Visitors Information in The Big Island Kailua-Kona
"You could fit all of the other Hawaiian Islands onto the Big Island and still have a little room left over—hence the clever name. Locals refer to the island by side: Kona side to the west and Hilo side to the east. Most of the resorts, condos, and restaurants are crammed into 30 mi of the sunny Kona side, while the rainy, tropical Hilo side is much more local and residential.
Beautiful views make for pleasant drives, and the island's climate and vegetation change rapidly from one region to the next. Turn a corner from west to east on the north side of the island and you move quickly from hot, dry beaches to cool, lush valleys; the 40-mi drive to Waimea from Kailua-Kona affords awesome views of the coast below and the rolling pasture lands of the upcountry; and the drive east along the Hamakua Coast from Waimea to Hilo (45 mi) is the stuff Hawaiian dreams are made of, with rainbows jumping over majestic cliffs and waterfalls, and green valleys hiding pristine swimming holes. Directions on the island are often given as mauka (toward the mountains) and makai (toward the ocean)."
"A fun and funky seaside village, Kailua-Kona has the souvenir shops and open-air restaurants you'd expect in a major tourist hub, with the added bonus of a surprising number of historic sites. Except for the rare deluge, the sun shines year-round. Mornings offer cooler weather, smaller crowds, and more birds singing in the banyan trees; you'll see dozens of tourists and locals out running on Alii Drive, the town's main drag, by about 5 AM every day. Afternoons sometimes bring clouds and drizzly rain, but evenings are great for cool drinks, brilliant sunsets, and lazy hours spent gazing out over the ocean. Though there are better beaches north of the town on the Kohala Coast, Kailua-Kona is home to a few gems, including a fantastic snorkeling beach (Kahaluu) and a tranquil bay perfect for kids (Kamakahonu Beach, in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel).
Scattered amongst the shops, restaurants, and condo complexes of Alii Drive are King Kamehameha I's resting place (he died here in 1819), the last royal palace in the U.S. (Hulihee Palace), and a battleground dotted with the graves of ancient Hawaiians who fought for their land and lost. It was also here in Kailua-Kona that Kamehameha's successor, King Liholiho, broke and officially abolished the ancient kapu (roughly translating as ""forbidden,"" it was the name for the strict code of conduct islanders were compelled to follow) system by publicly sitting and eating with women. The following year, on April 4, 1820, the first Christian missionaries came ashore here, changing the islands forever. If you want to know more about the village's fascinating past, arrange for a 75-minute guided walking tour with the Kona Historical Society (81-6551 Mamalahoa Hwy. 808/323-3222. www.konahistorical.org). The town closest to the Kona International Airport (it's about 7 mi away), Kailua-Kona is a convenient home-base from which to explore the island."
Hulihee Palace and the last royal residence of Kamehameha the Great, Ahuena Heiau—all, are within sight of each other.
South of town is Kealakekua Bay where Captain James Cook first set foot on the island in 1778 and where he was killed. Nearby is Puuhonua o Honaunau, a well-restored Hawaiian “place of refuge” from before Western contact, complete with thatch-roof hale (hut) and heiau (temple) guarded by imposing kii (tiki.)
Intriguing little communities lie just upcountry on the flank of Maunaloa. Holualoa village is dotted with art galleries. Going south through Kainaliu, Kealakekua and Captain Cook, you can literally smell the coffee in this world-famous coffee-growing region.
The whole Kona region buzzes with activity: triathletes at the Ironman in October, champion fishermen at August’s International Billfish Tournament, celebrants at festivals for coffee and chocolate, plus cruise ship passengers, honeymooners, families, golfers, film crews, backpackers, scuba divers, naturalists, shoppers, conventioneers and vacationers from all walks of life any day of the week."