Sunny Kailua-Kona is a busy seaside village consisting of many historic sites tucked among the open-air shops and oceanfront restaurants along the banyan-shaded Ali’i Drive. Kailua was once established as the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kamehameha I. Later the capital was moved to Lahaina then to Honolulu. Kona is home to the world-renowned Ironman Triathlon and big game fishing. Next to the active Kailua Pier with cruise ships, deep-sea fishing charters, sunset cruises and glass bottom tours, King Kamehameha I maintained his royal residence at Kamakahonu until his death in 1819. Ahu’ena Heiau is a thatched shrine guarded by sacred wooden images restored by King Kamehameha the Great in 1812 to honor the god Lono. Significant history was made on the royal compounds when Liholiho, who became King Kamehameha II, dined with the women breaking one of the most rigorous kapu. This bold act brought on the abandonment of the ancient kapu system and opened the door to Christianity.
Hawai’i’s oldest Christian church was originally a thatch hut built in 1820 when the missionaries arrived aboard the Thaddeus traveling over 18,000 miles from Boston. Moku’aikana Church was rebuilt in 1837 from an abandoned heiau made of lava and crushed coral. Across the street is Hulihe’e Palace, which once served as a vacation residence for Hawaiian royalty. Today it houses a collection of beautiful furniture and rare collections. Traveling south on Ali’i Drive, you will come upon some beautiful beaches to swim, snorkel and bask in the sunshine. Head up to Holualoa, a quaint little town surrounded by lush tropical foliage, and visit the art galleries, antique stores and charming boutiques. Just south of Kailua lies Keauhou, the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and home to important historical sites. Kuamo’s Battle Burial Grounds dates back to 1819 where an estimated 300 Hawaiians were killed and Ku’emanu Heiau is an ancient surfing temple next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
Kealakekua Bay, a marine reserve, offers outstanding snorkeling with a wide variety of colorful fish and spinner dolphins playing close to shore. Captain Cook’s Monument rises across the bay where he was killed in 1779. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, Place of Refuge, with its heiau and wooden images of Native Hawaiian gods makes this sacred spot a must-see. Beautiful landscapes captivate you in south Kona with splendid coastlines that hug the highway and charming little towns giving you glimpses of what life was like in Old Hawai’i. Cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa, the world-famous Kona coffee with its deliciously rich flavor, thrives in their perfect climate.
If you are seeking seclusion or tranquility, there is plenty just south of the Kona Coast in Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the U.S.
This is where the first Polynesians were thought to have landed around 400 A.D. Be inspired as Mark Twain was by the raw beauty of the Ka`u district with its breathtaking views of the coastline and catch an unforgettable sunset on one of the unique, beautiful black or green sand beaches. Mark Twain wrote about his journey through Ka`u as, “Portions of that little journey bloomed with beauty. Occasionally we entered small basins walled in with low cliffs, carpeted with greenest grass, and studded with shrubs and small trees whose foliage shone with an emerald brilliancy. One species, called the mamona [mamani], with its bright color, its delicate locust leaf, so free from decay or blemish of any kind, and its graceful shape, chained the eye with a sort of fascination. The rich verdant hue of these fairy parks was relieved and varied by the splendid carmine tassels of the ‘o’bia tree. Nothing was lacking but the fairies themselves.”