The Kona coast is the leeward (western) side of the Big Island. If you are a coffee or Ironman fan, you’ve heard about it. There are lots of things to do in Kona along the coast south of Kailua Kona. The Kona coast is home to Kona coffee farms, famous Kealakekua Bay, and one of the most sacred ancient Hawaiian sites. In Part 1, learn more about Kailua Kona village.
Kealakekua Kona Coast
Driving south on Route 11 Mamalahoa Highway takes you through the small towns of the Kona coast. You can get a feel for the rural life and beautiful views of the ocean.
If you want some outdoor adventures, Kona Boys can probably set you up. They rent surfboards, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and snorkel equipment. They also give lessons and conduct tours (they have an outrigger canoe!). This is a good place to plan an excursion into Kealakekua Bay.
The Kona Historical Society in Captain Cook takes you into the past of the Kona coast. I was first attracted to visit here by the communal stone Portuguese oven that was built in the pasture. Every Thursday Portuguese sweet bread (pao doce) is made and baked in the wood fired oven. If you go early you can help make bread, but you can also go by to buy some warm bread. Monday through Friday you can explore the Living History Coffee Farm with costumed interpreters explaining farm life. The Greenwell Store Museum is also onsite. The store recreates the days of the 1890s and is the oldest surviving store in Kona. It’s pretty amazing to look at what was available in canned goods and how saddles were made.
Kealakekua Bay is a great place for snorkeling and other water sports. A little piece of Britain is on the north shore of the bay, the memorial to Captain Cook. Cook and his crew first landed here in 1778 and he also met his death here during an argument with the Hawaiians in 1779. You can take the quite difficult hike down to the monument or visit it by water from the Napo’opo’o Pier.
- Kona Boys rentals and lessons
- Kona Historical Society
- Hiking to the Captain Cook Monument
Captain Cook and Honaunau, Kona Coast
One of the many Kona coffee producers in Captain Cook is the Royal Kona Coffee Center. Here you can learn about the coffee process, from farmers bringing in their “cherries” to bean separation, to drying, to roasting. There is a lava tube on the grounds and a coffee tasting bar and gift shop. If you go, be sure to check out the Kona coffee history display downstairs. I loved the photos of the Miss Kona Coffee winners!
In 1899, Father John Velghe built St. Benedict’s on a bluff above the ocean. Also known as The Painted Church, this Roman Catholic sanctuary is painted with Bible stories. The Hawaiian people did not spend a lot of time indoors and Father Velghe thought he could make the inside of the sanctuary look like sitting under the sky while teaching the Bible through murals. In addition to enjoying the spirit of the paintings, you can also enjoy the graveyard with beautiful tropical plantings in front of the church.
South of Captain Cook on the Kona coast is the ancient Hawaiian Place of Refuge, Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau. No harm could come to Hawaiians who made it to this place. The early religion was based on a strict set of rules called the kapu system. If a person broke kapu, they could escape a death sentence by going to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau, and receive forgiveness and refuge. This spot by the ocean has so much mana (power). There are two heiaus (religious sites), a great wall built of lava stone, and ki’i (tikis). Beautiful yellow butterflies congregating on the sand stopped me in my tracks. There is a nice Visitor Center, listed on the National Historic Register. Cultural demonstrations are part of the park’s program to help you learn about baskets, lauhala weaving, and canoe making. Right outside the National Park is a favorite snorkeling area called Two Step.
- National Park Service Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau
- St. Benedict Roman Catholic Church
- Royal Kona Coffee Center
Big Island map – Kona Coast
Let’s talk story
He’eia is one of my favorite Hawaiian songs. It tells of King David Kalakaua majestically riding the waves at He’eia Bay, in the Keauhou area. You can feel the kingly surfing rhythm in the song.
There at He’eia
We go surfing on the waves
Surfing on the crest
Returning on the diagonal wave
Tis I who criss-crossed
The edge of the shore
- He’eia by Hapa
- He’eia by Gabby Pahinui
Affiliate links: if you make a purchase using these links, I’ll receive a small compensation towards maintaining this blog, at no extra cost to you.