The Big Island: Where Nature Is Dominant
It you're looking for a vacation spot where the natives are friendly, the beaches are clean and the weather is warm, then Hawaii is the place for you.
No, not Honolulu--all the good scenery there is blocked by the high-rise buildings. If you just want warm weather in a large, traffic-congested city, you might as well got to Southern California.
But if you want to see the Hawaiian countryside in its full, unobstructed beauty, the Big Island of Hawaii is where it's at.
Encircling the Big Island is a two-lane highway, which gives tourists a rare glimpse of nature in action. On one side is lava, extending back up to the countryside, and on the other side is more lava, stretching out to the Pacific.
There are huge waterfalls, black sand beaches and the Mauna Loa volcano, which is one of the few active volcanoes, in the world. You can still see it, although the tourist center was wiped out in a recent eruption--nature certainly remains dominant on this island.
Then there is a favorite tourist spot a little farther along the road--the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. But don't expect to find John Hillerman, fending off several beautiful women as he munches away at his macadamia nuts.
What you will see is how the macadamia nuts are produced. You will even have a chance to sample some of the finished product for yourself. And, of course, the opportuninty to buy some to take home to your friends and relatives (even though they're also available at your local Stop 'n' Shop).
There are two main "cities" on the Big Island--Hilo and Kona. Kona is where that great Hawaiian coffee comes from, and is a much more popular tourist spot.
Basically, Kona is a shopping village. There are tons of little shops where you can buy anything from postcards to those tacky flower shirts and shorts that all Hawaiian toursits seem obliged to buy at some point so that they can be instantly identified by local Hawaiians in case they get lost.
If you're a shop-a-holic, then you can stay at one of the older hotels right in the heart of town. But if you really want to get away from it all, you should stay at one of the "resorts" located virtually in the middle of nowhere.
There are four or five resort hotels, most of which are newly built, along the beach north of Kona. They cater specifically to the tourist who wants luxury, scenery, Hawaiian culture--essentially nothing that resembles city life.
At these hotels, the goal is maximun relaxation. The hotel workers go out of their way to be as friendly as possible. The word "mahalo," which means "thank you," is uttered by every employee until you begin thanking them for thanking you.
Although these hotels are expensive, it seems quite worthwhile, especially at meal times (they serve more food at one meal than anyone could possibly eat in an entire day).
And the whole atmosphere is conducive to R and R. The beaches are perfect for swimming or just lying out in the sun. One hotel has only television in the entire place.
Of course it is possible to go overboard--one of these hotels is so extravagant that it has a boat and monorail running from one part of the hotel to another. You may be impressed by the extravagance, but it is somewhat Disneyland-Sequa.
And if you want Disneyland, you might as well go to Southern California.