Kailua-Kona is an ideal place for families to visit, and cruise ships dock right in town. This prime location makes it easy to hoof it to the area's best attractions, even during a short stay on Big Island.
When you cross onto land from the ship, you'll find that you're in the sunny and dry side of the island. The water here is usually calm and bright blue. The oceanside town is filled with unique shops and great restaurants, and the beaches are covered with fine white sand. It's a classic beach town.
Make sure to bring bathing suits, towels and sunscreen with you from your room. If you don't have snorkels and masks, you can easily rent them in town.
A common sight in Hawaii — Photo courtesy of Bruce Tuten
When you reach the southwestern shores of the Big Island, take a right from the pier and trace the oceanfront side walk. This will lead you right into town. Walk a few minutes down to Island Lava Java, which will be across the street from the ocean. This is a local favorite and a reliable place for good Kona coffee and breakfast food to be eaten on site or on the go.
After breakfast, call a taxi and head a few minutes down the road to Kahalu'u Beach Park. This is one of the best beaches for families in the area, and although you'll need a ride, it's really not far from the ship. Kahalu'u is famous for the abundance of fish that are super friendly and will swim right up to you for the fish food sold on the beach.
There's lifeguards, showers, restrooms and picnic tables here, so it's a nice place to spend some time.
For those more in the mood for ocean sports, rent a stand up paddle board from one of the many shops you'll see just as you reach the path. As long as the ocean's calm, take it back across the street and paddle board around the pier. This is one of the most popular sports right now in Hawaii, and it's becoming as common as surfing. Children who can swim and adults alike can try it.
Two fish at Kahalu'u — Photo courtesy of Djnekokittie
Now it's lunch time. Take your pick between Huggo's or Kona Brewing Company. For both, it's best to get a taxi back from the beach. Both eateries are casual enough to have just rolled in from the beach, but still nice establishments.
While Huggo's serves up fresh seafood chart house style, the brewery serves delicious locally crafted beer and really, really good pizzas, burgers and salads. They also offer local appetizers like ahi poke and sashimi on the menu.
While strolling back through town towards the ship, consider exploring the Kona Farmers Market. It's an outlet for local artisans and farmers to sell their crafts and produce, and you'll find some of the most unique items in town. It's good for window shopping or for picking up some souvenirs to take home.
If you still have time to spare, venture across the street for some window shopping in the museum like Wyland Gallery. As one of Hawaii's most famous and talented artists, Wyland creates breathtaking sea life paintings.
Have fun exploring the Kona Coast by land before continuing on your ocean journey.