Essential Big Island: Two Step snorkeling

The Big Island has some of the best snorkeling in the state of Hawaii. Two Step is one of those places (along with nearby Kealakekua Bay). We recommend you don’t miss out on this amazing snorkeling spot.

South Kona is perhaps most famous for coffee and snorkeling. Both Two Step and Kealakekua Bay have some of the best snorkeling on the island and in the entire state. Two Step is especially popular because it’s easy to get to and even easier to jump straight into the ocean and start snorkeling.

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Two Step is the name of the beach and also the name of the two naturally occurring steps inset into the rock at the ocean’s edge. These steps are where you enter the water. It can get crowded at peak times, so we recommend getting to Two Step as early as possible. This way you will beat the crowds and also take advantage of the calm ocean surface which is best for snorkeling. Alternatively, the end of the day can be a less crowded time to go snorkeling too.

You will find parking right at the beach itself but keep in mind this fills up quickly. On the opposite side of the road is paid parking. There is more free parking on the side of the road which approaches the National Park next to Two Step. If you park here it’s just a two minute walk down to the beach. You can also park in the National Park itself.

Entering the water is easy because of the two naturally-formed lava steps (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and there isn’t much sand. But the snorkeling is easy and there are no currents, making it a perfect place for beginners to try snorkeling. We recommend using a flotation device (either a belt, or even a boogie board) if you feel apprehensive about being in deep water (10-15 feet). Using a boogie board is a great way to simply relax and concentrate on observing the marine life.

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

Two Step is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Despite the lack of sand there is still shade and it makes a nice location to set up a beach chair and relax by the ocean. There is also a shallow bay to the left of the boat ramp that serves as a safe place for children to swim, or adults who aren’t confident in deeper water.

Two Step is one of the jewels of South Kona. You’ll see plenty of fish including yellow tang, butterflyfish, eel, parrotfish, and puffer fish, to name a few. You might even see dolphins and the occasional turtle. Keep in mind it’s now illegal to swim with spinner dolphins. A distance of at least 50 yards must be maintained at all times.

There are limited facilities at Two Step. There are porta potty restrooms, but no showers. There are also a few picnic tables.

Two Step is definitely an essential stop on your Big Island journey. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or just a beginner, there is something for everyone at South Kona’s celebrated snorkeling spot.

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Clem’s Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie is a classic British dessert consisting of layers of caramel, banana and cream. Our variation reduces the amount of caramel and adds a layer of chocolate ganache. If you haven’t tried this pie before you’re going to love it! Caramel, banana and cream (and now chocolate) is a winning combination.

Ingredients

14 oz sweetened condensed milk
14 graham crackers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 bananas, sliced

Chocolate ganache layer
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup of chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and put in a larger baking dish. Fill the larger dish with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the smaller dish. This technique is known as Bain-marie.

Place in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Check the water level every so often, making sure that it reaches halfway and refilling as necessary. Carefully remove the baking dish from the hot water bath and let cool to room temperature.

Whisk the mixture (now it’s become dulce de leche!) until smooth.

Note: you can make dulce de leche by heating the whole can of sweetened condensed milk using an Instapot. Make sure you follow the instructions to do so carefully. Find out more: https://apressurecookerkitchen.com/condensed-milk-dulce-de-leche/

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F (180˚C). In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and melted butter. Pulse until crackers are finely ground and the mixture has the consistency of wet sand.

Grease a 9-inch (22 cm) tart pan with nonstick spray. Add the graham cracker mixture to the tin and press evenly to cover pan.

Bake crust for 5 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

Spread the dulce de leche inside the tart crust, using a spatula to smooth it into an even layer.

In a small bowl mix together cream and chocolate chips for the ganache. Microwave for 1 minute on high, stir, and then microwave on high for another 30 seconds. 

Whisk until it forms a shiny ganache.

Spread the chocolate ganache carefully on top of the dulce de leche layer.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until set.

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Place the banana slices over the chocolate layer. Top with the whipped cream, spreading evenly to cover bananas. Serve!

We hope you enjoyed our variation on the classic banoffee pie! Enjoy!

How did your pie turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Olive Oil Lemon Cake

This amazingly simple lemon-flavored cake is made using olive oil instead of butter. The olive oil gives the cake a unique flavor and keeps the cake moist – much longer than similar cakes made with butter. It’s easy to make and perfect for any occasion. 

This recipe is courtesy of Samantha Seneviratne at The New York Times.

Ingredients

1 cup/240mL extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups/300 grams granulated sugar, plus about 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ cups/295mL whole milk, at room temperature

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375F (350F convection). Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with extra-virgin olive oil. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and then oil the parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and lemon zest until very thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes, set on high.

While the mixer is still running, slowly add in the oil and beat until combined, another 2 minutes.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the cake, Cleo & Ele – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via many cute poses. More Cleo and Ele

Reduce speed to low, and add milk and lemon juice. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Option to sprinkle the top with about 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool for about 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to help release the cake from the pan.

This cake is perfect served with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt. 

How did your cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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All about the Jaboticaba tree

The Jaboticaba tree is found all over Hawaii. It produces a unique grape-like fruit that can be enjoyed picked fresh from the tree, or used to make a range of jams, jellies and syrups.

Origins

Jaboticaba is a Brazilian fruit tree that is also common in Hawaii. The name jaboticaba is derived from the Tupi (indigenous Brazilians) term ‘jabotim’ which translates to ‘like turtle fat’ meaning the flesh of the fruit. It can take years for the jaboticaba to fruit (our tree took 12 years to produce fruit!), but once it reaches maturity it will fruit about once or twice a year. If the tree is watered on a regular basis it may flower more often than this.

Jaboticaba fruit

The fruit resembles a grape or berry. The skin of the fruit is purple while the inside is a whiteish flesh. The skin has a strong, almost herbal flavor due to a high tannin component. You can eat jaboticaba fresh from the tree, although it is more often used to make syrups, jams, jellies and even wine.

The skin can be used medicinally. It has a long history of being used in Brazil to treat dysentery and asthma. Cutting a hole in the skin and sucking out the flesh is the best way to consume the fruit raw. Unfortunately, due to the short shelf life of the fruit (it starts to ferment soon after its picked) you will almost never see it for sale at local markets. Look out instead for homemade jams and jellies!

Varieties

There are two types of jaboticaba grown in Hawaii. The first is called Murta, which is about an inch long, and the other is called Paulista, which is approximately two inches long. The trees are related to the Surinam cherry, java plum, and guava. The jaboticaba tree is a cauliflorous tree. This means that the flowers and fruit grow directly out of the trunk and branches. The tree is also a popular bonsai tree in parts of the world where the temperature causes the tree to grow slowly.

Every year we make a batch of jaboticaba syrup. This is served as part of our breakfast buffet as a topping on our banana pancakes and french toast.

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Exploring Kealakekua Bay

Photo credit: fair-wind.com

Kealakekua Bay

The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are often seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and also a place to sleep.

On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities. 

On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. The monument was erected in 1874 by British sailors to commemorate the spot on which he was killed. The small plot of land on which the monument sits was actually deeded to the United Kingdom by Princess Likelike – so it is actually British soil! 

To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.

There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This is a great option if you want to snorkel but don’t want to join a tour. Kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s Monument).

Kealakekua Bay
Yellow Tang. Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com
Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument Trail. Photo credit: Lang Parker

Dolphins. Spinner dolphins are often see in the bay. They are so-called because when they leap out of the water they are able to spin on their longitudinal axis.

Boat Tours

The Big Three

Fair Winds Cruises – Fair Wind II

60 ft catamaran with a capacity of about 100 people. The tour leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat also has a water slide and a high dive platform. $159 for 4.5 hour morning tour or $115 for the 3.5 afternoon tour. The Fair Winds is the only company that has a mooring in the bay. This allows it to become a stationary platform from which to snorkel.

Fair Winds Cruises – Hula Kai

This boat is owned by the same company that owns the Fair Wind II. The boat is a little faster and the entire experience is a bit of an upgrade from the Fair Wind II. $165 for a 5 hour morning tour.

Sea Paradise – Hoku Nui

This company operates a 45 foot sailing trimaran that leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat is a competitor to the Fair Wind II but is often less crowded and a more enjoyable experience. If there is wind they will use the sails. $165 for a 4.5 hour morning tour or $125 for a 3 hour afternoon tour.

Fair Wind II in the bay. Photo credit: adventureinhawaii.com
Smaller tours

Sea Quest

Their hard-bottom inflatable boats hold up to 14 passengers and the tour takes them to Kealakekua Bay and then on to Honaunau (Place of Refuge). $145 for a 4.5 morning tour (includes lunch) or $128 for a 4 hour tour (no lunch). Leaves out of Keahou Bay.

Dolphin Discoveries

This company also uses hard-bottom inflatables for their tours. $139 for a 4.5 hour morning tour, to both Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and another tour just to Kealakekua Bay (there are three different times during the day for this tour) $114 for 3 hours. The early morning tour gets to the bay by 8am so you’ll likely be the first boat there!

Sea Quest Tour with Captain Cook's Monument in the background. Photo credit: adventureinhawaii.com

Exploring Kealakekua Bay and the area around the Captain Cook Monument is a must-see activity. The bay has some of the best snorkeling in the entire state of Hawaii. Whether you decide to hike down to the monument, kayak across the bay, or enjoy a tour, this destination should be near the top of your list on your Big Island adventure.

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Almond Mini Cookies

These mini almond cookies are super easy to make and are the perfect snack to go with your morning coffee. The mix of almond with a dash of Amaretto, and a hint of vanilla, make for a delicious cookie.

Ingredients

5 egg whites
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of corn starch
5 cups of almond flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of Amaretto or Frangelico (or lemon juice instead of alcohol)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond essence


Coating

1 cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of corn starch

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 320F (160C). Line 2 trays with baking paper.

In a bowl mix together the first measure of powdered sugar and corn starch.

Using an electric mixer, combine egg whites with the powdered sugar mixture in a large bowl. Whisk until frothy.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the cookies, is assistant chef Ele – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via many cute poses. More Cleo and Ele

Measure out approximately one tablespoon of the mixture. Roll into a ball. Do this for the remaining amount of mixture. In a bowl mix together the second measure of powdered sugar and corn starch for the coating.

Roll each of the balls in the powdered sugar mixture, coating the entire surface.

Place the coated balls on the trays. Slightly pinch both sides of each ball and then push down in the center.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow biscuits to cool.

The recipe makes approximately 40 biscuits.

Almond and amaretto make for a great flavor combination. Enjoy!

How did your cookies turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Your guide to Big Island Farmers Markets

Kona Farmers Market 1
Photo credit: alohadreams.com

Make time during your stay on the Big Island to experience the best of the island’s locally grown produce, and locally made arts and crafts. Check out our guide to farmers markets on the Big Island, whether it’s a Saturday, Sunday or a midweek market.

1. Kailua Village Farmers Market

This market is located in central Kona near Kailua Bay. This used to be one of the busier markets on the Big Island with over 40 vendors, however the number of vendors have now drastically reduced and can fluctuate depending on the day of the week.

Kona Farmers Market 2
Photo credit: https://bit.ly/3993dpc
When and where?

The Kona Farmers market operates from Wednesday to Sunday between 7 – 4pm near the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road.

2. Ali'i Gardens Marketplace

BIgIsland-POI-Alii-Garden-Marketplace-WM-6
Photo credit: hawaiianislands.com

Located near mile marker 2.5 on Ali’i Drive, the Alii Gardens Marketplace is not a farmers market but does sell crafts (although some are definitely not locally made). There are also a number of food vendors.

When and where?

This market runs every day except Monday between 10 – 5pm Wednesday, on Ali’i Drive near mile marker 2.5. 

3. The Pure Kona Green Market

Pure Kona Market 3
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

This popular market is committed to providing locally sourced produce and goods, and handmade arts and crafts – with a special emphasis on products that contribute to sustainable living. The market’s motto is ‘From the Land, by Our Hand’ and has grown rapidly over the last few years and now boasts 80 vendors.

Even though it’s located in Captain Cook this is the best farmers market in the Kona area.

This popular market is committed to providing locally sourced produce and goods, and handmade arts and crafts – with a special emphasis on products that contribute to sustainable living. The market’s motto is ‘From the Land, by Our Hand’ and has grown rapidly over the last few years and now boasts 80 vendors.

Even though it’s located in Captain Cook this is the best farmers market in the Kona area.

Pure Kona Market 4
Photo credit: afar.com

Amongst the abundance of local produce, including Kona coffee, honey and macadamia nuts is a large contingent of local arts and crafts vendors. Food stalls and live music make this a great day out for everyone.

Hot tip: The Pure Kona Green Market is the closest farmers market to Horizon Guest House, making it a great place to stock up on fresh fruit, or even some vegetables if you decide to grill out by the pool.

When and where?

The Pure Kona Green Market is held every Sunday from 9am – 2pm at the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens, 82-6188 Mamalahoa Highway, directly opposite the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook.

4. The Ho’oulu Farmers Market & Artisans Fair

Make sure you stop by one of the best arts & crafts markets on the island! The Ho’oulu Farmers Market & Artisans Fair includes a range of locally made and grown products (all 100% made on the Big Island).

When and where?

The market is held on the front lawn of the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa in Keauhou Bay in Kailua-Kona. The market operates on Wednesdays and Fridays between 9am-2pm.

5. Keauhou Farmers Market

Keauhou Farmers Market
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Held in the parking lot of the Keauhou Shopping Center, this is a small market with everything you need. Committed to selling only produce grown on the Big Island, you’ll find delicious honey, coffee, macadamia nuts, meat, eggs and fresh bread.  

Keauhou Farmers Market
Photo credit: afar.com

The Keauhou Farmers Market works with a number of local farm vendors to bring you the best in local quality produce.

When and where?

Every Saturday between 8–12pm at the Keauhou Shopping Center in front of Ace Hardware, 78-6831 Ali’i Drive, Kona. 

6. Hilo Farmers Market

Make sure you stop by the biggest and most popular farmers market on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hilo farmers market runs every weekday but it’s the ‘market days’ on Wednesday and Saturday – with over 200 farmers and local crafters selling fresh produce, crafts, gifts and assorted flowers – that make it a must-visit during your stay on the Big Island.

When and where?

The open market is now held on the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo. Contained within the space of approximately 3 city blocks, the market has free parking nearby. The biggest (and best) days are Wednesday and Sunday. Get there early to get the best of the produce and the freshest flowers.

7. Waimea Town Farmers Market

Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

The Waimea Town farmers market runs every in front of the Parker School in the center of Waimea. The vendor’s stalls surround a grassy area  with picnic tables.

The Waimea Town farmers market is a great place to buy hot food and fresh produce.

When and where?

Saturdays between 7:30 am and noon in front of the Parker School in the center of Waimea.

8. Waimea Midweek Farmers Market

Photo credit: hawaiilife.com

Around 40 vendors selling everything from fresh produce, orchids, coffee, and arts and crafts.

When and where?

The midweek farmers market is held at Parker Ranch Pukalani Stables every Wednesday between 9am-2pm.

Pukalani Stables is located at 67-139 Pukilani Road.

9. Maku'u Farmers Market

Located in Pahoa, this is your one-stop shop for artisan goods, locally-cooked meals, and fresh produce. 

When and where?

Located just south of mile marker 7 on Hwy 130, in the parking lot of the of the Maku’u ke Kahua Community Center. 

Sundays between 8am – 2pm.

Download our Timetable of Big Island Farmers Markets to find out which markets are operating on any day of the week.

Support 100% Big Island!

Visiting a farmers market during your stay is not only a great way to sample the delights of the Big island but it’s also a great way to support the local community. 

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Walnut Maple Banana Cake

I enjoyed the combination of maple and banana so much in the muffins I made recently that I decided to try this as a cake, although this recipe does have eggs! The original recipe used a baking dish but I rather liked using the more traditional cake tin (if you do decide to use a baking dish it will bake faster, in about 30-35 minutes).

Ingredients

Cake

1 1/2 stick butter (softened)
1 c pure maple syrup
3 lg eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c mashed bananas (2 large or 3 med)
3/4 c buttermilk

Frosting

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c butter (softened)
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 c walnuts (chopped)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare a 9-inch cake tin. Line with baking paper, lightly oil.

In the bowl using a hand beater (or using a stand mixer) cream the butter until soft and light. Gradually add the maple syrup and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes more, or until light. The butter and maple syrup may separate slightly. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the cake, is assistant chef Cleo – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via many cute poses. More Cleo and Ele

Add to the butter mixture along with the milk and mashed bananas.

Note: Buttermilk can be substituted for a mixture of ½ cup of yoghurt and a quarter cup of milk, adding more milk if the mixture is too thick. See photos below. 

Beat all ingredients on low speed just until combined.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wait until the cake is completely cooled. Then in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter, maple syrup (increasing the amount of maple syrup until the right intensity has been achieved), then add vanilla and beat until smooth.

Frost cake and garnish with walnuts!

Maple is such a great flavor for a cake and is made even better by using it in the cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!

How did your cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Eggless Maple and Banana Muffins

This recipe combines maple and banana with great success. The muffins are made without using an egg and produce a light fluffy texture. Originally a cake recipe, this has been adapted for muffins.

Ingredients

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) milk (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (180 ml) pure maple syrup
1 ripe banana, mashed (about 90 g)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Using baking spray, generously grease one muffin tray (makes 12 muffins). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put aside.

In a mixing bowl or jug, combine milk and vinegar. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened. You should be able to see small curdled pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy on medium-high speed. Do this for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed. Next, add maple syrup, mashed banana and vanilla. Beat until combined.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the muffins, is assistant chef Cleo – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via many cute poses. More Cleo and Ele

With the speed on low, add half of the flour mixture. Scrape down the mixing bowl with a spatula and turn the batter over several times to ensure all of the ingredients are well mixed. Add milk mixture – continue beating to mix. Add the remaining flour and beat until just until combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the cake mixture into the muffin tray. You may have some batter left over. Be careful not to overfill the muffin tray – this is something I (Angus) did! You can see in the photo below that I’ve overfilled the tray. Make sure each muffin mold is only filled to about 2/3 full. This is a cake recipe so the mixture will rise quite a lot. 

Bake until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the center. Baking times may vary but these muffins should take 20-25 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow muffins to cool before serving. (Optional: serve with whipped cream, adding 2/3 tablespoons of maple to the cream!).

 

My muffins overflowed and ended up flattening out (they were still delicious though). How did your muffins turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: AT-AT 75313

The LEGO AT-AT 75313 is a huge set with an incredible amount of detail. There are a large number of minifigures, and the set has fully adjustable legs. I modified it further with extra minifigures, a display case, lighting, and a diorama snow scene featuring more minifigures and speeders.

The LEGO AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport), as featured in the Battle of Hoth, includes legs that are adjustable (at two positions on each leg) and a head that also rotates. The front cannons have a realistic firing action to them, and there’s even a ‘rope’ from which to attach Luke Skywalker on the underside of the AT-AT.

The AT-AT measures 24.5 inches high and 27 inches long. It features multiple removable panels in order to easily view the interior. The main body has the capacity to fit 40 LEGO minifigures and 4 speeder bikes. Within the cockpit of the head is room for three minifigures.

The set includes the following minifigures:

General Veers, Luke Skywalker, Snowtrooper Commander, 4 Snowtroopers and 2 AT-AT drivers.

This set is a huge – 6,785 pieces! The plan for this set was to order a custom display case with a printed Hoth planet background and a white surface on which the AT-AT would stand. To complete the diorama I would add the AT-ST and a collection of speeder bikes, snow troopers and rebel alliance figures to the scene. And finally, I would light the entire AT-AT by using a custom lighting kit which I would then modify further.

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of multiple weeks but not continuously, and sometimes only for short periods at a time. LEGO estimates the build time for this set to be between 18-19 hours.

The build was relatively straightforward, beginning with each of the legs. This process became a little bit repetitive. I found building the main part of the set more enjoyable. There are a lot of interesting features and clever detail in this build and it was fun to construct. It was also great to discover how the engineering allowed for the set to become freestanding. 

The legs can be adjusted in order to pose the model as if it were in motion. This requires a gadget that is part of the build and makes the process highly interactive. 

Despite knowing the size of the finished model before I started, it was still a shock to see how BIG it actually is. It’s massive. The fact it can hold up to 40 minifigures in the main body – AND four speeder bikes – is amazing.

The construction techniques used to connect the main body to the head are astonishing. It almost shouldn’t work since the head is so bulky, but somehow it does. There is not an actual interior tunnel between the head and body in which the minifigures could walk through but this doesn’t detract from the overall effect. 

The option to display the set with or without the panels is a great one. They are easy to remove and I found no issue with them remaining in place as some other reviews have highlighted.

AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313
AT-AT Lego 75313

The stickers that are used in this set look great. Sometimes stickers in LEGO sets don’t always work well, but here the stickers are used to represent the background lighting, and it gives the interior of the body a real feeling of depth.

AT-AT Lego 75313

Modifications

The first major modification to the set was a simple one. I wanted to fill the main body with as many stormtroopers as possible. This meant purchasing a number of Snowtrooper Battle Packs (75320) and filling up the empty seats. 

AT-AT Lego 75313

Lighting the AT-AT proved a little more challenging. I found a custom made set for this model but the method they used to rig the lighting was too complicated, and it resulted in lighting that was too bright. I rewired the model and placed the lights in locations that reduced some of the glare that can happen with the LED lights on these models. Pro tip: the key is to light the model but not make it difficult to look at!

The display case and diorama

The display case is from Wicked Brick who have created an amazing case for this set. With a Hoth planet background and a white acrylic base plate, the AT-AT sits comfortably in four cut-outs designed for each of the four feet.

There was plenty of room around the AT-AT to create an interesting battle scene as well as room for the AT-ST (75322). More low-lighting may be added at some point to brighten the ‘snow’ in the diorama.

Overall the AT-AT was a fun and satisfying build. Expanding the impact of the set by creating my own diorama was also worth the extra work. The lighting brings the model to life and the display case is a great way to keep the set secure and also dust-free.

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed.

 

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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