More than 1,500 years ago, a double-hulled canoe full of Polynesians landed at Ka Lae, on the southern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.
If they came from the Marquesas Islands, as many archaeologists believe, it was a journey of 2,500 miles, using only the stars to navigate.
It’s a safe bet that none of these first settlers ever dreamed that the future would see more than 1.5 million people visit the island every year.
If you hope to be among them, you’ll find the Big Island, and Kona in particular, will deliver on even your most adventurous tropical vacation dreams.
And, thaw out, you most definitely will.
Kailua-Kona is, at heart, a fishing village. Known as the Billfish Capital of the World, it is home to the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, held every August.
Anglers from all over the globe come to Kailua-Kona with hopes of bagging the big one. It’s five days of Pacific blue marlin fishing, weigh-ins, cocktail parties and fun.
If sportfishing is your hot button when you visit our 50th state, you’ll find numerous fishing boats available for charter. In fact, there are so many it may be hard to narrow down your choices.
Of the most-reviewed charter companies on Yelp.com, two are highly rated.
The first is Fire Hatt Sportfishing Charters, offering fishing from a fully outfitted 43 foot Hatteras Convertible, with a 35-year fishing veteran, Captain Chuck Wilson. Rates are listed on their website at firehattsportfishing.com or call them at (808) 987-0038.
Yelpers also highly recommend High Noon Sportfishing. Captain Dee Bradford and crew won the prestigious Award for Excellence from Trip Advisor.
High Noon specializes in live bait fishing on light tackle for mahi mahi, small tuna and spearfish and smaller tuna.
You’ll fish from a 34-foot recently refurbished Blackfin. Captain Bradford is happy to give you not only a rate quote by phone (808-895-3868), but a fishing forecast for the time you’ll be in Kona as well.
Top Snorkeling Sites
If you have only one day to snorkel, we recommend Kealakekua (“kay-all-uh-kay-koo-uh”) Bay, especially near the Captain Cook monument. This is the spot where Cook died and, aside from that sad note, the snorkeling here is nothing short of amazing.
Kealakekua Bay is designated as a Marine Life Conservation District so sea life in the area thrives.
The bay is populated with many honu, or sea turtles, and spinner dolphins ply the bay’s calm, shallow waters in the morning, where they feed and nurse their calves.
Tropical fish of every size and hue swim among the technicolor coral reefs. It’s an underwater wonderland you won’t want to miss.
You’ll need to take one of the many snorkel tour boats from Kailua town to Kealakekua Bay. Kona Ocean Adventures has a permit to use the bay as does Sea Quest Hawaii.
About 10 minutes south of Kealakekua Bay, you’ll find Two Steps, a nickname for the snorkeling spot in Honaunau Bay (“ho-now-now”). Although once a well-kept secret, word got out and it can be quite crowded (but well worth it).
Although Kilauea (“kee-la-oo-ay-ah”), the 4,091-foot-tall active volcano is still erupting, it’s not posing any danger to the surrounding communities.
This means that you may get a chance to get up close and personal to the fiery red-hot spots viewed from the Halemaʻumaʻu (Ha-lay-mah-oo-ma-oo) Visitor Overlook at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Get daily updates on volcanic activity by visiting the U.S. Geological Survey website.
Not counting Loihi, a submerged seamount forming off the southern tip of the Big Island, Hawaii is the chain’s newest island. While Kauai, the oldest of the eight major islands, is estimated to be between 4 and 5 million years old, the Big Island crested the ocean only about 300,000 years ago.
Because nature has had less time to erode the lava into sand, there are far fewer beaches on the Big Island than on the neighboring islands.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find a spot of powdery white sand on which to park your okole in Hawaii – there are several areas that are popular with visitors and locals alike.
Magic Sands Beach (also known as White Sands Beach), located on Ali’i Drive, about 4 miles south of Kailua town, is a surfing hot spot but sunbathers enjoy the soft white sand as well – when it’s there.
When there is heavy surf, typically during winter, the sand washes away, leaving behind bare lava rock — thus the name “Magic Sands.” Have no fear, the sand returns when the wave action calms down.
Then there is Kahalu’u Beach Park, a bit further down Ali’i Drive. Although the sand isn’t quite as soft as that at Magic Sands, the beach is larger and the sea is a bit calmer.
Head north of town, toward the airport and, between mile marker 88 and 89, across from the veteran’s cemetery, make a left turn to get to Kua Bay.
You’ll need to take a short hike down lava rock to get to this amazingly beautiful white-sand beach. The park offers free parking, restrooms and showers, but no shade so bring an umbrella if you plan on spending the day.
The Big Island has some pretty amazing bragging rights – from being home to the world’s most active volcano and the world’s tallest mountain (Mauna Kea, measured from sea level) to providing the United States with its southernmost tip – and you can see it all on one amazing island.
Best of all? How does a temperature of 81 degrees sound right about now?