Notes on Kona August 2000
8/20/00 Kona Village Resort. It is 3:40 pm and the sound of thunder suggests the possibility of a cooling shower - desperately needed. It is at least 90o and equally humid. We arrived just before the end of lunch and ate a quick bite before checking in. One surprise - we were informed by our server, before being asked what we wanted to drink, that we needed to decide how we were going to handle the server tips for the stay. We could have a 15% tip automatically attached to all transactions, on beverages only, or decide individually for every transaction. The Fergusons chose the last option and got hassled until they changed to the first option.
The five-hour UAL flight was up to the "standards" of UAL steerage class. In spite of all their labor problems, their service was adequate, however, Jodie and I were the very last people served lunch so there was, of course, no choice for the meal. All that was left was meat loaf. As a result of bitching we got free wine. The flight departed and arrived on time and the wings didnít fall off.
As promised, we were met with leis at the airport and then transported 7 miles to the resort. Kona Village is situated on a circa 1800 lava flow and consists of 125 hales (cabins) plus the common buildings. The original owner built a very rustic resort; the subsequent four other owners have improved it quite a lot. It is currently owned by a Japanese company. There is quite a lot of vegetation, some that occurred naturally however most has been planted. The grounds are beautiful and well maintained. The early Hawaiians left many petroglyphs on the flat lava flow. In addition, there are "Royal" fish ponds in the center of the complex, right across from our accommodations. Several species of water birds frequent the ponds. Many kids also frequent the ponds since fishing with barbless hooks is allowed.
Our hale, F3, is smaller than either of the kids, M4 & M6, however it is centrally located and quite plush in a Hawaiian sense. All are individual and quite luxurious. Ours has a full bathroom; two sinks set in a marble counter, tub, shower, and tile floor. There were six bath towels for the two of us. The usual set of toiletries had, in addition, sun block lip dressing and individual flashlights. Both the bathroom and the main room are provided with fans. Sleeping would have been impossible without the powerful but quiet ceiling fan in the main room. No air conditioning, no phones, and no TV are features of the place.
This is a destination resort several miles from the only close town, Kailua. There are many activities for both adults and children. The primary feature is the sand beach allowing easy access to the waters of a small bay. The snorkeling is surprisingly good, although the water is often too cloudy for clear viewing. There are two swimming pools in addition to the beach.
Although the meals are included, they are unrealistically valued for the purposes of the serversí tips. The buffet or sit-down breakfast is $20; buffet or sit-down lunch is $27; dinner is an astounding $63. These prices are per person. The quality of the food is, at best, average. There is an adequate list of wines available however the mark-up is three to four times the retail cost. (We checked out local wine prices at the Kailua K-Mart.) Since casualness is stressed at the resort and the dining room is cooled only by the sporadic sea breezes, it is surprising that men are required to wear long pants and collared shirts. Those who choose to ignore this rule and show up in shorts are provided with a pareo.
8/21 Our first full day was free-form and involved swimming and snorkeling. The water off of the beach is quite murky however there are quite a few colorful fish but no schools. Three or four very large fish hover over some lava not more than 10 feet off of the tide line. Sea turtles frequent the area and often come up onto the beach in spite of the people all around.
When we left dinner this evening there was a small crowd gathered beneath a pole-mounted light that was over the water. A large manta ray was circling the area and coming almost onto the shore. Apparently the light attracts the small creatures upon which the ray feeds. A large puffer fish was also present.
8/22 With the assistance of the concierge, we rented a large van with the intent of driving to the volcano. However by the time we got the van it seemed too late for the long drive. So we loaded our box lunches and drove into Kailua for a spot of shopping. It is hard to recognize the area from when Jodie and I visited it 35 years ago. The delightful beach side bar where I had a beer and club sandwich after the boat tour to Capt. Cookís monument has been replaced by a very large resort. The beautiful little bay is almost unrecognizable with all of the development.
We ate our strange box lunches in the parking lot since the park Jodie had picked out was closed for reconstruction. (We were given our choice of sandwiches when we ordered the box lunches at dinner the previous night. Each lunch contained the elements of that choice. In addition there were some breakfast items, a hunk of fried chicken but no napkin, a pasta salad, and some cookies.)
One of the several pleasures of traveling with the family is that there is almost no requirement for Jodie or me to find souvenirs. The Younger Wendels and the Fergusons, however, were not freed from that responsibility and therefore we spent several hours in the shops of Kailua.
After shopping we made our way back, taking a route that led us across the skirts of Mona Loa and through the Parker Ranch.
8/23 This was the day of the big trip to the volcano. We passed on box lunches after what we received yesterday, trusting that we could find a good meal at Volcano House. We departed at 8 am and stopped in Kailua for gas at $2.12/gal. Then off around the southern tip of Hawaii. As we rounded the tip of the central ridge, the rains started and continued intermittently for the rest of our visit, until we once again reached the lee (kona) side of the island. We took a little break at a tourist bakery, arriving there just before several bus loads of tourists.
When we reached the visitor center we decided to check out the food at Volcano House and got there before the tour groups. All that was available was a buffet and a snack bar. We opted for the snack bar and got our mediocre meal before the tour buses arrived, resulting in a huge line out the door.
The view of the crater was obscured by the rain clouds although we did see some steam vents in one of the rift zones. We also made a rapid tour of the Thurston lava tube. Rapid since it was still raining and quite drippy in the tube. We completed our island circuit by driving through Hilo and on around the island. We arrived in time for the steak fry in the luau center. Again the food was buffet style however the steaks were cooked to order. Chicken and bar-b-que ribs were also available. Nathan had two steaks and a cheese-burger. It was pleasant spending the day is air conditioning and/or cool air. The van rental was $244. Fuel cost an additional $61.69.
The remaining days of our stay at the village were pretty much the same as already described. The really big luau was on Friday night and is rated as one of the two best on the island. Again there was buffet service and really expensive Polynesian drinks. After the meal there was a fairly good show.
Had a bit of a disagreement with the management concerning our last lunch. Since we had a hurried meal before checking in we were not entitled to have one when checking out. We were never told that we could choose to have lunch as our first or last meal. Jodie discussed it with the general manager, Fred Duerr and he agreed that we should eat. After resolving that problem we had a pleasant conversation with him.
Departure went smoothly. The pick-up van arrived on time; the UAL flight left on time and arrived in LA early, and the special meals I ordered were available. When I confirmed our home bound flight I requested that we be put in nearby seats instead of being scattered all over the plane. I also requested that Ryan be given a window seat since that is required for car seats. (They didnít have one on the flight from DIA to LAX and had quite a hassle from one of the Hellish UAL stews.)
We actually arrived early and found our luggage in a remote terminal, requiring Chris to hike down to the UAL terminal to intercept Larry and come back to where the rest of us were with the luggage.