Following a good night’s rest, we woke up to continued grey skies. But the natural beauty of the resort drew us like a siren’s call. Ready for the day, we first went to enjoy a good breakfast. As a Hilton Diamond member, I thought breakfast would be free for us and we would have to pay only for the children.
A Big Island Breakfast is served every morning at the Water’s Edge Ballroom. We took the tram to the Ballroom and waited in line to check-in. Breakfast is served from 7 am to 10:30 am. The line was long and it took a while for us to be seated. I really liked the ambience of the ballroom, walled in by numerous windows overlooking the lagoon that is encapsulated by the resort. The service was quick and efficient. We eschewed the continental breakfast in favor of the Big island buffet with the warm foods like roasted potatoes, pineapple cakes, variety of breads, tropical fruits jams and jellies like guava, lilikoi, variety of fresh juices, cereals, omelets. There were also Japanese and Chinese style breakfasts which the kids attacked with gusto. When the bill arrived, I told the lady that I was a Diamond member but they could not find my name on their list. She tried to take my information down and have the bill settled with the manager but couldn’t. I thanked her for her efforts, paid the whole bill ($35 pp per adult and $18 pp child, not a cheap breakfast by any means) and decided to have the adjustments made at the front desk.
With our bellies filled well, we set out to explore the resort on foot. Back on the covered walkway, we walked to the lobby. There was a man with a parakeet to hold and pet, so we did that, then enjoyed the Christmas tree as well. We then walked down the stairs to enjoy more of the artwork that was on display before hitting the lagoon. This body of ocean-fed water forms the main entertainment in this part of the resort. There are plenty of Honu, the green sea turtles, schools of fish, crabs and other sea life that form the ecosystem of this lagoon. There is a man-made grotto with a waterfall on one side of the lagoon, that is fun to walk through and enjoy.
The Dolphin Quest is on the other side of the lagoon. We watched the dolphins swim and frolic in their home. There were several guests enjoying group sessions with the dolphins and their trainers. While in the Bahamas, we had done the dolphin experience and enjoyed it. So we chose not to pursue it here. Besides, the prices for this program were quite out of our range. Instead we just stood at the fences, enjoying the playful dolphins’ antics.
Crossing the Lagoon Grill restaurant, we finally made our way to the rugged coastline that borders this resort. One of the biggest differences between Maui and the Big Island was that the beach here was quite rocky and inaccessible in many areas. There are some beaches elsewhere on the island that one could visit. In contrast, in Maui, there were beaches that we could stop and enjoy at several locations. One reason is that this island is chronologically younger than Maui and the other Hawaiian islands and its beaches are still developing. So although we walked along the coastline, we could reach the water in one or two spots.
The resort was not crowded that morning as the palm trees along the beach swayed in the wind and occasional drizzle splashed us. Walking ahead, we came across the Kona Pool but that was closed. So we borrowed the large loungers to sit on and spend some quality time talking and laughing as a family. The Kamuela Provision Company is situated a little further from here. I’ve read that the KPC has excellent oceanfront views but we did not visit as it had limited choices for us. A short walk past the KPC led to an accessible beach. Strewn with lava rocks, we had to traverse it carefully to watch the waves at play. It was there we found our lone Wanaka-like tree, a silent spectator to life passing by around it.
Walking back to the Kona pool, we passed an anchialine pool. I have to admit, I had not come across this term before. Greek for “near the sea”, these are naturally occurring pools with subterranean connections to the ocean. They form in volcanic rock and / or limestone and are home to rare species of crustaceans, fish and eels. The area looked peaceful and verdant.
There are multiple hammocks and cabanas for rent strategically situated all along the walk path. We made our way back to the room, cutting through the Kohala Pool that is near the Ocean tower. This has pools with small slides for kids and seemed appropriate for younger children.
We borrowed a movie from the DVD Now rental box that is included. A couple of hours later, we walked back to the main lobby to lunch at the Kona Tap Room. Now the Boat Landing Cantina is right at the foot of the Ocean Tower but the options were not appetising. So we skipped this in favor of the Tap Room. As the name suggests, it’s a great place to grab a few drinks and Mr. JJ tried the Lemongrass Blonde. For our main dish, we chose the Mahi tacos with no Mahi and added avocados. It was actually very good with the mango salsa infusing a lot of flavor. And the truffle fries appetizer with it was just right! As a bonus, the waitress was kind enough to talk to the manager and reduce the price!! Sweet! The Kona Tap Room has a fun and pleasing color palette, a bit whimsical. It features a stage for night-time performances that we didn’t have enough time to savor.
After lunch, we sauntered over to the Lagoon tower area with the Kohala Spa, the tennis courts and the gym. We learned that we could rent the tennis court for an hour and decided to return to following day. It continued to drizzle all afternoon/ early evening, so we headed down to the Queens’ Marketplace. This is a fun place to visit, well laid out, well visited and close to the Hilton resort. It features a variety of dining, shopping, art/ jewelry, other gifts and specialty stores. Concerts, Hula dances and movies are also held here at different times. Across from this is the Kings’ Shops which is more upscale retail therapy and dining.
Hilton has shuttles from their lower lobby to the marketplace and back. They stop at the Marriott resort on the way there and at both shopping areas. Usually open air shuttles but since it was raining, we had regular shuttle buses that we were grateful for. Shuttles cost $2 per adult and $1 per child, best to carry exact change. Buses run every 20 mins both ways, last one leaving the marketplace at 9:50 pm.
A quick stop at the front desk first revealed that guests who come through the Hilton Grand vacations do not get the Diamond member benefits. But she was kind enough to allow us a $15 discount on the adult prices of the breakfast and the rest we had to pay. It wasn’t much but better than nothing.
The marketplace had plenty of stores and seating areas, a gazebo for events but we hurried along as the temperature dropped and a cold rain followed us. The food court offered a variety of island BBQ along with the usual suspects including Subway and pizza. We stopped to enjoy ice cream at the Marble Slab Creamery. Our main goal was to shop for groceries at the Island Gourmet Markets. We filled up on snacks, breakfast, water, fruits, beverages, etc. Although more expensive than our continental groceries, we still saved a lot of money by eating breakfast on our own, as well as buying water.
On our way back to the bus stop, we noted a busy restaurant with many vegetarian choices called Charley’s Thai Cuisine and decided to visit it before our trip home. It appears that the Big Island on the Kona side doesn’t get much rain. The hotel did not carry any complimentary umbrellas like most big chains do. So we made do with hoodies and jackets and huddling together until the bus could deliver us back.
Back at the hotel, we ate a light supper from the groceries we bought and settled in to watch a movie. Our hope was that the following morning would bring some sun and allow the rain god some rest. After all, this was Hawai’i and we had places to go and things to do.