How to Spend 24 Hours in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi Island
Everything you need to know about exploring the west side of Hawaiʻi Island.
While the west side is arguably the most popular Hawaiʻi Island destination, it is most certainly the driest side. Here, you can find long stretches of barren lava rock formations, relatively uncrowded beaches, world-renowned Kona coffee—on nearly every corner!—and plenty of marine life. This itinerary takes you a bit beyond the main visitor hub of Kailua-Kona, so you’ll need to rent a car for this jam-packed day of adventuring.
(Scroll to the bottom to find the link to our digital issue, where you can download, print or save this itinerary to your smartphone.)
A proper start to a day in Hawai‘i begins with Kona coffee and Spam. Head to HiCO Hawaiian Coffee (hicohawaiiancoffee.com), a trendy new coffee joint in the up-and-coming Brewery Block of downtown Kona for a loaded Spam musubi and an ube latte.
Hit the trail! Makāula ‘O‘oma Trail in the Honua‘ula Forest Reserve takes hikers on a journey through the cloud forest of the dormant Hualālai volcano, located just up the hill from Kona proper. Whether you’re in for the short loop (1 mile) or the long loop (2.3 miles), this trail is perfect for novice and expert hikers alike. Street parking is free near the trailhead, but remember to be respectful of those living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Cool off and brush up on your Hawaiian history at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, where you can see ancient fishponds and petroglyphs on the short walk to the beach. The small protected bay is ideal for swimming—and it’s likely you’ll spot a honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtle, catching some rays along the shore (be sure to stay at least 10 feet away!). If you want to skip the walk from the visitor’s center and just go to the beach, you can park in the Honokōhau Harbor parking lot.
Foster’s Kitchen (fosterskitchen.com) on Ali‘i Drive serves up some of the best views of Kailua Bay and American-style cuisine on the island. With locally sourced ingredients in mind, Foster’s has something on the menu for everyone, from salads to burgers and even a unique selection of flatbreads.
Head up the Kohala Coast to spend the afternoon at iconic Hāpuna Beach, one of the longest white sand beaches on the island. The inviting sandy coastline is great for swimming, snorkeling and bodyboarding. West-facing Hāpuna Beach is also a good place to watch the sunset—you’ll have an unobstructed view of the sun dipping below the horizon. Don’t forget to pack your reef-safe sunscreen and a lightweight jacket for after the sun goes down! Parking is $5.
After a full day in the sun, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Call ahead and make reservations for Pueo’s Osteria (pueososteria.com), a locally owned authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Waikoloa Village. There, you’ll find a wine list longer than the menu and mouthwatering pasta made in-house.
If you’re up for a late-night snorkeling adventure, you can’t leave Hawai‘i Island without swimming with manta rays. Hop aboard Kona Style (konasnorkelandsail.com) for a nightcap under the stars among some of the ocean’s most gentle giants.
This story was published in our September/October 2021 digital issue. Read it here.