Kailua Kona Hawaii, on the Big Island,
Kona Hawaii

Explore What to Do In Kailua Kona Hawaii

The Kona District of Hawaii stretches a diverse, and expansive 60 miles along the Big Island’s sunny western coast. Lined with lava fields, coffee farms, and some of Hawaii’s most beautiful coastline, a drive through Kona provides a relaxed atmosphere, tropical luxury and family-friendly attractions alike.

Geography of Kona

Kona is nestled on the slopes of Hualālai, the 3rd youngest of the five volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcano reaches 8,271 feet above sea level and is thought to have risen from the ocean about 300,000 years ago. Hualālai last erupted in 1801 and has been relatively quiet since then, but is still considered active. Based on historical behavior, Hualālai could erupt again within the next century.

In the Hawaiian language, kona means “leeward,” or dry side of the island. In ancient times, Kona was the name of the leeward district on each major island. There are areas named Kona on several Hawaiian islands, so you will notice that the Big Island’s Kona is referred to as Kailua Kona when speaking about the town. Being situated under the protective mass of Hualālai and Mauna Loa volcanoes means that the weather in Kona is very consistent and quite temperate. Daytime highs range from 81°F to 87°F with average lows being 68°F-75°F.

Activities in Kona Hawaii

The rich soil and moderate leeward climate make for perfect farming and coffee growing conditions. Kona coffee has become famous worldwide for its rich, yet smooth taste. There are many active and historical coffee farms to visit and taste a cup for yourself.

The coastal waters on the west side of the Big Island also tend to be fairly gentle and dotted with small white sand beaches, making for great snorkeling, beach activities and water sports. The Alika 2 Slide a few miles off the coast drops away to great depths, offering world class sport fishing, just miles off shore. The Honokohau Harbor between the airport and Kailua-Kona is the starting point for boat charters that range from whale watching expeditions to battling a 1,000 pound game fish. Flying into Kona is a breeze with the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole (KOA) receiving direct flights from many airports.

Keep reading for more information about city life, history & present day Kona Hawaii.

Kona City Life

At the heart of Kailua Kona is Historic Kailua Village. This is a beautiful little downtown area, near the Kailua pier. It offers great dining and shopping opportunities with a good dose of local flavor and historical sights such as the Hulihe’e Palace and the iconic Mokuaikaua Church, the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii.

Dining in Kailua Kona is diverse and varied as the geography of the western side of the Big Island. Hole-in-the-wall treasures and casual Hawaiian-style fare abound, but fine dining is available too. World-class chefs have made the area home and luxury resorts keep them competitive – great news for those with sophisticated tastes.

If you want to stay in or near Kona, there are a wide variety of lodging options available. You may enjoy the amenities of the larger resorts like the King K Marriott, Royal Kona Resort, or the Sheraton. There are a wide array of smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts, and condos throughout the area. The area is also full of affordable vacation rentals, making a Hawaiian adventure on a budget more feasible.

Kona Hawaii History

Kona has a fascinating history, both natural and human. First discovered by Polynesian explorers between 100-600 A.D., the Kona coast was among the most welcoming early settlements for native Hawaiians. Moderate weather, fertile fields, and calm waters made for easier living. Most of the ancient Ali’i (or chiefs) called Kona home. Because of the extent of history centered around Kona Hawaii, there are several historic sites and state or national parks to explore in the area. Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park to the north and Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Park to the south are both worth a visit.

In the 15th century, Umi-a-Liloa united the Big Island’s numerous groups under a single rule, moving his seat of power from the Waipi’o Valley to Kona, establishing a tradition for generations of rulers to come. In fact, the most celebrated Hawaiian royalty, King Kamehameha I, moved his court to Kamakahonu in Northern Kona in 1812 after unifying the Hawaiian people under one rule and establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1795.

The British explorer, Captain James Cook made the first European contact with Hawaii Island in 1979, just south of Kona Hawaii at Kealakekua Bay. After a month of festivities and trade with the islanders, Captain Cook  would ultimately meet his demise in a quarrel with the local Hawaiians.  On the site where Cook was killed a memorial obelisk, now known as the Captain Cook Monument, was built in 1874 in his memory. This has become a popular and iconic attraction for those snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay.

Present Day Kona Hawaii

Today, Kona Hawaii is home to an international airport, numerous historic and natural attractions, luxurious resorts, fine dining, black sand and white sand beaches, and world-renowned coffee. Approximately 1.2 million tourists visit the Kona side of the island each year and two-thirds of those visitors are returning to explore more of what the Big Island has to offer.

The geographic diversity of Kona Hawaii is striking; world-class beaches appear within a stone’s throw of soaring mountain slopes and epic lava fields. You will also notice that with such a large and diverse region it has been divided into the districts (moku) of North Kona and South Kona. The term “Kona” is sometimes used to refer to the largest town in the area, Kailua Kona, but there are actually many towns in the district, including Kealakekua, Keauhou, Holualoa, Hōnaunau and Honalo.

Al fresco island dining, world-renowned breweries, delicious poke, and incredible coffee are just a few of the dining attractions visitors to Kona enjoy, and this paired with the easy access to beaches, shopping, and historic sites keep them coming back season after season.

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