The Big Island of Hawaii is so big that all of the other Hawaiian Islands would fit within its bounds, with room to spare. And the diversity of Big Island natural environments runs the gamut from lunar-like lava flow landscapes, some ancient and others a work in progress, to fourteen thousand-foot-tall volcanic peaks, and lush tropical rainforests.
It’s hard to pick a favorite place to stay on the big Island, as the offerings range from boutique B&Bs and inns to mega resorts. I checked in at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keuhou Bay. It’s a full-service resort of the first-order, but it was the locale, and most notably, the people I met that made for the fondest memories. The Sheraton is perched on a bluff-top overlooking the Pacific, with historic Keauhou Bay flanking the starboard side. For myself, a hotel serves as a base camp more than a destination in itself, and I did not have to travel more than a few steps to discover way cool things to see and experience. It’s the Manta Rays that first caught my attention. Just a few yards off the rocks at the Sheraton, Manta Rays—some with a wingspan of 16-feet—feed on plankton. And a most memorable Sheraton experience was a nighttime snorkel with the Manta Rays.
But an equally memorable and most touching encounter was to meet and spend some quality time with Sheraton Kona’s Hawaiian Ho’okipa Ambassador of Culture and Activities, Nani Kupihe. I will forever remember Nani and her sweet lyrical-way of teaching Hawaiian culture, the ancient history that’s to be found just steps from the guest rooms, and most touchingly Nani’s infectuous Aloha Spirit. A week, or two is needed to experience the plethora of cool things to do on the Big Island, like ziplining, golfing, a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a walk on the famed Black Sand beach, helicopter flight seeing, and more. Just a short hop down the road from the Sheraton is Kona Historical Society’s, Kona Coffee Living History farm, the onetime home of the Uchida Coffee farm founded in 1900. It is a fascinating showcase of how Kona coffee was grown and harvested by the pioneering Japanese farmers.
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