Two days before our trip, we got rapid Covid tests at Walgreens. Hawaii had actually announced the removal of their testing requirement for vaccinated travelers for July 6th, two days after we arrived. In any event, we got our negative results before we even got home from Walgreens and we were good to go. At the time, I had to create a profile on Hawaii’s SafeTravels website and generate QR codes, but all that has been scrapped recently (hopefully for good).
We had a very early start on the 4th, but as it was a holiday, a Sunday and 6am, there was no traffic. We parked in daily parking as our daughter was arriving back from a trip that afternoon with another set of car keys so we had arranged to have her take the car home to save on parking and Uber costs.
Our flight to Dallas was out of the T Concourse so there was no point in schlepping all the way to the F Concourse for The Club lounge. We just grabbed coffee and waited with the rabble. Our flight was pretty noneventful and arrived early into Terminal A. We took the train over to Terminal D and visited the Centurion Lounge. There was no wait to enter the lounge as it was not yet busy at that hour. At the time, the breakfast buffet was served by a staff member, but it was pretty good and we filled up, knowing we had an 8 hour flight in economy with no meal service to come.
We spent about an hour in the lounge before heading over to our gate for the Kona flight. We stopped at 7-11 to grab some salads to eat on the long flight. When we boarded, the agent asked for ID which I suppose was used to match us up with our SafeTravels QR code.
For our AA flights, I had used some Amex Platinum airline fee credits to book us better seats, extra legroom on the ATL-DFW leg and row 25 on the DFW-KOA leg which was on a 777-200. That row on the left side has just two seats by the window (instead of three) so I thought it would be nice not to have to sit next to anyone else and have some extra under seat storage. However, that row is by the bathroom, so buyer beware!
We took off on time and about an hour into the flight there was a drink and snack service followed by another one around midflight. It was a long flight, and I had downloaded the four-hour Snyder cut of Justice League to watch on my iPad. I still had time for another movie and some podcasts. The seats ended up being a disaster as the bathroom was right behind them and constantly in use. Besides the constant foot traffic and people lining up next to me, after a few hours, there was a consistent smell (and it wasn’t roses). Lesson learned – never book row 25 on AA 777-200 again!
Mercifully, we landed about ½ hour early and the views of the Big Island on approach were amazing.
We had to wait about 20 minutes in line for our QR codes to be verified before we were free to enter Kona. Our bags were waiting for us and we headed off on the National shuttle. Even though I had booked through Hilton, the National rep let me use my Executive status and I was able to upgrade us from a compact to a Nissan Altima.
We headed around to Waikoloa, which was about 45 minutes from the airport. The resort is huge. We actually had to check in at the Ocean Tower, which is about a 15-minute walk from the main lobby or you can take a train shuttle, which we waited for with our luggage (we didn’t bother with it again as it rarely was there when we needed it).
As we passed by the main pool and lagoon area, it looked like a lot of young kids (not our thing anymore) whereas the Ocean Tower pool looked a lot quieter. We checked in and the front desk did let me put my Hilton number in the reservation so I would at least earn points on what we spent on property.
Our room was very dated and non-refurbished. You would think that they would put timeshare preview guests in nicer rooms to try and sell them on the idea of returning, but it wasn’t to be. In the end, it was just a place to sleep on an expensive island. I’ll include a more detailed review of the hotel later in the report.
We went for early bird sushi dinner at Sansei in the Queens Marketplace. It was OK – decent value but we’ve had much better sushi. We were pretty tired at this point so we headed back to our room. The parking at the Hilton was not as bad as I expected. There were always spaces available and the lot was close to the main lobby. Unfortunately, we had that 15-minute walk to our room every time as well.
The sunset over the ocean was beautiful but not long after, we went to bed as it was already 4am on the East Coast. We had big plans for the next day. Next up: Volcanoes and Poke.