Hotels and Resorts
The resorts—most clustered on the Kohala Coast—are expensive, no two ways about it. That said, many offer free nights with longer stays (fifth or seventh night free) and sometimes team with airlines or consolidators to offer package deals that may include a rental car, spa treatments, golf, and other activities. Some hotels allow children under 17 to stay for free. Ask about specials when you book, and check websites as well—many resorts have Internet-only deals.
Condos and Vacation Rentals
Condos and vacation rental homes offer a range of options in every district of the island. With your own vacation pad, not only do you have more space to spread out, you can save a substantial amount of money by eating in.
B&Bs and Inns
Bed-and-breakfasts and locally run inns offer a nice alternative to hotels or resorts in terms of privacy and location. Guests enjoy the perks of a hotel (breakfast and maid service), but without the extras that drive up rates.
Be sure to check industry association websites as well as property websites, and call to ask questions. There are still a few "B&Bs" that are really just dumpy rooms in someone's house, and you don't want to end up there. Members of the Big Island–based Hawaii Island Bed & Breakfast Association (www.stayhawaii.com) are listed with phone numbers and rates in a comprehensive online brochure. In order to join this network, bed-and-breakfasts must be evaluated and meet fairly stringent minimum requirements, including a yearly walk-through by association officers, to maintain their membership. Another bed-and-breakfast association includes Hawaii's Best Bed & Breakfasts (808/985–7488, 800/262–9912 www.bestbnb.com).
You'll almost always be able to find a room on the Big Island, but you might not get your first choice if you wait until the last minute. Make reservations six months to a year in advance if you're visiting during the peak seasons (summer, Christmas holiday, and spring break). During the week after Easter Sunday, for example, the Merrie Monarch Festival is in full swing, and most of Hilo's rooms are booked. Kailua-Kona is packed in mid-October during the Ironman World Championship triathlon. September and February are great months to visit Hawaii; fares are lower, crowds are less, and accommodations prices are reduced.
Keep in mind that many of the resorts charge "resort fees" for things like parking, Internet, daily newspaper service, beach gear, and activities. Most condos and vacation rental owners charge an additional cleaning fee. Always ask about hidden fees as well as specials and discounts when you book. Look online for great package deals.
Big Island Lodging
Fodor's writers and editors have selected their favorite hotels, resorts, condos, vacation rentals, and bed-and-breakfasts by price and experience. Fodor's Choice properties represent the "best of the best" across price categories. You can also search by area for excellent places to stay—check out our complete reviews on the following pages.
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Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, $$$$, p. TK
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, $$$$, p. TK
Holualoa Inn, $$$$, p. TK
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, $$$$, p. TK
Puakea Ranch, $$$, p. TK
Waianuhea, $$, p.