The recent holiday weekend has proven that Americans are ready to travel again. After a year and a half of isolation and quarantines, we are itching to get out, explore the world again, and find new places to relax and recharge. For many of us, Hawaii is that place. And now, thankfully, the Islands are welcoming visitors back to enjoy their sunshine and shores. Even better news is that as of July 8th, pre-travel covid testing is no longer required for fully vaccinated US travelers, as long as the final dose was administered at least 14 days prior to arrival in the Islands. Having traveled to Kona while testing was required, I can truthfully say the removal of the testing requirement removes a great deal of stress from planning your trip to paradise.
If you are like many people, you want to travel again and Hawaii sounds like the perfect destination. I would have to agree with you, and I would go further to say that Kona is my favorite Hawaiian destination. Why? Well, it’s not just that I own a condo there, but that does contribute to my prejudice. No, the real reason is the Big Island, and Kona in particular, is still relatively uncommercialized. There is space on the island and in Kona. You can relax and breathe without feeling like you are in some sort of Disney tourist creation. Of course, there are still tourist areas to explore. The village of Kailua-Kona is geared toward tourists, sporting shops and restaurants all down the main drag, mixing in palaces, seawalls, and historic sites along the way to create a unique island ambience.
What can you expect if you decide to vacation in Kona? The first thing I would advise is to book early. With the world getting back out there, Kona is in high demand. Travelers are snapping up vacation rentals and rental cars as quickly as they can find them. Airfare is still affordable, especially with Southwest now entering the market, keeping fares low–at least for now. Rental cars are another issue. They are expensive, if you can find them. Many of the agencies are sold out, because like most of the rental companies across the country, they sold off inventory during the shutdown and are now having trouble replenishing their fleets due to low product supply. However, with some persistence and google sleuthing you can still find deals. I found a good deal on discounthawaiicarrental.com by checking the site for a few days until I found the deal I wanted.
While some may find Kona crowded by normal standards, it is nothing like neighboring islands. I do recommend making reservations for dinner as restaurants have been operating a fifty percent capacity until July 8th. They are now moving to seventy-five percent capacity which should help, but I still recommend reservations until things return to one hundred percent normal. I have to say this was the first time in seventeen years that I had to bother with reservations anywhere in Kona and it was a bit of a shock.
Thankfully, you can still enjoy all the natural beauty and adventure Hawaii has to offer without making a reservation. One of the best spots to snorkel is Kahalu’u Beach Park, a beach about ten minutes south of our condo on Ali’i Dr. Kahalu’u was rated as one of the top ten snorkel beaches in the US by Sunset Magazine. It is loaded with marine life and offers easy access while being relatively calm. It is perfect for first-time snorkelers and younger children.
For those who are more adventurous, you may want to try Kua Bay, which is more of a local beach. Located just off Queen K Highway at mile marker 89, I like to think of Kua as a smaller version of Hapuna Beach, one of the largest white sand beaches on Hawaii. White sand, blue water, and good surf for body or boarding. Because there is limited parking, consider arriving by 10:00 am in order to get a parking spot near the beach.
Of course, you can enjoy the water without going to the beach. Most of the Kona coastline is made up of lava rock, much more rugged than what most people imagine when they think of Hawaii. However, the surf against the rocks has its own magic, and I have spent many hours watching and listening to the waves at our condo. There is something incredibly comforting and relaxing about watching the awesome power of the waves crashing against the coastline. I always say watching the waves is like a massage for the soul.
The best thing about Kona is that you can do as much or as little as you want. From horseback riding in Waimea to watching a volcano grow the island at Kilauea, there is something for everyone. For me, being able to sit still and watch the sunset each night makes every trip memorable. So if you are looking for the perfect getaway after an eternity of lockdown, I highly recommend checking out the little bit of paradise known as Kona. You won’t be disappointed.