Club Wyndham Mauna Loa Village
Travel to the islands.
For almost every visitor, travel to Hawaii begins with a fairly long flight. Or if you are on the East Coast like me on several connecting flights.
My flight left Virginia and had me stop in Atlanta, then transfer to LAX for the remaining flight to Hawaii. All in my flight time was over 14 hours. With a short layover in Atlanta and LAX, it was a long day.
Long flights can take it out of you mentally more than the physical. Once I landed, it was a short trip from Kona Airport to the resort. I believe it is about a 20-minute drive. With that and landing at about 3PM Hawaii time, I made it to the resort just a little before check-in time.
Usually when traveling to the islands I rent a car but on this trip, I chose to take an Uber to the resort instead.
Video by Active Tours
Day One Arrival
I truly feel like I am in the clouds still after I landed. Almost any time I fly to relax after the flight, I like to get a cocktail or two. I chose to take my bag to the front desk and see if they would hold it for me until I could check-in. I think they took pity on me (my look of jet lag) and checked me in a few minutes early.
This meant I did not have to worry about my bag because they would be with me in the room in a few mins. Honestly, I was so whipped out from the flight that I just hit the bed for a short nap as soon as I reached the room.
Once I woke up from a short nap of maybe 30 minutes or so, I was ready to take in the resort. They have a nice 360 Tour of this resort you can visit here. I like the 360 tours because you can really get a feel for a location.
Much like the tour itself, I started back in the check-in area. I had walked straight from there to my room, so it was the only location I knew yet, and I wanted to get the lay of the land.
They have the old school brochures in the lobby, and even with the Internet available, I still like those full color brochures. Most likely because I grew up with them, I still enjoy looking through them.
All the brochures were about things to do, and excursion type experiences around the island. So, I grabbed a few that caught my interest, then headed out to see the rest of the resort.
One of the first things I noticed was this looked like a tennis players heaven. Including a fancy main court with seating all around it. Beyond that are many more courts that you could play a game at.
Near the rooms you find garden areas that are in between the connections to the buildings. These have lots of healthy plants and some water features.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- DVD Player
- Ice Maker
- In-Room Safe
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Activities Center/Desk
- BBQ Grills
- Walking Trails
- Business Center/Fax
- Arcade Games
- Fitness Room
- Concierge Services
- Hot Tub
- Outdoor Pool
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- Fire Pit
- On-Site Security
- Sun Bathing Area
- Computer With Internet (Shared)
- Tennis Courts
- Game Room
- Picnic Area
You also can see the 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units in the 360 tour. These tours are nice because you really understand how spacious these rooms really are. The 1-bedroom villas are over 800sq ft, and the 2 bedrooms can be as large as 1,800sq ft, which is huge. Some are smaller, near 1,200 sq ft.
Traveling to Hawaii is for most people a bucket list kind of trip. In part because of how long the journey is, and certainly for many the cost. Thank goodness for TZort and the savings on this villa. It is saving me about the cost of the round-trip airfare.
Hawaii is one of those rare vacation destinations where you get here and it overwhelms you. The natural beauty of the islands is astounding. The plants alone make your eyes dance, and the scenes of the ocean, mountains, volcanos, and amazing beaches are more than you see anywhere else in the world.
Another impactful thing is how much you have seen in movies and on TV that you are now able to see in person. You recognize things you have never seen in person before, but you feel in part like you are in a movie at times. It seems unreal.
After getting settled in my room and then walking the resort some, I realized I had not eaten in about 16 hours. My stomach was letting me know shoe leather was not so bad.
The closest restaurant is the Kai restaurant at the resort next door. I headed that way for a seafood dinner. The food was good, and the view was great.
After dinner, I was tired from all the travel so I hit the bed.
Day Two Island Tour Time
One great way to see the island is to find a tour company and do a guided tour of the island. I have done these even when I have had a rental car before because you just get to see much more than you would if you stumbled around by yourself.
There are several well reviewed tour companies on the island. I chose Kailani Tours in part just because they had a perfect review rating. I also thought their website was well done. So the nerd in me appreciated that. I picked their full circle tour because it included all the major sites in one tour.
This is from their website.
Premium Kona Coffee Farm–Enjoy a delicious catered continental breakfast at this enchanting and historic coffee farm. Sip local coffees, walk the tropical fruit grounds, or send gifts home to those who couldn’t be here.
Punalu’u Bake Shop –The Southernmost bakery in the United States! But that’s not the only reason it’s a favorite.. try their delicious Portuguese donut (malasada) to find out why they’re a must-visit.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – The black sand beach! Check out Hawaiian sea turtles at this stretch of black sand beach in Pualu’u. The surf meets this incredible beach in the southernmost part of the United States.
Volcano Winery and Tea Farm–Enjoy a gourmet Hawaiian-style lunch served at this incredible property on the slopes of an active volcano. Sample unique wines, local teas or enjoy some hot chocolate. Wine tasting is optional but included with the tour.
Hawaii Volcanos National Park – See Big Island volcanoes! The massive park is consistently listed as a must-see for visitors. Our tour highlights all the park’s best, including Chain of Craters Road, natural steam vents and views of the new Halemau’mau Crater.
Thurston Lava Tubes–We guide you down the Thurston Lava Trail, which is a 0.4-mile loop that features beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels. Then take a walk through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-year-old lava cave. Lit by electric lights, Nahuku has a flat rock floor and a ceiling height of more than 20 feet in places. The 600-foot-long cave is a great introduction to lava tube geology.
Rainbow Falls – One of “The Best Waterfalls in Hawaii” in every guidebook and blog. Witness one of the most famous Big Island waterfalls up close and personal! Take in the tropical foliage as it wraps it’s arms around iconic Rainbow Falls.
Hamakua Coast–Take in spectacular view of the Hamakua Coast driving along the rocky coastline famous for it’s lush tropical foliage. Should time allow, we may stop to take in the views at Waipio Valley–“The Valley of the Kings.”
When you choose a tour like this, everything is planned and a great deal is included in the price. On this tour, it also included a box lunch and stops as short as 20 minutes to as long as 90 minutes. The 90-minute stop was the Volcano National Park and the lava tubes. That was amazing! Years ago, I had done the dawn trip to an active volcano in the islands, which is an experience all to itself with the lava lighting the area, and the bright stars before dawn. But this was a neat way to see the volcano that did not take a half a day for the experience.
After the tour and the lunch, which was a about mid tour, I was still thinking about food. Maybe my stomach was making up for lost meals the day before.
I grabbed a ride to Sam Choy’s not far from the resort, for dinner. They have a happy hour from 2-6PM and I made a point of getting there before that was over. I still had not really had my after-flight drinks yet. As a fan of all drinks, Polynesian, I was ready for a few mixed drinks ala tiki style.
After the adult beverages, I enjoyed dinner and really dug in. When I left, I felt like I had to fold my body into the back seat of the Uber.
Then it was back to the resort. That tour today allowed me to see and do so much without a ton of energy that I would recommend it for anyone who wants to make sure they see a bit of everything on their trip. There is a lot of value in the $219 ticket for that tour.
Day Three Putting Life into Perspective
Today I had another tour planned. This one I have never done before and I was excited. Since I was young and first watched the movie “The Right Stuff” I have been interested in space, and space travel. That movie grabbed my imagination more than Star Wars or Star Trek for some reason. Perhaps because it was all based on our history and a true story.
Ever since that movie, I never looked at the stars the same again. When in Hawaii you have an amazing opportunity to see the stars like you will probably never see them again. I remember when I first moved away from the city as an adult. The view of the stars away from light pollution in town made me happy. Looking at the stars on top of a mountain in Hawaii is that feeling times at least 100.
The observatory at Maunakea is breathtaking. The tour itself is about 8 hours. It starts in time for you to see the sunset and carries on into the next day. I chose to do this on my 3rd day because I realized it would throw my sleep off some, and I still would have a few more days on the island to enjoy afterwards.
The mountain top is cool to cold, and they provide you with a ski jacket and even ski pants if you want them. I had planned for this so I brought along long johns just for this tour. So, a pair of jeans with the long johns underneath had me find for the trip. I did take them up on the ski jacket being shocked that they had one in a big guy size that almost fit.
You can not explain the intense stars here. The view just has so little light pollution that they seem much brighter than anywhere else you will see them. Sure, stars are bright on other islands, but here you are above the clouds at altitude, and you have no light pollution, so it is the best of all star gazing set ups.
The day begins with the sunset. That alone is worth the trip. I had that feeling that you can get at times in life when you realize how insignificant we are in the grand plan of nature. It is humbling but magical at the same time.
Here you also have access to the telescope. This was the most powerful telescope I have had access to directly. I have gone on tours of observatories, but I never put my eye up to a lens there. Here you can get hands on and not just watch from a video screen. That offers such an experience, it is hard to explain.
I have used some powerful telescopes before, even like the one at the Virginia Living Museum back home. But with light pollution, and its smaller size, that telescope just could not compare to this. You felt like you were transported to those rare images from space you may have seen from Hubble on TV.
While on the tour, you have ready access to steaming hot food, beverages, coffee and hot coco. Which takes the chill off the night for you, especially during the last few hours.
I think if because of time or budget I had to choose only one tour on my trip, this would be it. If you or your travel companion love the stars, and new experiences, this too may be the tour for you.
Although if this was your first time to Hawaii and you wanted to the full tour, I would understand that choice as well. Both tours are close in price and value. They are so close that I could not choose just one.
Day Four local beaches
Yes, there is a ton to see on this island. There is even more to do. But no Hawaii vacation should be without simple time on the beach and in the ocean.
Not far from the resort is a nice government beach park Kahalu’u is a great spot to enjoy the ocean and is known for its snorkeling. It has open access 7 days a week from 9AM-4:30PM Island time. It is even staffed with amazing life guards during those hours.
After a few hours here, I wanted some lunch and then to go to the next beach up the road at Makolea Beach. This is a larger area, but has more lava rock and stone on its shoreline.
Later I moved on to La’aloa Park, further up the road. All of these small beach parks are easy to find and less crowded than you would expect.
I ended my day at Kailua Beach and then headed back to the resort afterwards. This, I think, was the largest of all the beach areas I went to today. A mix of some sandy areas with the lava rock areas as well.
Today was my last chance to do things on the island before my flight out. So, I wanted to check out early, and get on the road.
I found out that they have an Atlantis sub on Kona. I had not been on one of these half subs in about 20 years. I remember that you get to see amazing views of the reefs and fish. I found a seat on the next trip out and was happy to be getting this in before the flight home.
I feel like seeing the top of the world view and the underwater view in one trip would be kind of like a natural harmony kind of thing. I was right, it was amazing.
Next, it was time for the flights home and this always takes longer coming home against the wind and at least a jet stream or two.