Hawaii’s Big Island
The “Big Island” of Hawaii is the largest and southern-most island in the State of Hawaii. It is home to The Volcano National Park which includes Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano. The island has two major towns, Kona on the northwest coast and Hilo on the southeast coast. Both are favorite ports of call for cruise ships.
The Port of Kona or Kailua-Kona
Kona is a favorite stop for cruise ships visiting the “Big Island” of Hawaii. Famous for its namesake coffee, great beaches and an active art community.
Where Your Ship Docks
There are no docking facilities in Kona so cruise ships anchor out, using tenders to get ashore. The tenders dock right at the intersection of Palani Road and Ali’i Drive in the heart of town. Ali’i Drive runs along the waterfront and there are a number of restaurants and shops to the south and beaches and parks to the north. Going straight up Palini about a mile will bring you to a Walmart, Post Office, Grocery and a Home Depot.
The actual town is small and pedestrian friendly. The island of Hawaii also offers free mass transit via the Hele On Bus (see below). There are stops all around the island of Hawaii, with service between Kona and Hilo running Monday through Saturday. All buses are wheelchair accessible, and it’s free to go anywhere on the island. If you want to get out into the countryside on your own the best option is to rent a car available at a few agencies right in town.
Along the waterfront in town
Hawaii is a state in the United States and the currency is the U.S. Dollar. ATMs are readily available and most credit cards are accepted.
Kailua-Kona is on the west coast of Hawaii Island (the Big Island) with a few sites located near town. Hulihee Palace is a former royal vacation home dating from 1838. Mokuaikaua Church, from the 1800s, is Hawaii’s oldest Christian church. On Kailua Bay, reconstructed thatched houses at Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark are erected on the site of King Kamehameha I’s residence. There are a number of good coral reefs located just off Kamakahonu Beach. Kona is also near to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park with some nice hiking trails.
The Port of Hilo And Volcano National Park
Hawaiʻi [The Big Island], Hawaii – It is the largest island in the Hawaiian chain and the youngest geologically. There are five volcanoes on the Big Island that include Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Three are considered active (Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kilauea) and the rest are considered dormant (Mauna Kea) or extinct (Kohala). Unique with 12 separate climate zones, ranging from the warmth found amid balmy coastal jungles in Puna up to the snowcapped peaks above the slopes of Mauna Kea. Beach lovers take in sunshine and sand at the five star resorts dotted along the Kona coast and for a more laid back and casual lifestyle there’s Hilo, a sleepy little city famous for its small mom-and-pop shops.
Getting Around Hawaiʻi
The public bus system on the Big Island is called the “Hele-on bus”. While it covers the whole of the island and using it is mostly free, it is not focused on sightseeing destinations, and using the bus to get around the island can be time consuming. If you want to head out on your own to see the island the best option is a rental car.
Hawaii is the 50th State and uses the US Dollar and most credit cards are welcome and ATM machines are plentiful. Foreign travelers will need to convert currency (ATM’s are a great option) or get by with using credit cards.
There are five significant waterfalls on the island with Kahūnā Falls located in Akaka State Park being the most popular featuring a good viewing spot that’s only a short walk up a paved trail near the park’s parking lot.
The island is also famous as the principal location of Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation HERE which operates a nice Visitor Center.
Kilauea at night
Often cruise ships will make port calls twice on Hawaiʻi. One at Hilo and the other at Kona (Kailua-Kona). Depending on the itinerary most ships will cruise the south shore where lava from Kilauea pours constantly into the Pacific ocean. The cruises can be anywhere from early in the morning to late at night. Anytime day or night the show is spectacular with billowing clouds of steam rising above the orange hot lava as it pours into the sea.
Port of Call Hilo
Where Your Ship Docks
Hilo is the largest city on The Big Island and offers docking facilities for cruise ships. Cruise ships dock at piers in Kuhio Bay on Kuhio Street about 2 miles east of downtown Hilo. Free shuttles are often provided to Walmart at Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall two miles south of the pier and the Downtown Farmer’s Market may also offer a free shuttle.
Attractions In Hilo
There are a number of local activities in and around Hilo. Visit the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center HERE or Lyman Museum and Mission House HERE. There is also Zoo and Garden HERE and a great farmers market.
Hilo is most popular as the gateway port for visiting the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park where the park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world. The park extends from sea level to 13,677 feet. A drive to the park from Hilo is 36 miles and by car takes about 45 minutes.