Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.

A Luxury Guide to Big Island of Hawaii

Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hi everyone!  My name is Jennifer from World On A Whim.  I’m a Los Angeles, California native who can’t stay still and is constantly seeking new travel opportunities to travel.  I wanted to give some input on the Big Island of Hawaii since I have come here every year for about 20 years.

I started off going on business trips for my dad’s insurance conventions and spent one week each year with the same group of kids.  I have such fond memories of playing Hide and Go Seek in the hotel and eating tons of food at the fancy insurance parties every night.

When I travel to the Big Island now, I am filled with nostalgia.  It has become a sort of sanctuary for my family and me as we relish old memories and try to make new ones.  That’s the beauty of the Big Island…you really feel like it is your second home.

What makes the Big Island of Hawaii a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?

Glamour often refers to beauty, and it’s pretty hard to find anywhere with more spectacular vistas than the island of Hawaii, or the Big Island. Built on miles of barren lava rocks, the Big Island is made up of stunning beaches, mountain scenery, almost outer space-like lava fields and the warm ocean waters.  There are very few places in the world where the most stressful aspect of your day is whether or not you want a Mai Tai or Pina Colada lying by the ocean and if you would like seared ahi or mahi mahi for dinner. 

luxury guide to big island hawaii

What 5 star hotel is the best in the Big Island of Hawaii?

The hotel with the best reputation on the Kohala Coast is definitely the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.  They have everything from a manmade tide pool, to snorkeling classes, and a cultural center where you can make leis and learn about Hawaiian culture.

What about boutique hotels in the Big Island of Hawaii, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?

No question if you are looking for something other than a chain hotel, you either choose the Mauna Lani or the Mauna Kea. These are both gorgeous, opulent resorts with fantastic beaches that bring the true feeling of old Hawaii to your experience.

Unlike the Hilton, you don’t ride on a Disney-like boat or train to get to your room.  At the Mauna Lani, you actually walk through a lobby with sharks swimming by you in the indoor/outdoor ponds.  Fans of the Mauna Lani or the Mauna Kea have a secret understanding of what I call “Big Island fever.”  You get all the luxury of a five-star resort with an aloha feeling that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Personally, I have stayed at the Mauna Lani every year since I was 11 years old.  While it is still a large resort, I feel very much at home here upon arrival.  I know Pamela at the front desk whose nephew plays for the UCLA football team, Martin the fish feeder, and many others.  The best part about this hotel is that they  have a fabulous beach and free lounge chairs and it isn’t overcrowded like some hotels where you have to wake up at 7 AM to reserve a spot near the ocean.

luxury guide to big island hawaii

Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler on the Big Island of Hawaii?

For the more adventurous traveler, I would highly recommend zip lining, touring the island on a helicopter, and driving a jeep up to the top of Mauna Kea.  There are a multitude of water sports to partake in as well.  However, there are also a plethora of activities available for the more cautious traveler who may just want to spend a day away from the lounge chair he/she has been sitting on for the past week.  And if you can’t bear to part ways with that chair, I completely understand!

My favorite activity on the Big Island is called Flumin Kohala.  It is incredibly unique in the sense that you kayak through a man-made “ditch” or aqueduct that was drilled over a century ago.  The history, scenery, and adventure all combine to make an unforgettable experience.  Another place I recommend visiting is the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.  That may be a mouthful to say, but very few people are actually talking when you visit this national park also known as the “city of refuge.”

Where are the best hangouts during the day in the Big Island of Hawaii?

Since I usually end up spending the majority of the afternoon sitting on a lounge chair and then eating an extravagant meal for dinner, I always like to get up and do an activity in the morning.  Check out the Kona coffee tours at Mountain Thunder and then get your caffeine on with some legit Kona coffee.  It is also quite fun to drive into Kona and walk around the downtown area.

luxury guide to big island hawaii

If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants on the Big Island of Hawaii and what are their best dishes? 

My all-time favorite restaurant on the Big Island is Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid.   It’s a hat-trick of a great dining experience – fantastic food, live Hawaiian music and a sunset that rivals most.  I advise you to check sunset times prior to your trip and make reservations for a table on the grass.  This is really true for all the top restaurants with an outside patio on the Big Island.  I don’t eat fish…I know who goes to Hawaii and doesn’t eat fish, so I will usually get some sort of filet and mashed potatoes combination.  Other great restaurants to check out are the Canoe House, Merrimans (where you can eat the flowers!), and Roys.

Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?

Hula Pie.  It’s a macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge and whipped cream.  Honestly, it’s pretty fantastic anywhere you go.

Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who’s carrying the trendy local designers on the Big Island of Hawaii? 

Every major hotel has their own shops nearby; my favorite shops can all be found at the King and Queen shops at the Hilton Waikoloa.  They have high-end luxury shops such as Tiffany and Co, Michael Kor’s and Louis Vuitton as well as small artisanal shops and the occasional farmer’s market.  Shops at Mauna Lani  have lots of high-end stores as well as a great Tommy Bahamas for post-shopping lunch.

If you’re getting an early start to your shopping, have coffee at Kimo Bean for some authentic Kona coffee. The Shops also have a free Hawaiian hula and fire dancing show that lasts about an hour and is better than most of the luaus anywhere in Hawaii. 

luxury guide to big island hawaii

What are a couple of the best salons and spas on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Every resort has incredible spas.  I had a massage at the Mauna Lani Spa and it was outside in a hut in a beautifully secluded garden area.  Any fancy resort that you go to on the Big Island will have a fabulous spa and what should hopefully be one of the best and most relaxing massage experiences of your life.

Time for a great sunset view on the Big Island of Hawaii… where would you go?

I love being in the ocean and watching the sunset from the water.  You can always head to the beach which should be right outside your hotel and lay in a lounge chair with a glass of wine and watch the sunset.  At most resorts along the Kohala coast, they have a nightly torch-lighting ceremony at dusk where a man blows a conk shell and runs around to all of the tiki torches along the resort and lights them for the evening.

luxury guide to big island hawaii

Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.

Nightlife on the Kohala Coast doesn’t exactly include your typical bars and nightclubs.  Instead, you will probably be sipping a very fancy cocktail as you listen to live Hawaiian music and watch a Hula dancer at your local hotel bar.  You could always head to Kona which is about a 30-45 minute drive from the Kohala Coast if you prefer more of a raucous nightlife experience, but after that 3-course meal, you are probably going to want to stay close to home.


luxury guide to big island hawaiiHailing from Los Angeles, California, Jennifer started her international travels in 2009 during her time studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain.  After college, she moved to Madrid, Spain for a year to teach English through the Auxiliares program and has made travel a huge part of her life every since.  Jennifer’s blog highlights the perfectionist’s guide to spontaneous travels at World On A Whim.  Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.