Kailua Kona Big Island Hawaii is the hub of tourism on the Kona (leeward) side of the island of Hawai’i. With 10,000 full-time residents, it retains a small-town atmosphere, despite the large number of cruise-ship tourists and seasonal residents that come and go. Most people shorten the name to ‘Kona’ to avoid confusion with Kailua town on the island of Oahu.

Kailua-Kona is a 20-minute drive south of Kona Airport, and a recent expansion of Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Highway 19) has lessened the impact traffic has on travel time. The beachfront is served by a mix of hotels, resorts, condominiums and time-shares.

Kona is a popular tourist destination, with approximately 1.2 million tourists visiting the Kona side of the island each year. Two-thirds of those visitors are returning to explore more of what the Big Island has to offer. The presence of international airport facilities, numerous historic and natural attractions, luxurious resorts, and renowned coffee contribute to the popularity of Kona among tourists.

What to see and do in Kailua-Kona

Ali’i Drive follows the waterfront Kailua Pier all the way Keauhou. This seven-mile stretch of beachfront accesses the main town and follows up with a stretch of prime real estate dominated by semi-secluded beach houses and a few vacation-rental communities. Accommodation here is cheaper than in Waikoloa or Mauna Lani resorts, though guests sacrifice a few premium amenities in exchange for a lower-profile beach escape.

While the most impressive beaches are north of Kailua Kona, there are a few local hangouts where visitors and locals convene for surf and snorkeling. Kahaluu Beach Park is just a few miles south of the town center and features an easy-to-access snorkeling location right off of Ali’i Drive. This is also a prime place for beginner-level surfers to rent a board or enroll in a class. A short drive farther south leads to White Sands Beach (also called ‘Magic Sands’ or ‘Disappearing Sands’) where locals and tourists go for body-surfing and boogie-boarding.

Given the base of local residents, there’s an exceptional set of facilities in Kailua-Kona. Several groceries stores along with a Walmart and Target are in the immediate area. Near the pier is the Kona Inn boardwalk, with a handful of boutiques along with a seaside restaurant and café. Beach bars, sports bars and a smattering of restaurants are found all along this stretch of Ali’i Drive.

Big Island Kona is also world-famous for its gourmet Kona Coffee, which is grown inland (mauka side) of Highway 19. Hundreds of small farms and a few major plantations are here, many of which have gift shops and host daily tours. Holualoa and Captain Cook are the easiest communities to reach, and both host plantations and secluded bed and breakfasts.

Getting to Kailua-Kona

Getting to Kailua Kona on the Big Island Hawaii is easy since the airport is only 9 miles away. SpeediShuttle is on hand for transfers from the airport, but the rates are only competitive for groups. Taxis charge upwards of $30 for this trip, and once visitors are dropped off at their hotel or timeshare, they find that getting around is difficult.

This is why most people invest in a rental car. This is especially important for anyone who wants to visit coffee estates or take a diversion to Kealakekua Bay, where the snorkeling and above-water scenery is unmatched. For those based on Ali’i Drive, the Honu Express offers free service between the pier and Keauhou Shopping Center (near the Sheraton and Outrigger resorts). Locally, a rented bicycle or scooter is adequate.

Life in Kailua Kona

Kailua Kona offers a vibrant and charming city life with its Historic Kailua Village at its heart. This downtown area is located near the Kailua pier and boasts a picturesque setting. Immerse yourself in the local culture and witness the historical sites such as the Hulihe?e Palace and the iconic Mokuaikaua Church, which happens to be the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii.

The dining scene in Kailua Kona is diverse and caters to all tastes. From hidden gems serving delectable Hawaiian-style dishes to high-end restaurants helmed by world-class chefs, there is something for everyone. Indulge in a culinary adventure and savor the flavors of the western side of the Big Island.

When it comes to accommodation, Kailua Kona provides a wide range of options for every traveler. For a luxurious experience, you can choose to stay in one of the larger resorts such as the King K Marriott, Royal Kona Resort, or the Sheraton. Alternatively, there are numerous smaller hotels, charming bed and breakfasts, and comfortable condos spread throughout the area. Moreover, if you are looking to balance your budget, you will find plenty of affordable vacation rentals to make your Hawaiian adventure more accessible.

In summary, the city life in Kailua Kona is a perfect blend of cultural heritage, culinary delights, and a variety of accommodations, ensuring a memorable experience for all visitors.

Geography of Kailua Kona

Kona, derived from the Hawaiian language, means the “leeward” or dry side of the island. It was historically the name given to the leeward district on each of the major Hawaiian islands. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the specific area known as Kona is called Kailua Kona when referring to the town.

Situated beneath the protective mass of Hualālai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, Kona benefits from a unique geography. The region enjoys consistent and temperate weather throughout the year. The daytime temperatures in Kona typically range from 81°F to 87°F, while the average lows at night range from 68°F to 75°F.

The presence of Hualālai and Mauna Loa volcanoes not only offers protection but also shapes the overall landscape of Kona. The volcanoes provide a natural barrier against prevailing winds and weather systems, resulting in a drier climate on the leeward side of the island. This geographical feature creates a distinct microclimate in Kona, with less rainfall and more arid conditions compared to other areas of the island.

The consistent and temperate weather conditions, combined with the stunning natural beauty shaped by the volcanoes, make Kona a highly favored destination for both residents and visitors alike.

Activities in Kailua Kona

What dining options are available in Kailua Kona?

Kailua Kona offers diverse dining options. Visitors can enjoy casual Hawaiian-style fare and explore hole-in-the-wall treasures. Additionally, fine dining options are available, attracting world-class chefs who have made the area their home. Luxury resorts in the area also offer dining experiences to cater to sophisticated tastes.

What historical sights are there in Kailua Kona?

In Kailua Kona, there are historical sights such as the Hulihe Palace and the iconic Mokuaikaua Church, which is the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii. These sights offer a glimpse into the local flavor and history of the area.

What is Kona known for?

Kona is known for its rich soil and moderate leeward climate, which create perfect farming and coffee-growing conditions. Kona coffee has become famous worldwide for its rich, yet smooth taste.

Photos by: flavouz & marbla123

You Might Also Be Interested In: