Surprise #1: The entire airport is outdoors. The gates, the baggage claims, everything. Although nothing screams "vacation destination" like a place with an outdoor airport, it would be less than lovely to fly in or out of Kona on a rainy day!
(Somewhat obvious) Surprise #2) When they say "Big Island," they mean "BIG." We stayed on the west side of the island all week, which made for long days when we visited sights on the east side. We love all-day road trips, but if it's not your thing, you should book a couple of nights on the opposite side of the island when you go.
Surprise #3) The most popular side of the island is also the ugly side. Since the Big Island is relatively young and the west side gets hardly any rainfall, there are lots of lava fields that aren't covered by vegetation. It's great weather-wise, but the terrain looks like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb. Dan says the dementors from Harry Potter's world would feel right at home there. The other side of the island is gorgeous and lush, but of course it rains there every day. So there is no perfect place to stay, unless you plan to never leave your posh resort. We're not judging you, but you are boring.
But on the bright side, here's the weather forecast. The challenge of being a Hawaiian weatherman: How many creative ways can you say "mid-80s and partly sunny"?
Day 1: Looking for Signs of Life