Senior Travel: Hawaii, The Big Island

Friday, March 3, 17


Hilo, Hawaii


This is Day two of my virgin visit to the Big Island. Cecil, my seasoned traveler of a husband, and I are here for a two-week getaway to what our Alaskan Airlines pilot announced is “paradise.”  Cecil was here once before as a young father. He loves to tell the story of his first trip to South Point years ago with his three adolescent sons.  South Point is the southernmost point of Hawaii and thus the southernmost point of the United States.  It is, he says, a destination of those who seek pioneer status in this lifetime.  To mark the occasion and the land itself, he instructed his unsuspecting boys to urinate on, and thus claim, the land. He, of course, took the lead in this demonstration.

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Since there were no available direct flights from Oakland to Hilo, our first destination, we landed in Kuilua Kona via Alaskan Airlines. To save time, money and frustration, I’d latched onto a Park ‘N Fly package online.  The deal included a hotel room minutes away from the Oakland airport the night before our 7:00 a.m. flight, two weeks of secure parking, and a hotel room upon our late night return to the Raider Nation. I’d highly recommend this to anyone having to travel some distance to and from airports!

                 Thanks to a brisk tail wind, we arrived in Kuilua Kona thirty minutes earlier than the pilot’s estimated five-hour flight time. I had nabbed the window seat, Cecil sat in the middle and a man traveling to his in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration occupied the aisle seat. One look at the flight attendant who greeted us reminded me that flight attendant job descriptions have significantly changed over time.  I remember when “stewardesses” were registered nurses, model thin, and attractive. Conversely, our attendant was mature, overweight and a not at all glamorous. But she was efficient.

 Kuilua Kona’s airport was small, with only two luggage carousels. Unlike the cold weather we’d left in California, Hawaii’s weather was warm and humid.  Some passengers bee-lined it to restrooms to change into cooler clothes.

            “Where are you headed?” asked one friendly woman when I commented on her clothing change.

            “We’re going to Hilo,” I replied.

            “Well, you should make it a point to book the boat tour to the lava spill sight,” said she, “it is well worth the price!”

            “Geez,” I replied, “a Mainland friend suggested the very same thing before I left. We’ll have to check it out.”  But when I later approached Cecil about the volcano excursion, he vetoed it, saying the cost was prohibitive. Disappointed, I bit my lower lip reminding myself to be careful of the battles I chose.

            Susan, our Saint Helena travel agent, had efficiently arranged all the details of our getaway, including car rentals, hotel bookings and airline tickets. Moreover, she did not charge us for her services. Cecil, a self-proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal” politically, but a staunch conservative where money is concerned, was delighted with her generosity.

            We hopped into a late model white Nissan Versa with scratches on its lower body. I made sure the Alamo employee at the gate was aware of this so we’d bear no responsibility for bodywork repairs. She assured us that “bottom scratches don’t count.”

            The Grand Naniloa Hotel was ideally situated on the Bay near downtown Hilo.  Nightly Hawaiian-flavored entertainment enlivened our evenings, and our room with a partial ocean view lived up to its three-star rating.  A restaurant on the ground floor featured soup, salad and dessert bars.  After the first evening meal there, we decided to explore other restaurants in Hilo.

             Our three-night stay flew by.  As a now seasoned traveler, I’ve discovered that just when you begin to know your way around your new surroundings, its time to move on.

            “That’s the beauty of travel,” declared my traveling companion.