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The Big Island Mash – Lodging, a Tsunami and a Brewers Festival

March 28, 2011

A Kona Pipeline Porter Enjoying the View

The Big Island of Hawaii offers a lot for those looking for a great vacation.  There is plenty of sun, beaches of all colors (White sand, black sand, black and white sand and even green sand), an active volcano, whales, dolphins, turtles, snorkeling, SCUBA, surfing, fishing, skiing and even beer.  That’s right, there are now three breweries on the island; Kona, Mehana, and Big Island Brewhaus. In addition, every year for the past 16, they have had a Brewers Festival.  It was this festival that lured us to the Island for our latest Good Beer Trip.

When planning what to do and where to stay I’d recommend getting a travel book.  We went with the Big Island Revealed, and found it very useful. It is a big island (hence the name) and if you want to see all that it has to offer, you’ll want to split your vacation into multiple locations otherwise you’ll end up spending most of you time driving.

On this trip we ended up staying in three locations; a condo in Kailua-Kona, a condo in Hilo, and a unique vacation rental Hawi (Upper Northwest side of the island). Condos and vacation rentals are a great option because for the same price of a hotel you usually get more space, a kitchen to make meals in (saving money), and a refrigerator (to keep your beer cold).  We used VRBO to find our rentals.

View from our Condo in Kailua-Kona

The top floor Kona Ali’i #710 condo in Kailua-Kona was great.  It was large, open and reasonably priced.  It had been recently renovated with a new kitchen, appliances, tile floor and bathroom upgrades.  It isn’t ocean facing, but has views of the ocean from the lanai and rooftop deck.  The bed was incredibly comfortable.  The best part it was right in the heart of town and less than a mile to the Kona Brewpub.  They had bikes to use, and a keyboard if you wanted make music.  The owners were super sweet and even left us a couple of beers in the fridge since they knew we we coming for the Brewers Festival.

In Hilo, we stayed in Mauna Lao#703, another top floor condo It was a two bedroom that worked out great, as we could sleep in one room and have all our stuff in the other. It had been updated recently.  It wasn’t as open as the Kona unit, but was still roomy.  It was appointed nicely with art and wood carvings collected from around the world by the owners.

The Turtle Lagoon

The master bedroom was amazing.  Since we were on the top floor there was no need for blinds. From the bed you could look out over the tree canopy out to Hilo Bay, and at night peer at the star and whales in the morning.  Also viewable from the condo, just below, was the adjacent Carlsmith park with a large lagoon that was great for swimming, snorkeling, and was the home to at least five Sea Turtles. (We were told there had been Twelve, but six had recently been turtle-knapped).

A Whale Crossing in Hawi was a very unique experience. The rental was on the property of the owners and consisted of a sleeping cottage with an attached but accessed from the outside kitchenette and a detached bathroom gazebo with a large soaking claw foot tub, and a heated outdoor shower.  The two buildings were connected by a deck. We were concerned about privacy, but it wasn’t a problem.  The view from the deck, and the lower yard were amazing!  It was so relaxing to just stare out at the ocean, watch whales jump with the island of Maui in the back drop.  It was very windy when we were there and the cabana is pretty much just screened in, so bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper.  Although we didn’t see many, we sure got a lot of mosquito bites, so make sure you use the provided bug spray.

I hope they are insured, and glad this wasn't our condo

The Tsunami

Yes, we had to evacuate for the tsunami that was a result of the massive earthquake in Japan. Like many tourists, we spent the night and most of the next day in our rental car.   (Good thing we rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee) This was our second tsunami warning in as many years. Last year we were on Molokai when an earthquake in Chili caused alarm.  With this practice, we knew what to do (Get groceries and water early, load your stuff in the car, and get to higher ground). Unlike last year’s tsunami, this one actually hit the islands hard and caused extensive damage on the Kona Coast of the Big Island. There wasn’t the devastation that is in Japan, but homes were destroyed, condos were wiped out, roads were ripped up, shops were water logged, and the King Kamehameha Hotel’s first floor was flooded with a foot of water.   I posted a few photos earlier, and YouTube has some interesting videos.  Mother Nature can sure throw a strong punch.  Our thoughts go out to everyone in Japan, Hawaii, and around the Pacific Rim that lost their lives, family member, friend, home, property and livelihoods as a result of this catastrophe.

Look at those hats!Brews for the Big Rock

The promoters for the 16th Annual Kona Brewers Festival definitely had their work cut out for them this year.  After all their planning and preparation, the event site on the grounds of the King Kamehameha Hotel was destroyed by the tsunami, the day before the festival.  With a “show must go on” mentality they worked like little beavers and successfully moved the festival to the Kona Brewery parking lot.  They did such an amazing job, that if you hadn’t known any better you would have thought this was the location all along.  Great job!

When booked this trip we knew this beer festival was going to be a different from the ones we are used to in the Northwest, and not just because it was in Hawaii.  Sure there was beer, 43 breweries from nine different states serving up more than 70 different ales and lagers, but there was also more than 25 top chefs from local restaurants serving sweet and savory tastes of the Pacific Rim.  On top of that, there were two stages for live music as well as a Trash Fashion show. That’s right, a Trash Fashion show.  High fashion garments made entirely out of recycled materials to increase the awareness of recycling.

The best part, a glass mug, 8 tasters, the entertainment, and all the food you could eat were included in the $60 cost of entry. All the proceeds go to local charities, so you feel good about being there too.  This year they were making plans to earmark funds for the tsunami relief effort on the Big Island.

We were a little worried about baking in the hot tropic sun in a cramped area with the other 1,498 revelers.   Several folks in town warned us to make sure to get there early, wear a hat and put on sun screen.  We took this advice and arrived about a half hour before the gates opened wearing our sun hats, all sun screened up. As we scouted out the venue all of our worries went away as there was plenty of room, plenty of water stations, and plenty of shady areas. (Not to mention at least two shady characters)

With food in one hand and beer in the other we walked around, enjoying the event.  In lieu of taking any sort of notes, and after being instructed by LushC to stop tweeting, I opted for just taking photos.  We focused on beers from breweries we’ve never had before, starting off with Buffalo Bill’s Alimony Ale and a Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer. Throughout the day we had beer from California (Buffalo Bill’s Coronado, Noble Ale Works, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Rubicon, and Six Rivers), Hawaii (Kona, Maui, Waimea), Illinois (Goose Island), Michigan (Jolly Pumpkin), New Jersey (Flying Fish), and Oregon (Caldera and Hopworks).

There wasn’t a bad beer to be had. From what we tasted the most interesting beers were the Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire and the Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer, the best food/beer pairing (done on my own) was the Kona Koko Brown with Tropical Dreams Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream, and our favorite beer was the Noble Ale Works Dark Sybian IPA. The beer that had the most buzz at the festival was Seattle’s own Pike Monk’s Uncle Tripel.  “I like Pike” stickers were also trending in Kona on this day. (Click here for more photos)

It was definitely a fun time and an event I’d recommend for any beer enthusiast. If you do plan a trip around the festival, make sure you get tickets online early, as it sells out fast.  You don’t want to get there thinking you can get tickets at the door, and be turned away.  Also get a cute hat, you will need it. (LushC)

Round 1

Round One


Leche de Tigre

and our favorite was...

– To Be Continued –

FTC Info: Nothing was received for the writing of this.

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