Kona, Big Island
The largest of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island has a lot of different aspects to it: rain forest, lunar-looking lava landscapes, and funky little towns. Cruise ships anchor out in the bay of one such town — Kailua Village — and tender you to its picturesque waterfront. From there, excursions range from ocean rafting and snorkeling to ranches and rain forests outside Kona-Kailua.
What We Love
Paniolos: The Big Island has a thriving cowboy culture, and the cattleman lifestyle has a unique flair you won’t find on the mainland. Visitors can tour ranches and go horseback riding around Waimea.
Sea Life: Incredible animals populate the waters around Kona-Kailua. Honaunau Bay and the marine sanctuary at Kealakekua harbor sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, and countless species of fish.
Best Known For
Kohala Coast: The lava fields on the coast look like something from another planet. The contrast between jagged lava fields, pristine green golf courses, and blue ocean is stunning enough to merit a half-day trip.
Kona Coffee: If you’re curious why it’s superior to other regions (and commands such high prices), visit a local coffee farm and learn how beans make their way from island orchards to the top shelf.
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Who It's Best For
Anglers: Kona-Kailua is the world-famous start-off point for sportfishing paradise. Numerous charter companies will take you out to cast for marlin, ahi, and other big game fish.
Day Trippers: You’ll want to see beyond Kailua, which is only a small village and quick to explore. If you’ve got more than a couple of hours, get a car or find a trustworthy guide to discover the diversity of this large island.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Choose Excursions Wisely: There are tons to choose from, and it’s hotly debated whether official tours (which can be crowded and touristy) or independent trips (which some complain are unregulated) are the way to go. Before you arrive at port, do your research and read reviews from other guests.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.