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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Hawaii
Sights to see & things to do

Hawaii, The Big Island--Kailua-Kona

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest island in the Pacific and is growing daily, thanks to Kilauea’s volcanic activity. With snow capped mountains, lava strewn deserts, rain forests, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, and multi-colored beaches, this is simply one of the most smashing places on earth. The Big Island is also a spiritual center to Hawaiians with numerous sacred heiaus, or ancient temples, and a pervading sense of “mana.”


Tendering ashore to Kailua Pier, passengers find themselves in the heart of Kailua-Kona.  Shore excursion buses and vans meet arrivals, automobile rentals are available, and independent tours can be arranged in advance. Helicopter tours are particularly popular, especially those that fly over Kilauea and the Volcanoes National Park. Only steps from the pier are two of the village’s major sights. To the right is Hulihee Palace, an improbable New England style mansion filled with memorabilia, which was the favorite summer residence of Hawaiian royalty since its construction in 1838. Follow the street to the left and pass the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel to reach Ahuena Heiau. This is the sacred ground established by King Kamehameha in 1812 after he conquered and united the islands and is where he died in 1819.

In the South Kona district, primary attractions are the Painted Church (the interior of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church is entirely painted in biblical scenes illustrating creation) and Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, a forbidding place also known as the Place of Refuge where defeated warriors and taboo violators found a haven. The archaeological site includes idols, canoes, and reconstructed huts.

Heading north of Kona, the Kohala Coast offers more sites important to Hawaiian history and culture. Aquaculture was practiced in Hawaii, as it was in Polynesia, and ancient Hawaiian fishponds can be viewed in the area of the Mauna Lani and Royal Waikoloan resorts. Near Kawaihae Harbor is Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, the seaside temple and amphitheater built by King Kamehameha I in 1790. Further north, the road ends just past Kapaau where the original King Kamehameha statue stands.

Take a side trip back to Kona on the Kohala Mountain Road through Waimea. This region is the home of the famous Parker Ranch and paniolos (Hawaii’s cowboys). On Highway 190 the Visitor’s Center houses the Parker Ranch Museum and two of the ranch’s historic homes are open for tours.

To many, Kona means coffee and sport fishing. Self-guided and organized tours of coffee growing country are popular and professional captains offer half day and full day big game fishing charters for a maximum of six fishermen. Golf and a variety of soft adventure activities can be arranged with advance planning.


You really don’t have to look hard for opportunities to spend money. Galleries, boutiques, and shops are everywhere. Look for locally made ceramics, fine art, posters, photographs, wood carvings, and Niihau shells in the galleries. You'll find aloha wear, jewelry, and gifts everywhere else. Don’t forget to pick up some Kona coffee to take home; it’s pricey but exquisite.


The Big Island doesn’t have many great beaches; instead it has a variety of unique ones. Many are new black sand beaches, unusual green sand beaches, and a rare white sand beach that routinely “disappears” during high tide and after storms.

In Kailua-Kona, the small beach in front of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel is within walking distance of the pier. Head south for White Sands Beach (also called Disappearing Beach) and Kahaluu Beach Park—with protected lagoons it’s the most popular family beach on the Kona Coast. Both beaches offer great snorkeling. 

At the very southern tip of the Big Island is Papakolea Beach, or Green Sand Beach—very difficult to get to and possibly even treacherous.

For swimming and sunning, venture north of Kona to the Kohala Coast and Kaunaoa Beach, Hapuna Beach, and Anaehoomalu Bay.

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