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. 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. Now Kona has become known for sport fishing, snorkeling, sunsets and coffee, which is cultivated on the slopes of Mount Hualalai. 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.
Kona International Airport at Keahole (IATA: KOA), also known as Keahole Airport, 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 was pretty minor before, but in recent years has become more 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.
- Coffee plantations. Coffee plantations abound, see for example Bayview Farms, which has a short free tour and samples of the Kona coffee.
- Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (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.). Honokohau Beach usually has plenty of Hawaiian green sea turtle (Honu) basking in the sun to see (keep 20ft/6m 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. Free.
- Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens at Kona Outdoor Circle Educational Center.
- Sea Hawaii Rafting, 73-1397 Hiolani St, ☎ +1 808 325-7444. 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, ☎ +1 808 938-9980. 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, ☎ +1 808 334-0033. Learn to surf with instructors. All instructors are CPR, First Aid and lifeguard certified as well as trained in professional rescue. $99.
- 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.
- Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors, 75-5909 Alii Dr (between Alii Cove and Kona Reef Resort), ☎ +1 808 324-0442. Takes 2 1/2 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), ☎ +1 808 329-0005. Classes blend elements of Jivamukti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, and Mindfulness Yoga.
- Jacks Diving Locker (Manta Ray Night Dive/Snorkeling), 75-5813 Ali'i Dr (Next to the old Kona surf hotel), toll-free: +1 800-345-4807. Great place to go night diving and see huge Manta Rays.
- 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). Also called Kua Bay, Kekaha Kai is an absolutely beautiful white sand beach and a local secret until recently. Theoretically, the beach is closed on Wednesdays but not in practice. 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, ☎ +1 808 854-4401. 4 hrs tour. 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. $150.
- Hawaii Flight Adventures Inc., Kona International Airport (KOA), ☎ +1 808 640-9622, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Aircraft rental for visiting pilots, all levels of flight instruction, multi-engine time building, and air tours.
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.
- Costco, 73-5600 Maiau St (between town and the airport).
- Bongo Ben's Island Café, 75-5819 Alii Dr (Under Lulu's, next to Coconut Grove MarketPlace), ☎ +1 808 329-9203. They have good lunches, OK breakfasts and a great location.
- The Coffee Shack, Hwy 11 in Captain Cook (between mile markers 108 and 109). Great food-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.
- Habaneros, 78-6831 Alii Dr, #K4 (in the Keauhou Shopping Center near the movie theaters), ☎ +1 808 324-4688. A cute little restaurant that serves authentic Mexican for lunch and dinner.
- Pancho and Lefty's, 75-5719 Alii Dr. 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.
- U-Top It, 75-5799 Alii Dr (Located in the strip mall behind Lava Java on Alii Dr next to Coconut Grove), ☎ +1 808 329-0092. Breakfast and lunch. You have to try the crepes!
- BaLe, 74-5588 Palani Rd (Kona Coast Shopping Center, near KTA grocery store, on Palani Dr), ☎ +1 808 327-1212. Local-style food, though some of the dishes have a Southeast Asian twist.
- Big Island Grill, 75-5702 Kuakini Hwy, ☎ +1 808 326-1153. Serves authentic local food.
- You Make the Roll (Hiyashi's), 75-5725 Alii Dr Ste D101, ☎ +1 808 326-1322. 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), ☎ +1 808 329-3459. The location is a little difficult to find but the food is delicious.
- Bubba Gump's, 75-5776 Alii Dr, ☎ +1 808 331-8442. A pretty good chain restaurant. Ocean front dining overlooking the Kona Pier.
- Outback Steakhouse, 75-5809 Alii Dr (Coconut Grove Market Place), ☎ +1 808 326-2555. An Australian themed steakhouse restaurant. Although beef and steak items make up a good portion of the menu, the restaurant offers a variety of chicken, ribs, seafood, and pasta dishes.
- Longboard Legends, Unit 102 - 75-5742 Kuakini Hwy, ☎ +18083292211. Monday-Saturday: 11:00-21:00, Sunday: 12:00-20:00. Pizza. Good for dine in and takeout. 10, 20 and 28in Pizza sizes. Medium is very generous size. Excellent toppings. $10-50.
- 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 Oceanside seating.
- Kona Brewing Company. 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.
- 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.
- Beach Villas at Kahaluu (Kahaluu Beach Villas), 78-6721 Ali'i Dr, ☎ +1 808 331-8878. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. The Beach Villas at Kahaluu represent the first new beach front condos constructed on Alii Drive in the last 20 years. 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, ☎ +1 808 324-1550. 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: +1 800-392-1812. 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, ☎ +1 808 324-1721. 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: +1 888-828-6745. 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), ☎ +1 808 885-6622. 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.
- 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), ☎ +1 808 930-4900. 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, ☎ +1 808 938-9980. $75.
- Lava Java, Alii Drive. Free WiFi with a purchase.
- Safeway. Free WiFi (requires 2 clicks to log in).
- Rio's Closed.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is awesome, but a long drive. Easily 2+ hours. If you want to see the volcano really up close take a helicopter, you get a great view. Just inside the park entrance is Halemaumau crater the center of Kilauea. Which as of this writing is releasing enormous amounts of volcanic gas and steam. This gas and steam forms a cloud of vog that has traveled as far as Oahu.
- Mauna Kea ("White Mountain") is a dormant volcano. It 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.