Kailua Kona is referred to both as “Kailua” and “Kona” by locals. The weather on this side of the Big Island is almost always dry and sunny and there are many white sand beaches perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling and swimming that are easy to reach from Kona.
Kailua Kona is located where the western slopes of the Hualālai volcano meet the ocean. North of the city were the weather gets dryer you can find gorgeous beaches, the resort coast, and world- famous golf courses. South of Kona you can find our favorite snorkeling spots. The climate here is more humid and perfect for lush forests and for growing the world-famous Kona coffee.
Kailua Kona: the sunny outdoors capital of the Big Island
The west coast of Hawaii is known as the “Kona Side” and Kailua-Kona is the lively center of it all. This historic seaside town sits in the middle of the Kona coast, a few miles south of the Kona International Airport (KOA). Not too long ago Kona was a sleepy fishing village. Now, because of its central location and great weather it has transformed into a lively town that is the activity capital of the Big Island. It is the city on the Big Island that is best equipped for tourism.
There are many shops and farmers markets selling locally produced items and there is a good offering of restaurants. This makes Kona a good and central home base to explore the west coast of the island. Relax and look at the waves crashing over the black lava rocks while sipping from a cup of the world-famous Kona coffee, or have some freshly caught ahi (tuna) while recovering from your busy day.
The Weather in Kailua Kona:
Kona lies on the leeward side of the Big Island, which means that weather here is in general excellent: sunny and dry. You can find pleasant temperatures year round, with sunny mornings, overcast afternoons and an occasional afternoon shower.
If you want to know more about the weather in Kona have a look at our monthly average weather guide for Kona from which we have taken the illustration below. At that page you can find in-depth information about the average temperature, the number of hours of sunshine, the amount of cloudy days, and the amount of rain in Kona and the surroundings.
Things to do in Kona
Kona is the hot spot for sunny outdoor adventures here on the Big Island. There are bucket-list activities all over the Kona coast (see e.g. our 5 favorite highlights in Kona), but you definitely also spend some time in the heart of Kona, Ali’i drive:
While spending time in Kona you could try some of the following:
- Get up early to do some sunrise snorkeling at King Kam beach in central Kona on Ali’i drive. Already been there? Go to one of the many other good places to snorkel close to Kona.
- Take an afternoon stroll over the “see-and-be-seen” Ali’i Drive. You can end your walk at the Kailua pier or at any of the restaurants along the seaside to watch the sunset. Try out a local favorite, the Mai-Tai, or one of the many local specialties, such as the Kona Brewing Company’s handcrafted ales?
Outside the Kona city limits you can find many beautiful beaches, interesting historical sites, and countless places to go play outside. Have you already heard about the Manta Ray night dive? About the local seahorse farm, or about the lush coffee country (coffee tours!), botanical gardens, and national parks on the Kona coast?
Read a complete list of things to do in and around Kona in our “activities in Kona” guide.
Shopping in Kona:
The Big Island is not the best place in the state to go on a shopping spree. Our population is simply to low: we have less than 20% of the inhabitants of Oahu (198,449 vs 992,605 in 2017, source). Having said that, Kona is the best place to go shopping for souvenirs while you are on the Big Island because of the many cruise ships stopping by and because of it’s role as tourist-capital of the island.
The best place to look for shops is Ali’i drive. There are many shops selling everything from cheap souvenirs and t-shirts to expensive jewelry, locally made art, and anything in between. Most shops are located on the 1-mile stretch going south from the pier in Kailua bay to the Royal Kona Resort.
Further inland you can find some smaller shopping centers and there is a Costco close to the Kona airport.
Kona truly is a small piece of paradise and your largest concern likely is getting a sunburn. The weather is often warm and sunny, so do not forget to wear plenty of sunscreen. If you venture out to one of the many beaches or hikes, remember to take plenty of water.
Parking in Kona
It can be difficult to find good parking spots close to the water because Kona has grown so much in the last decades. However, Kona is not a big town and if you don’t mind walking a bit it is straightforward to find a good place for your car.
There are several parking lots (some free, other require a small fee) between Ali’i drive and the Kuakini Hwy (one street up). Drive around to find them, ask ahead of time to the concierge at your hotel or have a look at what your navigation app has to offer.
Directions to Kailua Kona:
Kailua Kona is the landing place for most visitors to the Big Island through the Kona International Airport. The airport is a 15 minute drive (without traffic) away from the city center. Hilo (driving distance: 86 miles, driving time: 2 hr 20 min), Waimea (driving distance: 40 miles, driving time: 1 hr 10 minutes), and Volcano Village (driving distance: 95 miles, driving time: 2 hr 15 min) are all easily reachable by car.
The public transport service the hele-on bus can take you from Kona all over the island if you are not in a rush.
Interactive Map of Kailua Kona
We have added what we think are the most important stops and activities in and around Kona on an interactive map. This map lists our highlights for the 40+ mile stretch of coast between Captain Cook and the Waikoloa resorts. Click any icon to find more information about that local activity, shop, or hotel/vacation rental.
Are you looking for the map of another part of the Big Island? We also have interactive maps of: