A Beginner’s Kona Guide

By: Brian Berusch

January 27, 2014

Waipio Valley view in Hawaii

It is with very good reason that Hawaii Island””sometimes referred to as “The Big Island” by locals””earned its nickname. At more than 4,000 square miles, the other inhabited land masses of Hawaii pale in size comparison. With more land mass comes more diverse geography than any other isle””it’s been said that nine of the world’s 12 climate zones can be found somewhere here.

Mauna Kea snow | A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Island

Snow on Mauna Kea © Kirk Aeder/HTA

And yet somehow driving from the snow-capped peaks of Mauna Kea to the lush, tropical jungles of the Hamakua Coast or the arid desert-like climes of Kohala isn’t the number one activity on Hawaii Island. Entering Volcanoes National Park to see the gurgling, molten orange lava up close and personal earns that honour.

Halemaumau Crater | A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Island

Haleman crater at the Volcano National Park © Tor Johnson/HTA

Hawaii Island has a habit of attracting repeat visitors, or at least, those who have been to other islands in the chain before. The diverse activities, sheer range of places to bed down (no other island offers as many inns, B&Bs and farm stays, as well as luxury hotels) and opportunity to enjoy roads less travelled draw in those with a long list of adventures that need to be checked off the bucket list before flying home.

Kailua-Kona town is certainly the top destination on the island, and home to the larger of two airports (the other being in sleepy Hilo), an industrial park, a dozen expansive resorts with monikers that represent some of the biggest hotel brands in the world, a natural energies laboratory and science park (where scientists from all over the globe are vying to create the next sustainable energy form) and a downtown “strip” that satisfies the throngs of tourists that come to buy trinkets, eat island fare and visit local watering holes – some of which brew local beer.

Kona plays host to a number of world-class events throughout the year including a gruelling display of man pushing himself to the limit (otherwise known as the Kona Ironman), high-profile golf events, the Kona Brewers Festival, and the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, which celebrates all-things-caffeinated. Visitors truly won’t want to miss anything on our Kona guide!

Kona Ironman Bikers | A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Island

Ironman bikers © Kirk Aeder/HTA

Kona is surrounded by the highlands of Mt. Hualalai and its coffee growing region, which follows Mamalahoa Highway into picturesque countryside dotted with spectacular farms. Most are small growers but the quality of coffee harvested in the only locale in North America has truly taken a leap in the last decade, with samples beating world-renowned growing regions in blind tastings elsewhere in the globe.

Coffee Cherries | A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Island

Coffee cherries © Tor Johnson/HTA

The ocean waters off Hawaii Island are the deepest in The State; which means some of the best SCUBA diving, snorkelling and of course, big game fishing. You’ll find no shortage of charters for all these activities. Finding the best option changes as often as the trade winds that grace the isle most of the year””but therein lies the charm of digging into Hawaii Island living, getting to know some locals and finding out where the secrets of The Big Island lie.

Snorkeling | A Beginner's Guide to Hawaii Island

Snorkeling in Honomu © Kirk Aeder/HTA

Header photo: Waipio Valley © estivillm/istock/Thinkstock

Partnering with Delta allows us to connect you to and from a selection of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it even simpler to book flights to Kona.


Have you spent time on Hawaii Island? Where have you visited in our Kona guide and what are your favourite things to do there? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Brian Berusch


Brian Berusch

Brian Berusch traded in his Manhattan gym membership for a quiver of surfboards, trail running shoes and a one-way ticket to Honolulu more than a decade ago. Since then, he’s interviewed dozens of celebrities and covered the destination for more than 25 travel and lifestyle magazines. He’s an award-winning Editorial Director, a Today Show correspondent and most recently the publisher of two new magazines. He has yet to “get barreled” in the perfect wave.

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