Destination Guides Travel

The Big Island, Hawaii

April 7, 2021
mom and baby on beach
parent and kids playing in shallow ocean water and sand

We spent a glorious two weeks on The Big Island, Hawaii last month and it was the most glorious vacation! We loved our time in O’ahu and Maui several years ago (with one less kid) and thought this would be the perfect vacation. I keep telling people it’s the vacation we never knew we needed. It was so nice to get a break from the daily grind. I don’t think Gordon or I even realized the kind of stress we were carrying around until we landed in Kona. I’m so glad we booked the trip for a full two weeks. We didn’t feel like we had to rush to do anything and it truly was as relaxing as could be! I’m going to go over the highlights and our favorite parts, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to drop them below in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

I created a google map with all the places we went plus all the extra places we wanted to visit. I hope you find this helpful!

Also, we traveled to The Big Island with some family friends who have five kids! We’ve known them for 8+ years and our kids line up in ages with their kids, so it really was a good setup! It felt like more of a vacation for all of us because everyone had a buddy to play with and the parents could tag team date nights. It was wonderful! So if you see a few random kids that don’t look familiar in these photos, that would be them.

mom in pool with kids

Where We Stayed

The question we got the most!! We ended up booking a vacation rental in Mauna Lani, north of Kailua-Kona by about 25 minutes. It was a great location and the house was amazing! And funnily enough, the owner of the home follows me on instagram and messaged me saying “you’re at my house!!” Such a small world. The vacation rental link can be found here. It was a lovely home with a lot of amenities like access to a small gym, several pools within the community, plus a pool in the backyard with hot tub. It was perfect and just what we were looking for.

mom and baby on beach
boy walking on sand
dad and baby on beach
girl with boogie board
sailboat on the ocean

Favorite Beaches

Black Sand Beach/Punalu’u Beach

We ended up driving to the southern part of the island as a day trip to see the black sand beach in Punalu’u, hoping to see some turtles and this beach did not disappoint! Several sea turtles were on the hot sand which was really fun for the kids to see. You aren’t allowed to get very close to the turtles, so it was cool to view them from afar. We hung out here for at least an hour, exploring.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach

I didn’t visit this beach, thanks to Porter refusing to nap. But our family friends took Brooke and their kids and apparently, it was quite the adventure to visit! You absolutely need a four wheeler/car with four wheel drive to get there or plan to spend a pretty penny for locals to shuttle you to and from the beach. Also, its a steep climb down to the beach, but apparently its worth it.

Hapuna Beach

This was the most recommended beach for us to visit and it certainly was beautiful! Perfect for the littles just wanting to play in the sand and the older kids who wanted to boogie board. Plenty of space at this beach!

Kua Bay

Only one or two of you recommended this as a good spot to visit and on our very last day, we went here and man oh man, it may have been my favorite! Crystal clear water, white sand, big waves, amazing boogie boarding! Not the best for little ones because of the bigger waves and seems crowded because its on the smaller side (get there early or after lunch when people are leaving). It was wonderful!

girl on black sand beach
baby on black sand beach
two boys holding black sand
kids posing in front of aloha sign

Best Excursions & Experiences

Rainbow Falls- a free and easy stop in Hilo. There are lots of waterfalls on The Big Island, but we didn’t prioritize going to see many because of how many people were in our group. But this was a simple one to visit.

Hawaiian Crown Plantation and Chocolate Factory Tour- in Hilo! We wanted something “educational” while still fun for everyone. We ended up here at the Hawaiian Crown Plantation and it was great for everyone, except Porter who hated being strapped to me in his baby carrier. He screamed a lot. SO FUN. We bought a ridiculous amount of chocolate at the end of the tour which I wasn’t mad about.

Snorkel Cruise- we took a 3 hour afternoon snorkel cruise with a company called Ocean Encounters and besides Blake and Eddie refusing to get in the water, it was great! Ha! I stayed on the boat for 2 hours and 45 minutes of this tour with all three of my boys while everyone else snorkeled. We saw dolphins, lots of fish and one of the guides even caught an octopus so the kids could pet it and see it up close! That was a highlight for sure.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour- this was a bucket list thing that Gordon and I did. A little pricey, but I’m so glad we did this. It was incredible. We did the longest tour they offered and toured the entire island. The landscape is so beautiful. All the pictures I took don’t do it justice. I would highly highly recommend this! We booked at the last minute and would suggest booking sooner rather than later.

Puako Petroglyph Park- this was a free little hike and was certainly interesting. The terrain wasn’t necessarily easy, but it wasn’t hard either. Lots of turns, ups, downs, random tree branches and roots. If I were to do this again, I’m not sure I’d bring the little ones. But Brooke and Blake were fine along the trail, despite their complaints.

Kona Farmer’s Market- there were several farmers markets I wanted to visit, but we only ended up at this one, which ended up being a pretty great stop. Inexpensive produce and fun little knick knacks. Our kids got their souvenirs here.

husband and wife on helicopter
circle rainbow
view of Hawaii from the helicopter
hawaii from a helicopter
Hilo from the air
rainbow falls
family smiling in hawaii
close up of toddler
girl smiling
group picture in hawaii

Best Restaurants

Scandinavian Shave Ice- the irony that we got scandinavian shave ice in hawaii, but I figured they all are basically the same?! Who knows, but it sure was good! Probably takes a lot for this to be terrible, though.

GetSum’ Pizza- We ordered the Bad Mutha’ and it was LOADED with every topping they have! Be sure you have plates, forks and knives!

Brown’s Beach House- this is a restaurant in the Fairmont Orchid, just down the road from where our vacation rental was. This meal was phenomenal. I knew it would be good, but everything everyone ordered was fantastic. If it wasn’t so expensive, we would have eaten here three more times, at least.

Punalu’u Bake Shop- the malasadas here are so so good! The Lilikoi (passionfruit) was phenomenal. Brooke and I both agreed that it was the best thing we ate our entire vacation. The other ones were good too, but if you’re going to go here, for sure try the lilikoi! It’s sweet and tart and everything you want in a malasada.

Island Ono Loa Grill-while we came here mainly for burgers, I would come back again and only order the onion rings! They were so.freaking.good!!

Meridia- this was another nicer (more expensive) restaurant within the Westin at Hapuna Beach. Our wait time for food was longer than we wanted, but I got some pretty stellar short ribs and mashed potatoes that I wasn’t mad about.

malasadas in box
whole pizza in box
boys eating pizza
family smiling on temple grounds
family outside temple
two couples smiling

Other Random Items

I’ve gotten quite a few questions that I’ll do my best to answer here, mainly about our swimsuits and clothes.

Porter’s one piece rash guard swimsuit (the exact same suit in blue and yellow) is from Hanna Andersson. I love these swimsuits because they have UV protection built right into them, so he is unlikely to burn. While these exact suits aren’t available anymore, I linked to extremely similar ones here.

I got our family matching swimsuits and never took pictures of all of us in our matching swimsuits. #fail But, I wanted to make sure I link to them because there are plenty of photos of us in our swimsuits that you all are asking me about! This one is a great one-piece swimsuit I wore from Land’s End which was way more comfortable than I ever thought. Brooke and I both got the same swimsuit. (I’d suggest sizing up to make sure it’s a comfortable fit.) I got my middle boys these matching swim trunks with matching rash guards. I am a big fan of covering up my kids as much as possible. Gordon and I burn easily and so do our kids. Brooke did not take the cover up approach and learned to love sunburns. Ha! Gordon’s swim trunks are here with matching rash guard here. I got all the swimsuits 50% off back in February, and currently, there is a 40% off sale. Not sure if everything is on sale, but I thought they were absolutely quality for the price.

I got two pairs of sunglasses for this trip. The most popular ones that everyone was asking about were these ones from Quay. This was the other pair which were a little larger, which I loved too.

The white and light blue striped swimsuit is also extremely comfortable from Albion Fit. I wore it on the snorkel cruise and it was just the kind of suit I needed for what was required of my body. Chasing kids on a boat and snorkeling. It’s several years old, but here is a similar one. Albion Fit also has extremely high quality swimsuits.

lady sitting on sand in swimsuit
dad walking to beach holding baby
dad and baby on beach
baby sitting on sand
boy with arms up smiling
selfie with mom and son
two boys on boat
mom holding baby on boat
toddler on surrey bike
  • Reply
    April 7, 2021 at 1:56 am

    I’m so glad you posted this. I’ll be traveling to Kona in less than two weeks. I am worried about traveling there with all the restrictions, getting the right covid test done within 72 hours, and whatever else is required. Please give me tips on what to do so my trip is a success and I won’t have to quarantine.

    • Reply
      April 7, 2021 at 1:39 pm

      Well, here’s what we did. Not sure if everything you do will be the same in your area. But we checked with our airline (Alaska Air) and the proper state of Hawaii websites to make sure the covid tests we were getting were the right ones. We scheduled free covid tests through the Walgreens website. They have three different kinds of tests, so just make sure to schedule to get the right one. We got back the results within 24 hours and then had to upload them to the safe travels website and bring hard copies to the airport. That’s pretty much it! Once we landed in Kona, we got tested again for Covid and then got a green check mark on our safe travels profile, sent screenshots of those to the airbnb people and showed that as proof to the rental car companies and were good to travel about the island like normal (but in masks).

      • Reply
        April 8, 2021 at 2:05 pm

        Why would you get tested again after landing in Kona when you were tested within 72 hours prior? I have not heard about that.

        • Reply
          April 9, 2021 at 2:54 pm

          I don’t know. That’s just what they did once we were walking off the airplane. I didn’t read about that happening anywhere on any website in doing my research, but thankfully, it was a quick nose swab (or nose tickle) as I described it to my kids. Easy!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    We travel to Hawaii every spring. Been to the BI more than I can count and the Mauna Lani is where we always stay. Just booked our 2022 vacation. So glad you enjoyed yourselves. Mahalo for sharing.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2021 at 2:29 am

      Why would you get tested again after landing in Kona when you were tested within 72 hours prior? I have not heard about that.

  • Reply
    Sharla Arrazcaeta
    April 8, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Wow luv following U an Ur family! U offer so much more then food, the reason I started following you an learning. Such a handsome couple you two are young love an four babies later so sweet! Thank you so much Lauren, God has blessed you.
    Blog on 💯

  • Reply
    April 9, 2021 at 9:29 am

    So glad you guys had a great trip. Thanks for the swimsuit recs, Love the striped one. As always my favorite pics have Eddie in them. He makes the best facial expressions. That helicopter tour looked amazing. So funny that the house you stayed at was a follower of yours. It really is a small world. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

  • Reply
    April 18, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Those pictures and your experiences have given me so much hope that one day we will be able to vacation. Your timing couldn’t be better!
    I’m in Ontario, Canada and the scenarios described on a day to day basis makes me feel like I’m living in a vacuum of doom. Beyond happy to see your vacation pics and all of those smiling faces. Beautiful family!

  • Reply
    Tresa Wofford
    April 18, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Looks like you had a very good time lovely pictures

  • Reply
    April 19, 2021 at 12:54 am

    Great pictures enjoyed all of them. I am wondering if you have chosen your new flooring? You have great taste and can’t wait until you share. Was it the luxury vinyl or engineered hardwood and the color of your choice? Thank you for responding.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2021 at 6:56 am

    Beautiful Pictures!! I grew up in Ka’u on the big island. Hawai’i No Ka Oi! (There is no place like Hawai’i). 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2021 at 10:38 am

    Lauren photos are great and so so happy the whole family could be together hope getting away helped you all take care ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply
    April 22, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Hello, LOVED the pics. What a memorable family vacation ❤️. We’re headed there in August for 5 nights. Could you PLEASE tell me where you rented your jeep/suv from? My heart is palpitating from the prices I’ve seen thus far. Thanks!!!

    • Reply
      April 22, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      We got our SUV through Costco. Yes, it was expensive, but cheaper than Expedia, Priceline and those other sites.

  • Reply
    April 22, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Amazing time! Your kids are sooo cute!!! I know they had a great time.

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