Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – USA chapter Hawaii has to say about Kailua-Kona:
“In 1866 Mark Twain described Kailua-Kona as ʻa little collection of native grass houses reposing under tall coconut trees – the sleepiest, quietest, Sundayest looking place you can imagine.’ My, how things have changed.
Kailua now has the worst traffic, the most hotels and condos, the most tourists, the most souvenirs per square foot, and is the most likely place on the island to find businesses open on Sunday. Along shoreline Aliʻi Drive, Kailua works hard to evoke the nonchalance of a sun-drenched tropical get-away, but in an injection-molded, bargain-priced way.
Which isn’t to say Kailua isn’t fun. Most Big Island visitors pass through at some point, and Kailua can make an affordable, pleasant base from which to enjoy the Kona Coast’s nearby beaches, fantastic snorkeling and water sports, and preeminent ancient Hawaiian sites.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We flew on Hawaiian Airlines for the first time, just a short hop from Oahu to the Big Island. While Honolulu has a large airport with both domestic and international terminals, the Big Island has a simple, open-air cluster of traditional-looking huts that serve the needs of travellers more or less adequately. The weather was fine for both our arrival and departures; I can’t imagine what it’s like when it’s pouring buckets though.
A shuttle bus took us the short distance to the car rental parking lot and everything was as one would expect, except for the comment from the gentleman at the service desk. He welcomed was warmly to the island and mentioned that there had been quite a bit of recent activity near the Kilauea volcano. He thought we might we in for a little excitement during our stay.
We set off for our hotel after I punched in the directions to the Sheraton Kona Resort, about a half hour south of the airport. We had planned for five nights on the island, the first and last within striking distance of the airport on the eastern coast, and the other three on the western side.
We hadn’t realized that the first week of May was a national holiday in Japan and that it was traditionally a time for marriages to take place. Hawaii is a very popular destination for Japanese honeymooners and most of the smaller hotels and AirBnB apartments were booked well in advance of our arrival. For that reason, we were pretty much forced to stay in the large chain hotels, something we usually avoid doing. Fortunately, our stay was quite short, so thought we would have preferred quieter surroundings we felt we were lucky to find places to stay at all.
We pulled into the concourse at the Sheraton and I dropped Anil off with the luggage and left to park the car in the guest parking lot. I asked him to begin the check-in procedure, but when I returned I was alarmed to find that they had no booking for us. While I was accessing the confirmation on my phone, the clerk found a reservation for us for May 5th, but not for May 1st.
Oh dear, had I messed up and booked two hotels for the 5th and nothing for the 1st? Then it dawned on me, we’d been forced to take a room at the Holiday Inn in Kailua for the first night – all was well, I’d just mixed up the reservations in my mind. Feeling rather sheepish, I slinked off to fetch the car and we drove back north in the direction from which we’d come.
The hotel wasn’t much to ‘write home about’ but its saving grace was that it was a block from Kailua Bay and some of the historic sights situated on the waterfront. We went for a lovely walk and enjoyed the sunset, soaking in the warm evening air. Off in the distance, around the edge of the bay we could see and hear a luau underway. A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment. It may feature food such as poi, Kalua pig, poke, lomi salmon, opihi, haupia and beer, and entertainment such as traditional Hawaiian music and hula.
As we drew closer we could see that the party was hosted by one of the large hotels across the water, but we could certainly enjoy the drumming from a distance. We found a place to sit along the waterfront, and as our eyes turned towards the sea we noticed several large outrigger canoes being paddled towards the beach in front of us.
What a delight to see the men coast into the shallow water, heave the heavy canoes onto their shoulders and carry them up onto the sand, well above the high tide line. The smaller, lighter boats were moved first and then the paddlers would walk back to join the others arriving in the largest canoes till there were more than twenty men shouldering the last one out of the water.
It had been a long day so we made our way back to the hotel after eating a light meal. We were still feeling a little bit of jetlag despite the fact that we’d been in Hawaii for a while already.
The next morning we headed straight south, bypassing the turnoff to the Sheraton Kona Resort and continuing on to make a swing along the southern coast of the Big Island and then westward around the bottom of the volcanoes towards Hilo. The one advantage of the mistake we’d made the previous day was that we’d have no trouble finding the Sheraton when it was time to return for our flight back to Canada!