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Guest: Hawaii Big Island
Waterfalls, Volcanoes, Resorts and Winter on the Big Island
Story and photos by Greg Aragon

Meet Our Guest Writer

Greg Aragon

Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Glendale, California. For the past 10 years Greg has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular weekly travel column, featured in a number of weekly publications around Los Angeles County. In the course of writing the column, Greg has traveled to more than a 20 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. From Alaska to Zermatt, Greg has experienced the thrill and beauty of traveling to the fullest. Along the way he has dog sledded on glaciers, drank with sea captains, danced with hula girls, dined with royalty, sung with street performers, wrestled with pigs, jumped from airplanes, conquered rapids, panned for gold, rode a rhino, slept in trees and much, much more. When not on the road, Greg enjoys strumming his old nylon string guitar and playing basketball.

t’s not every day one hikes through a giant lava tube or cuts through a lush rainforest in a raging downpour to stand at the precipice of a thunderous waterfall. And it’s not often one stays in a room overlooking volcanic rocks, giant manta rays and dolphin either. But then, Hawaii’s Big Island is not an everyday excursion.

A friend and I recently escaped to the island, trading the December chill of Southern California for warm tropical breezes. Our getaway began at Kona International Airport, where we deplaned on the tarmac, walked through the little facility and picked up our rent-a-car in about 10 minutes! From here, we drove 15 minutes past sprawling fields of black lava, lining beautiful coastline, to the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Kona.

Set atop an ancient lava flow cascading into the Pacific, the 521-room Sheraton is resembles a giant, modern, Mayan pyramid with restaurants, shops, a spa, numerous activities, and well appointed guest rooms with gorgeous landscape outside each window. And since it was Christmas-time, the place was decked in holiday trees, lights and ornaments throughout.

the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa in Kona, Hawaii
Set atop an ancient lava flow cascading into the Pacific, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Kona resembles a giant, modern, Mayan pyramid

Our room overlooked black volcanic rock and the ocean a few feet beyond. From our balcony we could see boats and kayakers drift by and hear the crash of waves. Each night beginning at 7pm, with the help of powerful hotel lights, we could see giant manta rays swim offshore.

Once cozy at the Sheraton, we explored the island, Hawaii’s largest and youngest landmass. Our first stop was 90 miles south to Volcano National Park, home of the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Kilauea is the earth’s most active volcano and has been erupting practically non-stop for the past 20 years. And at more than 33,000 feet, Mauna Loa is the world’s tallest mountain when measured from the ocean floor.

We began at Kilauea Overlook, where we saw volcanic steam rising through fissures and giant clouds of gas erupt from the Summit Caldera. Our next stop was Thurston Lava Tube.

the writer inside Thurston Lava Tube
The Thurston Lava Tube was formed 500 years ago by a river of lava

Formed 500 years ago by a river of lava, this wondrous cave is about 100 yards long and tall enough to walk through. It is lit by electric lights, so I could see the puddles on the floor, the colorful minerals shining on the walls, and water dripping through the ceiling cracks.

Emerging from the cave we continued south around the island to the charming town of Hilo. Lined with historic buildings facing a crescent-shaped bay, Hilo is a throwback to the old days of Hawaii. Instead of resorts, the town has small shops and cafes and colorful locales strolling about. The town began as a fishing village, then became a sugar hub, and then the seat of county government. In 1946 and 1960 it was nearly swallowed by a tsunami.

the Hilo Bay Building, one of the historic buildings at Hilo, Hawaii
Lined with historic buildings facing a crescent-shaped bay, Hilo is a throwback to the old days of Hawaii

From Hilo we drove to Akaka Falls State Park, located in a rainforest along the northeastern Hamakua Coast. Here, with buckets of rain pouring on us, we descended a staircase into a lost jungle and hiked through thick orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns.

Following a footpath into the rainforest, we came to100-ft Kahuna Falls and then encountered the massive and thunderous Akaka Falls, which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge.

the Akaka Falls, Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Waterfall plummets 450 ft into a stream-eroded gorge

From the falls we finished our southern loop of the island and headed back to the Kona area, where we discovered Hapuna State Beach. Here we body-surfed and worked on our tropical tan, before heading to yet another another Hawaiian wonder – the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

bathers at the Hapuna State Beach, Kona
Hawaiian Beaches offer great views

A destination all its own, this magical 1,240-room resort is nestled on 62 oceanfront acres, teeming with breathtaking tropical gardens, stunning artwork, pools and waterfalls, restaurants and shops and everything else to keep an entire family occupied for a week without leaving the property.

a boat takes guests to their rooms at the Hilton Waikoloa Village
The Hilton Waikoloa Village has trams and boats to take guests to their rooms

Our 6th-floor room was located in the Lagoon Tower. To get there we caught a tram near the colorful parrots in the lobby. We would have taken the boat, but it wasn’t running yet. The short ride was beautifully lined with resort shops on one side and a canal with tiny islands and bird-filled trees on the other.

Once in the room, we opened the curtains and were flabbergasted at the beauty before us. A hundred yards out was a volcanic beach, with waves crashing on white and black rocks. The view also included the resort pool and lawn, a salt water lagoon for snorkeling, a rope bridge, and a lagoon full of shiny grey and white dolphins, swimming in an interactive hotel exhibit called Dolphin Encounter.

grey and white dolphin at the Dolphin Encounter, the Hilton Waikoloa Village
Waikoloa Village also features a lagoon full of shiny grey and white dolphins, swimming in an interactive exhibit

After unpacking, we donned swimming gear and went exploring in the 80-degree weather. We started at the Kohala River Pool – a system of four pools interconnected by waterslides. Here we swam, played beneath a waterfall, soaked in the Jacuzzi and sipped margaritas.

For dinner we discovered the Hilton’s romantic Kamuela Provision Company (KPC), winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2005 and 2006. A sophisticated steak and seafood restaurant, the place looks over the water and offers memorable views of the Hawaiian sunset. Our meal was highlighted by lobster tempura, Jumbo Shrimp, Kalbi beef ribs, local beer, cheese cake, and the sun falling into the Pacific.

sunset dining at the Kamuela Provision Company restaurant, Hilton Waikoloa Village
Waikoloa’s Kamuela Provision Company offers seaside sunset dining

Other resort highlights include full-service spa, 2 championship golf courses, 8 tennis courts, a wedding chapel, $7 million in art speckled about the grounds and 20,000 sq-ft of retail shopping.

For more info on staying at Hilton Waikoloa Village, visit For more information on staying at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, visit For more info on the Big Island, visit:

Related Articles:
Lahaina On Foot, Upcountry Maui, Hana Highway, Kaunakakai, Molokai, The Garden Island of Kaua’i, Kona Village Resort, The North Shore of Oahu, Tahiti and Her Islands

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

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New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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