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Planning Your Time When Visiting Kona

Beautifully unspoiled Makalawena beach in Kona.
It’s a walk over a desolate lava field to Makalawena beach in Kekaha Kai State Park, but the payoff is worth it. Photo © Maria Luisa Lopez Estivill/123rf.

There is probably more to do in the Kona district than any other place on the Big Island, but the good news is that even though the district is split into smaller sections, nothing is actually that far from anything else. If there is no traffic, you can make it from the airport to the town of Captain Cook in about 40 minutes.

It’s best to treat the Kona region like a mini road trip starting either north or south. Kealakekua Bay to the south should not be missed. The water here is perfection for nearly every water activity, and there are abundant tours to choose from to assist you in exploring the grandeur that exists underwater. If you feel like staying dry for a bit, there are several nearby historical sites well worth exploring.

In many cases, the bulk of your day will occur before lunchtime, as early morning is when you’ll venture out on kayaking, snorkeling, dolphin-swimming, and deep-sea fishing tours. The warm afternoons are a perfect time to relax, with little effort, on a nearby beach, such as Kikaua Point Park Beach or Manini‘owali Beach in north Kona. If it’s just too hot out, head north up the hill to Holualoa, where the weather is cooler than down below and the street is lined with art galleries. The late afternoon presents the best time to hike to one of the beaches, like Makalawena, that does require some walking—usually over an open lava field.

Kona is one of few places on the island with nightlife. Many first-time visitors arrange to see a luau at one of the hotels or take a stroll on Ali‘i Drive to people-watch. On the weekends or holidays, the open-air Ali‘i Drive bars can become quite bustling when the cover bands come out to play.

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