The Volcano National Park is a great experience about 90 miles away going south, some of the road is a curvy so it may take a couple hours to get there. There are some short walks to a Thurston lava tube, a visitor center with a hotel and restaurant, another visitor center lookout over the Kilauea Caldera, and Crater Rim Drive. Chain of Craters road will take you down towards the ocean where you can walk out near to some active lava flows. It is constantly changing so sometimes there is more activity than other times, and access may be restricted for safety. That can be quite a hike so if you don’t plan on walking out to the flows you could skip the trip down Chain of Craters road as it is a dead end road and will take a fair amount of time from your schedule to go down and back up. It can be cold or rainy or both at the volcano so be prepared just in case. I would start out early as it will take most of the day and the weather will most likely be better morning and early afternoon than late afternoon. Some people with respiratory problems can experience some discomfort with the VOG (volcano smog) but I have never noticed any problems.
To make the most out of your day to the Volcano you could stop at the “Coffee Shack” very popular for breakfast, lunch, or dessert (no dinner), with a beautiful view and then visit the “City of Refuge” State Park. Or you could make this another trip depending on your schedule. The Coffee Shack is mostly a wide spot in the road so try to map it out before you go to get a rough idea to be on the look out for it. I would allow at least an hour at the City of Refuge. The Volcano, Coffee Shack, City of Refuge will be a full day and you may be coming back in the dark.
A great place to snorkel for beginners or intermediates is Kahaluu Beach Park just about 3 miles south on Alii Drive. There is snorkel gear rental along with refreshments at the beach. We have beach chairs, beach towels, beach umbrellas, and coolers for your use. Lots of fish, sea turtles, and fairly shallow. You may see more sea turtles along the rocky shoreline. I would try to go early (before noon ) as it will most likely cloud up and reduce visibility in the afternoon.
For some beautiful scenery, waterfalls, rainforest, and botanical gardens another full day trip would be to go north. You could plan some stops along the way with the farthest point being Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Akaka Falls is very nice and not too much of a hike. There are several points of interest along the way as you will see from the maps in the brochures. You may want to start back before dark and even though they may give you some warnings not to take rental cars over Saddle Mountain Road, the road is just fine but a little narrow in places and will be a little bit of a shortcut coming back. I would not continue around the island through Hilo and back towards the Volcano to Kona. In my opinion Hilo is really not worth spending much time to go there.
Really local type place is Big Island Grill. Not a place for ambiance of view, but moderate prices and local type plates. Hawaiians do like their carbs, Mac Salad is big, Spam is big (it is even on the menu at Mcdonalds). The best fish and chips I have ever had are at Quinns Almost by the Sea, they are in the village just up the hill from the pier on Palani.
For lunch and cold beer go for Harbor House be sure to order the frozen schooner of your favorite beer. Located in the small boat harbor between Kona and the Airport. Another great place for lunch or dinner is Kona Brewery. Great pizza, my favorite is Tai Chicken, also I like to order their beer sampler, then finish with another glass of whichever is my favorite. They can get real busy, so go early or expect a wait if going around 7pm. Kind of hard to find even though its right in town one street over behind the shopping area on Palani St. So you may want to map it out, but it’s worth the find.
Dinner: Huggos is good, great view, but pricey. Don the Beachcombers is great view,
food is average or just okay for the price. Although we like to eat out occasionally,
it’s hard to beat eating at the Ocean Lanai there at the condo. Slice up a little
eggplant, bbq with a little olive oil, along with some fresh local fish or a nice steak.
Check out some of the local open air markets for fresh fruit and veggies. Hope that
helps, let me know if you need some more ideas. You will see lots of pay to play
activities in the brochures.
Mahalo and Enjoy Your Stay!