Hawaii is one of the dreamiest places we’ve ever been. We love it so much that we’ve traveled to all four of the main Hawaiian islands in the past nine months! If you are a west coast dweller, it’s not difficult to get to. If you live on the east coast, or even in Europe, you have a bit more of a trek to make it to Hawaii. But I assure you, it’s worth it. After five days on the Big Island with the Fairmont Orchid, we’re sharing an itinerary that’s going to make for a great trip, so read on!
Since Hawaii is an island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the best (and fastest) way to get there is by air. There are numerous direct flights from western US states. The Kona International Airport (KOA) is the main airport on the Big Island and the most accessible if you’re planning to stay in the Kona-Kailua area. If you’re staying in Hilo (on the east side), there are also a few direct flights to Hilo. However, the options are fewer.
For our journey, we connected in Los Angeles. From Salt Lake City, you can also fly directly to Honolulu, then jump on a quick Hawaiian Airlines flight to KOA.
If you’re planning on coming from one of the other islands, there are direct flights from Honolulu and Maui. The Big Island is great for a trip on its own, or in addition to visiting one of the other islands such as Maui or Oahu. Read on, and you’ll see why!
The Fairmont Orchid helped curate a dreamy itinerary for us, mixed with both activity, rest, and relaxation, but mostly the latter.
Day one was mostly a travel day for us. Since our flight to the Big Island landed in the evening, by the time we arrived at the hotel, the sun had already gone down. Since the US is a few hours ahead at a minimum, many flights land in the afternoon, leaving you with a full half day to enjoy.
The Fairmont Orchid is 22 miles northeast of the airport. Since the Big Island is large and vast, with many things spread out, we opted to rent a car to explore. I highly recommend renting a car. There’s so much this island has to offer, and you really won’t be able to see it all without a car. Since we arrived in the evening and there was no traffic, the drive from to the hotel took only 30 minutes. With a little bit of traffic, it may take you up to 45, but it’s relatively easy, and the roads are nice. But keep in mind, as many roads are in Hawaii, it’s only two lanes.
If you arrive early enough, I recommend planning to have a relaxing day at the hotel. You can quickly post up by the pool or on the beach in the Fairmont lagoon. If you’re feeling fancy, dinner at Brown’s Beach House is a perfect way to kick off the trip. If you want something more laid back, Hale Kai is a great option.
Our Fairmont Gold experience began from the moment we checked in. We were escorted to a private reception area located on the sixth floor of the North tower, which is the Fairmont Gold floor. It consists of 45 rooms, including the Presidential Suite. The experience includes complimentary valet, a private concierge and check-in, breakfast in the lounge, and more. While it does cost more than the average room, it is a more luxurious, private experience. And the views are some of the best on the property. The hotel’s website includes more detail on the experience, which can be found here.
Since Hawaii is about as far west as you can go in time zones, it’s likely you’re going to be jet lagged and wake up bright and early. This is one of the best things about traveling to Hawaii. We are always up early and ready for our day.
Our day started at 6 am with a sunrise canoe tour. We set out on a canoe to watch the sun come over the mountains with our tour guide and one other guest. The Fairmont has two canoe options. One that holds four, and one that holds eight. So if you’re traveling with friends or family, everyone can enjoy this experience.
Our tour guide, Elijah, shared some knowledge about the island and also performed a morning ceremony. Since we had arrived at night the day before, this was our first glimpse of seeing the island during daylight, and it was as beautiful as we would have hoped for.
After the canoe tour, we went back to our room for a bit of relaxation. Since it was Thursday midday on the mainland, we spent a few minutes catching up on emails and then headed to the Fairmont Gold Lounge for breakfast.
Cabana by the Ocean
After breakfast, we had one goal on our mind: to relax and get some sun! We spent our day in a cabana right on the water. The cabana had four lounge chairs, two in the shade and two in the sun, so depending on your mood you could get sun or sit in the shade and read a book. We also had lunch at our cabana. Since the cabanas are located in a quiet spot, there wasn’t much noise from other guests.
Afternoon at the Spa
To cap off our day, we headed to the Spa Without Walls for the Ali’I experience. The Ali’I experience is a 120-minute massage complete with a body scrub and coconut oil head massage. I feel fortunate to say that I’ve had many luxury spa experiences in recent years at some of the most incredible properties, but I have never had a massage as good as this one. It was so good that we considered booking it a second time. It does come with a pretty decent price tag, but it is worth every dollar of it.
The Spa Without Walls is such a unique experience. It’s called that because it’s precisely that, a spa without walls! There are a few options for spa treatments: indoors, outside by the waterfalls, or by the ocean. We choose to have our massages in the hale’s by the waterfalls, in the heart of the spa. Even though the spa is in the middle of the property, you would have had no idea because of how tropical and lush the setting is. Our recommendation: opt for a spa treatment in the heart of the spa, as it’s the unique option.
Ladies, plan for enough time to wash your hair between the spa treatment and dinner. After the coconut oil treatment, your hair will feel silky smooth, but you’ll need to make sure you have time to wash and dry! I recommend bringing your toiletries to the spa so that you can shower immediately after your treatment.
After our two hour massages, we got ready for dinner at Brown’s Beach House. If you’re a fan of surf and turf, then this menu is sure to please. The entire meal was incredible. Between the jet lag and the long day, we were pretty exhausted. I recommend starting dinner no later than 7 pm so you can enjoy the experience without being too tired. I was almost too tired, but I made it through.
Want to spend time on more than one Hawaiian island? Check out this Oahu property.
We kept a fully open itinerary for our second day. As content creators, part of our job is to capture the destination so we can share the property. We started our day with breakfast at the Fairmont Gold Lounge and then spent a couple of hours photographing the property.
As a guest, we recommend a casual breakfast at the lounge, followed by a few hours by the pool or the beach. If you’re like us, you like to have a mix of on and off property time. So for the afternoon, we opted to get out and explore. We had lunch at a local spot in Mauna Lani, which is the area in which the Fairmont is located in. Under the Bodhi Tree came recommended by a friend and local blogger, @elanaloo. This spot is a must for my health conscious, vegan/vegetarian friends, with plenty of great options. And it’s a quick service restaurant as well.
Kailua-Kona is the main town on the island. It’s located 45 minutes (28 miles) south of the Fairmont. We drove down for the afternoon so we could explore. Of course, our obligatory first spot was Kona Coffee Co. Kona has many shops and restaurants that are worth exploring. It’s a good experience for a half day, and there are also many beaches nearby that are worth spending time at. For us, we opted to spend our beach time at our hotel and spend our time away getting to know the local culture a bit more.
Even though we were staying on the west side of the island, the island is completely drivable. We had heard wonderful things about Hilo and the waterfalls nearby, so for day four, we had a quick breakfast at the Fairmont Gold Lounge, and were out the door with our photography gear by 8 am.
From Kona to Hilo
The drive to Hilo is about 1.5 hours from the Fairmont, and about the same if you’re coming from Kona. It’s a scenic drive. If you’re anything like us, you keep your camera handy, so you can pull off the side of the road to grab a few photos. We found a couple of spots we wanted to pull out the drone. On the first try, we realized it’s close to a no-fly zone, and possibly even in one. We use a few different apps alongside the DJI one, and we were getting mixed messages on whether we could fly or not. We decided to keep driving further until we were 100% sure it was safe. We stopped to grab some footage here, and we felt like we were on Mars.
Waterfalls Near Hilo
We mapped three waterfalls to stop at thanks to another recommendation from @elanaloo!
- Pe’epe’e Falls and the Boiling Pots
- Rainbow Falls
- Akaka Falls
The waterfalls are worth driving to see, even if that’s your primary purpose for a drive out to Hilo. Both Pe’epe’e and Rainbow Falls are just a couple miles from Hilo, while Akaka falls is about twenty minutes north. Akaka requires a bit more hiking, but it’s only about 0.4 miles roundtrip, so it’s doable for even the novice (and worth it!)
The Town of Hilo
We didn’t spend too much time exploring Hilo. Our focus was mainly the waterfalls. However, we did stop to have lunch in Hilo at Makani’s Magic Pineapple Shack for some açaí bowls. Based on the limited time we spent in Kona and Hilo, I felt that I was more drawn to what Kona had to offer, but I’m glad we were able to spend some time in Hilo and at least see it.
If you drive from the Fairmont to Hilo, then north to Akaka Falls, the fastest way back will loop back through Waimea. The drive from Hilo to Waimea is 1 hour and 10 minutes (55 miles). And Waimea is only thirty minutes from the Fairmont. Waimea is a small town, set up in the mountains at 2670’ elevation. It’s a bit cooler than by the water, and since we were in Hawaii during an abnormally hot weekend, the temperature difference in Waimea was noticeable and favorable (easily twenty degrees cooler!)
The scenery around Waimea is stunning, and it’s worth driving through. For an added scenic route, drive from Waimea to Hawi (the northern side of the island). The drive is incredible, relatively quiet, and only takes about 35 minutes. But you may stop on the side of a road a few times to take photos if you’re like us.
On our way back we just passed through Hawi (didn’t stop) and continued back to the Fairmont. In total, we drove around 180 miles, and it took approximately 4 hours (excluding stops).
Kīlauea is easily one of the main attractions of the Big Island. It’s an active volcano with over two million visitors per year. It erupted earlier this year, causing a lot of havoc on the island. Locals informed us that due to the eruption, it wasn’t as visible so given our limited time, we chose to exclude it from our itinerary. Given that it’s fascinating and one of the top things to see on the island, we decided that we would come back when we’d have a better opportunity to experience it.
It’s a two-hour drive from the Fairmont. To get to the National Park, you pass through Hilo then head 45 minutes southwest. While we can’t recommend it based on personal experience, we can say that based on what we’ve read, if you can visit it on your trip, you definitely should.
Private Dinner on the Beach
For our last sunset, we enjoyed the most incredible, private dinner. The Fairmont set up a private table, lined with torches, in a quieter area near the lagoon. We had views of the sunset and the hotel, as well as a private server for the entire evening. The dinner was so romantic that Skylar kept wondering to himself, “am I supposed to be proposing?” We both got a kick out of that, and men, take note. This is the perfect proposal spot.
To our delight, the courses were a surprise. We provided the hotel with our likes and dislikes, and the chef could not have done a better job of crafting a dinner experience that was a treat to our taste buds. While the sun showed off for us during sunset, we found that photos with the warm glow of magic hour, and the hotel behind us, made for some of our most favorite scenes from the entire trip.
After a dinner experience like this, we can officially say we’re spoiled. This one will be hard to beat.
Vacation should always end on a relaxing note. For our last day we had a leisurely breakfast, but instead of dining in the lounge, we brought it back to our room so we could enjoy the views from our balcony.
Since we didn’t need to check out until afternoon, we opted to spend a few hours poolside before heading to the airport. While checkout usually is always 11 am or 12 pm, many properties can offer a few extra hours based on availability. The Fairmont graciously allowed us to stay until 3 pm, which was ideal considering our long, red-eye journey back to the mainland.
We wrapped up our trip with nice tans and fell asleep in the hammocks. This is one spot I could have easily stayed in all day.
The Big Island is an ideal destination for a five-day trip. It’s the right mix of luxury and adventure. Our recommendation: stay at the Fairmont Orchid if you want the utmost in luxury paired with service like you’ve never experienced before. Mix it with adventure exploring the island and seeing the volcano and waterfalls, and you’ll head home feeling like you had a true Hawaiian experience.
Now it’s time for you to book your stay at the Fairmont Orchid and experience our new favorite Hawaiian island!
Thank you to the Fairmont Orchid for the opportunity. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.