78-7138 Kaleiopapa St., Kailua-Kona
Some of the best water adventures on the Kona coast are with Analakai Adventures. And the most amazing of the adventures that the company offers is what they call the Manta Ray Night Snorkel, and what we call insanely cool. Once it’s dark out, a guide paddles you out in a double-hull canoe and uses a light to draw in the manta rays. The creatures are extraordinary—like graceful aliens (aliens that can grow to have a fifteen-foot wingspan.) Then it’s up to you: Slip into the water and snorkel among the rays or enjoy them from the canoe. Either way, it’s probably the most serene experience you can have before going back to your hotel and going to sleep for the night. Impressively, the company uses no motors and is completely harmless to the environment.
73-341 Uu St., Kailua-Kona
There is no way to describe the feeling of looking inside a volcano except to say, “!!!” It’s like looking back in time, and it’s as overwhelming as it is…overwhelming. The only way to do it is by helicopter, and the best helicopter operation on the island is Paradise Helicopters. The pilots are friendly and skilled. The helicopter is comfortable and roomier than you’d think a helicopter would be. The headphones are crazy fun for the kids. And the views of the island are impossible to believe. If the idea of a few hours in a helicopter terrifies you, get over it. You will remember this trip for the rest of your life.
‘Ulu Ocean Grill
72-100 Ka'upulehu Dr., Kailua-Kona
The dressiest restaurant at the Four Seasons Hualalai is half indoors, half outdoors, and utterly stunning. Being a few feet from the sand means that there isn’t a reason in the world to stay inside. Book a table on the patio so the children can swoon over the firepit, and let the feast begin. Executive chef Thomas Bellec is a master—everything that comes out of his kitchen is the perfect blend of true to Hawaii and influenced by Asia. And you can’t go wrong. But to go especially right, order the Waimea farmers’ market salad, maybe the Hawaiian ahi poke with Maui onions, and the vegetarian stir-fry noodles with baby bok choy. The dishes, while elegant and miniature works of art in some cases, are surprisingly kid-friendly. We cleaned every plate on the table.
Hualalai Spa at the Four Seasons Hualalai
72-100 Ka`upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
There are waterfalls and private cabanas and the smell of lavender and eucalyptus in the air and aestheticians with orchids tucked behind their ears. The spa at the Four Seasons Hualalai is a spa for the ages. It’s nestled in what feels like a small jungle and although you walk to the various areas and rooms outside, it all feels incredibly private—and quiet. You don’t even need to get a treatment to feel recentered, calmer, possibly even more fulfilled as a person. But if you do get a treatment—and lucky, lucky you—we humbly suggest the Pa'Akai O Ka Kai aromatherapy treatment, which works with a combination of salt exfoliation and chakra balancing. Actually we humbly recommend any treatment. What we don’t recommend: leaving.
Keauhou Shopping Center, 78-6831 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona
This local shop is everything you would want to find in an independent bookstore: Beach reads, literary heavyweights, a robust kids selection, plus tons on local culture. Opened by two friends who met at a bookclub in California, they keep the shop heavily programmed with everything from kids reading hours, to various book clubs, to author lectures and an in-house psychic who offers readings every Friday afternoon.
77-6400 Nalani St., Kailua-Kona
An excellent French restaurant seems unlikely on the Big Island of Hawaii, but La Bourgogne is exactly that: So when you've tired of poke and pork head here. It sits in a very unassuming building on the side of the highway in Kailua-Kona, but the menu is anything but: Very French options like frog legs and escargots are balanced by more accessible options like baked brie, lobster salad, and a really good filet mignon.
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona
This tiny and long-standing Kailua-Kona joint offers endless poke varietals—sweet, spicy, shoyu, Hawaiian, mixed with avocado—all delicious, all incredibly fresh. which are all surpre hit all the high notes at this long-standing Kailua-Kona joint. The sides are also stand-out, including a traditional wakame seaweed salad, kimchee mussels, and a standard Hawaiian potato salad. It's a perfect lunch for a picnic at the beach.
Umeke’s Fish Market Bar & Grill
74-5563 Kaiwi St., Kailua-Kona
There is an on-island rivalry between Umeke's and Da Poke Shack, the two poke mainstays in Kailua-Kona. Umeke's has an expanded restaurant, and also an expanded menu, offering more than sashimi-style fish for pickier eaters (chicken katsu, grilled cheese, and other eclectic offerings). But the takeout counter is the main thing: White or brown rice, a seaweed or edamame side, plus a scoop of poke of your choice to go.
Island Naturals Market & Deli
74-5487 Kaiwi St., Kailua-Kona
This local grocery has the most comprehensive selection of healthy eats on the island. It also conveniently has multiple locations: in Hilo and Pahoa on the east side of the island, and Kailua-Kona on the west, plus a kiosk at the University of Hawaii. The stores are a nice option if your hotel suite/Airbnb is equipped with a kitchen, and you’re looking to eat/entertain there for a meal or two. Each Island Naturals Market & Deli store sells an array of organic groceries (including many gluten-free and vegan-friendly products) from shelved goods like pastas and sauces, to fruits and veggies from nearby farms, line-caught fish, and grass-fed beef. You can also stock up on breakfast items and organic wine and beer here. If you’re not interested in doing any cooking, the deli has easy already-made meals, or you can order custom sandwiches, smoothies, and juices, or grab a treat and Kona coffee from the in-house bakery.
Manta Ray Night Dive
Honokohau Marina, Kailua-Kona
Hawaii might be the only place where it’s cool to do a manta ray night dive—and this outfit is a good choice, as they do a variety of public tours as well as private charters. The best option is taking a boat out at sunset and then snorkeling (or scuba diving, if you’re certified). Even if you know how big manta rays are (average wingspan here is five feet eight inches, and up to to a whopping 20 feet), it’s wild to see them swimming right alongside you.
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