[Side note: We booked our flight using reward points and for once we managed to go direct from Oakland to one of the outer islands without a stopover in Honolulu first. Having now done it this way it's going to be incredibly difficult to go back to doing the stopover as it shaves 3-4 hours off the total trip time. We end up arriving at our destination with plenty of the afternoon left so it feels like a full day instead of just getting there and calling it a night.]
We rented our Mustang convertible from Hertz via Hotwire and got what I would consider an excellent deal considering what all of the 3rd party travel sites and rental car companies were charging. We essentially paid for a midsize sedan and got a great convertible for the same price. Unfortunately, unlike our Mustang in Kauai last year, this one was a bit worse for wear and we had to spend some time noting all the nicks, dings and rips on the form before leaving. Oh, and we managed to lock our keys in the car while in the process. Note to others: if you close the door on the Mustang - even unintentionally (say the wind closes it for you), you're locked out. End of story. We had to wait about 30 minutes to get someone to open the car up for us, which put a black mark on the start of our trip but all's well that ends well.
We've been to the Big Island twice before - for our honeymoon nine years ago when we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid (Kohala Coast resort area), and again in 2009 when we stayed at a timeshare condo in Keauhou (the southernmost resort area on the Kona Coast). This time we rented a condo via VRBO in Waikoloa, where the Marriott and Hilton resorts are ... not to mention about 10 other condo complexes and two shopping centers. Waikoloa is about 25 minutes from the airport and is the second major resort area you'll come upon as you drive north (Hualalai being the first). Our condo complex was the first one upon entering, across the street from both the Queen's Marketplace and the King's Shoppes. Location-wise it was uber-convenient. In hindsight I wish we had booked a top floor unit instead of the ground floor unit simply because we had elephants for neighbors. Our lower level lanai surprisingly gave us a lot privacy, which was appreciated, but it also meant that everytime our upstairs neighbors took a step we heard it. And these people were movers & shakers. There was not a moment when they weren't walking back & forth - I decided they either had a very large dog living with them or they were worried pacers ... back & forth, back & forth ... all week long. I suppose the fact that we could hear them so clearly is also an indication of the quality of construction in the building.
Anyhow, I digress ...
Upon reaching Waikoloa, we went to the condo, rested for a few minutes and then made our way to the Island Gourmet at the Queen's Marketplace. We stopped there for lunch back in 2009 and remembered it being absolutely amazing - like a mini Whole Foods with a nice ABC store attached. And I guess you could call it that, but somehow we were less impressed than we had been before. They still had great meats & sushi and produce, but it wasn't like walking into a grocery mecca. We ended up buying some poke to tide us over until dinner, as well as a local grass-fed porterhouse for dinner, paired with red potatoes and corn on the cob. Our lanai came equipped with a large, built-in grill which was one of the reasons we chose that particular complex instead of another one in the area, so we wanted to make good use of it during our trip.
After our grocery shopping we threw on our bathing suits and drove down to A-Bay (Anaeho'omalu Beach) which fronts the Marriott and is known for being a great beach for sunbathing and swimming because of its small waves. What they don't tell you is that it's super rocky. Within seconds of getting into the water I smashed my foot down onto a piece of lava rock. Then, Alan followed suit, cutting open his foot much worse than I experienced. We hadn't been in Hawaii even one day and we already had injuries. This is how we roll, people. It was also incredibly windy at A-Bay so we didn't stay very long, choosing instead to go back to the condo to relax and cook dinner.
Cooking on the grill was a bit of a challenge all week as it seemed to either burn really hot or not hot enough and it was VERY smoky (my guess is from previous meals dropping down into the grates). Also, since we've never really cooked a porterhouse, we were unsure how long it would take. We ended up taking it off the grill after what seemed a very long time, but it was still medium rare, which was just fine by me. Alan was a bit disappointed he didn't do a better job grilling, but I think that must be a man gene because I was perfectly happy with the flavor and the texture. Oh, and that corn on the cob? Terrible. We both ended up throwing it away after just a few bites. I don't think it was ready to be sold yet.
We ended up watching The Amazing Race on the large plasma TV in the living room and then crashing pretty early. It was an interesting start to what would become an even more interesting vacation in the islands.