Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Kona and the Big Island of Hawai`i.
Q. What does "Aloha" really mean?
A. Long time member of KONAWEB, "Aunty Lele", gave us the best answer we've heard. Click Here.
Q. Can I search the Forum Archives?
A. We do not archive posts. Please print out posts that are important to you.
Q. Where is Kona?
A. It's on the west side of the Big Island of Hawai`i. Honolulu is on the Island of O`ahu. O`ahu's population includes 50% of the state's. The Big Island, on the other hand, averages less than 20 people per square mile. Kona is not a town but a district, and Kailua (called Kailua-Kona to distinguish it from Kailua on O`ahu) is the biggest town in Kona.
Q. What does "Kona" mean?
A. The generally accepted meaning is "leeward" or the side of the island which is protected from the tradewinds (which blow from the Northeast). "Kona Winds" are those that blow in from the Southwest. The leeward side of our island is comprised of the districts of South Kona and North Kona. Kailua-Kona is the major urban center on the west side of the Island. (Hilo is the hub of the east side.)
Q. Where can I get a map of the Big Island?
A.One place would be Google Maps: Maps of Hawai`i.
Q. When is the best time of year to visit?
A. Each season has its own charm: Winter, because it is warm, and the whales are here in large number. Spring, because many so many flowers are in bloom. Summer, because your kids are out of school, and playing in the ocean sounds soooo appealing. And, of course, Fall with its bright clear days, great ocean conditions and fewer visitors. Check out the Calendar of Events That should help you decide. It may make it harder to decide when you discover that Hawaii is "the best" all year through!
Q. Can people with disabilities get around easily in Hawai`i?
Q. Are there volunteer opportunities on the island?
A. Yes, here are a few:
A. For info on airport accessibility, car rentals, medical facilities & equipment, support services, service animals and more, download the State of Hawai`i's Island Booklet for Travelers with Disabilities here: http://www.hawaii.gov/health/dcab/docs/TravelHawaii.pdf.
For more info, call the Commission on Persons with Disabilities at (808) 586-8121 or the Hawai`i Centers for Independent Living at (808) 522-5400 or 545-1143. The website for the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii, West Hawaii Chapter is www.nfb-westhi.org
Q. What are "Kama`aina Rates"?
A. OK, you have all heard about "kama`aina rates." You may have even been offered kama`aina rates at some places. Sometimes hotels who want more business in low seasons try to get local business by advertising kama`aina specials. Once, as a visitor, I asked for a kama`aina rate at one of the hotels in Kailua-Kona, and they told me, "Oh, we have a room with a kama`aina rate". It turned out to be inexpensive, and had a view of the dumpster and air conditioning unit. So be careful what you ask for. A few day-to-day businesses offer kama'aina rates. If you're offered a kama'aina rate at a store, remember it, and ask for it from then on when you're there. The rate is not publicized. I have been here for many years now, and would never call myself a kama'aina if I was speaking to someone who was born in Hawai`i. The translation means "child of the land."
Q. Can I get between islands by boat?
A.The sea gets very rough between the islands, so small boat transportation is not a reliable way to travel between them.
Q. Where should I stay?
A.There are a variety of lodgings available. The Big Island has many fine little B & B's, and Vacation Rentals ranging widely in price. Many of them have toll-free numbers, so you can call and talk to real people about what you are looking for. The big resorts are along the "Gold Coast" north of Kona International Airport. The climates vary so much from district to district on the Big Island that we recommend you stay at least a couple of days in the different climate zones to really get a feel for the island.
Q. What is there to do on the island?
A.The island of Hawai`i is not known for its wild nightlife. Honolulu on O`ahu, or Lahaina on the island of Maui are, however. Kona and the smaller towns around the island tend to get quiet between 9 and 10pm. Many of the activities which are popular here have to do with the ocean, the
beaches, or simply driving around to the spectacular sights. Snorkeling and
diving on the Kona Coast are the best in the state, as the island doesn't have much topsoil to wash into and cloud the water, and the waves are smaller than most other island shores. Hence, Hawai`i island is not really known for its surfing, either. One of this island's main draws is Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes.
Q. Where can I listen to some good Hawaiian music?
A. We keep a current list of Hawaiian music events here.
Q. Can we camp on the island?
A. Yes, we have a list of all the State, County, and National Parks which provide camping facilities. There are a couple of places you should be wary of, such as Whittington Beach in Ka`u, and Ho`okena Beach in South Kona, as there have been some violent incidents there over the years...Be very respectful island residents and keep a low profile.
Q. Are there buses on the island?
A. Yes, the Hele On bus covers the Island. Phone: (808) 961-8744. Here is their website. http://co.hawaii.hi.us/mass_transit/heleonbus.html
Q. How can I get around Ali`i Drive without a car?
A. The Free Keauhou Honu Express Shuttle that runs along Ali`i Dr. is a
good alternative to using a car to get around Kailua-Kona. Here are its stops.
Q. Are there gyms or health clubs in Kona?
A. The two main ones are "The Club" (326-2582) which is located in downtown Kailua-Kona, across the street from Hilo Hattie's, and "Pacific Island Fitness" (334-1977) which is located in the Old Industrial Area of Kona. There is also a public walking track located at the Old Airport State Park.
Q. Where is there wireless internet access in Kailua-Kona?
A. A few places that have wi-fi that we are aware of are:
Kona Brewing Company - off Pawai St., in the Old Industrial Area
Island Lava Java - Coconut Grove Market Place, Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona
The tables outside Jamba Juice at Kona Coast Shopping Center
Luke's Place - Hawi
Big Island Brewhaus - Waimea
Lava Rock Cafe' - Volcano
Imiloa Astronomy Center - Hilo
Target and Safeway stores - Hilo and Kailua-Kona
Q. Where can I get a massage or a facial?
A. We have a number of spas on the island: Kohala Spa at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, 886-1234; The Orchid at Mauna Lani's Spa Without Walls, 885-2000; the Sports Club and Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, 325-8000; Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel Spa, 880-3100; Paradise Spa at the Hawaii Naniloa Resort in Hilo, 969-3333.
Q. Where can I hear Hawaiian music and see hula?
A. We have a page devoted to this topic.
Q. Where can I swim with dolphins?
A. Sometimes you will see pods of dolphins if you go to "Two Step"
near Place of Refuge (Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park),
although you will have to be quite good swimmers to enjoy them "close-up", as the water is over 80' deep where they hang out. Remember that you must stay 50' away from the dolphins! They may approach you, but you should not "chase them". The dolphins move up and down the coast, resting in the bays, so there are no guarantees that they will be there, but the chances are good
if you get there by 9:30 AM. They are here all year, so the season is
The "other" way to swim with dolphins is to go to the Hilton Waikoloa Village
and sign up for the lottery and pay for the privilege of swimming in a shallow
sandy lagoon with some bottlenose dolphins that were imported from Florida
for this very purpose. You can watch the show for free, and not even get
wet, if this is more to your liking. In spite of our initial misgivings about the dolphins in a situation like this, they obviously enjoy themselves very much!
Q. Can I go down into Waipio Valley?
A. You are encouraged to see the valley with a tour company, not on your own. See this detailed post by Phyllis T.
Q. Are there any good restaurants on the Big Island?
A. Yes, there are. They come and go, so keep an eye on our Konaweb Recommended Restaurants page, and the Readers' Restaurant Reviews written by KONAWEB members for the latest information.
Q. Can you recommend a good lu`au?
A. Here are a few to choose from:
The lu`au at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel is a little "glitzy" (kind of Las Vegas-style), but has a lot of very professional entertainment for your money. It has a standard lu`au buffet, featuring local foods. Sundays, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5pm.
Royal Kona Resort's lu`au is a little smaller, which is nice, and is right by the ocean. It is reputed to have a little better food than the one above, however the show is not as long. Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays.
Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa has a luau on Mondays at 5pm.
At the resorts north of Kona:
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers a luau on Tuesday evenings.
The Fairmont Orchid has a luau on Saturday evenings.
Waikoloa Beach Marriott's luau is on Wed., Sat. and Sun. nites and is very popular.
The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is offering a hula show on Thursday and Saturday nights through the summer of 2013 that features Maori, Tahitian and Hawaiian dance. "Kumu Lani tells the story of Pele and other Hawaiian legends in a unique and educational way." Tickets are $40; there is a cash bar as well. A buffet dinner before the show in the Ocean Terrace features local and Polynesian foods.
Q. A good place to buy local produce?
A. Year-round Farmer's Markets in Hilo, Puna, Kailua-Kona, Keauhou-Kona, South Kona and Waimea provide a wonderful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some are quite exotic.
Click Here for a list of many of the popular ones around the island.
Q. How can I get a marriage license in Hawai`i?
A. You must both be at least 18. You must have picture IDs. Marriage Licenses (by appointment):
Roberta Cho, Kona District Dept. of Health Office. Her ph: 808-322-4880.
Licenses are $60 cash and valid for 30 days. See the Weddings section on Konaweb's front page for options for your wedding.
Q. What medical facilities/organizations are available on the Big Island?
A. Major hospitals are located in Kealakekua and Waimea as well as Honoka`a and Hilo. UrgentCare in Keauhou Shopping Center is highly recommended for emergencies. They are open 9am-9pm, 7 days a week and a good alternative to the hospital emergency room. There is another emergency facility across from the Crossroads Shopping Center, where Walmart and Safeway are. Specialists in most fields are available on the Island. Here are a few requested numbers:
- Alzheimer's Assn. (808) 322-4141
- Kona Dialysis Facility (808) 322-2131
- Kona Community Hospital (808) 322-9311
- North Hawai'i Community Hospital (808) 885-4444
- American Cancer Society, West Hawai'i Unit (808) 334-0442; East Hawai'i Unit (808) 935-9763
- Veterans Services (808) 969-3833
- Big Island HIV/Aids Foundation - (808) 322-1718
- Online Hawai'i Hospital Directory
If you have a question about visiting the island that you don't find here, post it on the Visiting the Big Island Forum and you will get a quick response from our Forum members, who love to share their knowledge of the island!