Kailua's dining options include Huggo's, an open-air perch looking out to the sea. // © 2015 Huggos/Toby Hoogs
Feature image (above): In Kailua Village, modern-day visitors can explore such historic sites as Ahuena Heiau. // © 2015 HTA/Tor Johnson
When ancient kings wanted a vacation, they gravitated to Kailua on Hawaii Island. At first a fishing village, it evolved into a sovereign retreat and 19th-century political and social hub. Today’s visitors still have a royally good time in this historic seaside town on the Kona Coast.
Annually, Kailua Village steps into the spotlight as headquarters for the Ironman World Championship and Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. But every day of the year, clients have many options for encountering its riches by land and sea.
A 15-minute drive south of Kona International Airport, Kailua is well worth a visit. Here are a few of our favorite ways to experience it.
Dinner and Dancing
For fresh fish and flaming drinks check out Fish Hopper, a casual open-air eatery directly across Alii Dr. from the bay. Even closer to the sea is Huggo’s, a steak and seafood standout that juts over the water.
While most of Hawaii Island turns in early, Kailua parties into the night. On the Rocks features live island entertainment and hula. Locals gravitate to Laverne’s, open until 2 a.m. with music for dancing. It’s a lively way to wrap up a day in Kailua Village.
Kailua’s story comes alive through its longtime landmarks. The restored Ahuena Heiau, built in 800 A.D., served as King Kamehameha’s retreat and place of death.
Hawaii’s first Christian church — Mokuaikaua Church welcomes guests to its services and small museum. The Hulihee Palace, where Hawaiian royalty vacationed, now features artifacts and gardens. To learn more, join Kona Historical Society’s guided walking tour of the town.
Kailua lays claim to two luaus: Voyagers of the Pacific Luau at Royal Kona Resort and Island Breeze Luau at Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
Located less than 1 mile away from each other, both feature views of Kailua Bay with oceanfront seating, arts and crafts demonstrations, unearthing of the pig from an underground oven, a buffet with local specialties and a live show with Polynesian songs, dances and stories.
The wide, seaside sidewalk along Alii Dr., Kailua’s main drag, is lined with stores and galleries which are open daily. A great time to shop is during Kokua Kailua, a monthly town party when the street closes to traffic and fills with merchants, musicians and artists.
What’s more, Kailua’s twice-weekly farmers’ market features more than 40 vendors selling island produce, flowers, food and arts and crafts. It’s a perfect place to rub elbows with local residents.
Kailua hugs the water, with beaches and bays beckoning exploration. The Kona Boys beach shack at Kamakahonu Bay offers opportunities for stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, boogie boarding and outrigger canoeing.
Clients who don’t want to get wet can tour Kailua’s underwater world with Atlantis Submarines, whose 48-passenger vessels explore a 25-acre coral reef and marine life up to 100 feet below the surface.