Hawaii Adventure - Big Island secrets
Kailua-Kona - Big Island Adventure GuideHawaii the Big Island Adventure Guide
King Kam Hotel - Kailua KonaKeauhou | Holualoa

Where to Shop

Kona Henna Studio/Paradise Hemp (Kona Marketplace, 329-2919 for Henna, 329-3002 for Hemp). Two cool businesses owned by a husband/wife team share a roof here. Kona Henna Studio is the place to see what you’d look like with a tattoo – but one that only lasts one to four weeks (and doesn’t involve needles). Two artists can apply beautiful designs to your skin using the natural plant dye from the leaves of the henna shrub, or you can buy a do-at-home henna kit. Paradise Hemp sells hemp clothing and bright umbrellas with dolphins and sunflowers. And no, hemp is not marijuana, it’s a fiber that could help end deforestation… but Shadow can tell you all about that. Open 11 am-8 pm Mon-Sat, noon-6 pm Sun (Paradise Hemp closes around 6 pm).

Big Island Running Company (75-5807 Alii Dr, Coconut Grove Market Place, 327-9333). Ironically next to a Dairy Queen and an Orange Julius, Big Island Running Company sells running shoes and accessories. Open 10 am-7 pm daily.

Hula Lamps of Hawaii (75-5599 Luhia St, 326-9583, toll free 800-421-5931, www.hulalamps.com). Artist and owner Charles Moore has turned the ever-so-kitschy hula lamp into an art form at Hula Lamps of Hawaii. Recreating the vintage hula lamps of the 1940s, the ones with hula dancers shaking their hips, Moore uses bronze to create high-end hula lamps sometimes costing thousands of dollars, crowned by lampshades decorated with palm trees. His models hold graceful poses representing different virtues, such as akahai (kindness to be expressed with tenderness). He also sells stationary lamps, statues and fountains. You’ll see his craftsmanship well-represented in resorts and vacation homes in South Kohala. Open 10 am-5 pm Mon-Fri, until 4 pm Sat, by appt. Sun.


New Year’s Eve (December 31) is literally a blast in Kailua- Kona – it’s all about the fireworks. They are sold cheap in the box stores like Wal-Mart, and larger-caliber explosives are sold illegally by enterprising locals. Then they are shot off before and after midnight, often traumatizing the local cat population. People line the Alii strip, waiting for the official fireworks at midnight, shot from a barge over the ocean in a spectacular show that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Aside from the obvious reasons not to drive on New Year’s Eve – what with the drinking and driving issues compounded by police checkpoints – some locals like to shoot fireworks at cars, or leave them in the road and explode them as one comes around a turn. Stay in town and walk from Alii if you can, or take a taxi. The upstairs bar at Lulu’s is a great vantage point for the festivities, and they give out horns and New Years tiaras with the cover charge ($10). Alternately, families will enjoy the alcohol- , smoke- , and drug-free events at Coconut Grove, hosted by the Christian University of the Nations, with bands and skits by talking mimes (OK, maybe you won’t like the talking mimes, but the keiki (children) seem to like them.) One way or another, nothing fills you with optimism like starting the New Year in Hawaii!

“No poem was ever written by a drinker of water.” – Horace

The annual Kona Brewers Festival (331-3033, www. konabrewersfestival.com) is a must for beer lovers – 30 craft breweries pouring beer, chefs from 25 Hawaiian restaurants serving gourmet food, a homebrew contest, live music, and a “trash fashion show” to promote recycling. Best of all, the indulgence is guilt-free because proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations working for environmental and children’s issues. Tickets go on sale mid-February for the March event, so plan ahead because the $40 tickets always sell out and you can’t get them at the door (though there are always a few scalpers). Buyer beware: the admission price gets you a bracelet with eight beer tickets on it – if you want to sample more than eight craft brews (isn’t that the point?), you have to buy more tickets for $1 a pop. Still, it’s a great day all around.

The event takes place at the luau grounds at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel for four hoppy hours. Kamakahonu Bay, next to the Kailua Pier, is a little swath of beach in the heart of town. The Ahu`ena Heiau is in plain view, a reminder that King Kamehameha the Great used to live here. More recently, it’s where local families used to picnic and play after church on Sundays, until the 5 o’clock bell at Moku`aikaua Church signaled that it was time to head home. Now the locals are joined by guests at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Atlantis Submarines (329-6626, www.atlantisadventures.com). Submarine tours with Atlantis are good for kids and people who don’t snorkel or dive – it’s a way to drop to 100 feet below sea level without getting wet. There’s a theme park vibe to the excursion – guides snap photos of guests posing with a life preserver on the pier before they leave (for sale at the end of the tour, of course), and the submarine is air-conditioned and plays Enya music.

Aboat shuttles up to 48 people from Kailua Pier to the 65-foot sub. As always, it’s nice to be out on the water, though you might find yourself appreciating the fresh air more than usual. There’s a safety briefing where things like air canisters are explained, but the guide reassures passengers that they’ve never had an accident in over 17 years of operation (there are also Atlantis subs on Maui and O`ahu). Then guests descend a ladder into the submarine for the half-hour tour. Though there are large portholes for every two people, the seats – plastic indentations – are only a little over a foot wide, so there’s a lot of flesh-pressing going on, a chance to experience the American obesity epidemic first-hand. (One woman refused to sit in her seat because she just couldn’t fit – she balanced on the ledge next to the window.) The narrator does a good job of pointing out different types of fish and coral, and describing undersea behavior.

Tours leave daily at 10 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm and sometimes 2:30 pm; they cost $84 for adults or $42 for children 12 and under. Children must be at least 36 inches tall. Be sure to call and make reservations, as the boats often run at capacity.

Adventure Rentals

Snorkel Depot (75-5703 Alii Dr, 334-1919). Located on Alii Drive by yet another ABC store, Snorkel Depot has snorkel gear rentals, sometimes as low as $3/day, boogie boards for $10, shortboards for $15, longboards for $20, kayaks for $40, bikes for $10, and even some golf clubs for $10. They also rent beach supplies like coolers ($2) and beach chairs ($3), and sell sandals, rash guards and snorkel gear. Open 8 am-6:30 pm daily.

Dave’s Bikes (Kona Square, 329-4522). Dave is a gregarious triathlete who’s raced in the Iron Man three times. He rents mountain bikes and beach cruisers for $15/day or $60/ week, and road bikes for $25/day or $150/week. Rates include lock, cable, and helmet, though he prefers riders to bring their own helmets, shoes and pedals (he has some pedals for those who don’t). Bike delivery is negotiable. Open 7 am-4 pm Mon- Fri, 7 am-1 pm Sat-Sun.

Hawaiian Pedals (Kona Inn Shopping Center, 329-2294, www.hawaiianpedals.com). This professional bike shop rents basic mountain bikes and hybrid bikes for $15 for five hours or $20 for 24 hours, with discounts that get bigger the longer you rent the bike (a week is $9 a day). They also rent bike racks for $5 day, and sell swim, bike, and running accessories, from clothing to shoes and sunglasses. Open 9 am-9 pm daily.

Island Divers (75-5467 Kaiwi St, 329-6068, toll free 488-6068, www.bigislanddivers.com). Located in the Old Industrial Area, Big Island Divers has a large dive shop with gear for sale and ffor rent, as well as boat trips for open water (two tanks $109, three tanks, longer range, advanced dive to Au`au Canyon $195, gear $25; mask, fins and snorkel $8) and manta ray night dives ($100, gear $20; mask, fins and snorkel $8). Snorkelers for the manta ray dive are $90. Trips include beverages, snacks, and a solar shower. They also offer cert classes. Open 8 am-6 pm daily.

Where to Stay

Hale Kona Kai (75-5870 Kahakai Rd, 329-2155, toll free 800-421-3696, 39 rooms, 18 of which are managed by Triad Management, $120-$150). Hale Kona Kai, or “House by the Sea,” is a condo complex with cute one-bedrooms, each designed by their individual owners. All of them have full kitchens, oceanfront lanais, A/C and big windows with great views of the ocean. The location near Huggo’s is ideal for walking to town. Maid service is available on request. The front desk area has a lending library, and the pool is on the water. Each floor has a laundry room. The property is closer to the water than Alii Drive, so it has less traffic noise, too. $$- $$$

Kona Reef (75-5888 Alii Dr, 329-2959, www.castleresorts.com, 129 units, $240-$650). There’s a bit of variety between the condos at Kona Reef, 54 of which are managed by Castle Resorts and run hotel-style. Individual owners decorate according to their own sense of style, and rooms range from spacious one- to three-bedroom suites, some of which are ocean-front. All rooms have A/C, cable TV, full kitchens, washer/dryers and lanais. There is a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and BBQs, too, but no central atrium or lobby area – the front desk is a small room in the front of the property. The prices here are high. The property is adjacent to a small beach park. $$$-$$$$

Where to Eat

Durty Jake’s Café & Bar (75-7366 Alii Dr, 329-7366, www.dirtyjakes.com – yes, with an “i”). Perhaps Durty Jake’s best feature is the lanai facing Alii Drive, which makes for great people-watching while sharing a pitcher of local beer. We like to slip over here if there’s a long wait for a table at Huggo’s, because the drinks are much more reasonably priced. We also like that they serve breakfast until noon, though $10 for an omelette and $2.50 for a side of toast seems a tad hefty considering the decent but not overwhelming quality of the food; alcoholic beverages are the only deal here. Durty Jake’s also serves burgers, salads and fried fish. Open for breakfast 7 am-noon, lunch 11 am-10 pm. $$

Royal Jade Garden (75-5593 Palani Road, Lanihau Center, 326-7288, www.lanihau.com). This is probably Kona’s favorite Chinese restaurant and certainly ours. It isn’t fancy, but it has those noodles, egg rolls, soups and other Cantonese and Mandarin fare that we love so much. This is a great place to eat family-style, sharing a number of dishes like vegetable black bean chow mein, kung pau chicken, and fried rice. Or you can select items at the counter buffet – four choices and rice or noodles is only $8.75 (as with most buffets, the food isn’t as fresh as if you order off the menu). There’s a full bar, too. Open daily 10:30 am-9 pm. $$

Kahuna Joe’s (75-5799 Alii Dr, 327-3456). Kahuna Joe’s is your pizza delivery option in Kailua-Kona (aside from a certain chain). Decent pizzas are 12, 16 or 18 inches and are improved if you pop them in the oven when they get to you. It sometimes amazes us when we have to wait an hour to get our pizza, and it’s still undercooked. The crust is nothing special, but the cheese and other ingredients are higher quality than chain pizza joints, so it’s something of a toss-up. They also offer sandwiches and subs, salads with homemade dressing, wings, artichoke dip and pasta dishes. Delivery is free with a $15 minimum, usually available until 8:30 pm, but don’t count on it. There are some tables at the shop as well. Open 10 am-9 pm daily. $$

Torchy’s (75-5699 Alii Dr, 334-0414). Guess what? Torchy’s ambiance is largely generated by tiki torches, the light of which is reflected in the red baubles suspended from its ceiling. Torchy’s is a newish kid on the block, opening in late 2005, with fine dining prices for a small but delectable Mediterranean-inspired menu. They serve cioppino, a seafood stew, as well as standards like lobster, Angus rib eye, rack of lamb and fresh fish. The bar area is pretty swanky, with couches and art and dim lighting. Open for Happy Hour and pupus 2:30-5:30 pm, dinner 5:30-9:30 pm, cocktails and late menu 9:30-close. $$$$

Buns in the Sun (75-5595 Palani Rd, Lanihau Center, 326-2774), Sure, this counter-service joint is in one of the busiest strip malls in town, but locals and return visitors know that yummy, affordable grinds can be had at Buns in the Sun. It looks like a simple bakery, but don’t let all those sweets and baked goodies fool you; there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. The full menu includes breakfast burritos, plate lunches, cheesesteaks, soups, salads and such delicacies as spicy blackened ono and kalua pig. We enjoy starting the day here, with a breakfast sandwich and a cup of good joe. Open 5 am-4 pm Mon-Fri, and 5 am-3 pm Sat-Sun. $-$$

Tacos El Unico (75-5725 Alii Dr,326-4033). If you're always complaining that you can’t find authentic Mexican food, go straight to Tacos El Unico, where Flaco and Lupe serve gringo favorites like enchiladas, tacos and burritos as well as Mexican favorites like caldo de res and chilaquiles, and drinks like Horchata. There is pozole and menudo on weekends. Fanatics can get huevos rancheros and other dishes for breakfast. Dining is out on a patio with umbrellas covering tables. No alcohol served. They also cater and will deliver within a two-mile radius. Open 8 am-10 pm daily. $-$$

Beach Dog Internet Café ( 329-4114). Tucked in a corner across from the Kailua Pier, Beach Dog has a few computers where you can “surf in style,” while you wait for smoothies, shave ice, ice cream shakes, 100% Kona coffee espresso drinks (they have an extensive menu of original concoctions), sandwiches made with Hawaiian sweet bread, bagels, tortillas or whole grain bread, corn dogs, saimin, or pizza slices. It’s a tiny place and a nice budget option if you need a snack. Open for breakfast too, with waffles, eggs and breakfast bagel sandwiches. Open 6 am-8 pm, closed some Sundays. $

Hayashi’s (75-5725 Alii Dr, Kona Marketplace, 326-1322). Locals will stand around waiting for a half-hour during the lunch rush for the inexpensive, delicious take-out sushi at Hayashi’s. The little sushi shop is virtually hidden in the back of Kona Marketplace, but locals have caught on to the “you make the roll” place where you can select three ingredients for eight pieces of sushi at only $3.50. Miso soup is a buck. Sushi pizza, which some consider a stroke of brilliance, starts at $5. There are several tables outside the store crammed with happy people amazed at finding a bargain eatery on the Alii Strip. Open 11 am-7 pm Mon-Fri, 11 am-4 pm Sat. $

Bitchin’ Burritos (Coconut Grove, 331-8383) is a “burrito log” take-out place next to the volleyball courts at Coconut Grove, an ideal spot for a quick, cheap meal. With fish tacos and burrito fillings like kalua pork, carne asada, ground beef, fresh salsas, rice and black or pinto beans, you’ll be able to fill up for around $5. Sides like guacamole are $1, and all prices include tax. That alone earns them the right to call themselves “bitchin.” Open for lunch 11 am-3 pm, dinner 4:30 pm to “as late as makes sense” daily. $


Fun Factory (Kona Inn Shopping Village, 334-1578) is a fairly typical arcade on the Alii strip, with arcade games, skee ball, air hockey, those claws that never seem to catch onto the prize you want, slot machines (!) and tickets you can win and exchange for prizes. Open 10 am-10 pm Sun-Thurs, 10 am-midnight Fri-Sat.


Where to Eat

The Royal Thai Café (322-THAI) has a pretty solid reputation for reliable Thai food. The spring rolls are great – but it is hard to screw up spring rolls. The curry isn’t sublime, but it can scratch an itch. The biggest issue is whether or not your server hates you – we’ve had happy ones joking, “Grape juice!” when they deliver our wine, and sullen ones sniping “Hurry up before we close the kitchen” well before closing time. Thailand is called “the land of smile” – maybe she left it there. Open 11 am-2:30 pm and 4-9 pm Mon-Fri, 2-9 pm Sat. $$

Peaberry and Galette (322-6020, www.peaberryandgalette.com). With comfy chairs, a chic, urban atmosphere and unique cuisine, this exactly the kind of place that we don’t see a lot of in Kona. They offer crepes, an interesting selection of sandwiches and an array of desserts. Open 9:30 am- 8 pm Mon-Fri, 9:30 am-10 pm Sat, and 9:30 am-6 pm Sun. $- $$


Crystal Blue (930-4900) is an oceanfront bar located in the Sheraton at the mouth of Keahou Bay, where there’s live music most nights (sometimes involving a synthesizer and a drum machine). You can sit at the bar or on cushioned chairs and couches in this breezy lounge, sipping a mai tai and snacking on pupus like edamame, satay skewers, pizza or dim sum. This is a terrific sunset spot, and you can watch dive boats gathering in the water right off the Sheraton, waiting for darkness so that they can take people on the manta ray night dive. After sunset, you can also check out the manta rays at the adjacent viewing area, where the Sheraton shines lights into the ocean to attract the plankton that the manta rays eat. Open 5:30-11 pm, with food service 6-9:30 pm and live music 6-10 pm.


Where to Shop

Hawaii Colors Fine Art Gallery (75-5936 Mamalahoa Hwy, 324-1590) showcases some of the colorful, impressionistic oil paintings of Darrell Hill – though much of his collection is sold in the various locations of Lahaina Galleries in Hawaii and on the mainland. Hill and his wife Pat (a lovely lady you’ll probably meet if you stop by) are residents of Holualoa and live behind the gallery. The shop also has candles, Hawaiian floral soaps, and tiles.

Kona Art Gallery (Mamalahoa Hwy, 322-5125 or 325- 7489, www.blessingways.net) features such unique art as meditation rattles, custom-made drums and shaman sticks. The items display an overriding Southwestern style, and some add Hawaiian petroglyph motifs in a rare fusion of influences. The store also offers photos, cards and funky jewelry.

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