Our Top 10 Destination Recommendations
Here are our favourite things to see and do in Destination.
Some are well know, some not so well known. Have a look around as we have included photos, videos, information and links.
They are in no particular order.
1. Snorkeling at : Kahalu’u Beach Park
Also known as Snorkel Beach. Snorkeling is a favorite activity of ours and one of the easiest places to go to is Kahalu’u Beach Park only a mile from our condo. There is good parking here although it can get crowded especially on the weekends. Go early if you can. There are several amenities such as beach rental, shower rooms, picnic pavilion, and most importantly lifeguards! The best thing about this snorkeling area though is that the waters are protected by a reef, the waters are shallow and there are lots of fish and often turtles to watch. We try to keep some snorkeling sets for your use in the hall closet, as well as beach chairs, and a cooler for you to use.
If you enjoy snorkeling there are other ways and places to take advantage of this sport. 2-Step Beach near the Place of Refuge also has some amazing snorkeling although I found it a little harder to enter and exit the water. We sometimes will book one of the many snorkeling boat trips which are always great fun.
2. Downtown Kona/ Historic Kailua Village
I love the ambience of Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona). It is delightful seaside village filled with lots of shops, galleries, restaurants and a comfortable place to walk. It is about 4 miles to the north on Alii Drive and can also be reached with the hourly Trolley which stops close to the condo.
A farmers market is next to the library. Hulihee Palace and the Mokuaikaua Church are both located right on Alii Drive and the starting point of the Ironman World championship starts right at Kailua Pier. Watch the sunset from the seawall or have a drink or dinner at the Kona Inn while watching the sunset.
3. Coffee Bar: Kona Joe's
Generally I find vacationing in warm climates to have a very limited Coffee culture. (In Particular Florida!). But Hawaii has many wonderful places to sip a cup of coffee. I think this is probably due to the fact that some of the best coffee in the world is grown here: Kona Coffee. (Try samples to see for yourself at any of the local farmers markets. I am sure, if you like coffee, you will want to take a bag or 2 home!).
Kona Joe is my favorite place to relax with a cup of coffee though because of the unbeatable 180 degree view of the coastline from their open air coffee bar. (It is actually a coffee farm with a unique way of growing coffee on trellises modeled after grape vines used for wine production.They also have tours and a small gift shop. The baristas are usually interns from various countries learning about coffee growing and are fun to chat with.
Some of the other coffee shops I like to frequent are Daylight Mind (in Kona center and other locations) , Pink Mocha Cafe 73-4976 Kamau Street Suite 101, (near Costco), and Kona Mountain Coffee. There are of course several Starbuck locations including 1 in Target. Another favorite is just drinking some coffee we brew from local Kona Coffee and relaxing on our lanai before heading out to another exciting adventure around the island!
4. Cultural Center: Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park of Hawaii:
AKA Place of Refuge. A Hawaiian sacred site. Here you will see the royal grounds and the sanctuary where those who had broken the Laws, or Kapu, and who made it to the sanctuary, could be spared.
You will see many ki’i (carved wooden images). Footpaths take you past Hawaiian temples and other ancient structures. This was also was the original seat of the chiefdom of Kona and the ancestral home of the Kamehameha dynasty.
5. Star gazing at Mauna Kea
The world’s clearest stargazing is here and this is Hawaiʻi’s most sacred location. The 13,780 foot (4,200 meter) high summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii houses the world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy.
The observatories are not open to the public for star gazing but you can look at the stars at the visitors center. If you are planning to visit the summit, it is highly recommend that you stop at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft to receive a current weather update, safety information, and to adjust to the change in altitude. To travel the summit past the visitor canter you will need a 4 wheel vehicle. But the visitors center is equipped for visitors and has a free Star Gazing program on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm, weather permitting, with Interpretive Guides and Maunakea Rangers to answer questions. They have telescopes you can look through, and temperatures are much warmer than at the summit.
6. Favorite Free Hula Show is at the Shops at Mauna Lani.
I love all 3 free Hula shows that I detail on the “Unique Culture Page” but if I could see only one this would be it. It is a long drive from the condo though (about 45 minutes) so best if you combine this with another activity such as one of the beaches in the area. This show seems a little more “professional” than the other 2 and the fire dance is spectacular. Another advantage is that it is on 2 nights of the week: Monday and Thursday.
The other 2 shows that we go to are at Keauhou Shopping Center only a mile and a half from My Dolphin Cove Condo (See further information on this page and on the link below. ) Also the one at the Queens Shops is very good.
7. Keauhou Shopping Center
A friendly neighborhood shopping center located at 78-6831 Ali’i Drive.This is only about a mile and a half south of “My Dolphin Cove”, our condo. It has so much to offer locals and visitors alike.
The Free Hula show every Friday night is worth as least one evening of your time. There are several restaurants, a movie theater, coffee shop, post office, Longs Drug Store, many specialty shops, and KTA: a local Grocery store worth visiting. KTA usually has hot local foods for take home meals. A small local farmers market is here on Saturday morning.
8. Favorite day trip: Drive to Hilo
This will be a full day adventure. Occasionally I like to take an extra day and spend a night at a bed and breakfast there to give us extra time to enjoy the activities there. Hilo is very different from the Kona side. It is on the wet side of the island and is very lush. The botanical gardens, and waterfalls are in this area. It has the feel of “Old Hawaii” and is where many locals live. Consider visiting the Pacific Tsunami Museum, Imiloa Astronomy Center, Liliuokalani Gardens, the 422 ft tall ‘Akaka’ falls, Rainbow Falls, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, or The World Botanical Gardens. There is also a very good farmers market on Sat and Wed filled with local produce, food and crafts.
There are 3 main ways to drive to Hilo. Driving North, driving South, and the shortest is the saddleback road. Our favorite road trip (although this makes for a very long day) is to travel north along Highway 19 going through Waimea and the lush, undeveloped Hamakua Coast, stopping at the Waipio overlook. At mile marker 43, for a local snack, try a malasada from Tex Drive-In. Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls are located off the main highway between mile markers 14 and 13. To drive the “Four Mile Scenic Drive” located off the main highway turn between mile markers 11 and 10. Turn left, towards the ocean, at Kulaimano Road. Four Mile Scenic Drive will connect back to Highway 19 at the end.
When leaving Hilo you can continue your drive around the island on Highway 11 for about 45 minutes to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
A stop at the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, the largest and most accessible black sand beach on the Big Island (Located off Hwy 11south of Volcanoes National Park between the towns of Pahala and Na’alehu) to see the turtles is always a highlight, although this works best when the direction of the trip is reversed. When going in this direction a good snack shop is the Punalu’u Bake Shop & Visitor Center for free samples of their famous Hawaiian Sweetbread.)
Please note that not all stops can be made on a one day trip so choose the places that appeal to you. If you plan to spend a lot of time in Hilo or are traveling with children it is probably best to just take the shortest route. A few of these places can be seen as their own day trip from Kona such as Waimea and Waipio overlook or Volcanos National Park.
9. Farmers Markets: Kona Village Farmers Market.
Hawaii is home to many farmers markets. They are great places to buy directly from the farmers for fresh produce, locally prepared food for lunch or dinner, meat, breads, and crafts. Most are open only once or twice a week but on any given day there should be at least one open market. I have listed the Kona Village Farmers Market as my top choice because it is open on more days (Thursday to Sunday) and it is quite conveniently located next to the library in Kailua-Kona.
There are several food stalls located near the entrance that have fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, at prices usually much lower than the supper markets. I make it a point to buy most of my fresh produce here and supplement from other markets as much as possible. There are also stalls with jewelry, crafts and of course Kona Coffee.
IIwill be the first to admit I don’t know a lot about golf except that there are many extraordinary courses here and the weather is fantastic! Golf courses range from championship resort courses to unique upcountry links and homey municipal clubs. Most have magnificent views making it one of the most scenic golf venues in the world.
Top courses include: Hapuna Golf Course, at Mauna Kea Resort, and Mauna Kea Golf Course ranked by Golf Advisor as one of the best golf resorts in North America. Other places to consider are : Mauna Lani North and South courses. And upland golf options are The Big Island Country Club, and Makalei Golf Club is 2,500 feet up the slopes of Hualalai Mountain above the Keahole-Kona airport in a magnificent ʻohiʻa forest. Also consider The Waikoloa Village Golf Course or Kona Country Club. Looking for a cheeper option? Checkout the 9-hole Hamakua Country Club in Honokaʻa has the best green fees on the island.
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