Hawaii – An Island Paradise, Part 1: Kona

It may be weird, but I’m one of those people who had never had a desire to visit Hawaii. To me, it just seemed too “American”, nothing too different or exotic from the place where I was born and raised. After all, I thought, they speak English, they use the US dollar – what’s so interesting about that? Well, a couple of factors changed my mind. Number 1: I had moved to another country, which helped me to appreciate America in a new light and Number 2: My good friends had moved to the Big Island and I wanted to go visit them. So with those two reasons, we hopped on a flight to the Big Island of Hawaii. In the end, we had such a good time and did so much that it’s impossible to put everything into one post. So let’s start with the first area we visited, the Kona side of the Big Island

Arriving in Kona

We landed on the east side of the Big Island, Kona. My first thought was, “Wow, it’s hot.” And that was in October! My San Francisco blood just doesn’t do well with heat and humidity. And the airport was all outdoors, which meant that there wasn’t any A/C! Thankfully, our friend Boaz picked us up quickly in his air-conditioned car, and we were well on our way.

Getting the traditional Hawaiian welcome. Thanks Boaz!

The first thing I noticed just driving through the west side of the Big Island, is that the topography is so different than what I imagined Hawaii to be. I had always pictured lush green forests with palm trees everywhere. But the landscape I saw was very barren, reminiscent of the landscape of New Zealand. Although different from what I had imagined, I found it to be very interesting and beautiful in its own way.

Wild goats, such as these, can be found everywhere on this side of the island

We spent a couple of nights at the Kings’ Land, by Hilton Grand Vacations. Our beautiful apartment (2 bedrooms, 2 baths) fit 5 of us well, while giving us the needed privacy. Staying here also gave us access to the massive Hilton Waikoloa Resort, which is so big that they have a monorail to get around the property!

Our balcony view that greeted us each morning
Enjoying a drink poolside
The Hilton Waikoloa Resort is so big that they also have a dolphin pool
Catching the sunset from the resort

The Beaches

Although the resort had lots to offer, we couldn’t just stay there when there were some beautiful beaches in the surrounding area. Our friends made sure that we were able to visit many of them, all in the same day! Our first beach (and the beach we spent the longest time at) is Mauumae Beach. This beach is a small, secret, white sand beach that many don’t know about. Access to the beach can be reached through the entrance to the Mauna Kea resort. There are only 10 permits given out at a time, so you’ll normally need to go early to snag one of them. We didn’t go early, but since it was off-season, we were able to get in without any issues.

Mauumae Beach
We liked feeling like we had this whole beach to ourselves

The next few beaches that we visited were not as private, so we didn’t spend as much time there. They were beautiful, though!

The main beach of the Mauna Kea Resort
Puako Beach: We didn’t spend much time here, because (as you can see) the tide was rising
Kua Bay Beach: It was beautiful here, but a little too crowded for our taste

The Coffee Farms

There was no way that we could go to Kona and not go to a coffee farm! There are more than 650 coffee farms in Kona, so we had plenty to choose from. Our friend took us to Heavenly Hawaiian for a tour. Since this was our only tour, we couldn’t compare it to the others, but we really enjoyed our time here. First of all, check out the view!

You can see why this coffee farm got its name, Heavenly Hawaiian!

Also we got a warm welcome from Heavenly Hawaiian’s Chief of Gecko Control / Coffee Influencer, Umi the Cat. He even has his own email address!

Ok, so maybe Umi was more concerned with getting his ZZZZZ’s than welcoming us.

The tour itself was very interesting! I know nothing about coffee other than the dark liquid in my cup, so I learned quite a bit about the process. Our tour guide was also funny and entertaining, which made the tour engaging. One interesting thing that I learned – for Kona coffee to be authentic, it has to specifically say “100% KONA COFFEE”. Any other combinations are not the real deal.

Coffee beans in their natural environment
Coffee beans drying in the open

Even if you’re not a coffee drinker (like me), Heavenly Hawaiian also had some great candy for us to try. My favorites were the Orange Dreamsicle Macnuts, which was a macadamia nut coated in orange yumminess, and Dark Chocolate Covered Peaberries. (Peaberries are naturally occurring mutated coffee beans, where only one bean develops inside the “shell” instead of the normal two.)

The Food

There are some great eating options on the Kona side of the Big Island. Our first meal on the island was supposed to be a snack, but ended up being a massive platter of Chicken Katsu, seared ahi tuna, shrimp, scallops and 3 types of poke. I highly recommend Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill – there was a lot of variety and excellent, fresh poke.

Umeke’s sampler platter, definitely more than enough for 4 of us to share!

After that “snack”, we had to force ourselves to have dinner because we had reservations. And although we were full, we were able to enjoy ourselves at the Meridia. The Meridia is a beautiful, open-air restaurant, located in the beautiful Westin Hapuna Beach, overlooking the beach. The food was artfully presented. We did a fun thing and ordered a bunch of dishes to order family-style. I highly recommend doing this if you can’t decide on just one dish because you get to try a little bit of everything.

The Westin Hapuna Beach
Just three of the wonderful dishes we had at the Meridia: Paella Mixta, Grilled Baby Rack of Lamb, and the Flatbread of the day

Another recommendation is in the nearby town of Waimea. Patisserie Nanako is a Japanese bakery that serves some beautiful, delicious desserts. They had a lot of desserts that I can find in France, but with a Japanese-Hawaiian twist that I loved. Also, since they were Japanese, the desserts were not too sweet, which I also love. Patisserie Nanako is takeout only, and get there early for the best selection.

Starting clockwise from the Ladybug: Coconut Mousse, Japanese Cheesecake, Chocolate Peanut Butter mousse, and two Chestnut Mont Blancs
Also recommended are their jelly drinks, which are made with different jelly flavors and milk.

Last but not least, if you’ve visited Hawaii and haven’t had shave ice, have you really visited Hawaii?

Matcha and Coconut Shave Ice with Red Bean inside at One Aloha Shave Ice

That’s it for Part 1 of my Hawaiian adventures. Next we’ll explore some beaches on the west side of the island, which were more wild and untouched, but also more difficult to get to. That’s coming up next!

Until Next Time,


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2 responses to “Hawaii – An Island Paradise, Part 1: Kona

  1. Pingback: Hawaii: An Island Paradise, Part 2: Waipio Valley and Green Sand Beach | Je Parle Franglais·

  2. Pingback: Hawaii – An Island Paradise, Part 3: A Tall Mountain, A Botanical Garden and An Erupting Volcano | Je Parle Franglais·

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