Where to Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii
Now that Easter has come and gone, it’s time to think about summer plans. As a tour company, we’re often asked by our guests about where to stay when they visit the Big Island. Here on Hawaii Island, there are a number of places to stay and an incredible variety of options. From luxury to camping, there are a number of choices for every budget and interest. Below is our list of recommendations and input based on our experiences in the industry, feedback from guests, and online review sites. We highly recommend sites like VRBO and TripAdvisor for additional reference but…you don’t have to take our word for it.
KONA – (Kailua-Kona, Captain Cook, Holualoa)
The west coast of the big island is where most guests vacation. Kailua-Kona is the town located about 9 miles south of Kona International Airport (KOA) and is home to lots of hotels, restaurants, activities, and events. The World Ironman Triathon is held here as well as the International Bill Fish Tournament. It is also home to world-famous Kona Coffee!
Pros: Close to shopping, parks, airport, groceries, bars, luaus, beaches, coffee farms, and restaurants. Mingle with locals, check out historic sites, and enjoy endless water activities. Affordable accommodations and access to all the essentials.
Cons: The main front street can be a bit noisy. Shopping downtown is limited to mostly trinket stores and rundown buildings. High end dining is hard to find.
Recommendations: King Kamehameha Hotel or Sheraton Kona are your best bet for longer than 1 night. Their location is great and Kona’s best views. Best place for a short stay: Holiday Inn Express.
Kailua-Kona / Kailua Bay is close to everything you might need on vacation
There’s no real district the Four Seasons is located. Technically, it’s Kailua-Kona, but it’s a good 15 minutes north of the Kona airport. The area is Ka’upulehu; the surroundings are heavenly. Recognized as the best resort in the WORLD, the Four Seasons Hualalai is 5-star / 5-diamond.
Pros: There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this place. It’s world class in every category. There are 2 employees to every guest that stays. There are multiple daily turn-down services offered. Golf cart rides to your room, Evian spritzers for your sunglasses, cold towels and mai-tais upon check-in… Oh, and the spa is unparalleled. This is where the rich and famous go to get pampered.
Cons: With Four Seasons, you get what you pay for and their services are unending. I always imagine that people are paying with Monopoly money because this place is a different world of pricing. Kailua-Kona is far enough that you have to drive a distance and there are no grocery stores, shuttles, or convenience stores to speak of.
Up the coast from Kailua-Kona (Approximately 20 minutes from KOA), is Waikoloa Resort. Built in early ’90s, this is the mecca of Hawaii resorts. Large hotel chains, resorts, and timeshare companies love the perfect weather as well as the ocean and mountain views.
Pros: Ideal weather, the island’s best shopping, and no traffic. Staying in Waikoloa means that you’ll be enjoying “the resort life.” Locals love it for their “staycations;” sometimes we want to vacation just like you do. Giant pools, waterfalls, water slides, dolphin encounters, ocean sports, and excellent restaurants. This is the perfect place to stay on the Big Island if you plan to stay 4 nights or more.
Cons: Prices for everything are usually really high; groceries, resort fees, restaurants, and fuel. No local shopping; everything is catered to visitors.
Recommendations: Hilton Grand Vacations, Hali’i Kai, or Kolea.
Hilton Waikoloa Village and Hilton Grand Vacations have all the resort amenities
KOHALA – (Mauna Lani Area, Puako, Kawaihae)
Located farther north than Waikoloa, Kohala is a fairly well-kept secret. This area is home to very wealthy residents and repeat visitors. Kohala has a mix of homes for rent, luxurious resorts, and immaculate condominiums.
Pros: The ultimate in Hawaiian luxury! Every hotel is 4 stars or better. Beautiful condominiums and homes nestled into the natural surroundings. Immaculate beach access, secluded hideaways, and romantic resorts and spas. This is the perfect honeymoon, wedding, or family getaway. Come for 2 nights or 2 weeks – you won’t want to leave.
Cons: Expensive! Most of the hotels in this area go for north of $400 per night and the restaurants will cost you as well. Grocery shopping is limited but not farther than a short drive.
Recommendations: Fairmont Orchid, Mauna Lani Bay and Bungalows, Mauna Kea Beach Resort, Mauna Lani Point
The best of the best – Kohala hotels and resorts
Pristine beaches and secluded hideaways dot the coastline in Kohala. Hapuna Beach (pictured)
EAST SIDE (Hilo, Puna, and Volcano)
Nostalgic for “Old Hawaii?” Hilo is the perfect place to step back in time and experience all of the charms of tin roofs, country inns, and mom and pop shops. Explore the tsunami museum, visit the Kamehameha Statue, or see natural waterfalls just outside of town. This is the “wet” side of the Big Island.
Pros: Close to Mauna Kea, Volcanoes National Park, Imiloa Center, Botanical Gardens, Waterfalls, Hilo Farmer’s Market, hiking, and Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Hilo and Volcano are a backpacker’s dream; perfect for exploring the backroads of the Big Island.
Cons: Rainy. Wet. Noisy Coqui Frogs (invasive nighttime noisemakers). There are few hotel options; most are budget hotels. Hilo is the wettest city in the country and the Puna distict isn’t far behind. Nice restaurants are tough to find but there are lots of local restaurants that offer authentic Asian and Hawaiian cuisine.
Recommendations: Hilo is perfect for a night or two. Volcano Village and Pahoa village have a few decent places to stay. Spend the majority of your vacation on the “dry” side and then fall asleep to the sound of the coqui frogs and rain. Shipman House and Volcano Village Lodge are our favorite places to stay when on the east side.
Celebrate old Hawaii in this gorgeous B and B in Hilo – The Shipman House
A European Villa in a Hawaiian Rain Forest – Perfect!
Volcano Village Resort is the perfect jungle tree-fort – pure tranquility!
Well, we hope this was a great introduction to our Big Island’s best accommodations. Let us know about your favorite places. Have you stayed at any of the locations we have mentioned? What did we leave out?
We hope to see you soon and wish you the best in your preparations for your Hawaiian Vacation!