Kailua-Kona, often referred to as "Kona" by the locals, is nestled at the bottom of the Hualalai Volcano. It is the main western city of the Big Island of Hawaii, though with a population of about 12,000, it is hardly a metropolis. Kona has become known for sport fishing, snorkeling, sunsets and coffee, which is cultivated on the slopes of Mount Hualalai.
In ancient times, the area was considered the premier place to live due to the excellent weather and good water. Many kings made their homes here. Later, missionaries built churches and residences, turning the tiny fishing village into a small seaport. It was the home of King Kamehameha I, who united the Hawaiian Islands.
Because the mountains block the northeasterly trade winds, Kona gets very little rain and enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Kona is also home to the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament and the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
- 1 Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (also known as Keahole Airport KOA IATA). It is the main commercial airport for the Kona coast, serving the Kona area and the resort areas of Kohala to the north. Hawaiian Airlines and Go! Airlines offer non-stop interisland service from Honolulu and Kahului, as well as trans-Pacific service from selected cities on the West Coast of the United States. Besides Hawaiian, service from the U.S. mainland is also provided by Alaska, American, Delta, and United. Direct service from Vancouver, Canada is provided by Air Canada and Westjet.
Traffic is congested. Driving in tourist-oriented areas can be slow, but the town is generally not large enough to have serious problems. Walking is a manageable way to travel in town, but you should rent a car if you want to get to resorts, beaches and other cultural locations.
Kailua-Kona is a place for ocean and outdoor recreational activities. Surfing, fishing, diving, boating, snorkeling and swimming are all popular sports in Kailua-Kona, as are hiking, biking, caving, and four wheeling. There are also many important cultural sites in the town, including the first Christian church in the islands, the Queen's Palace, and petroglyphs that can be found at Kaloko-Honokahou National Park.
- Kona Trolley. 9AM-9:15PM. Travels from the Sheraton Keauhou, along Alii Drive and through the Old Industrial area, stopping at various points on the way. $2.
- Coffee plantations. Coffee plantations abound, see for example Bayview Farms, which has a short free tour and samples of the Kona coffee.
- 1 Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (Kaho NHP), ☏ . 8:30AM-4PM. Honokohau Beach usually has plenty of Hawaiian green sea turtle (Honu) basking in the sun to see (keep 20 ft/6 m away). You can also snorkel in the 'Ai'opio fishtrap, the canoe house and the historic Hawaiian sites. Beach is best accessed from the South side. Has petroglyphs and walking/hiking trails. The visitor center, Hale Ho'okipa, is located half a mile north of the entrance to Honokohau Harbor. Alternatively, access the south end by way of Honokohau Boat harbor. Free.
- 2 Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens, Kona Outdoor Circle Educational Center, 76-6280 Kuakini Hwy (1hr walk south of downtown Kona). M-F 9AM-4PM.
- Hulihe'e Palace, 75-5718 Ali'i Dr. M-Sa 9AM-4PM. Was built in 1838 for Hawaiian royals to vacation. Now it's a museum with Victorian artifacts $10.
- 3 Mokuaikaua, 75-5713 Alii Dr. Daily 7:30AM-5:30PM. Hawaii's first Christian church. free.
- Sea Hawaii Rafting, 73-1397 Hiolani St, ☏ . 9AM-5:30PM. Get up close and personal with the Hawaiian coastline and marine life with Sea Hawaii Rafting. Zodiac adventures are state of the art and environmentally friendly. Offer whale watching excursions, waterfall tours and private charters. $75.
- Yoga Hale, 77-6530 Naniloa Dr, ☏ . Offers two class sessions daily in our relaxing home studio. Studio can accommodate up to 15 people per class in a comfortable poolside environment. Yoga mats are available (nominal fee) as well as props & towels. Offering 4 types of classes, Yoga Hale provides a calming environment and class structure that novices and yoga experts can enjoy. $20.
- Kona Surf Adventures, 74-5606 Pawai Pl Ste 103, ☏ . Learn to surf with instructors. All instructors are CPR, First Aid and lifeguard certified as well as trained in professional rescue. $99.
- 1 Kahaluu Beach. There is great snorkeling at a local beach park called Kahaluu. It can be crowded, but it's pretty worth it. You can rent equipment in town and at the beach. Kahaluu also has a lovely little bar next to it when you're tired of drinking salt water. Secure storage lockers are available for $5 from the Kahaluu Snack Wagon parked on the beach from 10AM to 3:30PM.
- Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors, 75-5909 Alii Dr (between Alii Cove and Kona Reef Resort), ☏ . Takes 2½ hours. Professional surfing lessons and paddle tours 7 days a week. 13+ years in business. Taught by certified lifeguards. $106.
- Yoga Flow for Your Soul, 74-5563 Kaiwi St (in Kona's Old Industrial Area), ☏ . Classes blend elements of Jivamukti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, and Mindfulness Yoga.
- 2 Kekaha Kai State Park (just north of Kona on Hwy 19; coming from Kona, go past mile marker 89 and turn left towards the water at the sign for the Veteran's Cemetery), ☏ . Daily 8AM-7PM. Also called Kua Bay, Kekaha Kai is an absolutely beautiful white sand beach. The beach is mostly used for body boarding as it has a steep shorebreak and can be dangerous to inexperienced swimmers. Newly paved road (ok for 2WD) all the way to beach. Beach has bathrooms, fresh water fountains and showers.
- Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures (WHOA), Honokohau Small Boat Harbor, ☏ . Ride the fastest Navy SEAL boat in HI and snorkel places other boats do not go. Discover the wild side of Hawaii and the marine life up close and in secluded setting. Your captains are world class freedivers and underwater photographers with over 20 years experience on the ocean. 4-hr tour, $150.
- Hawaii Flight Adventures Inc., Kona International Airport (KOA), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Aircraft rental for visiting pilots, all levels of flight instruction, multi-engine time building, and air tours.
- 3 Kahalu'u Beach Surf & Sea, 78-6685 Ali’i Drive, ☏ , ✉ info@LearnToSurfKona.com. Surf lessons for beginners in small groups. Great way to get started with an experienced instructor pushing you into the right waves and telling you when to stand up. From $99 per person.
- Paradise Copters. Flights over macadamia nut plantations to the lava flows at Kilauea. Because Kona is twice as far from the volcano as Hilo, tours that leave from Kona are generally 2 hours long and accordingly more expensive. You may choose to drive 2¼-hr to Hilo if money is a consideration. Morning helicopter flights tend to have the least cloud cover, but also book first. If taking photos, wear dark clothing to avoid reflections from windows. A special mention should be made about the "doors off" helicopter tour, which lets you smell the lava and feel its heat.
- Scuba diving. Kona has some great diving opportunities during the daytime, but the real thing to do here is the Manta Rays Night Dive. All the dive operators in town do a night dive to see the giant mantas, and this is the best and most reliable place in the world to see them. The manta rays of Kona can be up to 16 feet (5m) wide and weigh almost 2000 lbs (900 kg)! On any given night there are 1-20 rays feeding at the dive site, and by bringing lights in the water, plankton (their food) is attracted to feed them. Divers sit in sand on the bottom about 30 feet deep (9 m) and watch these huge but harmless fishes swim inches from their faces. A must do! Though it's at night, there is so much light in the water and it's so shallow that this is an easy dive for novice divers, as well as a very rewarding dive for even the most seasoned divers. Snorkelers can also get a great up close view of the mantas at the same time. All you have to do is float on the water and hold a light, it's very easy. You must be PADI-certified to do the night dive, but if you aren't you can do a snorkel night tour (sometimes called "dive" as well), which offers comparable views and excitement. Well-reviewed popular companies that do Manta Ray Night dives include: Big Island Divers, Jack's Diving Locker, Kona Diving Company, Fair Wind, Kona Honu, Pacific Rim Divers.
- Jacks Diving Locker (Manta Ray Night Dive/Snorkeling), 75-5813 Ali'i Dr (Next to the old Kona surf hotel), toll-free: . Great place to go night diving and see huge manta rays.
- Recreational Saltwater Angling. All recreational saltwater fishing is conducted on the leeward (west) side of the island. There are no charter operators on the windward (east) side, the seas are generally too rough. Kona is the hub of charter activity on the Big Island, and Honokohau Marina slips the majority of the fishing fleet. The marina is a few miles north of Kailua-Kona just off State Route 19. Prices vary considerably. A shared charter, six people conceivably unknown to one another, may be $90–100 per person for half day, while an exclusive, eight-hour trip, for up to six anglers, could run $800 or higher. The higher figures are for the boat, not per person. Fishing aboard a charter boat requires no license. Do not be fooled by the island's long-standing public relations effort. It is hard, if not impossible, to plan a trip which would perfectly coincide with sure-fire. There are times when Kona fishing is not "drop a line, catch a marlin". The point here is set up a charter with your eyes wide open. Be prepared for possible disappointment. After all, as they say, they call it "fishing and not catching" for a reason.
- Hawaii Outdoor Guides, toll-free: . Guided volcano hiking tours, and hiking tours at beaches, waterfalls and in the rain forest. If you are looking for a smaller more personalized tour experience consider Hawai'i Outdoor Guides in Kailua-Kona. They offer a variety of hiking and snorkeling adventures as well as camping trips around the Big Island. Their tours are unique and affordable. They go to Volcano, Akaka and Rainbow Falls, South Point, Black Sands and Mauna Loa, of which they offer an exclusive shuttle service for. $59-179.
- Hawaii Forest & Trail, toll-free: . Guided volcano hiking tours, and hiking tours on private grounds with waterfalls and forests. They also do the Mauna Kea summit 7- to 8-hour trip. $125-179.
The main shopping drag in Kailua-Kona is Ali'i Drive. In addition to lots of bars and restaurants, here you'll find a variety of shops catering to many different interests. Lots of small shops here sell T-shirts, sunglass, sandals and souvenirs of all sorts. Others specialize in jewelry or local arts and crafts.
- Kona Coffee. Kona Coffee is widely recognized as one of the top coffees in the world. Look for 100% Pure Kona Coffee, as there are many 10% Kona Blends that do not have the same taste. UCC Hawaii Coffee Factory Outlet, enjoy Roastery Tours and Roastmaster Tours.
- Donkey Balls. These world famous premium chocolate covered Hawaiian macadamia nuts are known for their quality and weird name. Named #1 treat in Kona for years. In Historic Kainaliu.
- ABC stores. Everything from deli, groceries, fine wines & spirits, drugs & cosmetics, gifts, souvenirs and local apparel. Four locations in Kailua-Kona.
- 1 Costco, 73-5600 Maiau St (Between town and the airport.), ☏ . M-F 10AM-8:30PM, Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Su 10AM-6PM.
- 2 Walmart, 75-1015 Henry St (+1 808-334-0466). Daily 6AM-midnight.
- 1 The Coffee Shack, Hwy 11 in Captain Cook (between mile markers 108 and 109). Great food and awesome views in this tiny little restaurant overlooking Kealakekua Bay. Breakfast and Lunch items. If you're on you're way to Volcano National Park, be sure to get up early and to make this a stop on the way.
- 2 Habaneros, 78-6831 Alii Dr, #K4 (in the Keauhou Shopping Center near the movie theaters), ☏ . A cute little restaurant that serves authentic Mexican for lunch and dinner.
- 3 Pancho and Lefty's, 75-5719 Alii Dr, ☏ . Tu-Sa 11AM-9PM. Great Mexican food on the Big Island, right on one of Kona's main strips. Service is so-so, but food is great and the price is good.
- 4 Da Poke Shack. 10AM-6PM. Raw marinated fish bowls and seafood salads $15-25.
- 5 Ocean Street Tacos, Ali‘i Sunset Plaza. 11AM-9:30PM. 3 tacos for $7, simple, fast, and pretty good. 7USD.
- 6 Sumo Deli, 75-5595 Palani Rd A1, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, ☏ . 5:30AM–10PM. Japanese and Hawaiian food. $7 Udon Miso. $8 bento boxes.
- BaLe, 74-5588 Palani Rd (Kona Coast Shopping Center, near KTA grocery store, on Palani Dr), ☏ . Local-style food, though some of the dishes have a Southeast Asian twist.
- Big Island Grill, 75-5702 Kuakini Hwy, ☏ . Serves authentic local food.
- You Make the Roll (Hiyashi's), 75-5725 Alii Dr Ste D101, ☏ . Although the restaurant itself is nothing more than a take-out counter with a few outdoor cafe-style tables, looks are deceiving. This sushi restaurant is a hidden gem, tucked away in the rear of the Kona Marketplace (entrance faces Sarona Rd.), near Sandwich Island Divers. The sushi is delicious.
- Original Thai, 75-5629 Kuakini Hwy (North Kona Shopping Center), ☏ . The location is a little difficult to find but the food is delicious.
- 7 [dead link] Longboard Legends Pizza, Unit 102 - 75-5742 Kuakini Hwy, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su noon-8PM. Good for dine in and takeout. 10-, 20- and 28-in pizza sizes. Medium is very generous size. Excellent toppings. $10-70.
- Huggo's. Another good place to hang out, especially Huggo's on the Rocks, which is next door and usually has a band. It's right on the water with great sunsets.
- Jamba Juice.
- Java on the Rocks. Huggo's on the Rocks in the morning for coffee drinks and 9ceanside seating.
- Kona Brewing Company, 74-5612 Pawai Pl. 11AM-10PM. A pub known for great hand spun pizzas, local organic salads and fresh beers on draft that you can't find anywhere else. Every Sunday evening local musicians provide live entertainment. They can be very crowded on weekends. Happy hour is M-F 3-5PM.
- LuLu's. Just down Aliʻi Drive and upstairs from Bubba Gump's, is open air and is a pretty cool place to hang out and knock back some beers.
- Quinn's Almost By The Sea. Known for their fish sandwiches.
- 1 Beach Villas at Kahaluu (Kahaluu Beach Villas), 78-6721 Ali'i Dr, ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Beach front condos. These villas are large, designer decorated, with the following amenities: infinity pool, spa, gas barbecue, central air conditioning, with plasma TVs. $200 - 250/night.
- Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village, 78-7190 Kaleiopapa St, ☏ . 73 air-conditioned villas, with private lanai or patio with ocean, mountain or golf course view. Villas are fully furnished and available in two floor plans.
- Holualao Inn, 76-5932 Mamalahoa Hwy, toll-free: . Bed and Breakfast estate surrounded by 30 acres of pasture land, coffee orchards, and tropical gardens, overlooking the world famous Kona coast. $260-375.
- Kona Coast Resort, 78-6842 Alii Dr, ☏ . Resort with two swimming pools, three Jacuzzis, sauna, children's pool and playground, tennis courts, volleyball, fitness center, and on-site activities like hula lessons and dive instruction
- Kona Magic Sands Resort, 75-5776 Kuakini Hwy, toll-free: . Kona's affordable oceanfront hotel where every room is on the water featuring a lush tropical feeling with the convenience of modern amenities
- Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, 68-1400 Mauna Lani Dr (17 mi N of Kona Airport), ☏ . Oceanside resort with all amenities and services including free wifi. Two sandy beaches separated by a fishpond. Several restaurants on-premises and free shuttle to nearby shops and restaurants. If visiting during the full moon make a point of going to the Hawaiian Talk Story performance at the historic cottage on-site. Scheduled from 5:30PM, but go early to get a good seat. Bring a picnic like the regulars do. From $300.
- [dead link] Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort. Oceanfront resort located along the Kona Coast. Full service spa, swimming pool, fitness center, six tennis courts and meeting facilities.
- Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, 78-128 Ehukai St (somewhat remote, 15 min from Kailua-Kona, and ~30 minutes from Kona Airport by car), ☏ . Large, older hotel without beach access, situated on solidified lava. You'll need a car to get anywhere. It has a surprisingly cool pool, with a Manta Ray Super Pool & Slide, 200-foot-long water slide, a sand-bottom pool, nearby whirlpools and lush foliage and waterfalls. $160-220.
- Yoga Hale (Nightly Rentals/Surf & Yoga Retreats), 77-6530 Naniloa St, ☏ . $75.
- Lava Java, Alii Drive. Free WiFi with a purchase.
- Safeway. Free WiFi with two clicks required to log in.
- Airport Shuttle, ☏ . From most of Kailua-Kona, they charge $28 for 2 people to the KOA airport. If you are further north closer to the airport, a metered taxi will be cheaper. $28.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (A long drive, easily 2 hours.). This park is awesome. Walk in or take a helicopter ride and get great views of lava and steam. Depending on the conditions, the lava could be flowing into the ocean or up on the coast.
- Mauna Kea (White Mountain). This dormant volcano is the highest point in the Pacific Basin, and the highest island-mountain in the world. Mauna Kea rises 9,750 meters (32,000 ft) from the ocean floor to an altitude of 4,205 meters (13,796 ft) above sea level, which places its summit above 40 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. The summit of Mauna Kea hosts the world's largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries. Visitors will frequently ascend the summit to watch the sunset, then return to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station for free nightly star gazing with public telescopes operated by knowlegable star-guides.
- Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Also known as the City of Refuge National Historical Park - located just a few miles south of Kona town near Captain Cook. Designated a national historical park in 1961, this 182-acre site includes the puuhonua and a complex of archeological sites, including temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks and some coastal village sites. Hikers can follow a trail that winds along the coast for about a mile to the park boundary. The trail includes several archeological sites, including heiau (temples) and sledding tracks.
- Waipi'o Valley Located along the Hamakua Coast on the northeastern coast. Down in the valley there is a black sand beach. On either side of the valley are cliffs reaching almost 2000 feet in elevation with several waterfalls. Hiking in the Waipio Valley is a good adventure. The road down is very steep. Only 4-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on it. Many hikers walk down and then try to hitch a ride back up.
- Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park Site of the first extensive contact between Hawaiians and Westerners with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1779. Viewing of Hikiau Heiau, a traditional religious site, and the Captain Cook monument at a distance across Kealakekua Bay. The bay is a marine life conservation district, a popular destination for kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling.
- Green Sand Beach (Papakolea). This secluded green sand beach is located near Ka Lae (South Point) in the Ka'u district of Hawaii. The hike to get there is a rugged 2-mile walk over dusty ruts that lead to the beach. If you have a rugged 4-wheel drive vehicle you might be able to drive all the way. Getting down to the sand is a climb. The beach is shaped like a giant bowl and you have to walk/climb down the side.
- Captain Cook - A small town known for it's coffee.