Kona, Hawaii

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay, Kohala Coast

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay, Kohala Coast


The Big Island of Hawaii is divided in half by three volcanoes, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. To the east is the Hilo side which is the windward side of the island, and to the west is the Kona side which is the leeward side of the island. Kona is famous for sportfishing, snorkeling, sunsets and coffee. It means “leeward” in Hawaiian. The northern portion of the Kona side of the Big Island is also known as the Kohala district. The weather and ocean conditions can be vastly different on each side of the island depending on the time of year and the predominant trade winds.

The Big Island is large and diverse, boasting 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. Because the mountains block the northeasterly trade winds, the Kona side of the island gets very little rain and enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year.  This makes the Kona Coast a beach-goers paradise - and with so many different beaches to pick from, you won’t be pushing your way through any crowds.

Check out our detailed Big Island Travel Planner section with articles and resources to help you plan your next Hawaiian vacation.

Kohala Coast

The north western coast of the Big Island is the sunny Kohala Coast, where the scenery is dominated by arid dried lava beds. Little rain and plenty of guaranteed sun add to this landscape making it the perfect spot for hotels, championship golf courses and Hawaii resorts. Starting at the Port of Kawaihae, you will find the beautiful Big Island beaches dotting the entire coastline. There are dozens of beautiful beaches throughout the Kohala Coast - many are surrounded by large resort hotels with the majestic Mauna Kea volcano as a backdrop.

Some of the world’s best beaches reside on the Big Island of Hawaii, including Hapuna Beach State Park and Mauna Kea Beach. The Hawaiian waters are clear, and full of corals, tropical fish, and sea turtles. Check out our Kona Snorkeling Guide for the best snorkeling locations. At the northern tip of the island is North Kohala. Follow the road as it winds its way up the lush green mountainside to the quaint town of Hawi and eventually to the scenic Pololu Valley. On a clear day you can see the volcano of Haleakala on the Island of Maui.

On the pastured slopes of Kohala Mountain, at the northern tip of the Big Island, traditional plantation towns such as Hawi survive virtually unchanged - run-down in an appealing sort of way, the all-purpose stores still floored with creaking planks.Make a stop at the spacious Bamboo Restaurant and Bar (tel 808/889-5555) to enjoy one of the friendliest and tastiest restaurants in the state. Don’t miss the wonderful drive on Route 250 - a panoramic drive up the mountain to Waimea with sweeping views of the Kona coast off to your right and the towering Mauna Kea volcano ahead of you.

Pololu Valley Overlook

Pololu Valley, North Kohala

Kikaua Point Beach, Kohala

Kikaua Point Beach, Kohala Coast

North Kona

Kona’s Keahole Airport and the vibrant town of Kailu-Kona are located in North Kona. With direct flights from the Mainland and Overseas, Kona is easily accessible. Check out our discount hawaii airfare for travel discounts. Honokohau Harbor is located here in North Kona, just south of the airport. This marina and small boat harbor is where many tour boats depart on SCUBA diving trips, snorkeling adventures, deep sea fishing voyage, or waterborne sightseeing and dolphin & whale-watching tours. You can also access the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park via a trail from the north parking lot of the harbor.

Kailua Kona

The heartbeat of Kona is the town of Kailua-Kona where stores and restaurants on Ali’i Drive weave among impressive historical landmarks. Check out our Kailua-Kona Restaurants guide. Kona is home to the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament and the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.

There are many curio stands and handicraft stores here Kahaluu Beach Parkwhere you are sure to find sought-after souvenirs. Many dining opportunities exist including a wide variety of local Hawaiian, ethnic, and seafood restaurants. Ocean activities depart from Kailua Pier, Honokohau Marina and Keauhou Bay.

If you want to be near the action of this bustling town, find a hotel or discount vacation rental in Kailua Kona. Kailua town sits Kailua-Kona Morningright at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and because of that every Kona sunset is a spectacular event. If you are looking for a little more room, consider a Kailua-Kona Vacation Rental. There are many to choose from, most are at least ocean-view and conveniently located. Most people will end up finding a hotel or vacation rental condo in Kohala or Kailua-Kona; read more about where to stay on the Big Island.

Kailua-Kona Waterfront

Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona Waterfront

Sunrise in Kailua-Kona

Sunrise in Kailua-Kona

South Kona

Further south, the road gains elevation and you will pass a string of tiny villages and small coffee farms. You will notice the air becoming cooler and the foliage lusher, as you are climbing the slopes of the Hualalai volcano. On the slopes of the mountain, is the historic Kona coffee belt where there are dozens of small coffee farms and stores along the way, as well as spectacular valleys and postcard views of the coast. Near the mountain towns of Holualoa, off of Route 180, are several Kona Coffee plantations that offer free guided tours of their facilities and free samples of their fresh Kona coffee. On these farms, the coffee beans are grown, hand-picked, milled and roasted, and finally brewed fresh. You can tour the plantations of Kona Mountain Thunder (808-325-2136) and Kona Blue Sky Coffee (877-322-1700), to name a few. Further south, near the town of Kealakekua, is the Kona Joe Coffee company, also offering free farm tours and coffee tasting (808-322-2100).

Continuing south are Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau, probably the best snorkeling and diving spots on the island. Keep an eye out for the green sea turtles and Hawaiian Spinner dolphins that frequent these locations! If you keep driving south, you will eventually get to South Point and the green sand beaches. Continuing past South Point and onto the other side of the Island will take you to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and on to the town of Hilo. For a complete guide to all the regions of the island, check out our Big Island Overview article.

Honaunau, Place of Refuge

Honaunau, Place of Refuge, South Kona

Surfers at Kahaluu Beach Park, Kona

Surfers at Kahaluu Beach, Kailua-Kona

View of the Kohala Coast, Kona Hawaii

Kohala Coast, Kona Hawaii

Sunset viewed from Dive Boats, Kona Hawaii

Dive Boat Sunset, Kona Hawaii

Kona Hotels starting at $78

Our comprehensive Hotel Search Engine finds the best hotels at the lowest prices. Check out our Kona Hotels Finder - providing you a focused search of Kona Hotels, sorted by price.

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Related Posts:

  1. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
  2. Explore Holualoa Village in Kona Hawaii
  3. Kona Resorts - Kohala Coast
  4. Mauna Kea Beach, Kona
  5. Hawaii Snorkeling Guide - Kona

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