Big Island: Places to Explore

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Kailua-Kona

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A fun and bustling seaside town, Kailua-Kona has the souvenir shops and open-air restaurants you'd expect in a major tourist hub, with the added bonus of a surprising number of historic sites. Except for the rare deluge, the sun shines year-round. Mornings offer cooler weather, smaller crowds, and more birds singing in the banyan trees; you'll see tourists and locals out running on Alii Drive, the town's main drag, by about 5 am every day. Afternoons sometimes bring clouds and drizzly rain, but evenings are great for cool drinks, brilliant sunsets, and lazy hours spent gazing out over the ocean. Though there are better beaches north of the town on the Kohala Coast, Kailua-Kona is home to a few gems, including a fantastic snorkeling beach (Kahaluu) and a tranquil bay perfect for kids (Kamakahonu Beach, in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel).

Scattered among the shops, restaurants, and condo complexes of Alii Drive are the replica of the homestead where King Kamehameha I spent his last days (he died here in 1819), the last royal palace in the U.S. (Hulihee Palace), and a battleground dotted with the graves of ancient Hawaiians who fought for their land and lost. It was also here in Kailua-Kona that Kamehameha's successor, King Liholiho, broke and officially abolished the ancient kapu (roughly translated as "forbidden," it was the name for the strict code of conduct islanders were compelled to follow) system by publicly sitting and eating with women. The following year, on April 4, 1820, the first Christian missionaries came ashore here, changing the islands forever.

Kailua-Kona at a Glance

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