There are plenty of options for visitors to Kona when it comes to condos and vacation rentals. Kevin Whitton, author of Moon Hawaiian Islands, shares his personal, detailed recommendations on your best bets depending on what you’re looking for on your vacation.
A Castle Resorts and Hotels property, Kona Bali Kai (76-6246 Ali‘i Dr., Kailua-Kona, 808/329-9381 or 800/367-5004, $100-300) is a decent, comfortable place with an indoor swimming pool, activities desk, concierge, and poke shop on property. The 154 condos—split between three-floor buildings on the mauka and makai sides of Ali‘i Drive—include studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units that all contain fully equipped kitchens and cable TV. The makai building has an elevator; however, not all rooms are large enough for wheelchairs to navigate. All apartments are individually owned so the decor differs, but most have muted colors and an old tropical feel. Rates depend on the unit size and its view (ocean, partial ocean, or mountain). There are often online specials and you have a good chance of getting upgraded for no additional charge when you check in. This is a great place to crash with a bunch of people and still be close to the action.
The condos at Casa de Emdeko (75-6082 Ali‘i Dr., Kailua-Kona) are individually owned by people off-island, so the quality really varies. You can rent worry-free the one-bedroom condos numbered 125 ($135 double, $10 each additional guest) and 327 (starting at $100 a night). If you are interested in the other condos in the complex, ask for photos to ensure that they are updated. At these prices, it’s worth doing the research. Rooms have king-size beds and pull-out sofa beds in the living areas. All are stocked with beach equipment. The complex has two pools and a sandy beach and barbecue area where guests mingle. Book directly from the owners, who have numbers and emails listed on the website. Some condos require a three-night minimum stay (10 nights during Ironman and the Christmas season). This place is unbelievably cheap for the area close to downtown Kailua.
The one- and two-bedroom suites at Aston Kona by the Sea (75-6106 Ali‘i Dr., Kailua-Kona, 808/327-2300, $180-300) have all the amenities of a home away from home: kitchen, washer/dryer, swimming pool/hot tub, barbecue area, cable TV, WiFi in the lobby, and activities desk. A range of rooms are available; you pay extra for the ocean view, as well as an “amenity fee” for Internet, DVD rentals, and in-room coffee. Even the one-bedrooms come with a pull-out sofa, so they are big enough to sleep up to four people. Some of the rooms are a bit outdated, so ask for photos ahead of time or at least ask to see a few rooms before you unpack. It’s a good budget option and close to downtown Kailua (although not in walking distance). Book early; these condos sell out fast during high season.
If your dream vacation is accessing WiFi from the pool, check out the one-bedroom condos at Hale Kona Kai (75-5870 Kahakai Rd., Kailua-Kona, 800/421-3696, $150-195). Almost all are oceanfront, and all come with a small kitchen, cable TV, sofa beds, and lanai—some with better ocean views than others. Shared extras include a nicely sized pool (right on the ocean) and a barbecue area. They are also really proud of their two parking lots. Each unit is individually owned, so the decor and datedness of furniture (as well as TVs and kitchen appliances) vary. Look at the pictures on the website before you decide which one to rent. Many condos require a three-night minimum. The location sets you close to downtown—close enough to walk—and the price is right, but if you think you’ll spend a lot of time in the room, I’d rent elsewhere.
Sometimes the best way to experience the ocean is from way above it. If this sounds about right to you, come stay at Silver Oaks Ranch (808/325-2000, $125-200), which is close to the hustle and bustle of Kona, but just far enough away to get some space. This is a farm, with tons of animals around, and two types of rentals: the Ranch House Cottages, with a large bedroom, kitchen, TV, washer/dryer, and WiFi, and the Garden Cottage, which has the same amenities except it only has a kitchenette. While this rental sounds pretty standard, it is the hosts—and the added touches that they bring—that set it apart. They offer you a laptop computer, stock the fridge, provide beach equipment, and offer advice about things to do in the area. It’s the best of both worlds—the privacy of a vacation rental with the concierge service of a hotel. A five-night minimum stay is required.
The Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village (78-7190 Kaleiopapa St., Keauhou, 808/324-1550, $150-250) is best suited for couples and families. Each cluster of eight condo units has its own small pool and hot tub, so the pool is never too crowded and you can always get a lounge chair. One- and two-bedroom condos are available, with pull-out sofas, kitchen, large cable TVs, and bright carpets. There’s lots of covered parking. There is a helpful activities desk that can can set you up with tennis lessons and tee times. Keauhou shopping is nearby for quick trips to the grocery store. Many guests are involved with Shell Hospitality’s timeshare program, but you don’t have to be to stay here.