Ports Of Call On Hawaii’s Big Island

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.

Wheelchair Accessibility

Disembarking – This is a tender port as cruise ships cannot be accommodated at its piers. Wheelchair bound passengers will encounter challenges both in getting on tenders as well as disembarking at the pier.

Port Characteristics – Kona has a well developed wheelchair friendly infrastructure. The port area is flat or has few inclines. Intersection crosswalks have few issues with curbs or other wheelchair obstacles.


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.

Hulihee Palace

The Port of Hilo And Volcano National Park


Kilauea crater

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. Using the bus to get around the island can be time consuming. There’s a taxis & shuttle location at 75-214 Ala Onaona Streeet. If you want to head out on your own to see the island the best option is a rental car with a number of options in town:

  • Thrifty Car Rental
    Car Rental 73-200 Kūpīpī St
    Kona, HI 96740
  • Alamo Rent A Car
    Car Rental 73-106 A’Ulepe St
    Kailua Kona, HI 96740
  • Dollar Car Rental 75-5660 Palani Rd
    Kailua Kona, HI 96740
  • AAA Big Island Exotic Car Rentals
  • Big Island Jeep Rental


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.

Island Sights

Kahūnā Falls
Kilauea lava field

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

Kilauea lava flows into Pacific 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 provide a free shuttle to cruise passengers.

Wheelchair Accessibility

Disembarking – This port has a cruise ship pier but the ease of disembarking varies by the individual ships gangway designs. For passengers using wheelchairs there can be a moderate ramp incline to deal with in this location.

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.

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