A Week of Adventure on Hawaii's Big Island

Three weeks into our sun-soaked, workout-grind stint in Waikiki, we figured it was high time we ventured out to explore the Hawaii's Big Island with our friends. With our pockets full of optimism and sunscreen, we embarked on a week-long getaway, discovering everything from budget-friendly transportation to finger-licking local fare. So grab a cold one, sit back, and enjoy our laugh-out-loud Big Island escapades.


Transportation: Bidding adieu to Waikiki, we hopped on "theBus" for a mere $3 each, while our wallets silently thanked us for not choosing the $60 Uber. Our journey with Hawaiian Airlines started off on a rocky note – one cancelled flight and a comically long hour delay later, we finally touched down at Hilo Airport, ready for adventure.

Hilo Accommodation & Food: Our home-away-from-home, the DoubleTree Resort "Grand Naniloa," welcomed us with open arms and trademark cookies. Our growling stomachs led us to Café Pesto Hilo Bay, where Italian cuisine met Hawaiian hospitality, creating a symphony of flavors. Later, the unassuming Kuhio Grille, with its famous 1lb Laulau, made us question if we had unknowingly entered a foodie's paradise.

Exploring the Big Island: Our rumbling rental car took us on a drive to Pepeekeo Kawainui, a man-made tunnel with a serious identity crisis – it dreams of being a lava tunnel when it grows up. Next up was the awe-inspiring Hawaiian Volcano National Park, where we marveled at the Earth's hot-tempered side. To avoid going broke on food, we hit up KTA groceries for mouth-watering sandwiches and desserts that didn't break the bank.

Kona Adventure: With Kona in our sights, we stumbled upon the idyllic Kekaha Kai State Park, featuring the spectacular Makalawena Beach. The sun, sand, and snorkeling made the tumultuous off-road journey worthwhile, leaving us convinced that even our 4x4 deserved a vacation.

Kona Accommodation & Food: At the Hilton Waikoloa Village, we embraced the art of relaxation, mostly by perfecting our beer-drinking techniques poolside. The resort's lagoon, teeming with dolphins and sea turtles, became our morning entertainment as we watched these charming creatures during feeding time. The on-site tram and boat made us wonder if we had accidentally wandered into a tropical Disneyland!

Our taste buds danced to the tune of Nui Italian's thick-crust Roman heirloom margherita pizza. However, the Lagoon Grill's burgers left us reminiscing about the good ol' days of dollar-menu fast food. And while the Ono sandwich at A-Bay's Island Grill had us saying "meh," the exorbitant prices had us saying, "Yikes!"

Heading Back: In a grand finale of delays, our flight out of Kona with Hawaiian Airlines was postponed by over an hour, making us wonder if we'd ever escape the island's gravitational pull. Unfazed, we chose theBus again, trekking half a mile to a remote stop under Nimitz Highway. All things considered, our budget was singing the praises of affordable public transportation.


Our uproarious week on Hawaii's Big Island was a whirlwind of unforgettable experiences, stunning vistas, and culinary delights. This volcanic wonderland gifted us the perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and many moments worth laughing about. So, if you're planning a visit to the Big Island, be prepared for a wild ride – you won't be disappointed!

Top 5 Must-Do Activities on Hawaii's Big Island

Here are some of these top things you can do if you visit the island!

  1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Experience the raw power of nature at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Explore lava tubes, witness active volcanoes, and hike through diverse landscapes. Don't miss the breathtaking views from the Kilauea Iki Overlook! Resource: https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm
  2. Mauna Kea Summit and Stargazing: Take a journey to the stars at the Mauna Kea summit. At 13,796 feet, it's home to some of the world's most advanced telescopes. Join a guided tour or stargaze on your own from the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station. Resource: https://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/
  3. Akaka Falls State Park: Discover the lush beauty of Akaka Falls State Park, where a short hike leads you to the stunning 442-foot Akaka Falls and the smaller Kahuna Falls. Enjoy the surrounding tropical rainforest and its abundance of native flora and fauna. Resource: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/hawaii/akaka-falls-state-park/
  4. Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay: Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Kealakekua Bay, a marine life conservation district known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Don't miss the opportunity to spot spinner dolphins and Hawaiian green sea turtles! Resource: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/marine-managed-areas/marine-life-conservation-districts/big-island/kealakekua/
  5. Pololu Valley Lookout and Hike: Experience breathtaking views of the Pololu Valley Lookout and hike down to the black sand beach. The steep, zigzagging trail offers a moderately challenging hike, but the panoramic views and pristine beach are well worth the effort. Resource: https://www.gohawaii.com/islands/hawaii-big-island/regions/north-kohala/pololu-valley

These five must-do activities on Hawaii's Big Island offer a mix of adventure, relaxation, and breathtaking beauty. Immerse yourself in the island's unique natural wonders and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Clear Kayak Tour and Fort Desoto

Clear Kayak Tour and Fort Desoto

We have never done a clear kayak tour until now! We started our day at Fort Desoto, which is south of Saint Petersburg. After spending the day running around Mullet key, we grabbed dinner at Billy's Stone Crab. Then we did a clear kayak tour at night see-thru glow kayaks - they had multi-color LED's that lit up the water - Come join the adventure! The clear kayak tour at sunset is highly recommended also. And Fort Desoto Camping is a must-do if you are in the area!




Fort Desoto

We started our day at Fort Desoto - not a bad drive from Bay Bayou RV Resort. After paying a couple tolls to get onto the key ($1.75 in total), we then had to pay $5 to enter the park, which is actually a long key with a nice road that gets you from end to end:

Fort Desoto Map

The Fort was built to protect the entrance of Tampa Bay Harbor during the Spanish-American war, but I don't think it ever had to fire it's guns in anger, which consisted of eight 12 inch mortars and two 6 inch Armstrong guns. The main area of the fort that houses the mortar batteries is still well-preserved, and a few of the other buildings still stand. Of special note is the museum, which has a ton of interesting artifacts from the era. This brochure has a bunch of facts if you are planning to visit.


Fort Desoto Fishing Pier

We also made it to the Fort Desoto fishing pier - a very large t-shape pier perfect for doing some bay fishing. It is very long and wide, and when we were there the crowds weren't bad at all. Off to the right is even a beach area that you can hang out in.


Fort Desoto Beaches

Fort Desoto is rightly known for insanely beautiful beaches - the sand goes for miles and the beach is one of the widest we have seen. Kayaks and SUP's are definitely the way to go to explore the area if you have one (or rent one). The sand is clean and smooth and the breeze coming off the gulf is perfect.
Fort Desoto Beach

Camping at Fort Desoto

The county maintains a pretty large RV camping area, with 236 sites. Full water and hookup are available. The cost is pretty reasonable (for Florida) and can accommodate large rigs. They allow you to stay up to 14 days in any 30 day period. We would highly recommend staying in this area if you can, especially if you like the beach!

Billy's Stone Crab

We had dinner over at Shell Key, at a place called Billy's Stone Crab - and the food was great! We think we met Billy himself, and had a great time. The restaurant is kind of funky - one side is more outdoorsy, and the other has the main dining room. On top of the main dining room is an open long bar with seating facing the water. They had live music up there and that was fun. The only challenge was the late-day sun coming in off the gulf - tough problems to have!

Clear Kayak Tour

Christy found us a tour to take - a night clear kayak tour! This tour group has see-through kayaks with LED lights mounted in them, so they light up the underneath area of the boat. Get up and Go Kayaking is the company, and they have tours set up all over Florida. The kayaks were fun, but seemed a little less stable than the standard 2-man kayaks we have used in the past.

clear kayak tour

The tour guide was great and we got to see a horseshoe crab up close! Our only complaint was the tour was only 90 minutes, but advertised as 2 hours. She must have had a date, because she hauled ass back to the launch area - we were kayaking full-speed for the last half of the tour. That wasn't cool!

What To Do in Clearwater Florida

When we get our motorhome in a new area, the first thing we do is figure out the best places to go hiking, hit the beach, and maximize our fun. So of course, when we arrived in Clearwater, we did some research and found some pretty cool hiking and biking trails in the area.


Upper Tampa Bay Trails 


R.E.Olds Park  


Honeymoon Island State Park