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Kona town and restaurants

The Big Island, HI
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Kona town and restaurants, The Big Island Hawaii

Description

Kona, or Kailua-Kona, is a fantastic place to visit to get that vacation feeling! It reminds me of Waikiki (minus the amazing beaches) back in the 80s, before it got so crowded and built up with new highrises. The main strip, Alii Drive, runs along the crystal clear water, and has touristy shops, casual oceanfront restaurants, and historic buildings. Check out the ABC stores, which have super books, toys, clothes, jewelry, and snacks, all in the Hawaiian tradition. You will also find stands offering touristy activities like helicopter rides or scuba tours. A wonderful thing about Kona, which makes it almost nicer than Waikiki for eating, is that there are an abundance of casual oceanfront restaurants- for some reason this is hard to find in Waikiki. My favorite is Bubba Gump, where the waves crash on the rocks right by your table, the breeze is lovely and cooling, and you can see a dozen yellow fish swimming in each crystal clear wave! The food is also good. Check out the Wyland gallery after your meal, for some inspiring ocean-themed art and carvings. Another option for a meal is Huggo's on the Rocks, reviewed below, where you also dine right on the water, but with less shade than at Bubba Gump. For a coffee shop with a view, check out Kona Haven, a nice place to sit in the morning across from the water in an attractive Hawaiian Plantation style development with palm trees everywhere.
Between Bubba Gump and Huggo's on the Rocks, on Alii Drive, there are gorgeous little coves and rocky beach parks, where you can stop and take in the lovely views. 
If you walk all the way north on Alii Drive you come to historic Hulihe'e Palace, with its lovely architecture, and across the street, Mokuaikaua Church. Both can be visited (see hours below). 
Continue north and you come to the pier and harbor, where people snorkel in the clear water. It's so tempting to jump in! Here you can enjoy wonderful views of the church steeple and the high mountains backing the bay. On the north side of the pier is the Kamakahonu (King Kamehameha) Beach, a magical area with a hei'au, Hawaiian holy temple, right there in the water, palm trees galore, and lots of kids playing in the calm waters. This is a wonderful place to swim in the late afternoon, and then catch some snippets of live music from the luau that takes place on the lawn. 
Like most of Hawaii, Kona has old, unattractive buildings, but it also has some lovely newer Hawaiian-style buildings with colorful red or green roofs. Kona gets a bad rap because the hot, windstill days on Oahu are said to have "Kona winds." Kona is indeed very hot (and the airport is the hottest ever), but it does have good breezes on the water. Kona is also suffering from vog from the 2018 lava flow, but most days it is still in the green or yellow safety range, which is fine. When we were there, the air was only hazy with vog for one day of our vacation.
While on the leeward side of the island, check out the Kohala coast and the most gorgeous beach on the island, Mauna Kea Hotel Beach, and a delightful beach for snorkeling, 69 Beach, both about 45 minutes drive north of Kona.
Kona is dry with lots of lava fields with amazing bougainvillea plants, and some lush landscaping in the tourist and residential areas, while Hilo is very lush and incredibly green. Sunny weather, a nice main strip with oceanfront cafes, and great snorkeling are the reasons to go to Kona and the Kohala Coast, whereas lush, gorgeous scenery, swims in natural seaside springs, and lovely mistings of rain are the reasons to go to Hilo. It's fun to stay in both towns for a few days each, and also check out Waimea on the drive across.
While the food at Huggo's on the Rocks is just average, you don't want to miss the wonderful experience of dining here! Come for lunch or an early dinner so that you can get one of the tables by the railing. The tables are situated in yellow sand, brought into the restaurant. Huggo's on the Rocks has a rare location directly on the ocean shore. Nowadays construction so close to the ocean is not allowed, but Huggo's on the Rocks secured its amazing location years ago, and you are the one to benefit!
Sit back in your chair, and listen to the ocean pounding against the rocks below. Watch snorkelers swim by in the perfect aquamarine water, and feel the wonderful sea breeze brush past your shoulders. Dining here is unforgettable.
After, walk north along Alii Drive, enjoying each new view of little beaches or the ocean crashing against rocky nooks.

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Photo Gallery

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Fishing near the pier.
Fishing near the pier.
Amazing views from Daylight Mind Coffee, which has a faster service coffee counter at the front.
Amazing views from Daylight Mind Coffee, which has a faster service coffee counter at the front.
Wonderful slanted palms, as seen from the waiter service patio of Daylight Mind Coffee.
Wonderful slanted palms, as seen from the waiter service patio of Daylight Mind Coffee.
Kona Haven Coffee, in a pretty development with yellow building and turquise roof.
Kona Haven Coffee, in a pretty development with yellow building and turquise roof.
Hulihe'e Palace in the evening.
Hulihe'e Palace in the evening.
Amazing tree and road curving around by the pier.
Amazing tree and road curving around by the pier.
Bougainvillea and lamppost.
Bougainvillea and lamppost.
Lamppost and amazing tree branch.
Lamppost and amazing tree branch.
I love this island-style view.
I love this island-style view.
Canoes on the beach by the pier.
Canoes on the beach by the pier.
Kamakahonu (King Kamehameha) Beach, and its hei'au on the water.
Kamakahonu (King Kamehameha) Beach, and its hei'au on the water.
I love this tree! Kona is like a smaller Waikiki.
I love this tree! Kona is like a smaller Waikiki.
I love the Norfolk pines and bougainvillea! Incredible amounts of bougainvillea!
I love the Norfolk pines and bougainvillea! Incredible amounts of bougainvillea!
The lava along the road in Kona. So strange!
The lava along the road in Kona. So strange!
Red ginger in Kona town.
Red ginger in Kona town.
Plumeria flowers!
Plumeria flowers!
Orange flowers, in August.
Orange flowers, in August.
Flowering tree.
Flowering tree.
Yellow hibiscus.
Yellow hibiscus.
Mokuaikaua Church, on Ali'i Drive.
Mokuaikaua Church, on Ali'i Drive.
Hulihe'e Palace.
Hulihe'e Palace.
Pink hibiscus flowers.
Pink hibiscus flowers.
Colorful entrance to Bubba Gump.
Colorful entrance to Bubba Gump.
Bubba Gump's location on the water!
Bubba Gump's location on the water!
Palm trees and strange white plants.
Palm trees and strange white plants.
Amazing sunset with foamy waves.
Amazing sunset with foamy waves.
The shopping center where Bubba Gump is located.
The shopping center where Bubba Gump is located.
Plumeria tree and Bubba Gump sign.
Plumeria tree and Bubba Gump sign.
View from Bubba Gump outdoor seating.
View from Bubba Gump outdoor seating.
Tiki torches on the water at Bubba Gump.
Tiki torches on the water at Bubba Gump.
Table on the water.
Table on the water.
Nightime view of Ali'i Drive, from Bubba Gump.
Nightime view of Ali'i Drive, from Bubba Gump.
Clear water and tiki torch.
Clear water and tiki torch.

Directions

The main strip of Kona is along Alii Drive between Kamakahonu Beach in the north and Huggo's on the Rocks in the south.
Huggo's on the Rocks, 75-5828 Kahakai Rd, Kailua-Kona HI 96740, call (808) 329-1493. Off Alii Drive in downtown Kona, near the Royal Kona Resort. There is usually a lunchwagon parked across the street. Park in the stalls along the road. Open for lunch and dinner. Happy hour is 3-5pm and often includes live music. Around $15 for a burger or tacos.
Bubba Gump, 75-5776 Ali'i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, call (808) 331-8442. Park in the stalls along the road, otherwise parking in the lot below is $5. Open for lunch and dinner. Around $15 for a pear, berry and chicken salad, or a pulled pork sandwich.

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Visitor Ratings

Overall Visitor Rating:


Sam K
07/07/2010 13:31
i love this place cant wait to come back again next summer!!!

Matt
10/06/2009 14:31
Great to see Huggo's good name being spread!

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Last Updated: Tue, 21 Aug 2018 12:32:38 GMT