Where To Stay & What To Do in Hawaii with Susan Lautenschlager

Kailua-Kona Town:

This area is home to Moku’aikaua Church, the first Catholic Church in Hawaii, built in 1837. Right across the street is Hulihe’e Palace. Once a palace but now a museum, it holds a collection of artifacts but was not open in the early evening on a Sunday. There are lots of shops, restaurants and bars in this area as well.


Royal Kona Resort


This property is a block or 2 from Kailua-Kona Town and small beaches. It has a small private swimming lagoon on the south end of the property where you can see many sea creatures and take a nice saltwater dip! Just above this lagoon is a gazebo where an intimate wedding could take place. We had a nice 10 inch handmade pizza at Don’s Mai Tai Bar as well as tried out their signature drink. It was also a fabulous place to watch the dolphins spin and play in the water!




Roastmaster Tour Hawaii


Ueshima Coffee Company

We got a great explanation of all stages of coffee from “John”, our coffee master of the day. For $35 per person you can participate in the Roastmaster Tour. On the tour you roast your own coffee with the help of John’s well trained eyes. I was excited to bring back MY coffee for the girls in the office. It was a fabulous experience and for those customers that are coffee connoisseurs, they would totally love roasting their own coffee and taking the spoils home. Ka’u is another up and coming coffee region just south of Kona and has won numerous awards already. I predict it will be the next “GOTTA TRY” coffee.



Sheraton Keahou Kona Beach Hotel

Located on the southern Shore of the Keauhou Bay, 20 minutes from the airport, this propertySheraton Keahou Kona Beach Hotel provides culture and history! It was renovated in 2012 using Sig Zane’s theme of Hawaiian flowers and plant life. It has a touchscreen activities center in the lobby (for you techies) and also offers cultural tours and activities. It is a large property with 509 rooms with 70% of them being ocean view. They are family friendly with a huge water slide and LOTS of places for kids to swim in a pool. There really wasn’t much of a beach. There were a couple small sandy areas but the property was really more geared to the pool area. It did offer night time manta ray watching (after the boats providing that excursion are out of the water).



Sam Choy’s Keauhou Lunch

We had lunch at this world famous Chef’s restaurant. I wasn’t thinking about pictures too much at this point, but the food was GREAT!


Manta Night SnorkelStingray Snorkel

I can say this was hands down the most incredible experience I have had in a very long time! We departed from the marina that was right next to the Sheraton Keauhou. I was the first one in the water and super stoked! One of the mantas brushed against my leg as I made my way out and I got nervous because they stressed how important it was not to touch them. They have a protective coating and touching them with human skin removes that protective coating, causing them to possibly get a sore or an infection. After some goggle issues I finally settled into “their world” and was comfortable watching from the surface of the water. If you enjoy the water, this would be an activity to cross off the bucket list!


Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

Ahu’ena Heiau, the one-time home of King Kamehameha I, sits on a small peninsula in front of theCourtyard by Marriott King Kamehameah's Kona Beach Hotel Courtyard by Marriott. King Kamehameha I restored this heiau in 1812. There is a ton of history with this property and our guide through the property had personal ties with the ancestors! A very cool perspective to experience – an amazing cultural experience for your customers too! A luau is offered on the premises with the sacred heiau in the back ground. This property is on the other end of Kailua-Kona Town and offers easy walking to shopping and restaurants… with a bar sporting a Green Bay Packers flag across the street!




Punalu’u Bakery Lunch

It was here that I discovered my LOVE of Kona Coffee Ice Cream!!! From this point forward, I was pretty much known as the ice cream girl! J We had ordered lunch here and took it to the Black Sand Beach for a picnic. The food was good, but the ice cream was better! We didn’t really have a chance to explore the grounds but it appeared you could find many quiet spots outside to eat.Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Park2


Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Park

This Black Sand Beach is part of a habitat for honu (turtles), who we found basking on the sand in the sun. I was also able to get my fill of the sound of waves crashing on the rocks and “exploring” the lava tidal pools to see what I could find


Akatsuka Orchid Gardens Tour

The flowers were so beautiful and our guide, Takeski, took great pride in explaining the orchid growing process and how their business has continued to evolve. They were gracious enough to allow us how to plant our own orchid and take it home, along with growing instructions that most of us needed! Since orchids can take up to 5 years to mature (some as little as 3 years) they have had to introduce other items into their business to help make money during the “growing seasons”. Currently, they are growing some poki(?) fruit and will soon have enough to start supplying customers locally.


Kiluea Iki Overlook/Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kiluea Iki Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkThis park has more than 333,000 acres and is still growing! It has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the longest continuously erupting volcano in the world. The first crater overlook, Kiluea Iki, took everyone off guard. It was massive. It was hard for me to get it into perspective until I saw hikers in the crater. I thought they were possibly bugs… until I realized they were teeny tiny humans! The lava tube was also impressive! I didn’t know what to expect, but it was like a very large tunnel. To think that it was formed by a large mass of lava, finding the path of least resistance, whose outside shell froze (lava “freezes” at 790 degrees!), allowing the hot lava (up to 2400 degrees) to ebb and flow inside, until eventually the pressure eased enough for the hot lava to flow out and leave a “tube” of frozen lava rock behind. We also learned that the islands are crisscrossed with these lava tubes and many times they are found when properties are being built. kerplunk!


Volcano House Dinner/Jaggar Museum and Crater Overlook

Dinner at the Volcano House was amazing. This was the most mouthwatering plate of Ono fish I hadVolcano House Dinner to date! The Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream was pretty awesome as well! There is also a small hotel on the premises and is often sold out well in advance. Next year is the Hawaiian National Park big anniversary and many properties are already sold out for the festivities. While we were eating and the sun was going down, the active crater began to take on a life of its own. At our 1 – 2 mile vantage point at the Volcano House, the “show” started with a very dim glow and with what appeared to be smoke. At one point a very bright orange glow appeared. I later surmised that bright glow must have been a gurgle or bubble of lava that was thrown up. From The Volcano House we moved closer to the crater to the Jaggar Museum and the Crater Overlook. From this point we were only about 1/2 mile away from the crater. This was breathtaking. I know many people could only watch a glowing hole for so long, but the anticipation of catching something on camera after all the recent activity was very exciting. In fact, when I got home and went through all the videos I took at the crater, I had actually captured a small lava gurgle on camera! I had to call the whole family in to show them!

OH! I almost forgot to mention that people take lava off the island (which is “habu”, taboo) and causes very bad luck… below is a pile of the rocks that have been anonymously returned, asking for these items to be put back where they belong!


Tsunami Museum/Hilo Farmer’s Market

The museum was a very sad reminder of how devastating tsunamis can be! It is also a reminder that our world is more connected then we would think. The 2 major tsunami’s featured in Hilo’s history are from 1946, originating from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and the tsunami of 1960, originating from an earthquake in Chile! From this point forward, the Pacific Tsunami Warning System was formed. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market is open year round daily from 6AM – 4PM, but the major days are Wednesdays and Saturdays. We were there on a Wednesday… and all I can say is that 1 hour was NOT enough time to check out all the local wares – from art, jewelry, foods, crafts, clothing… you name it, they had it!


Big Island Candies

This was a GREAT stop for any person with a sweet tooth! They make the famous Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies (milk chocolate dipped, dark chocolate dipped, caramel dipped, caramel and chocolate dipped… well, you get it!). They also had lots of other candy/cookies items to choose from – chocolate covered coffee beans, macadamia nuts and best of all, they had a small ice cream freezer and sold KONA COFFEE ICE CREAM! Of course I got a bowl!

Hawaiian Style Cafe Lunch


Hawaiian Style Café Lunch

A MUST STOP if you are going to Hilo. It is across the street and all the way to the end of the parking lot from the Big Island Candies store. Be sure to note that INDEED you will not be able to eat all your pancakes STILL ORDER THE PANCAKES! They were AMAZING!



Hamakua Coast Drive/Tex Drive Inn

This drive was one of my favorites. I LOVED seeing all the waterfalls that had been created over time but enhanced with the rainfall from the night before. Also, the small lush valleys it created and the beauty of the river beds made one just want to pull over and stay a while! Talk about emerald green grass and sapphire blue water… wow… just wow… Tex ‘s Drive In boasts the world’s best Malasadas. What, you might ask, is that?!? We were told it was a Portuguese doughnut… well… let me tell you… it is the very best doughnut you will ever have, AND it was made fresh! YUM! Maybe I should mention that it seemed we were constantly eating. We were always so full yet most of us could not stop trying EVERYTHING!


Kahua Ranch/WaimeaKahua Ranch

Waimea is “paniolo” country (Hawaiian Cowboy). Many ranches offer the opportunity to ride the range with spectacular views of the pastures, coastlines and peaks. We went to Kahua Ranch, which you can see had amazing vistas and the clearest sky you could imagine. They had us partake in their all you can eat and drink ranch style buffet, gave lessons on ropin’, helped us brand their “K” on a board as a souvenir for anyone that wanted one and gave you time to sit by the camp fire, sing campfire songs and make s’mores. They had a fiddle player after dinner and brought out their BIG telescope so you could see Jupiter and its 3 moons! How is THAT for clear?!? This is a weekly event held on Wednesdays so be sure to sign up in advance to participate in this event!


Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Mauna Kea Beach HotelSerenity and luxury are 2 words I would use for this property. The “back” of the property has mountain views, golf course views AND partial ocean views – sometimes all from the same room! There are a total of 250+ rooms. They do not accommodate large groups that are not wedding groups. They take pride in this being a quiet property. They definitely do a lot of weddings and wedding groups, but larger groups (like media groups) are not the kind of business they are looking for. There are 1600 pieces of art throughout the property which makes every turn an adventure here.




Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel

We stayed at this property for 2 nights and I wish we had been able to enjoy the grounds more. This property has an Arnold Palmer designed golf course. It also shares amenities with the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. It boasts ALL ocean view rooms. The beach here was amazing. I watched what I think was a vow renewal at 7AM our first morning here. I would have loved a chance to explore/snorkel at this property because one end of the beach was more lava rock.


Pu’ukohola National Park

Pu'ukohola National ParkSometime around 1790 this place of worship was built by King Kamehameha I as an offering to the gods to ask for success in his campaign to conquer the Hawaiian Islands. It is one of the larger Heiaus (temples) in Hawaii.  It offers a QR code that you can take a picture of with your smart phone and it will guide you through a walking tour of the park. This would be a GREAT place go if you appreciate the tremendous history of the land. This park definitely had a more reverent feel to it, enhanced by our tour guide, for sure!




Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory

This place was so much fun. When we arrived they had 3 tables of samples of flavored mac nuts for us to try. The most “unusual” was the spam flavored mac nut. Spam is used in many of the dishes offered in restaurants here. It was kind of funny since many mainlanders seem to have an aversion to spam! It was very interesting watching the workers spread out the macnut brittle. In this back area of the “nut factory”, we tried our hand at the individual nut cracker. I knew from previous experience how hard the shells are to break… and some of those shells just went FLYING! We discovered a photo booth and just had to try it out. We had a blast – as the photo below shows!


Hawi/Kapau-King Kamehameha Statue and Pololu Valley

In northern Hawaii Island, there are wide open ranch lands, thriving art galleries, top nHawi--Kapau-King Kamehameha Statue and Polu Valley 3otch resorts,Hawi--Kapau-King Kamehameha Statue and Polu Valley 2 world-class golf courses, white sand beaches and sacred temples that are a part of the island’s heritage. If I were going to retire in Hawaii, this MIGHT be the place I would chose. There are so many lush green valleys, lots of waterfalls, small homes tucked away in unseen places and history around every corner.

I LOVED when we got to Pololu Valley a small sign read, “The End of the Road”. There was a VERY small turn around area (our small bus couldn’t even venture down because he wouldn’t be able to get turned around)… then a cliff! It was obvious that your vehicle was not going past this point unless it was through the air! Venturing past this point was by foot only. I wanted to explore the area below because it seemed so untouched, but we didn’t have time. This is the area of the island that offers the “Zip and Fly” adventure. You fly by helicopter into a deep valley then you zip line out of it. Sounded like a BLAST to me…. but that adventure will have to wait until next time.


The Fairmont Orchid Hotel/Dinner at Brown’s Restaurant

The Fairmont Orchid Hotel 4On Pauoa Bay about 45 minutes from the airport this property was the setting of my most memorable dinner. This would be what I would consider the quintessential example of what Hawaii has to offer. They provided a table almost right on the beach for us to eat unbelievable food (Ono once again and a fabulous dessert), amazing grounds (sea turtles, beaches and a park like feel) and unparalleled hospitality (our guests were so warm and our chefs came out to meet us!)… all mixed with the warm easy sounds of our guitarist easing us into the evening’s breathtaking blend of colors. By the way, this property had beautiful rooms too!



Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

When you enter this property the lobby area has cascading waterfalls on either side of the stairs. It Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalowshas a very open, spacious center court area with a zen feel to it. On the lower level this property provides cultural events and activities that the guests can participate in every day – from learning to play the ukulele to making lei’s.

Inside and throughout the property there is a saltwater river. It is a temporary home to very young sea turtles, a manta ray, small reef sharks and other tropical fish. This property hosts a major turtle release each year over the 4th of July. Some of the turtles on the property are the ones that will be released that year. The turtle release is a major event for this property and this time frame fills up quickly. Besides the well-appointed rooms, it has 3 beautiful, secluded bungalows that have been specially designed for privacy and often hosts famous people that ware looking for privacy.


Hali’I Kai in Waikoloa

This property has a gated entrance. Most of these units were rentable condos – 2B/2B, 3B/2B and 3B/3B units. If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay with a home feel to it, this would be a great place! The starting prices are very reasonable – especially the units set farther away from the ocean front (which is complete black lava!). They had a beautiful area set up just for preferred customers and the view from the open air work out room… well… you COULD say that it would almost make someone WANT to exercise… not me, but someone!


Hilton Waikoloa Village

Hilton Waikoloa Village 2Last and LARGEST! This property sits on 62 acres and you can feel it! I see why they call it Wiakoloa VILLAGE… it feels like you are in a mini town! The buildings are laid out in a typical u-shape with both a train and a boat path that can get you from end to the other or to any point in between. The walking area to get from one end to the other is actually called “The Museum Walk” because artifacts line the walls and halls. The previous Asian owner took great pride in bringing in his own art collection and Hilton Waikoloa Villagedisplaying it for all to enjoy. There is lots of shopping (some shopping areas are for preferred customers) and many services offered. This property has a dolphin experience (not to be confused with a “swim with the dolphin” experience) and a separate enclosed area that housed sharks. They had within the property an enclosed beach area for families (which is good because the beach was all hard coral). The grounds really seemed like a park and on the last day when we had time before we all left, this is where we found everyone – on the grass near the sandy enclosed beach!

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