by Bob Sparrow
As those who have been there know, landing in Kona at Keahole Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii is like what I imagine it would be like landing at Jurassic Park International Airport while the earth was still cooling. Black lava dominates the landscape all around the airport and you wonder if there is really any civilization down there. But indeed, there is.
Linda and I were invited, along with Jack & JJ Budd, to Chuck & Linda Sager’s timeshare at the Hilton Grand Waikoloa. We arrived at the complex’s tiki bar just in time to watch the second half of the 49er-Viking game. While the outcome pleased this life-long Niner fan; Linda, a Minnesota native and avid Viking fan, was not that happy, but looking forward to a week in Hawaii seemed to assuage the pain of the loss.
Typically, the colors of the Big Island are a mix of azure blue skies reflecting a sea-foam green ocean, contrasting with uneven natural black lava outcroppings against a variety of lush verdant golf courses, but this week Mother Nature had another color in mind . . . gray. The weather for the week showed rain every day. It’s no secret why Hawaii is so green!
But we were going to have fun anyway, and as usual, the weatherman was wrong, in fact aside from our first round of golf at Kalani Country Club (previously known as the Big Island Country Club) in a light rain, we never really experienced much precipitation. Even in the rain, Kalani was one of the most simply beautiful courses I’ve played – because it’s ‘out of the way’ in the mountain and it was raining, hardly anyone was on the course so we played as a six-some – a most enjoyable welcome round to the Big Island.
As a ‘travel blogger’ of sorts, I feel an obligation to share some of the things learned on this trip; so following are a few travel tips.
1st Travel tip: Golf – If you come to the Big Island to play golf, forget the expensive ‘named’ courses like Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea (we played those and we all got across the ocean on the beautiful 15th hole at Mauna Lani and the 3rd hole, from the tips, at Mauna Kea: Big deal!) and play Kalani and the Kona Country Club (south of Kona) – great lay-outs, ocean and mountain views, less crowded and much less expensive!
2nd Travel tip: Food – Breakfast was mostly in with all of us enjoying Jack’s smoothies, some delicious bagels, some cheese eggs and some Kona coffee – although we did find some delicious banana pancakes at several locations, which I would recommend. Lunch was usually late after golf at places like the beach at Mauna Kea Hotel which is looking a little tired these days, Tommy Bahamas in Mauna Lani, or at ‘On The Rocks’ in downtown Kona. We BBQed a couple dinners at our condo and went to Roy’s for a nice dinner, where we met Wayne Newton. But the best travel tip on food is making sure that you find the Malasadas truck parked along the main highway and stop and get a Portuguese doughnut or 12. Eat them while they’re hot, they are delicious!
3rd Travel tip: Entertainment – If you like magic and comedy, you will love the Kona Kozy Magic & Comedy Show in the Mauna Lani shopping center, next to Tommy Bahamas. It’s a small theater, probably no more than 30 seats; we were six of about 12 people in attendance that night. He is very funny, he does some great magic and gets the audience engaged. You can have dinner next door at the Pele Wok restaurant like we did and bring your own alcohol to his show – I think we brought in a case of wine. A very entertaining evening
Final Travel tip: Drink – If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island in the near future and like wine, you should plan on bringing your own, as we depleted the island of most of its supply while we were there.
No trip to Kona is complete without a visit to the spectacularly gigantic Kona Waikoloa Hilton Hotel, which we visited on our last evening there and watched a beautiful sunset – yes, the weather was clearing up just as we were clearing out.
A special thanks to Chuck Sager, who knows this island like the back of his hand and was able to get us to all the roads less traveled by most tourists.