Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Location:

As cruise ships are not able to dock here you will be tendered ashore to downtown Kailua Village.

At the pier you can catch a trolley to go around the town. It is open air and you can make some wonderful photos. It will take you up to the shopping area and then all the way down to Magic Sands (beautiful white beach sand) and Kahaluu Bay for snorkeling.

Sightseeing:

The Big Island of Hawaii is divided in half by three volcanoes, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. To the east is the Hilo side which is the windward side of the island, and to the west is the Kona side which is the leeward side of the island.

Kona is famous for sportfishing, snorkeling, sunsets and coffee. It means “leeward” in Hawaiian. The northern portion of the Kona side of the Big Island is also known as the Kohala district. The weather and ocean conditions can be vastly different on each side of the island depending on the time of year and the predominant trade winds. The Big Island is large and diverse, boasting 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. Because the mountains block the northeasterly trade winds, the Kona side of the island gets very little rain and enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year. 

Nestled at the bottom of the Hualalai Volcano, is the main western city of Kailua-Kona. In ancient times, this area was considered the premier place to live due to the excellent weather and good water. Many kings made their homes here. Later, missionaries built churches and residences turning the tiny fishing village into a small seaport.

The main street, Ali’i Drive, runs along the oceanfront through the heart of the city from Kailua Pier to the Kuamo’o Battlefield. This charming town mixes numerous historical sites with modern tourist attractions. Restaurants, shops, and hotels abound. Sunsets viewed from the seawall are almost always spectacular.

Tours/Excursions/Transportation:

Kailua Village is easiest explored on foot.

The rest of the island has Free Island-Wide Bus Service on all Scheduled Routes!

Car rental: There is an Enterprise in Kona, as well as the Thrifty and Dollar at the King Kam Hotel across the street from the tender pier.

Many boats offer all kinds of excursions (party, fishing, snorkeling etc.)

Nearby Places:

The Big island of Hawaii is diverse culturally and geographically making this a most interesting and educational place to visit. The world renowned erupting Kiluaea volcano and ancient petroglyphs dating back hundreds years. The Big Island is also home to best snorkeling and diving cove in the islands, Kealakekua Bay, and is the very spot where captain James Cook was murdered.

Most people do not know: Mauna Kea Volcano, the tallest mountain in the world, measures 32,000 feet from its base to its summit at 13,796 feet above sea level.

Shopping and Food:

There is a farmer’s market Wed-Sun, 7am to 4pm.

Currency:

The official U.S. currency is the United States dollar (symbol: $). ATM’s everywhere.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely used and accepted, even for transactions worth only a few dollars. In fact, in some cases, it may be the only way to make a transaction. Note to overseas visitors: Prices of goods and services always seem lower than they really are, as taxes and gratuities are seldom included.

Most states have a sales tax, ranging from 2.9% to nearly 10% of the retail price; 4-6% is typical. Sales tax is almost never included in posted prices (except for gasoline, and in most states, alcoholic beverages consumed on-premises), but instead will be calculated and added to the total when you pay.

Tipping in America is widely used and expected. While Americans themselves often debate correct levels and exactly who deserves to be tipped, generally accepted standard rates are:

  • Full-service restaurants: 15-20% (Often this is the only income of the wait(ress). Tips are either left in cash or you can add it to the credit card slip) Note: Few restaurants add an automatic service charge, in which case it is up to you how much you tip extra. Check your bill!
  • Taxi drivers, hairdressers, other personal services: 10-15%
  • Bartenders: $1 per drink if inexpensive or 15% of total
  • Bellhops: $1-2 per bag ($3-5 minimum regardless)
  • Hotel doorman: $1 per bag (if they assist), $1 for calling a cab
  • Shuttle bus drivers: $2-5 (optional)
  • Private car & limousine drivers: 15-20%
  • Housekeeping in hotels: $1-2 per day for long stays or $5 minimum for very short stays (optional)
  • Food delivery (pizza, etc.): $2-5, possibly more for very large orders

Communication:

The U.S. has no official language at the federal level, but English is by far the standard for everyday use. Several states have declared their official state language as English. Spanish is also official in the state of New Mexico, where it is widely spoken; French is official in Louisiana and the Hawaiian language is official in Hawaii, but neither approaches the use of English and are official for primarily historical reasons.

  • Emergency 911

Opening Hours and Holidays:

In major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles, many drugstores and supermarkets are routinely open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, while department stores, shopping centers and most other large retailers are typically open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and often with shorter hours on Sundays – generally 11 a.m. or noon to 5 or 6 p.m. On holidays, the tendency is to remain open (with the exception of the most important holidays like Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day where stores are generally closed)

  • New Years Day (January 1) – most businesses closed; hangovers from parties the previous night, football parties. Primarily a secular holiday, and the major celebration occurs the previous night.
  • Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January) – many government offices and banks closed; diversity-awareness programs.
  • St. Valentine’s Day (February 14) – no significant closures; romantic evenings out.
  • Presidents Day (third Monday in February) – (also Washington’s Birthday) – many government offices and banks closed; few observances, many stores have sales.
  • St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) – no significant closures; Irish-themed parades during the day, and parties in the evening. Travelers may want to be wary of the drunken revelry and associated drunk driving crackdowns.
  • Easter (a Sunday in March or April) – few significant closures; Christian religious observances.
  • Passover (timing somewhat similar to Easter; lasts a week) – Jewish religious observances.
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May) – most non-retail/tourism businesses closed; some patriotic observances; extensive travel to beaches and parks; traditional beginning of summer tourism season.
  • Independence Day / Fourth of July (July 4) – most businesses closed; patriotic parades, fireworks after dark.
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September) – most businesses closed; extensive travel to beaches and parks; traditional ending of summer tourism season.
  • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – Jewish religious autumn holidays.
  • Columbus Day (second Monday in October) – many government offices and banks closed; few observances.
  • Halloween (October 31) – no significant closures – trick-or-treating and costume parties in the evening.
  • Veterans Day (November 11) – many government offices and banks closed; some patriotic observances.
  • Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November, unofficially the Friday and weekend after) – most non-retail businesses closed; family gatherings, on Friday major Christmas shopping begins.
  • Christmas (December 25) – most businesses and restaurants closed the evening before and all day; exchanging gifts, Christian religious observances. If you need food from a restaurant, your best bet will be hotels and Chinese or Indian restaurants. People from non-Christian religions often go to the movies and eat at Chinese restaurants on Christmas.
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