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy December 22, 2009 at 7:40 am

Hawaii seems so beautiful. One of these days I’ll make it there. Beautiful photos too. What band were you touring with? What you mentioned about your resort is what I’ve feared about Hawaii. Glad to see you were able to make the best of it and still get an authentic experience.

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Ekua December 27, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Don’t let the resorts deter you from visiting Hawaii! It’s possible to avoid them, you just have to do a little more research!

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fly girl December 22, 2009 at 1:01 pm

It sounds like we have the same opinion about touristy mega resorts. My first instinct is always to get as far away from that type of experience as possible. Now fresh lychees and coconuts, that sounds like my kind of experience!

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Ekua December 27, 2009 at 8:31 pm

When you’re at a place like that and surrounded by people who think it’s paradise, it can feel a little hopeless. So I’m glad you and others agree 😉

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laurenquinn December 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Great description of the resort. Something tells me there’s a longer (and hilarious) piece that could be wrangled out of that! I’ll be heading out to Hawaii this spring–hoping to avoid the touristy side of things…

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Ekua December 27, 2009 at 8:36 pm

The resorty touristy stuff is definitely very glaring in Hawaii, but as I said above, it’s definitely possible to avoid it. What island(s) will you be visiting? I’m working on writing an informative piece about enjoying the Big Island!

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Travel to Surf Oahu January 22, 2010 at 11:27 am

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Conner July 26, 2010 at 8:17 am

Sounds like you had the perfect BI experiences – a taste of both worlds!

While I was updating the latest edition of LP big island, my hiking buddy and all around intrepid travel partner got bumped from his flight. they put him up at the Waikoloa. And from there hilarity and (insert appalled face here) ensued.

as soon as he entered his ground floor room facing the dolphin holding pen he declared he was going to set them free in the dark of night. Then he rented the blender (yes! they make you rent blenders for $10 which ate half his food stipend from the airline) to make lilikoi margaritas and well, we’re lucky the local authorities didn’t get involved.

The big island is one of those destinations that truly has it all – from “bohemian visits” to tourists who think patting a dolphin at Waikoloa is Hawaii (we know you can swim with them in the wild at several points along and around the south coast!)

ALOHA and look forward to more articles on TBI!

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Ekua July 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I’m glad I’ve had a range of Big Island experiences, but probably not going to repeat the Waikoloa experience if I can avoid it. I’d take kayaking alongside dolphins in Kealakekua over that astronomically expensive Waikoloa “Dolphin Quest” anytime. What an absurd place that is. $10 to rent a blender!!!

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