Skip to main content

Big Island of Hawaii ~ Kailua-Kona

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.


Welcome to the Big Island of Hawaii ~ Kailua-Kona

Aloha! E komo mai!

Hele mai! Hele mai!

Welcome back!

Mahalo for continuing on our tour of the Big Island of Hawaii! On this leg of the tour (Part 6) we will be visiting Kailua-Kona, the sport fishing capital of the world and home to the annual Ironman Triathlon World Championship endurance race.

If you missed the last 5 buses (pages) of our tour you can catch them here:

The Big Island of Hawaii, also named Hawaii, is the most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands. You can travel around the Big Island of Hawaii in one day and go from white sand beaches to snow capped volcanoes; from cacti on cattle ranches to tropical rain forest; from black beaches to green sand beaches; and then on to live erupting volcanoes. All in one day!

But wait! You don't want to do it all in one day! Relax, take your time, enjoy! There is so much to see and do on a Big Island of Hawaii Circle Island Tour!

This is a Hawaiian Hale (House) - Tradition Requires that You Remove Your Shoes Before You Enter

You Gotta Remove Your Shoes Before You Go Inside

You Gotta Remove Your Shoes Before You Go Inside

Eh! No Forget!

You Gotta Remove Your Shoes Before You Go Inside

Relax...Take Your Time

It is well worth it to take your time and plan on staying for a while. There are so many unique and interesting things for you to enjoy while visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. You don't want to just drive around the island without stopping and miss it all!

You will want to slow down and absorb the beauty; slow down and experience the diverse cultures and life styles; slow down and savor the exotic tastes and aromas that the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer.

Where is Kailua-Kona, Hawaii?

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Map

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Map

I Kona - Sung by Ledward Kaapana

Listen to "I Kona" by Ledward Kaapana while visiting the Kona side of the Big Island of Hawaii

Sing Along with the lyrics below:

Sing Along with the Lyrics:

Aia i Kona kai 'opua i ka la'i

'A'ohe lua e like ai me 'oe

Malihini makou ia 'oe i Kona

Scroll to Continue

I ke kona a keu ke aloha no makou

Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka pu ana

'A'ohe lua e like ai me 'oe

English Translation:

There in Kona are the cloud banks and calm seas

Second to none, you are incomparable

We are your guests in Kona

By invitation with love for us

Tell the refrain

Second to none, you are incomparable


Ali'i Drive

We will be traveling along Ali'i Drive which is the ocean front main thoroughfare, which weaves along the Kona Coast from Keauhou Bay into Kailua-Kona where it gently winds to an end at the Kona Pier.

Our first stop in Keauhou is Kuamoo and the Lekeleke Burial Grounds.

William Pitt Kalanimoku  - Kamehameha I's Chief Minister And Treasurer led army against the revolt of Kekua o`kalani at the battle of Kuamoʻo

William Pitt Kalanimoku - Kamehameha I's Chief Minister And Treasurer led army against the revolt of Kekua o`kalani at the battle of Kuamoʻo


Where the Hawai'ian Gods Died

Kuamoo and the Burial Grounds of Lekeleke is a significant historical place of the Hawaiian people, that is not found in very many tour itineraries.

This is the where the ancient Hawaiian religion died in a blaze of musket fire, After the death of Kamehameha I, his son Kamehameha II, was crowned King Liholiho. Shortly thereafter, he ate at the table of women and commoners, thereby breaking the ancient kapu`ai system.

This was previously discussed in The Ending of the Kapu`ai System on the Big Island of Hawaii ~ Kona Coast page.

Chief Kekua o`kalani, who held radically different views about religious traditions, unsuccessfully challenged King Liholiho in battle here.

The battle was fought between the traditionalists Hawaiians; headed by Kekua o`kalani, that wanted to keep the old religious traditions of the kapu' ai system alive, and forces of Liholiho and regent Kaahumanu; the Hawaiians that wanted to be free of the kapu laws.

Over three hundred warriors lost their lives here and their graves, despite the official-looking marker at the site, are under the numerous, large stone altars erected by the victors over the very spots the warriors fell. Viewing their lava rock burial mounds produces an

Viewing their lava rock burial mounds produces an eerie feeling and a good case of "chicken skin" (goose bumps).

The Hapaiali'i Heiau (temple) and the Ke`eku Heiau are located nearby the battlefield. The walls of Hapaialii Heiau are newly restored, and honor the royalty.

Kuamoo and the Burial Grounds of Lekeleke


Keauhou Bay

Keauhou Bay: The Birthplace of a King

Keauhou Bay is our next stop on our tour of Ali'i Drive in Kona.

Kamehameha III was born nearby Keauhou Bay, a favorite place for snorkeling, swimming, and picnics. This is another place the Honu turtles can frequently be seen.

Book a sailing, snorkeling and diving adventure with the Fair Wind catamaran at Keauhou Bay. Board the boat to sail to Kealakekua Bay for a 2-1/2 hour expedition of sailing, snorkeling, diving and fun.

I am biased in my appreciation of the Fair Winds as I use to surf with the owners, Steve and Jay Lambert, when we were all kids in school in Honolulu. I also worked for them in their office for Captain Cook VII and Fair Winds tour boat companies, years ago.

Kayaks are another fun activity that can be rented at Keauhou Bay. When in Kona, just check at any of the Activities Desks in town. You can find them in every hotel lobby and there are several set up right on the street in the village of Kailua-Kona.

King Kamehameha III Birthplace - Keauhou Bay ~ Kailua-Kona


The Historic Keauhou Holua Slide

He'eholua (mountain surfing) on the holua slide was a sport in ancient Hawai'i that was reserved only for the Ali'i (royalty).

This very dangerous sport is similar to tobogganing, except in tobogganing, the sled rider lies down on his back on a sled board and slides down an icy mountain path at high speed.

With holua racing, the sled riders either laid down on their stomachs or they stood up balancing like riding a wave on a surfboard.

The Keauhou holua slide was not only the longest holua slide in all the islands but also the most dangerous one. At the end of the sled path, the sled rider ended in the ocean at Keauhou Bay.

The papa holua, Hawaiian sleds, were usually about 12 feet long, 6 inches wide, and 4 inches in depth, and weighed about 30 - 60 pounds. The sleds were long and narrow. It was quite a feat to be able to ride on one of these sleds.

Usually, the runners were made out of endemic woods called kauila, mamane, or ukiuki and the rails were made out of bamboo. The body of the sleds were a combination of kapa cloth and woven lauhala mats. Everything was tied together with sinnet cording.

The slide, or sledding course, kahua holua, was paved with rocks, covered with dirt and beaten down to form a smooth runway. Right before the track was used it was covered usually with pili grass, then saturated either with kukui nut oil or coconut oil to make it slippery.

The runners of the sled where also greased for speed. These sled riders could travel at speeds of 50 and upwards to 100 miles an hour. The tracks were narrow and could usually only accommodate one sled rider at a time.

The winner of the race was the one that could sled the farthest without killing himself.

The holua racing ended in the early 1800's because the missionaries forbade the Hawai'ians to continue practicing their "heathen" ways.

There was quite a bit of gambling that went along with the racing which the missionaries also frowned upon. It seems to me that anything the Hawai'ians considered fun, the missionaries considered "heathen" and ungodly, i.e. singing, dancing the hula, and speaking in the Hawaiian tongue.

Papa Holua (Hawai'ian Sledding)

Papa Holua (Hawai'ian Sledding)

Papa Holua (Hawai'ian Sledding)

Historic Keauhou Holua Slide

This is the site of the historic Holua Slide, the largest preserved Holua in Hawai'i. It can be seen across from the Keauhou Kona Country Club golf course.

The slide originally ran all the way down the mountain into Keauhou Bay. As you can see from the photo, the rest of the slide was destroyed to make way for the road, the golf course and the subdivision full of vacation homes.

The original slide was over 4,000 feet (1,200 m) long, but the remains are are only about 1,290 feet (390 m) long.

During the Makahiki Festival, this particular slide was used for the Makahiki games by the ruling Ali'i (Monarchy). The Makahiki games of ancient Hawaii were similar to the Greek Olympics.

He'eholua: Hawaiian Sledding

A Royal Battle, A King Sacrificed: Ke'eku, Big Island Hawaii

Ke'eku Petroglyphs

Petroglyph depicting dead Maui Chief

Petroglyph depicting dead Maui Chief

Keauhou Petroglyph Fields

Ke'eku heiau, located near the grounds of the Keauhou Beach Hotel, was both a puuhonua heiau (place of refuge temple) and a luakini heiau (place of human sacrifice temple). This spot is famous in Hawai'i because of the 16th-century wars between the chiefs of Hawai'i and Maui.

In front of this massive heiau are the Keauhou kii pohaku, petroglyph fields, where the petroglyphs have been carved into the lava rock. The petroglyphs can only be seen at low tide or with mask and snorkel as they are under water.

The petroglyph in the photo is of particular importance as it depicts the Maui Chief Kamalalawalu who was sacrificed upon his defeat.

Keauhou Beach Hotel Demolishion Planned for 2015

Keauhou Beach Hotel

Keauhou Beach Hotel

After almost 50 years, the Keauhou Bay Hotel will be demolished. This will be a sad time for many of us who grew up with this hotel and the many cultural events we attended there.

The mana from this hotel and its sacred grounds is nothing less than revered. Leaving behind something we value deeply is never an easy thing to do.

This is a place that holds a powerful history of the presence of kings and queens; billionaires and great leaders; educators, scholars, and avid students; artists, musicians, and dancers. Generations of relationships have formed at this hotel.

“From the start, this was a center for training leaders. There was something special about it. It is home to a deeply revered, archaeological site, brimming with ancient healing pools, sacred temples, and tropical seaside solitude, people can feel Hawai‘i’s ancient family tree, both roots, and branches, and carry the story forward,” says Paul Horner, former General Managerwho led the hotel to its modern stature with innovative Hawaiian Cultural classes and programs.

Kamehameha Schools officials eventually hope to offer a Visitor Heritage Center. as well as a Visitor Education program on the site. The program would be able to accommodate about 200 visitors daily. The property is home to many cultural and archeological artifacts. The entire project is estimated to cost about $34.3 million.

Completing the environmental review and getting the permits to demolish the hotel will likely take until the middle of this year, but actual demolition probably won't start until the end of the year. The remaining construction is going to be phased out through 2023.

Hapaiali'i Heiau, Keauhou Holua National Historical Landmark, & the Ke'eku Heiau - Keauhou Heiaus

Mo'o Twins Homesite and Punawai Spring - Playspots of Goddesses and Kings, Keauhou, Hawaii

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Kahaluu Beach Park Entrance Sign

Kahaluu Beach Park Entrance Sign

Kahaluu Beach Park Road Entrance from Ali'i Drive.

Kahaluu Beach Park Road Entrance from Ali'i Drive.

Our next stop heading along Ali'i Drive back into Kailua-Kona is Kahalu'u Beach Park, also known as Turtle Beach because of the large number of Honu turtles who come to sunbathe on the beach,

Kahalu'u is one of only a few of the beaches in Hawaii that can boast having a tame fish population.

It is not a marine preserve, yet the amount of fish you will see is incredible. It surpasses the quantity of vibrant colored tropical fish you would see at a regulated marine sanctuary.

There aren't any fishing restrictions at the beach, yet at this well-protected cove, the fish are very comfortable around swimmers and snorkelers. They are known to swim right alongside of you. Over 108 reef fish varieties have been recorded at Kahalu'u Beach alone!

Kahaluu Beach Park

Kahaluu Beach Park

As you can see in the above photo, the cove is almost completely surrounded by a partially submerged rock wall which is the remains of a breakwater built by early Hawaiians to aid in fish farming.

The wall aids in keeping out the rough surf, creating a calm, and very gentle protected area. The water at Kahalu'u Beach Park is so shallow and calm, that it's perfect not only for the

The water at Kahalu'u Beach Park is so shallow and calm, that it's perfect not only for the first-time snorkeler but also for young children to swim in as well. Within the lagoon, the deepest part is only 10 feet deep and you won't reach deeper water unless going out past the reef.

Lauwiliwili - Butterfly Fish

There are 24 out of the 115 world wide species  of butterfly fish endemic to Hawaii.

There are 24 out of the 115 world wide species of butterfly fish endemic to Hawaii.

Lau i pala -Yellow Tang

Lau i pala -Yellow Tang

Red Pencil Sea Urchin at Kahalu'u

Red Pencil Sea Urchin at Kahalu'u

Black Spiny Sea Urchine

Black Spiny Sea Urchine

Large schools of fish can often be seen swimming up to greet swimmers and it is not unusual to find the fish nibbling on your fins while snorkeling. On the right here is a school of yellow tang.

Black spiny sea urchins and red pencil sea urchins can be seen on the rocks and coral once you swim away from the shore into the crystal clear water.

The quills of the red pencil sea urchins are used in making jewelry after they have dried. When the are dry they lose their red color and turn into several different shades of brown and tan with creamy white chevron stripes.

The black spiny sea urchins are highly poisonous if stepped on, so please be very careful. The only known antidote is human urine. I know, it sounds awful, but that is the only thing that will dissolve the quills; stop the swelling and pain; and prevent infection!

The only known antidote is human urine. I know, it sounds awful, but that is the only thing that will dissolve the quills; stop the swelling and pain; and prevent infection!

Other than that it is an expensive trip to the emergency room at the hospital, where you will get multiple injections and suffer from a lot of pain as they dig and cut out the quills.

As you can see in the photo, the quills can get very long and super thin. The thin quills are really difficult to dig out, however, the uric acid in human urine will dissolve them.

Snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park - Honu - Green Sea Turtle

Kahalu'u is another favorite place for the Honu sea turtles to swim, feed and sleep. They love to sun themselves on the black rocks and can sometimes be difficult to see because when they are out of the water, the color of their shells is very similar to the black rocks.

Keep your eyes open for them as they can easily be missed as they are camouflaged against the rocks and tripping over them is an easy thing to do. You can see a photo of one of them swimming below.

Honu Turtle Swimming at Kahaluu Beach Park

Honu Turtle Swimming at Kahaluu Beach Park

Honu Turtle Swimming at Kahaluu Beach Park

Kahalu'u Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii - September 2014

Kahalu'u Beach Park Concession Stand - Kahalu'u Beach Park in Kailua-Kona

At the beach park, is a food concession where snacks, drinks, sandwiches and plate lunches can be purchased. Also, available at the concession stand is a professional marine biologist, to answer any questions you might have.

A Snorkel Rental Package can be had at $14.50 for a full days use and includes a snorkel, professionally fitted dive mask, and rubber snorkel fins. The snorkel equipment is some of the best and is always sanitized. It is more economical to rent from some of the dive shops in town, but if you forget it is there for your convenience.

The sand at the beach is a kind of salt and pepper color from the erosion of the lava rock that was once prevalent along the shoreline and the picnic area is lined with coconut trees.

There are picnic tables and BBQ stands that make it an easy place for a cookout on the beach or an afternoon picnic lunch. Restrooms are available and there is a lifeguard on duty during the day.

Kahalu'u is also a favorite spot for surfers and you will often see them out beyond the breakwater catching small waves.

Kahalu'u Beach Park Activities

Magic Sands Beach - The Best Body Surfing in Kailua-Kona at La'aloa Bay Beach Park


La'aloa Bay Beach Park in Kona has several names; Magic Sands, Disappearing Sands and White Sands Beach.

During the summer, the beach is a beautiful white sand beach with great waves for body surfing. Kids like to boogie board, or paipo board, on the shoreline, and some people will surf further out when the surf's up too.

During the winter, the waves get larger and the undertow gets stronger, taking all of the sand out to sea, leaving black lava rocks exposed on the beach.

Body surfing can get treacherous during the winter months. If you are not a good body surfer or a good swimmer, don't attempt it. You have to know exactly when to pull out of the wave so you don't crash and burn; and get pounded onto the rocks. Once the winter surf is over, all of the sand comes back to the beach.

Shore Break at Magic Sands

Shore Break at Magic Sands

The Best Times of the Day to Body Surf

I use to live in a house down the street a short distance from the beach.

I would walk down to the beach every morning to body surf as the sun was coming up, and every evening as the sun was setting.

These two times of the day are when the waves are the best, the beach and the ocean are practically empty, so you aren't running into inexperienced people in the water.

There is a really nice shore-break at White Sands as the waves get moderately high and even curl before breaking on the sandy beach. This makes for a really nice ride.

During the winter, I have seen the waves get up to 6 to 8 feet, upon occasion, and that makes for an awesome ride, as long as you remember to pull out of it before crashing into the rocks.

Lifeguards are available year round as well as restrooms and showers.

Waiting for the Wave - Magic Sands Beach in Kona


Magic Sands Body Boarding Body Surfing

Waves at Magic Sands

Onward on Ali'i Drive into Kailua-Kona Village

Now that we are all worn out from the body surfing, sun and fun at White Sands Beach, we will head into Kailua-Kona traveling along the beach road into town on Alii Drive. The photo above is the coastline along Alii Dr. as we head into town.

Kailua-Kona was the originally claimed as the seat of the Hawaiian government by King Kamehameha I, as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This is where Hulihee Palace can still be seen today. The capital now, of course, is in Honolulu on Oahu.

When Iolani Palace was established in Honolulu as the residence of the Monarchy, Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona became the summer vacation home for the royal family.

Kailua-Kona Village 1820's - Alii Dr.

Kailua-Kona Hawaii 1820

Kailua-Kona Hawaii 1820

Kailua-Kona Village Today - Alii Dr.

Kailua-Kona Sunset

Kailua-Kona Sunset


Big Island of Hawaii

When I was a little girl, Kailua-Kona was a sleepy little fishing village and remained that way for many years. The soft, gentle breezes, that drifted in from the ocean kept the temperature at a balmy 86 degrees F. almost year round.

It was a different climate and a different time. The aloha spirit was everywhere and the ohana (family) and the aina (land) were the most important things in our lives.

When the fish were running and the taro and the breadfruit were plentiful; we were happy. We didn't ask for much and we didn't need much. Life was much simpler back then.

It wasn't until the early 1970s that the village began taking a turn, and within the next 20 years it had grown into a bustling tourist resort. The village had acquired just about every fast food dive imaginable; from Makadanonei (McDonald's) to Taco Hale (Taco Bell).

I guess all of the fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables that not only grew wild but were cultivated too, just wasn't good enough for the mainland haoles (Caucasians). They had to import their crap food to eat instead of eating fresh, healthy food while vacationing in a tropical paradise. Auwe! Go figure.

Now Kona is a colorful mixture of curio stores, specialty shops, boutiques, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, art galleries, souvenir stands and bars that all line the beach front road along Ali'i Drive.

Kona is where you will find the most remarkable sunsets and sunrises in the world, acting as a magnificent backdrop for the aqua-blue waters.

Ali'i Drive is semi-protected from the ocean waves by a long lava rock seawall that was built long before the road was paved. Ali'i Drive comes to an end at the Kailua Pier which is next to the birthplace of King Kamehameha I located next to the King Kamehameha Hotel.

Drving Through Kailua-Kona on Ali'i Drive

Huggo's on the Rock's - Best View in Kona

One of the 1st places we come to when we hit town is Huggo's Restaurant And Bar. I love Huggo's.

I have been eating and partying there since 1969 when Eric's parents first opened the place. I've seen it go through many changes to what it is now, and it is one of the best places in Kona for "Cocktail Hour". The ambiance is the absolute best for cocktails and pupus (hors d'oeuvres) as it is smack-dab oceanfront. It is lovely listening to the sound of the waves splash up against the rocks directly below the restaurant.

We have often watched both whales and dolphins from the restaurant's lanai (veranda) as the sun sinks slowly into the horizon offering the most gorgeous, unforgettable sunsets in the world as a backdrop.

As for the food, it depends on the time of day, who the cook may happen to be and if the fisherman brought in any fresh fish for the menu.

Nine times out of ten, the food will be excellent. I have had superb dinners there and I have also had mediocre ones. It is always a good idea to check with the locals to find out when is the best time to eat there, as chefs do change. The same one may not be working in April 2015 as was working in January 2015.

With that being said, it is still a wonderful place for cocktails at sunset and for partying after dinner.

Huggo's at night is a great party place. There is always something going on. Something that I find very cool about Eric's son, who is running the place now, is that he is always open to giving new local musicians a chance to play their music.

They are even more fun now that they have added on more acreage for party space with the addition of Huggo's On The Rocks.

if you are in Kona it IS a place to check out 'cause Huggo's Rocks!

Painting of Huggo's - By Artist John Collins


Artwork of Huggo's painted by local artist John Collins. You can see more of his artwork about Kona and Hawaii on his website.

Hulihe'e Summer Palace

Hulihe'e Summer Palace

Hulihe'e Palace

The Summer Home of the Royal Family.

Hulihe'e Palace was originally built out of pukapuka stone(lava rock) by John Adams Kuakini, Governor of Hawaii in 1838.

The Palace wasn't plastered over until 1885, when King Kalakaua decided to give the building a more refined appearance.

Hulihe'e was built with native Hawaiian hardwood from the tropical rain forest. The logs of koa and ohia are beautiful, lustrous wood that can be seen throughout the interior of the palace and has been polished to a high sheen.

The home is a two level structure, as can be seen in the photo above, that includes an entry hall, parlor, dining room, sitting room and two bedrooms.

Hulihee Palace Entry Hall

The entry hall includes a striking marble bust of King Kalakaua, who continues to watch over the entry hall today, and several redwood pillars that the King brought home from California.

The Kuhio Room


The Kuhio Room honors Prince Kuhio Kalaniana`ole and Princess Kahanu. Prince Kuhio was Hawaii's Delegate to Congress and served Hawai'i in Washington DC for twenty years.

It features a gorgeous koa dining table that belonged to the Kalakaua family. It is 80 inches in diameter and was cut vertically from a single log. It also contains a Queen's traveling trunk and a set of Lokelani rose china from England.

The Kuakini Room

The Kuakini Room is like a museum within a museum. It contains display cases full of artifacts from pre-Western contact through the Monarchy period and a reproduction of a papa holua (Hawaiian sled).

The 2nd Floor Sitting Room


The second-floor sitting room is a treasure store of traditional Victorian-style furnishings, priceless oriental rugs and marble statues.

Two Different Views of the Upstairs Parlor

Princess Ruth's Upstairs Bedroom

The bedroom of Princess Ruth Keelikolani features many of her favorite personal items that are now island treasures.

Princess Ruth loved the Palace, however, she seldom actually slept in her bedroom. She had another large dwelling made of pili grass constructed on the lawn of the palace.

The pili grass hale (house) was not a rustic grass hut. It was a substantial residence complete with double hung windows. This is where she slept. She used the Palace for entertaining and to house visiting guests.

King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma often enjoyed staying at Hulihe'e Palace with their son, Prince Albert. His cradle is in the Princess Ruth Room.

The Kawananakoa Room

The Kawananakoa Room

The Kawananakoa Room