Exploring The Big Island – Part 1

Palm Trees

Leaving bright and early on a cold January day, we departed Portland (PDX) for the Big Island of Hawaii. A six-hour flight followed that was thankfully uneventful. What we missed on the flight? Food. Gone are the days where airlines have a variety of food to serve their passengers. Nowadays it is snack packs and that simply doesn’t cut it for kids on a 6 hour flight.

With the Government shutdown in full effect, we arrived early not knowing what to expect. Thankfully, TSA was fully staffed and moved the passangers through quickly and efficiently.

Leaving PDX On Alaska Airlines Flight
Leaving PDX Early AM


Landed in Kona in the early afternoon local time. Disembarked the plane on the tarmac to the warm humid Hawaiian climate. The airport was open and breezy. Gathering our bags was easy and efficient.

Rental Car

Next was our rental car. This proved more difficult than it needed to be. We reserved a couple of cars from Budget and expected a quick rental experience. Unfortunately, it was anything but. Upon arriving at Budget, you are greeted by a long line of customer service terminals — eleven of them to be exact. Our hopes of a quick rental turnaround were dashed by the single customer service worker checking everyone in.

Another issue that only exacerbated the check-in experience was the “Fast Break” line. This is reserved for premium Budget Car renters and reserved as a perk. Individuals in the “Fast Break” are able to cut in front of the general line and quickly procure their car. The problem? When you only have one customer service agent checking in people, the non-Fast Break line only gets longer while customers get frustrated and irritated. Especially after a long flight where everyone is hungry, tired, and kids are cranky simply is not a good combination. Total wait time to get check-in and get our cars — 90 minutes. Ridiculous.


Driving away from Kona north along highway 19, you see lava — a lot of it. The landscape looks more like a moonscape than a tropical island. It is a stark reminder of the volcanic activity and the fact that the islands are always evolving.

Lava Flow Outside of Kona
Lava Flow Outside of Kona

Mauna Lani

30 minutes later we arrived at our destination of Mauna Lani. It looks as if this community was carved out of the lava flow that covered the ground. Piles of lava surround the road and community. It must have been a herculean effort to clear the lava and create this master planned community.

There are a lot of things to do – shopping, walking, biking, private beaches. The Shops at Mauna Lani have everything from groceries to restaurants and shopping.

Foodland is your only local grocery option (there is a Costco near the airport, however). Foodland might be small, but they do pack in a lot of different options — hot food, poke bar, a variety of local fish, and deli.

Poke Bar WIth Variety of Selection at Foodland
Poke Bar at Foodland

After a long day of travel, we settled into our house and enjoyed the lanai before going to bed.

Stay tuned for more adventures to follow.

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