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Hawaii’s Big Island lays claim to its fair share of modern master-planned resorts, but Kailua Village is not one of them. Instead, the former fishing town on the island’s west side differentiates itself as a timeless destination rich in Hawaiian history, culture and traditions.
The view from the dining room of Huggo’s restaurant in Kailua Village. // © 2009 Timark for Huggo’s
Set in the heart of the island’s Kona district, Kailua Village awaits clients just 10 minutes south of Kona International Airport. Spectacular scenery, warm weather, ancient landmarks and year-round outdoor recreation make it a constantly in-demand destination for thousands of visitors each year.
One of Kailua Village’s big selling points is its walkability. The main drag, called Alii Drive, invites casual explorations by foot along a picturesque shoreline lined by a lava-rock sea wall. Along the way, clients can pop into down-home shops selling souvenirs, T-shirts, jewelry and art, then stop to take a break at sidewalk cafes. When visitors are ready to venture further afield, KVBID encourages going green by riding the shuttle between Kailua Village and nearby resorts, beaches and shopping centers.
Tales From Yesterday and TodayFor history buffs, Kailua Village tells fascinating stories. Once the social, political and religious center of the Hawaiian kingdom, it boasts three major cultural sites, all easily accessible to visitors. The dramatic Ahuena Heiau features carved wooden idols, a stone wall and the restored thatched building that served as King Kamehameha’s retreat in the early 1800s. Hulihee Palace, which was once the vacation residence of Hawaiian royalty, is now a museum operated by the Daughters of Hawaii. Across the street stands Hawaii’s first Christian house of worship, Mokuaikaua Church, built in 1837.
Active clients will find plenty of present-day amusements in Kailua Village. They can book guided snorkel tours departing from Kailua Pier as well as parasailing, submarine tours, deep-sea-fishing outings and rafting adventures, and kayak or stand-up paddleboard rentals. Golfers can challenge themselves at the Kona Country Club, five miles south of Kailua Village, or the upland Makalei Golf Course and Big Island Country Club. For sun-lovers, several sun-drenched beaches line Alii Drive.
All eyes fall on Kailua Village in October, however, when the world-famous Ironman Triathlon takes place. Another local lure is the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, which celebrated 50 years in August.
In keeping with the old-Hawaii mood of the area, Kailua Village’s accommodations are relatively laid-back. The longstanding King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel features new guestroom decor that reflects its tropical surroundings. Royal Kona Resort also just wrapped up a renovation of its rooms and restaurants, including the popular Don the Beachcomber. The venerable Kona Seaside Hotel promises great value in a quiet, garden-like setting, while Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel sports a homespun ambience complete with free continental breakfast. Clients can also book a range of bed and breakfasts, condominiums and vacation homes in the area.
Come evening, Kailua Village stays alive with oceanfront bars and restaurants. Entertainment includes the Island Breeze Luau on the grounds of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, a weekly production called “Firenesia” at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa and the Royal Kona Resort Luau.
Special EventsOne of the best ways for clients to get to know Kailua Village is by attending KVBID’s monthly Kokua Kailua events, when Alii Drive is converted into a festive pedestrian walkway with vendors and music. From 1-6 p.m., locals and residents shop, dine and buy island-made products while strolling the promenade. Each Kokua Kailua event attracts between 2,000-3,000 people, said Baker. Of that number, approximately 60 percent are visitors. Upcoming strolls are scheduled for Oct. 18, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13, with more dates planned for 2010. KVBID also presents annual programs timed with special occasions, like an alcohol- and drug-free Halloween party, holiday celebrations from Thanksgiving through the holidays, a New Year’s Eve bash and July 4 fireworks.
Big Island Visitors Bureau800-648-2441www.bigisland.org
Kailua Village Business Improvement District808-326-7820www.kvbid.org
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