Hawaii: The Big Island with Kids

Here’s the wonderful irony of travel blogging: when you’re sitting at home and not travelling, you have all the time in the world to write blog posts, but when you’re out having adventures and actually doing things worth blogging  about you’re having way too much fun to sit down and update the blog! So now that we’re back from our amazing spring break on the Big Island, I’m hoping to catch up a bit and share some of the things we’ve done in Hawaii. I’m hoping to post some tips on family friendly attractions and accommodation options in the next few days, but today I’m just throwing out a grab bag of random observations and impressions from our family trip to Hawaii. So here they are, in no particular order.

1) The Big Island is great for active families

I had always assumed that Hawaii was about palm trees and beaches and that was about it. And since I really don’t like going to the beach or sitting in the sun, I never really gave Hawaii much thought as a destination. I had been to Oahu before and it was okay, but before I started researching the Big Island I thought there wouldn’t me that much else to do. Well, it can be great to be proven wrong! The Big Island has ranches, botanical gardens, national parks, historic sites, waterfalls, hikes and tonnes of other things to do. And there are even some great beaches thrown in if that’s your thing. We easily filled nine busy days on the island and only went to the beach twice!

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2) The entire island really is one giant volcano

This may seem obvious to anyone who studied geology in school. But nothing can really prepare you for the desolation of mile after mile of lava fields everywhere you go. Some are more worn, with smoother surfaces and fairly significant vegetation, but a lot of it looked like it could have flowed out of the volcano and hardened up last year. We love volcanoes in our family, it was one of the reasons I first started looking at Hawaii as a destination in the first place, and the Big Island did not disappoint this volcano loving family one bit. And in a related tip…

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3) Bring a lot of band aids

I have a little packet of about a dozen band aids that I keep in my handbag for scraped knees and elbows when I’m out with the kids and I find that I usually have to top it up about once a year. Well, in Hawaii I ran out on about day four. Many paths and surfaces are made of rough, uneven lava rock and my kids were constantly tripping and falling. And a fall that might leave a red spot on a sidewalk would often leave a bloody scrape on the sharp, porous stones. This is a picture of my son’t knees after a day out in Hilo.

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About two minutes after this picture was taken, my daughter went head over heels and got our biggest scrape yet on her elbow. They each had quite a set of battle scars by the time we went home.

4) Don’t miss the exotic side of Hawaii

Yes, Hawaii is part of the USA, it has all the usual American stores and restaurants and everything is in English, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s just like any other part of the country. Hawaiians of all cultures and backgrounds have worked hard to keep their state a unique melting pot and it’s not hard to get off the beaten track. On our last day we found a local cafe filled with groups of construction workers and local families selling pretty much every Hawaiian specialty I’d ever heard of and many that I hadn’t. On the way to Akaka Falls State Park we stopped at a tiny corner store that sold every kind of tropical fruit preserve you could imagine (dragonfruit/guava jelly anyone?) where the kids could watch an ancient looking machine turn a chunk of ice into a perfect sphere of snow and the grownups could have home made passion fruit turnovers. The big corporations may have made some inroads into Hawaii, but there seems to be a real pride in holding on to the “traditional” Hawaii.

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5) Prices can be…..interesting

Hawaii is the first place I ever bought a (decent)  bottle of wine and a bag of Doritos and had them each cost exactly the same. Does this say more about the high cost of chips or the low cost of wine? Yes.

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