One of the best ways to survive an Idaho winter is to leave it and head for the tropics. Ian and I had been invited to stay at his parents’ condo in Kailua Kona on The Big Island Hawai’i and we were more than happy to thaw out in our old stomping grounds. Ian and I met each other in Hawaii and lived there with our son for 8 years before moving to Idaho.
The Royal Kona Resort offers Hawaiian music every Thursday from 5 to 7 PM for free to the public. Slack key guitar with a happy hour Mai Tai and a Kona sunset, pure Paradise. If you’re lucky you may see the ‘green flash’ as the sun dips below the horizon and lights up the ocean with a flash of emerald.
One of our all time favorite beaches on Hawai’i is Kua Bay on the West side of the island. When we lived here in the early 2000’s you could drive your 4×4 truck across a gnarly lava road and actually camp on this white sandy beach. These days it has a paved road that even the most timid rental car can drive on and freshwater spigots to wash off your sandy toes after a day of catching waves.
The waves at Kua Bay are perfect for body surfing and boogie boarding and there’s an OK spot for snorkeling on the right side. Sometimes the surf can get dangerously big so be aware of big surf notices. This beach can get pretty crowded and sometimes the wind picks up in the afternoon so head there as early as you can.
While visiting Kona be sure to check out the Kona Village Farmers Market right in the heart of downtown and open Wednesday through Sunday. A great place for fresh tropical fruits, veggies, flowers and souvenirs.
Kona Brewers Festival is an annual party for those who love tasting beer, wine, and cider while eating all you can and listening to live music. There’s even a trash fashion show where all the outlandish costumes are made entirely from recycled materials. TRAVEL TIP: tickets for this super fun event sell out quick so buy them early online.
A small sandy beach that is great for swimming, snorkeling and photo ops is Kamakahonu Beach, known by the locals as the King Kam. It’s situated in front of the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and has a view of King Kamehameha’s personal temple. This is a great spot for keikis (children) to play in mellow waters.
The best snorkel spot on the island is called Two Step because of the naturally formed flat “steps” that are used to get in and out of the water. Located on the South West side of the island in Honaunau and right next to The City of Refuge Park (Pu’uhonua O Honaunau) you can see plenty of tropical fish in the clear water. Just be careful not to step on a wana (sea urchin) or you’ll have to ask someone to pee on you.
Perhaps a bit less adventurous but super fun thing to do is to visit the sprawling, dramatic Waikoloa Beach Resort on the North West side of the island. You can ride a boat or tram around the beautifully landscaped grounds laden with art and wildlife. We stopped for lunch (and a Mai Tai) at The Lagoon Grill overlooking the saltwater lagoon where dolphins swim and you can watch participants in Dolphin Quest. At first I had some qualms about dolphins being kept in such a small area but it turns out they are let out every day and return of their own accord!
We had the amazing opportunity to go on a Manta Ray night snorkel cruise with an old friend on Torpedo Tours. I highly recommend braving the chilly water (they provide a wet suit) to see these magnificent cartilaginous fish do belly rolls beneath you just inches from your nose. The lights are provided by scuba divers below which draw the plankton that the Rays feed on each night. It’s a magical experience like no other!
We had an amazing time full of Aloha while on The Big Island and hope to return soon. Old friends made us feel right at home while warm breezes melted our chilly Idaho bones. Mahalo Nui Loa!