Kailua Kona is on the dry (leeward) western side of Hawaii Island and one of the best places in Hawaii to snorkel, dive, kayak, fish, and just lie on white sandy beaches.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Kailua-Kona:
Snorkel at Kahaluu Beach Park
Kahaluu Beach park is one of the most beautiful places to snorkel in Hawaii. The coral is very healthy with schools of colorful fish. The bay is surrounded by a rock wall built by the ancient Hawaiians. The bay is inhabited by Turtles and the park has great facilities. Learn more about Kahaluu Beach Park.
Walk along the coast on Alii Drive
Alii Drive starts at Kamakahonu Beach in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel and runs south along the Kona coast through Kailua town. (Ali'i means Royalty or Nobles in Hawaiian) In Kailua town, Alii Drive, has a wide sidewalk along the coast with restaurants, stores, gift shops, beaches, and historic sights all along the way. Here is a brief walking tour of Alii Drive starting at the Kailua pier.
Facing the ocean, Kamakahonu Beach is on the left side of the Kailua pier, in front of the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. The beach is protected from the surf and great for snorkeling.
The Hawaiian Ahuena Heiau Temple is located across from the beach. The restored Temple is an ancient Hawaiian thatched structure built in 800 AD. It is considered one of the best examples of a Hawaiian place of sacrifice. The area was King Kamehameha's retreat and the place where he died on May 8, 1819. Luau's are held on the grounds next to Ahuena Heiau.
The Kailua pier is busy with ocean activities and snorkeling equipment, canoes, paddle boards, and kayaks can be rented.
Walking south on Alii Drive from the Kailua pier, the sidewalk is next to a sea wall along the shore. Stores and restaurants line the street opposite from the seawall.
The town of Kailua has festivals on Alii Drive with musicians and artists lining the street.
The seawall extends to Hulihee Palace.
Hulihee Palace is a two-story stone structure overlooking Kailua Bay. It was built by the second Governor of Hawaii, John Kuakini, in 1838 and from 1844 until 1914 it was used by Hawaiian royalty as a vacation home. The grounds are lovely to walk around, and the house is a museum showcasing possessions of the royal families.
Across Alii Drive from Hulihee Palace is Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church built in Hawaii.
The stone and coral church was built by Governor Kuakini in 1837. The church is open to the public and a small museum is located in the back.
Further south on Alii Drive, is the Kona Inn Shopping Village and boardwalk.
In the center of the boardwalk is the Kona Inn Restaurant, all that is left of the historic Kona Inn.
From the boardwalk, you can walk to the grassy area bounded by the seawall.
Hale Halawai is just beyond the boardwalk on Alii Drive. It has a small beach, a police box and a community meeting area.
Kona's Farmer's market is in the parking lot across Alii Drive from Hale Halawai.
If you want to keep walking at this point, you will be rewarded with a beautiful coastline with great shops and restaurants along the way.
Sun bathe at the Old Kona Airport Beach
Just north of Kailua Kona is an expansive white sand beach where the old Kona airport used to be situated.
The county park includes a skate park, community buildings, pool, baseball park, and walking trail.
Swim the Ironman Route
Next to the Kailua pier is a small sandy beach where the annual Ironman World Championship swim takes place.
Buoys line the route so you can swim the same route as the ironman athletes. Every morning swimmers come to the pier and swim some or all of the ironman route. We like to snorkel the route over coral teeming with fish. Dolphins often show up in the bay and dolphin tour boats stop next to the pods for everyone to jump into the water.
Watch a Kona Sunset
Kona has beaches and restaurants all along the coast that are perfect for watching the sunset. The south facing Kona coast offers the perfect view of the sun setting into the water. When all the conditions are right, you can catch a glimpse of the green flash, caused by the curavature of the earth which allows a very brief view of the sun through the ocean water.
Your Ideal Hawaii Island Vacation: A Guide for Visiting the Big Island of Hawaiihas a major section on North and South Kona including a walking tour of Alii Drive, and driving tours of Kailua-Kona, coffee plantations, and South Kona's historic bays.