Want a vacation filled with white sand coral beaches, crystalline waters and lively rainforests filled with exotic flowers and colorful birds, with stunning waterfalls and alluring luaus? Then Kona, affectionately known as ‘Big Island’ is the place for you. Kona is Hawaii at its very best. Luckily luxury travellers will be greeted by a show to lava flowing from the active volcanoes into the surging sea. And there is plenty to do on Kona, which is as large as all of the other Hawaiian Islands, and filled to the brim with fascinating topography and landscapes, as eight of the world’s thirteen climate zones are here. You can journey through verdant jungles, snow topped mountains, lava deserts, a kaleidoscope of beaches with different colored sands and colorful coral reefs. Whether you decide to while away your time on the sandy beaches or to adventure around the island by hiking, swimming or driving, your vacation to Big Island, Hawaii will be full of discoveries.
Aerial view of Kona, Big Island.
The hidden beaches that line the shores of Kona are a huge draw to travellers. Find your own secluded piece of paradise by exploring the Kohala Coast. One of the most beautiful beaches is Anaehoomalu Bay, known by the locals as “A-Bay”. This beautiful stretch of sand is the perfect place to spot sea turtles, and for windsurfing, snorkeling, swimming and diving as it is sheltered from the strong winds. Inland from the beach are two ancient fishponds that were used by Hawaiian royalty called Kuualii and Kahapapa, which are worth a visit. For calm waters for body surfing go to the picturesque Hapuna Beach, which is a slice of paradise and the best place on the island to watch the sun set over the horizon. In the north of the beach is the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, where you can rent water sports equipment or sit at the picnic tables. The most stunning beach, though, is Kaunaoa Beach, which is a perfect sliver of silver sand lined by swaying coconut palms. Make sure you take your camera to capture the perfect postcard scenery, with the snow capped Mauna Kea in the distance.
Don’t miss out on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can see the lava flowing and forming new craters and land. And there is the beautiful Waipo Valley, a remote verdant garden known justifiably as the Valley of Kings. For more natural splendor go to Kealakekua Bay and kayak the seas with spinner dolphins. Go to the Captain Cook Monument and then jump overboard to go snorkeling in the coral reef. For a view of the heavens go to the top of the snow-capped Mauna Kea, which has huge telescopes to see the stars.
Traditional wooden sculptures on Kona's coastline.
You will find classic Hawaiian culture in the idyllic seaside town Kailua-Kona. This quaint little town is a cute tourist hub with great historic sights and delectable oceanfront restaurants, serving fresh seafood. Dotted amongst the shops and restaurants of Alii Drive, the town’s main street, is the Ahuhena Heiau, a temple that was fully restored by King Kamehameha the Great. And the great Hulihee Palace, is one of three palaces in Hawaii, with the other two on Honolulu. This stunning architectural masterpiece was King David Kalakaua’s summer palace, and was built using lava rock and coral lime mortar. The inside features stunning Koa furniture and artworks. The other main historical sight in Kailua-Kona is the Mokuaikaua Church, built in 1836. This stunning building still holds services on Sundays.
Volcanic mountains act as a majestic backdrop for the stunning beaches of Kona.
Shopping in Kailua-Kona is full of surprising native artifacts and unique gift items. Go to the Hula Lamps of Hawaii, which has vintage hula-inspired bronze sculptures by the artist Charles Moore. Or check out the Keauhou Store, an historic roadside shop that has become an eclectic mixture of bakeshop, café, gift shop and museum. It’s the perfect place to pick up some lunch and to marvel at the vintage 1920s inventory on display. For gourmet wines look no further than Westside Wines, which has an incredible selection to choose from. After retail therapy it is time for some hydrotherapy in one of the fabulous spas in Kailua-Kona. Try The Spa at Hualalai, which has ten massage hales, located outside in a luscious garden setting. Here you can get an excellent traditional lomilomi massage. On the Kohala Coast is the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Spa. This spiritual outdoor spa has lava formations framing the showers and huge watsu pool, with refreshing outdoor treatment hales.
After all that relaxation you might want something to eat. Check out Honu’s on the Beach for al fresco dining in part of the courtyard patio of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The location is blessed with unrivaled views of Kailua Pier and the historic Kamakahonu Bay. For slow-food check out Holuakoa Gardens and Café, where you can sit beneath the monkeypod trees and enjoy locally sourced ingredients, freshly prepared. For the finest dining in town go to Merriman’s, which serves island-grown ingredients. Try the ponzu marinated mahimahi, it is to die for. Or if you would prefer to stay in your luxury villa rental and cook then go to Island Gourmet Markets to get stocked up on some specialty groceries and freshly made sushi. You can also get fresh produce from the Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market, which sells delectable kona coffee and small scale farmed produce.
The dramatic sunset on Kona, Big Island.
As the sun sets it is time for sunset Mai Tais, a vertiable Hawaiian tradition. Check out Huggo’s on the Rocks for live music and dining in the sand. Or you could go to Kona Inn, which has stunning views. For real Hawaiian traditions make sure you go to a luau celebration on the beach. And for craft beers check out Kona Brewing Co. Pub and Brewery. However you end your evening in Kona, you will be inspired by the incredible sunset over the stunning natural beauty of this sleepy island.
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