Kailua Kona, often referred to as "Kona" by the locals, is the main western city, population 34,000 (2012), of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is nestled on the western coast of the Hualalai Volcano. In ancient times, this area was considered the premier place to live due to the excellent weather and good water. Many kings made their homes here. It was the home of King Kamehameha I, who united the Hawaiian Islands. It was also here in Kailua-Kona that Kamehameha's son, King Liholiho, broke and officially abolished the ancient kapu system. Later, missionaries built churches and residences and planted coffee, turning the tiny fishing village into a small seaport. 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 (August) and the Ironman Triathlon World Championship (October).
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, Northwest, US Airways, and United. Direct service from Vancouver, Canada is provided by Air Canada and Westjet.
KOA, or Keahole Airport, is an open air airport, located about 11 miles north of Kailua-Kona proper and 20 miles south of the Kohala resorts, and has an abundance of rental car agencies. Most visitors rent cars, as there is not a lot of public transportation. The Hawaii County Mass Transit Agency Hele-On bus operates a very limited Intra-Kona service, only once a day, Mon-Sat, between the airport and Kailua-Kona town. There is no free airport shuttle offered by any hotel. Shuttle estimate: $50 per person for shuttles to Kohala resorts, and $30 to $35 to Kona. Taxis are also available at competitive prices.
There is one cruise ship, the Pride of America operated by NCL, calling at Kailua-Kona year-round, typically on Wednesdays on a weekly round trip from Honolulu. Other lines, like Holland and Princess, call seasonally, usually on a round trip from the West Coast. Kailua Kona is a tender port, and sometimes scheduled calls are cancelled due to high surf, particularly in the winter months. Tenders arrive at the Kailua pier, which is also the starting place for the Ironman Triathalon. Kailua-Kona proper is very walkable from this point, with the bulk of the town to your right as you come off the pier.
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 explore the town, but you should rent a car if you want to get to resorts, beaches and other cultural locations. Some free parking is available: When you enter Kailua via Palani Road (Hwy. 190), turn left onto Kuakini Highway, drive for about a block, and turn right into a parking lot marked with a green P sign. From there, go down some steps and walk makai (toward the ocean) on Likana Lane a half block to Ali`i Drive, and you'll be in the heart of Kailua-Kona.
Street addresses are confusing and consist of two parts. Hawaii Island is divided into nine zones, each of which are subdivided into nine sections. The first two digits of an address, before the hyphen, indicate the zone and its section. For example, Kailua-Kona is 75, Waikoloa 68, Captain Cook 81 and Hawi 55. The numbers following the hyphen are based on the distance from a predetermined starting point — usually a road intersection or a highway. The numbers run consecutively, with odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right as you head away from the starting point. For example, addresses on Ali`i Drive increase as you head south, with even numbers on the ocean side of the Drive.
On days when the cruise ships are in, there are free shuttles for Hilo Hatties, and sometimes for KMart and WalMart, that operate from the Kailua pier, where the tenders from the ship dock. On days when there is not a ship, there is no service.
- Keauhou Honu Express Shuttleruns along Ali'i Dr and the length of Kailua-Kona. $2.00 per person each ride, exact change. Keauhou Shopping Center and Kona Commons Shopping Center provide a free transfer when spending $25 or more. Not really an express; takes about two hours to complete a full loop. Check schedule.
- Kona Car Rental 866-344-7612 Kona Car Rental Rental cars at Kona KOA airport and Hilo ITO Airport.
There are also many important cultural sites in the town, including the first Christian church in the islands (see Moku`aikaua Church), the Queen's Palace (see Hulihe'e Palace), and petroglyphs that can be found at Kaloko-Honokahou National Park.
- Coffee plantations abound, see for example Bayview Farms, which has a short free tour and samples of the Kona coffee.
- Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center, Located in the Kona International Airport (The tall, white building next to the Flag Poles between the Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines ticket counters), . Daily: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (Closed Holidays). The Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center was dedicated on July 19, 1991 to the memory of Hawaii's first astronaut, who died during the Challenger mission in 1986. The Center is a 50-foot high, 4,000 square foot, triangular-shaped building. It features a space travel simulator, memorabilia, Onizuka’s personal belongings, and videotapes and models of space shuttle missions. There are space-related exhibits and interactive displays. Adults $3, children $1. edit
- Hulihe'e Palace, 75-5718 Ali`i Drive (directly across from Moku`aikaua Church), ☎ (808) 329-1877, . Wed, Thurs, Fri, and Sat: 10am to 3pm. Hulihe`e Palace was the vacation residence of Hawai`ian royalty. Today, Hulihe`e Palace consists of six large graciously appointed rooms and two large inviting oceanfront lanai and lovely grounds. It is a museum operated by the Daughters of Hawai`i and is a showplace of beautiful furniture and fascinating artifacts from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani. . Adults $6, seniors $4, children $1. edit
- The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum, Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 11) (about 14 miles south of the town of Kailua-Kona, between mile markers 111 and 112;look for our sign on the makai (toward the ocean) side of the road), ☎ 808-323-3222, . Mon and Thur: 10am-2pm. Operated by the Kona Historical Society, this museum is housed in the historic Greenwell Family Store, built in 1870s by Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell to serve the Euro-American immigrant community with supplies and goods needed in the remote Kona district. The H.N. Greenwell Store is the oldest surviving store in Kona and one of the oldest buildings in the district. The museum features, amongst other, costumed interpreters greeting and interacting with visitors and the portrayal of daily life in Hawaii in the 1890s. $7 adults, $3 children, free under 5. (N19° 30.647,W 155° 55.225) edit
- Historic Kailua Village Walking Tour, meets at the Kailua Pier, Ali’i Drive, ☎ (808) 938-8825, . Reservations are required 48 hours in advance. Once a small Hawaiian fishing village, Kailua grew to become the political, social, and commercial center of Kona in the 19th century. When King Kamehameha I chose Kailua to be his final home, Kailua became the capital of Hawai`i for many years. Historic structures such as Hulihe`e Palace, Moku`aikaua Church, and St. Michael’s Catholic Church indicate Kailua’s importance as a favorite royal residence and center for early missionary activity. The 90-min Historic Kailua Village walking tour is operated by the Kona Historical Society. edit
- Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 11) (About 15 miles south of Kailua-Kona: entrance is almost directly across from mile marker 110; look for the sign on the makai side of the road.), ☎ 808-323-2006, . Mon-Thur: 10am-2pm. The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is a 5.5 acre historic coffee farm first homesteaded in 1900. It brings the coffee pioneer’s story to life by depicting the daily lives of early Japanese immigrants during the period of 1920-1945. Visitors may walk through the coffee and macadamia nut orchards, tour the historic farmhouse, talk story with the interpreters and visit with the donkey and chickens. A “living history” program tells their story through the use of historic buildings, artifacts, and authentic landscapes. Costumed interpreters demonstrate traditional crafts, agricultural activities, and the everyday tasks of people from the past. $15 adults, $5 children, free under 5. (N19° 29.461,W 155° 54.805) edit
- Moku`aikaua Church, 75-5713 Aliʻi Drive (directly across from the Huliheʻe Palace), ☎ (808) 329-0655, . open to the public daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.. Completed in 1837, Mokuʻaikaua Church sits today much as it did almost 200 years ago. It remains an active Congregational church (Sunday services at 9am and 11am). Mokuʻaikaua Church represents a combination of New England architecture, Big Island of Hawaii materials (lava rock and coral-based mortar) with cast off ballast from sailing ships built in as well. The church's 112-foot-high steeple is the tallest structure in Kailua. The church is 118 feet long and 46 feet wide. The interior of Mokuʻaikaua Church is one of finest examples of the use of native Hawaiian woods remaining in the islands. You will find artifacts, memorabilia and additional information at the back of the church. Free, tours are available. edit
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. In August, there is the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament; in October, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
- Paradise Helicopters (Helicopter tours & custom charters), 73-341 Uu Street, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, . Paradise Helicopters is a locally-owned and operated helicopter tour company offering air adventures departing from Kona, Hilo and Oahu. Helicopter tours are the best way to see the entire island as much of it is inaccessible by foot. Paradise Helicopters' tours feature valleys, waterfalls, green, black and white sand beaches, exclusive landings, hiking activities and doors off volcano adventures. price varies. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- Kahakai Beach -- Kahakai State Park. Nice beach but the road going in is rough about a mile. edit
- 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. edit
- Hawaii Flight Adventures Inc., Kona International Airport (KOA), ☎ 808-640-9622, . Aircraft rental for visiting pilots, all levels of flight instruction, multi-engine time building, and air tours. firstname.lastname@example.org edit
Be sure to pick up tourist magazines at the airport and other places. You will find a lot of coupons for shopping, dining, and area activities that can save you money. Kona is a resort area with many tourist-oriented shops (e.g., ABC stores)
The main shopping drag in Kailua-Kona is Ali'i Drive. Shopping centers in town include the Kona Inn Shopping Village, the Coconut Grove Marketplace and the Ali'i Gardens Marketplace.
- 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. Two locations (separate owners), downtown Kailua in the Kona Inn Shopping Center, and in Historic Kainaliu.
- Salt-water fish: Stockly's Aquarium is a family owned business with healthy fish and a friendly knowledgeable staff.
- Costco Kona, 73-5600 Maiau Street (Hwy 19 to Hani-Lani, then right on Kanalani, left on Malau), ☎ (808) 331-4800, . About 2 miles south of the airport KOA. Good place to stock up or to get the cheapest gas in town, if you are a member. edit
- Keauhou Shopping Center, 78-6831 Ali'i Drive (south on Hwy 11, right on Kamehameha III to Ali'l Drive), . Large suburban-type shopping center on a hill, anchored by KTA grocery, Long's drug, and Stadium Cinema. Has a Heritage Center, Hula dancing Fridays at 6pm, and Farmers market Saturday mornings. The Keauhou Honu Express shuttle stops in front of Longs. edit
- Kona Commons Shopping Center, (Hwy 19 to Makala Blvd), . Shopping center anchored by Target, Ross, and Sports Authority. Keauhou Honu Express shuttle stops here. edit
Shave Ice can be found everywhere during the tourist season. It's one of Hawaii's best treats. More than just a snow cone, the ice is specially shaved so it's smooth and creamy. Especially good with ice cream in the bottom.
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- 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. edit
- L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 78-6831 Ali'i Drive (in the backside of the Keauhou Shopping Center near Longs drugs), ☎ 808 322-9888, . Good cheap comfort food, based on the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch, from a well-established chain in Hawaii and beyond. The L&L Hawaiian plate lunch consists of two servings of rice, a serving of macaroni salad, and a large serving of a hot entrée (a smaller “mini” version of the traditional plate lunch consists of one serving of rice, a serving of macaroni salad, and a small serving of a hot entrée). Inexpensive. edit
- 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. edit
- Teshima's Restaurant, 79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway, Holualoa, HI 96725, ☎ +1 808 322-9140. Excelent food and service. Serves breakfast lunch and dinner. Their tempura and sashimi are a must try. edit
- 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. edit
- Big Island Grill, 75-5702 Kuakini Hwy, ☎ +1 808 326-1153. Serves authentic local food. edit
- Lemongrass Kona, 75-5742 Kuakini Highway #103, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, ☎ +1 (808) 331-2708. Top quality Asian infusion food. edit
- Quinn's Almost by the Sea, 75-5655 Palani Road, ☎ (808) 329-3822, . edit
- 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. edit
- 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. (Behind Firestone) edit
- Fumi's Restaurant, 75-5799 Ali'i Drive Ste A7 Kailia-Kona, HI 96740 (Coconut Grove Marketplace), ☎ +1 808 327-2200. Local Japanese food with some Korean options. Breakfast is American/Japanese and is excellent. edit
- Habaneros Grill, 5864 96740, 75-5864 Walua Road, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 (across the street from Royal Kona Resort), ☎ (808) 329-2814. Offers innovative Mexican food in a newly renovated restaurant. edit
- Huggo's is 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
- LuLu's is 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 Is known for their fish sandwiches.
- Beach Villas at Kahaluu (Kahaluu Beach Villas), 78-6721 Ali'i Drive, ☎ 808-331-8878, . checkin: 4PM; checkout: 11AM. The Beach Villas at Kahaluu represent the first new beach front condos constructed on Alii Drive in the last 20 years. These large villas come with the following amenities: pool, spa, gas barbecue, central air conditioning, with plasma TVs. $200 - $250/Night. (19.5787,-155.9657) edit
- Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, 75-5660 Palani Road (just north of the Kailua pier), ☎ 808-329-2911, . Prime oceanfront location in downtown Kailua-Kona. edit
- 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. edit
- 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 edit
- 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 edit
- Lilikoi Inn, 75-5339 Mamalahoa Hwy Holualoa, HI 96725, ☎ +1 510 364-4700, . Trina and Shai are operating this beautiful B&B on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Shai's breakfast is to die for and is served at the ocean-view lanai. The house is basically enclosed by tropical forest of banana, lemon, papaya coffee and passion fruit plants that will serve your breakfast. Free advice as good as Wikitravel for your day trip and friendly conversations in the evening. $125-165. edit
- 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. edit
- Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, . Oceanfront resort located along the Kona Coast. Full service spa, swimming pool, fitness center, six tennis courts and meeting facilities. edit
- Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, 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. edit
- Yoga Hale (Nightly Rentals/Surf & Yoga Retreats), 77-6530 Naniloa St, ☎ +1 808 938-9980, . $75. edit
- Island Lava Java, 75-5799 Alii Drive. Free WiFi with a purchase.
- McDonalds, 75-1015 Henry St, in Walmart. Free WiFi. Two other McDonalds in town have Free WiFi.
- Safeway. 75-1027 Henry St, between Palani and Hwy 11 (just north of Walmart). Free WiFi (requires 2 clicks to log in).
- Starbucks, 75-1022 Henry St, across the street from Safeway. Free WiFi.
- Starbucks, 74-5588 Palani Rd, in Kona Coast Shopping Center. Free WiFi.
- Kona De Pele Cafe. Free Wifi. Pass code on the counter.
- 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.
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is on the coast between Kailua Town and Kona airport. It provides beaches, archeological sites, and day hiking.
- Mauna Kea (13,000+ ft) has great telescopes and worth the drive, again long. Dirt road for much of the drive up, but not bad. Also, don't let everyone scare you about Saddle Road, the road that splits the island, it is fine, narrow and hilly, but if you pay attention you can drive it, and it will save you an hour and a half to get to Hilo and the east side of Hawaii.
- Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, (Take Highway 11 south, approximately 20 miles. Between mileposts 103 and 104, at the Honaunau Post Office, turn right towards the ocean onto Hwy 160. Travel 3.5 miles and turn left at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park sign.), . The city of refuge is located about 25 miles south of the center of Kona town and feels like a monument stuck in time. With the tall coconut palms and the serenity of the place, it's easy to feel the presence of the Hawaiian ancestors at time when the Kapu Laws were in effect. edit
- 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 where Captain James Cook first set foot on the island in 1778. There is a monument on the peninsula that is only approachable by rugged foot trail or by water. This is a great place to kayak to, recently a permit is required to land, and a wonderful spot to snorkel and see a vast amount of tropical fish.
- 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.
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