• Catrina Gardner

5 Days On The Big Island

When one of my best friends told me she was engaged, I was over the moon happy for her! I immediately told her, “Wherever you need us, we will be there!”

My friend grew up in the same town as I did in Massachusetts, but had been living in Australia for the last 4 years, as that was where she had met her Australian fiancé. We weren’t sure if they wanted to get married here, there, or somewhere in between.

When they settled on Kona, Hawaii as a good half-way point, everyone was thrilled! I don’t think any one of us had been there yet, so it was an exciting new adventure for us to go through together.

At this point we had about a year and half before the big day. I started saving and planning right away, to ensure I would be able to have the best time in Hawaii with my favorite people.


Tips Before the Trip:

-We booked our tickets using our Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska Airlines has a fantastic deal with their card: Once a year you can purchase 1 round trip ticket, and receive a 2nd ticket for $121.00. We got this credit card for this trip, but I’m so happy I have it for any future trips I may want to take to Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, or California.

-We stayed at the Sheraton Kona for part of the trip, and a HomeAway rental for the other part. Because we were with a wedding party, the Sheraton Kona gave discounted rooms as part of a room block. Even without the discount though, the big island as MUCH more affordable hotel options compared to the other Hawaiian Islands.


5 Day Itinerary:

Day 1 (Saturday):

  • Arrive in Kona at 10:05am.

  • Pool/ relaxation time

  • Kona Brewery Tour

  • Bachelorette Party (Kaiulu Club Lounge)

Landing in Kona, we knew we were in for a fun get-away immediately! The Kona Airport is completely outdoors! Only in paradise does it rain soooo little that you can have a completely open airport! We booked a shuttle to bring us to the Sheraton Kona, which was $22 per person. The driver greeted us with lei’s and we made our way to the hotel. Upon check in we were happily surprised with a room upgrade from mountain view to a partial ocean view.

We spent the early afternoon catching up with the bride & groom, meeting people, and relaxing at the hotels amazing pool and eating lunch at the Holua Poolside Bar & Lounge.

For the evening the boys went off to downtown Kona for a bit of shopping, and most importantly, to visit the Kona Brewery and go on a tour. My Husband (boyfriend at the time) was thrilled by all the vintage cars he saw downtown.

The ladies had ourselves a little girls night out/ bachelorette party as well. Kona isn’t really known for a buzzing night-life. They do have some bars with dancing for entertainment, that look to be fantastic! However, after a little deliberation, we decided to stay at the resort, which was a fantastic choice for us! We started our evening at the Kaiulu Club Lounge. The Sheraton Kona graciously offered to let us enjoy drinks and appetizers in their gorgeous club lounge for the night in honor of our beautiful bride. The club lounge offers the most beautiful views overlooking the ocean, and we so enjoyed our special time getting to chat and catch up, since most of us girls live so far apart from each other now. Once we enjoyed enough cheese and wine in the club lounge, we made our way down to Rays on the Bay, The bar/ dining room downstairs in the hotel. This place had a bit more of an upbeat atmosphere. We continued enjoying our drinks and getting excited for the big day.

View from the Kaiulu Club Lounge

Day 2 (Sunday):

  • Morning snorkel Cruise 9:00am- 1:30pm. $140 per person

  • Wedding rehearsal 4:00-5:00pm (Rays on the Bay)

Myself, my sister, and our significant others woke up early on Sunday to go out on a morning snorkel tour with Fair Wind Cruises. We were happy to find this company, as their dock is an easy walk from the hotel. We got to the boat by 8:30am to get our wetsuits and snorkels ready. The ride out to the Captain Cook Monument, our snorkel spot, taught me something I never knew about myself! I get seasick! Luckily it wasn’t so bad, just enough for me to put my head down between my legs for most of the journey. Once we started our snorkel, all sickness went away and I just swam in awe of all the beauty around me. I have never seen such clear water or colorful fish. It was truly an outstanding experience. I was so happy we got to enjoy it.

Once we got back from our snorkel, we quickly showered and got ready for our wedding rehearsal and dinner. Dinner was once again at Rays on the Bay, in a private area.

Day 3 (Monday):

  • Wedding Day!

Monday was wedding day! Before we started bridal prep, we just relaxed by pool. I think this was my man’s favorite part of the whole trip! Total relaxation.

The rest of the day was all wedding! We had such an amazing time! It was absolutely one of the most special weddings I have ever attended.

For those of you interested in visiting the big island that don’t plan on attending a wedding, the hotel offers many activities that I wish I had a chance to check out. The have the following schedule some mornings:

8:30am: Outside yoga 10:30am: Lei making class 11:00am: Ukulele class 11:30am: Hula class

A Luau is also performed at the resort every Monday and Friday night. I was really bummed we didn’t get a chance to go to one of these during our trip.

And if you wanted to get off the resort, below I have a list of more fun things to do on the island that I didn’t get the chance to see.

Day 4 (Tuesday):

  • Shopping

  • Manta Ray Snorkel 6pm-8pm. $120 per person. Fair Wind

Tuesday we spent the afternoon in downtown Kona looking at all the shops and checking out a market with cute handmade items. We had lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp where I got a really cool non-alcholic bev in an awesome souvenir cup! It was so fun to get the Shirley-temple type drinks with my best friend, I felt like we were kids again!

Our plan was to check out of the hotel this day and move to the rental house, but we ended up staying at the hotel one extra night. Our evening activity was another snorkel right next to the hotel, so we didn’t want to force anyone drive us out to the rental so late at night!

The nighttime snorkel was to view the manta rays! What an experience! I will never get a chance to do something like that ever again! It was spectacular. This snorkel gave me the biggest adrenaline rush of my life! We took the cruise ship out to the snorkel spot, which was much closer than the morning snorkel. Manta Ray snorkels happen at night, because they use lights in the water to attract plankton. And the krill attracts the Manta Rays. They had the floating ladder that everyone held onto. We kept our legs lifted with a noodle, so that our bodies were completely floating on the surface of the water and we were just looking down below. Before you knew it, the rays started appearing. They are HUGE! And they are not afraid to get close! The way they swoop upwards and skim the top of the water upside is amazing! This is why our legs were propped up, so that we didn’t accidentally kick any of the rays. Manta Rays are gentle and don’t have stingers, but they are a giant ray species, and only live in certain areas.

CHECK OUT MY VIDEO OF THE SNORKLE! Video is the best way to see how close they get!

Day 5 (Wednesday)

  • Day trip to volcano

  • Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Our last full day on the island was spent exploring the Volcanos National Park. Our trip was happening in 2016, so we did not experience all the crazy volcano eruptions that are happening now! We managed to see the super cool crater that had a pool of lava, but it wasn’t actively erupting at the time!

Before we got to Volcanos National Park, we stopped at the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. This was another favorite part of the trip for me. Not only was the black sand a fascinating sight to see, but I loved seeing the turtles snoozing on the beach! It was a bit windy and chilly, but truly a beautiful sight!

We stopped at several trails and view points in the Volcanoes National Park. It was fascinating to see how the world around us changed as we drove away from the sunny side of the island filled with lush palm trees, to a barren desert-like land with just black volcanic rocks. And then sprouting in between two rocks might be the bud of a vibrant green bush! I couldn’t believe it made its way through, but it was very cool!


Total spending: Airfare:                                     $1,010.00 Hotel:                                        $  570.00 Travel:                                      $  100.00 Food:                                         $  300.00 Fun:                                           $  600.00

Total: $2,380

We lucked out on food spending because a lot of our meals were covered by wedding events, or going out to eat with the brides parents! It really is not cheap to eat on the islands, and buying your own groceries if possible is a very smart way to keep costs down.


Other things to do on the Big Island: 

We unfortunately only had 5 days on the island, because we couldn’t get more time off of work. Traveling to and from the island included overnight layovers that we had to include in our time-off requests. If we had more Island days I would have loved to check out the following:

  • Visit Hilo

Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls. Hilo is beautiful, lush rain forests filled with gorgeous waterfalls.

  • Papakolea Beach, Green Sand Beach

This was originally on our itinerary, before Punalu’u, but due to some GPS mishaps, we drove past for several miles before realizing. Some people in our group managed to go. I didn’t get the impression that they were super impressed, so I’m not too bummed that I missed it. You either have to walk a couple of miles to the beach, or locals will offer to drive you in their jeep, for a tip. If you’re adventurous, it’s probably worth it!


There you have it! Hawaii was spectacular. Visiting at least one of the islands should be on everyone’s bucket list! I hope to go back some day, when I can afford to!

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