Sugar Cottage - South Kona Trip Report

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bmorescuba

Contributor
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Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
# of dives
200 - 499
About this time last year, my wife and I were discussing our annual "big" trip, which we take each summer. It was a milestone birthday for me, so i said I'd like to dive more than usual on our shared trip (my wife only snorkels, so our annual vacation is a 'trip with diving' as opposed to a 'dive trip'). Since it was a milestone, we discussed - what's our favorite place we've ever been? The answer was easy and a consensus - Hawai'i Island (The Big Island). I said that I wanted to so as much shore diving as possible, since I love shore diving.

I thought - wouldn't it be great to be able to stay for 2 weeks? I had the vacation time, but the accommodations are prohibitively expensive. So I started searching online and after awhile, I found the Sugar Cottage (https://www.sugar-inc.com/sugar-cottage). I was somewhat taken aback by its affordability - $100/night. Plus - guided shores dives, tanks & weights included. I had to double check, as I couldn't believe the price. But that's right, a cottage with 1 bedroom, kitchen, bath, and parking. Plus, a gear rinse area! I read some reviews online, they sounded positive, so i went ahead and booked 2 weeks in June, 2019.

The cottage is located about an hour south of Kona near the town of Miloli'i. The location is really the only possible disadvantage, depending on what you want from a Big Island vacation. A car is required to do anything, and it's not exactly close to much. But, we were planning on driving a lot anyway, so this didn't matter to us. The cottage itself was clean and functional. It's not fancy, but not budget-motel feeling either. Bugs weren't too bad - the screened in porch helped a lot. No A/C, but it didn't matter much - the fans and the elevation made for pleasant sleeping. The host was available whenever we needed anything, but hands-off otherwise. The cistern water isn't potable, but he provided 5 gallon containers of filtered water for drinking.

Some estimates of travel times. Kona downtown ~1hr/Volcanoes NP ~1hr/Hilo 2-3hrs, depending on route/Puako ~1.5 hrs./Kohala ~2hrs./Waimea - 2.5hrs/South Point ~45mins. These are real travel times. At first I was concerned because everything seemed far away. But we really enjoyed seeing parts of the island we hadn't seen the first time, especially South Point, Green Sand Beach, Ho'okena, Pebbles, Punalu'u, and Naalehu. We spent a lot of time at Two-Step and Kealakekua. 3 or 4 days we went early to Two-Step and snorkeled together, then I would get a dive in while my wife continued to snorkel. Twice we got to snorkel with spinner dolphins, and there were turtles galore, plus a huge eagle ray in the shallows. Two-Step gets crowded for sure, but we had a great time there. We wanted to spend a couple days in the Hilo area, so I booked one night at a B&B in downtown Hilo. Sugar Cottage was so inexpensive, I didn't mind losing one night there.

The diving was an informal setup - the host wasn't available every morning, but he was available most mornings. And when he wasn't available, I was able to take full tanks and weights and dive on my own (after he saw I knew what I was doing). All the dives were shore dives, and the host's knowledge of local shore dive sites was extensive. He had 80s, 63s, and 100s. His compressor was a small unit he kept onsite. We managed 75-90 minutes for each dive, depending on depth. Here's what I managed to dive:

5 dives at Two-Step (3 solo, 2 with host)
2 dives at Miloli'i Rock with the host
4 dives at Miloli'i Boat Ramp with the host
4 dives at Pebbles with the host
1 dive solo at Ali'i Mile Marker 4
2 dives solo at Puako

I requested going back to Pebbles and Miloli'i boat ramp because I liked them so much. I will never forget the champagne bubble sound of the rocks being tumbled close to shore at Pebbles. I made the drive all the way up to Puako, because I had such fond memories of it from 6 years ago. But, Puako had a lot of what looked like bleaching and was a little disappointing. Highlights for me were spinner dolphins, eagle ray, turtles, nudibranchs, and the usual assortment of beautiful reef fish.

I kinda hope no one else finds out about this place, but I asked the host if he'd like promotion, and he said yes, so here you go. It was an incredible trip. Other places have more coral, more fish, or more variety, but nowhere else compares to shore diving on the Big Island for me. I just wish I could afford to live there.

Here's some sample pics. Full galleries are here: Land (https://flic.kr/s/aHsmJ4rjg3) and U/W (https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGEYt1m)

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grantwiscour

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Location
Kona Coast, Big Island of Hawaii
# of dives
200 - 499
Great photos and a very fair review. Sugar Cottage is a great place to stay and private, VIP diving that can't be beat.
Miloli'i Pier has become our favorite dive site...we go many times each month.

The water here on the South Kona Coast has been great lately...come out and dive.
 

bmorescuba

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Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
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Yeah, I didn't dive at Papakōlea Green Sand Beach (#4). If you did dive there, it would be a long hike in (2.7 miles) with gear :). The beach is one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world. If you stay at Sugar Cottage, it's quite close and definitely worth the trip. Stunning landscapes.
 

spoolin01

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SF Bay Area, CA
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Sounds like a neat place to stay!

Great photos and a very fair review. Sugar Cottage is a great place to stay and private, VIP diving that can't be beat.
Miloli'i Pier has become our favorite dive site...we go many times each month.

The water here on the South Kona Coast has been great lately...come out and dive.
I've driven into Miloli'i a few times, after reading about it here on SB, but have always decided against diving 'cause I couldn't really see anyplace "public" looking enough to feel good about parking. It always seemed more like private property and I didn't want to intrude. Where do you park and enter the water?
 

peterak

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Location
Big Island, HI
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Yeah, I didn't dive at Papakōlea Green Sand Beach (#4). If you did dive there, it would be a long hike in (2.7 miles) with gear :). The beach is one of only 4 green sand beaches in the world. If you stay at Sugar Cottage, it's quite close and definitely worth the trip. Stunning landscapes.

Yeah, Green Sand is beautiful and well worth the trip. You don't have to hike—local rednecks will drive you out in their 4X4s for a fee. Even so, probably not worth trying to dive there—conditions are often rough and it's a steep climb down to to the beach after you're dropped off. I believe a diver was lost there a couple of months ago.
 

bmorescuba

Contributor
Messages
368
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407
Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
# of dives
200 - 499
Sounds like a neat place to stay!

I've driven into Miloli'i a few times, after reading about it here on SB, but have always decided against diving 'cause I couldn't really see anyplace "public" looking enough to feel good about parking. It always seemed more like private property and I didn't want to intrude. Where do you park and enter the water?

@spoolin01 -

Miloli'i Sites we dove:

#1 Da Rock in 'Haolewood' (as the host called it), basically the newer, wealthier part of Miloli'i
https://goo.gl/maps/xqspbCqgV9akfu8N7

#2 Miloli'i Old Dock
https://goo.gl/maps/mVYW3hBfT7b5mmdc8

At Da Rock, there's a small gravel area, then a little wooden foot bridge, then some steps down to a ladder with some rope. Very informal, but not private property (yet). The Old Dock does feel like you're driving through a private area, but as long as you're parking at the dock, the host said it was fine - just lock up the car. The Old Dock has room for 4 or 5 cars. There's a ladder or you can giant stride in. Ladder or swim to shore to get out. Ladder a little tricky at low tide. At each site, we swam out until we hit the more pronounced reef, maybe 30' deep or so, dropped down, and then did one dive swimming north and back and the next dive swimming south and back (after checking for current). Honestly, these dives were amazing. Tons of healthy cauliflower coral. A shark here and there. Turtles everywhere. 2 dragon morays. We were the only divers in the water each time. Of course, a local reported we just missed the hammerhead, but isn't that always the case???

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