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.
Hwy. 19, North of Mile Marker #88, Kailua-Kona
There are a lot of awesome beaches on the Big Island; those on the Kona side can be tougher, as they tend to be rocky. That said, if you're willing to walk a bit of rocky stretch to get down to Manini'owali Beach—locally known as Kua Bay—the beach itself is spectacular. The sand here is soft and white, and the water is the clear, aquamarine color that you want to find in Hawaii. The tide is generally calmest at Kua Bay in the summer, when it's perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The waves are stronger in the winter—better suited for surfing. Kua Bay is no longer a secret, but it’s still somewhat remote—on that note, remember to pack a picnic lunch.
Green Flash Coffee & Cafe
75-6000 Ali'i Dr., Kailua-Kona
We love the fresh smoothies at this family-owned café near Kailua-Kona Village. They also serve breakfast, lunch, and have kombucha on tap (you can take a growler with you). Most importantly, their Kona coffee selection—sourced from local purveyors Buddha’s Cup and Daylight Mind—is not to be missed.
Rays on the Bay
78-128 Ehukai St., Kailua-Kona
Rays on the Bay: A totally cheesy name for the Sheraton’s quality restaurant that is built into the lava rock cliffs on Kona’s coast. (As guessed, you can see the local manta rays swimming at night just feet from your dinner table.) The head chef here, Francis “Junior” Ulep, is an Oahu native with a flair for island cuisine—from pupus (small appetizer plates) like ahi poke and raw crudo to Kona-coffee-rubbed beef.
75-5828 Kahakai Rd., Kailua-Kona
Although Huggo’s isn’t the healthiest option on the island—the barbecued beef ribs and teriyaki steak are favorite dinner dishes—you can get some of the tastiest local fish here. Founded in 1969 as a local fishermen joint, the dock-like restaurant is literally perched over the ocean; at high tide, the surf is just feet away.
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