Happy Highlights of Hilo, Kailua-Kona and Beyond
Many artists have sought relaxation and inspiration within this lush rainforest
in Things to Do
Situated on the northeastern side of the Big Island, Hilo enchants both with its natural beauty, its historic charm and its vibrant scene. Built along crescent-shaped Hilo Bay, the town also offers many opportunities for learning about the many different aspects of the area. From the Pacific Tsunami Museum to the Imiloa Astronomy Center, or from sea to sky, here one can grasp the unique characteristics of the area before even heading out to visit one of its renowned waterfalls.
Shopping in Hilo is primo and you can continue your education about Hawaii – and pick up some other nice gift items – at Big Island BookBuyers, a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Check out Basically Books in downtown Hilo, too. Clearly this is a well-read town deep-rooted in the history and traditions of the island. Hawaiian Ukulele & Guitar showcases another wonderful slice of Hawaiian culture. Whether you’re an amateur or an expert, out to browse or buy, this shop is a must for all.
You’ll likely feel quite satiated from your shopping, dining, touring and strolling about in Hilo but know that there’s also a lot to take in outside of town. As you head out to visit the Hamakua Coast north of Hilo, put the historic town of Honokaa on your itinerary. Its charm, shopping and dining offerings will warm your heart.
Speaking of heartwarming, there’s nothing like hugging a baby goat. You can do just that and marvel at these full-grown animals as well as buy some goat cheese and soap made with goat’s milk at Honomu Goat Dairy. Visiting this stunning parcel of the Hamakua Coast overlooking the ocean is worth the trip itself, especially since the goat therapy is free!
Kailua-Kona, often referred to simply as Kona, on the westside of the Big Island, stands out for its charming downtown that features a
delightful blend of the old with the new. Historic structures such as the Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s first Christian church built in 1820, Hilihe’e Palace, which was inhabited by the Hawaiian royal family until 1914 and the historic Kona Inn, which now houses the Kona Historical Society, reveal the rich history of the area. Stroll around and then stop for a smoothie to soak up the storied surroundings of this town, once a retreat for the Hawaiian royal family as well as a small fishing village until tourism became its primary industry a few decades ago.
Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona’s main street that runs along the oceanfront beginning at Kailua-Kona Pier, boasts all kinds of shopping; indeed this is the place to go for souvenir items in all sorts of categories and price ranges. Hawaii in general offers treasure-chest shopping for a variety of goods, many of which are made from locally-sourced and/or -inspired materials. And since Hawaii is such an attractive place to live and work, many artists and craftspeople have made their homes here and sell their work in local galleries and boutiques.
You might even meet some of these folks from the artsy crowd along with lots of music aficionados at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar & Bistro, a greatplace to go in historic downtown Kailua-Kona to enjoy live music, delicious food and drink and ocean views. Since this swinging establishment faces west on the west coast of the Big Island, you can bet that the sunsets here hit high notes all year long.
You’ll find a tsunami-sized selection of shops and eateries at two of the Big Island’s best-known shopping areas: Coconut Grove Marketplace and Ali’s Gardens Marketplace. Located in Kona, you might want to take a day off from your outdoor fun to take in everything at these emporiums. Wave sliders take note and know that even if you don’t know how to pop up onto a board, you can still look like a cool surfer dude or lady after being outfitted at one of the Big Island’s surf’s up specialty shops.
Volcano Village, a rustic village at the base of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is a great place to visit and shop. Over the years artists have sought relaxation and inspiration within its lush rainforest, a tranquil setting that has allowed their creativity to flow. The Volcano Art Center grew out of this, establishing a wonderful hub for the arts on the Big Island. Whether you shop, attend a workshop or event, this is indeed where people, art and nature converge on the island. You can also find a treasure or two and/or attend a class nearby at Kilauea Kreations Quilt & Gift Shop There’s definitely some good juju in the air at the foot of this active volcano. So be sure to breathe it all in.