I love Oahu, Maui and Kauai so I was excited to finally visit the Big Island of Hawaii for the first time. We had a United Airlines certificate for $500 expiring in a few months to redeem for one paid flight and enough United Miles for a free award flight so we took advantage and off we were to the Big Island! I had a United Airlines credit card which gave me Premier status so I called within 24 hours of the flight and got upgraded to economy plus seating at an exit row with plenty of legroom, but there was empty rows in the back of the plane so I got an entire row to myself for most of the flight.
Much of Hawaii’s landscape is volcanic rock, so there are both black sand beaches and white sand beaches and even a green sand beach. We visited one of the volcanoes – Kilauea, and hiked through parts of the national park and through a lava tube.
We used 10k points per night to stay at the Sheraton Kona Resort because we wanted to snorkel with Manta Rays in front of the hotel. The hotel itself is clean but dated, and built onto volcanic rocks, so there is no sandy beach and no entrance into the water from the hotel. We had to go to the bay next to the hotel and take a canoe to do the Manta Ray night snorkel. We received an upgraded oceanfront room and complimentary buffet breakfast since we had SPG Platinum status, but the buffet was not great and the man working the omelette station was super grumpy.
There are a lot of coffee farms in Hawaii which produce world famous Kona coffee. We visited Greenwell Farms, the largest one in Kona, which is a supplier of Arabica Typica for companies like Peets, and found the tour very interesting. We did a coffee tasting and bought some expensive 100% Kona Coffee.
We then moved to the Kohala Coast of Hawaii and spent a couple of nights at the Fairmont Orchid, using our 2 free nights from the Fairmont credit card, which also took care of about $150 in dining charges, bike rentals, and golf club rentals. The service at the Fairmont was outstanding and it was funny how friendly and awesome the omelette station guy was at this hotel compared to the Sheraton. This is a beautiful upscale resort and was definitely a step up from the Sheraton. Although it was a bit cold during our stay (the tile floors are cold and the rooms have no heaters), we enjoyed snorkeling, golf, walking the grounds and the incredible views at the Fairmont. Mahalo, Hawaii for a memorable and restful vacation!