We only spent a few nights in Kona, but we have a few good recommendations for you. We would have loved to stay in a place on the water, but that was out of our price range, so we opted for the Kona Seaside, which is on Ali’i Drive, just across the street from the water. The room was standard and clean, the price was excellent for the area, and we did have a little ocean view from our balcony and lots of birds perching on the telephone wires to look at through our binocs. We didn’t have cooking facilities, but we had a fridge in our room so we could keep our picnic lunch food cold, and our AAA rate included two delicious full breakfasts each morning (banana macadamia nut pancakes, anyone??) at the restaurant next door. The hotel has some computers for Internet access available in the lobby, a bookshelf of paperbacks for trading (always a hit with the librarian), and a pool. Parking is available for $5 per night. We would definitely stay there again.
On our way into town we stopped at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, also called Place of Refuge. The original Hawaiians didn’t mess around. If you broke the law, the penalty was death. But, if you could get yourself to a puuhonua, a place of refuge, you were safe. Reminds us of a high stakes game of capture the flag, with a puuhonua as a home base. A puuhonua was also a sacred place, and today visitors are asked to respect the sacred place by not sunbathing, snorkeling, playing football, picnicking, etc. There is a self guided walking trail of the grounds and we saw a craft demonstration by a Hawaiian native while we were there also. There are some small huts, and many ki’i – the carved wooden images – surrounding sacred spaces. Unfortunately, it was raining (again) while we were here, so we didn’t spend too long exploring and we weren’t able to snorkel in the adjacent area (which is open for snorkeling). Once again, a reason to return! It costs just $5/carload (entry fee good for seven days) to visit this area.
A trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without some Hawaiian shave ice, and we made sure we sampled more than once. Hey, we’re travel researchers now, it’s our duty. Ironically, the place we went for delicious shave ice in Kona wasn’t a Hawaiian named place, but I guess in Scandinavia, that do know something about ice, so why not call it Scandinavian Shave Ice? Locals call it Scandi’s, so act like you’re in the know and do the same. It was definitely a sweet treat (and they serve ice cream as well). We like our shave ice with a little sweetened condensed milk on top, a tip from our travels in Costa Rica. Yum! Souvenirs for the tastebuds.
On our last day in Kona, Max got to try out surfing with lessons from FBI (From Big Island) Surf School, owned by a super nice guy named Ossian (pronounced Ocean – the man was fated to own a surfing company!). We usually do one splurge activity with each niece or nephew on their 13th birthday trip and this was Max’s special activity. He was really excited and a little nervous before he went out, but he did great thanks to his awesome instructor D.W. and he got up on his very first try! The instructors did a short land lesson, then took the group right out into the waves and got them started. They helped position the surfers and pushed them into the wave so they could get up more easily. Watching them I thought I might even be able to do it! Luckily, that theory was not actually tested. Instead, we stayed on land and watched and took pictures.
Afterward, we went over to Kahalu’u Beach Park and did some great snorkeling. The corals don’t look too good there, but there are lots of bigger fish, and some fish that even came right up to us. I’m thinking they’ve probably been fed by people before, although I didn’t see anyone feeding them. Even though it was raining (again) the clarity of the water was excellent. It’s an easy entry and exit here with very little current or wave action, but there are not many sandy areas for standing. Unfortunately, that meant we saw a lot of people standing in places they shouldn’t have been. We were thrilled to see some sort of trumpetfish (looked similar to this guy) that was about four feet long and to swim with a turtle. Swimming with turtles is one of my favorite things ever to do. They’re so zen-like. It’s amazingly calming to just float along leisurely near one.
Kona was a very fun stop and I would love to go back. Next time we hope we’ll get to experience that warm Kona sun everyone talks about. Mahalo, Kona!