Kona is a tender port – Ships have to anchor off Kona and tender passengers ashore by boat. When tendering is required, guests using mobility devices will not be transferred into or out of the tender. Many tender ports do not provide wheelchair access so even if the guest can board the tender they may not be able to disembark ashore. Again the shore-side facilities, movement of the tender, weather and tidal conditions can also preclude tendering.
While cruise ships call it “Kona,” this stop on the western part of the island of Hawaii is actually a region rather than an actual city. Ships anchor in Kailua Bay and tender their guests to the Kailua Pier, which is right in the middle of Kailua Village, the historic heart of Kailua-Kona.
Kona’s sunnier and dryer than Hilo to the east — it almost never rains — and features the island’s best beaches, snorkeling and surfing. (The east coast is more tropical, with waterfalls and mountainous regions closer to the town of Hilo. Believe it or not, the island has 11 climatic zones!)
Coffee grown in the hills above Kailua-Kona (the one place where it rains more in the summer than in the winter) is very delicious and highly prized. Beaches in the area range from black sand to sugar white, with sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins and — in season, November to May — humpback whales visible from the surf or the shore.
Whereas Hilo is the business anchor of the Big Island (with a more authentic, local feel), the area just north of Kailua-Kona — the Kohala Coast — houses the island’s most desirable resorts, with renowned restaurants, spas and golf courses.
The disabled cruiser visiting Kona
Since the cruise ship does not dock and the disabled cruiser is tendered to the island from out in the harbor; if the water is too rough, the captain may not let the disabled cruiser off the ship. Anyone with limited mobility would have some difficulty. Anyone in a wheelchair would have to be carried on and off the tender.
Where You’re Docked
Kona is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.
Cruise ships anchor and tender passengers to the middle of downtown Kailua Village. It’s a short walk to souvenir shops, cafes and bars. Shopping shuttles will pick you up at the pier, as will rental car company shuttles. Local tourist representatives set up a small table with brochures and maps and can answer questions.
Good to Know
Ocean safety is a top concern. The water might look calm and peaceful, but conditions can change quickly. Never turn your back on the ocean and obey all signage or official warnings about beach and water use. If you don’t see locals in the water, it might be best to stay on dry land, and don’t disobey posted regulations just because someone you meet tells you it’s no problem to go swimming.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Local currency is the U.S. dollar. There are plenty of ATMs around the little city, including at the Courtyard King Kamehameha Hotel, retail stores on Alii Drive and at the Lanihau shopping center. An American Savings Bank is located at the corner of Kuakini Highway and Palani Road. Almost all shops, restaurants, car rental companies and tour companies take credit and debit cards.
English, but try your hand at any Hawaiian phrases you pick up. Aloha means hello and goodbye, mahalo means thank you, and aloha ahiahi means good night. If you hear Aloha, e komo mai, don’t panic. It means “Welcome!”
Kona Coffee is your best bet for coffee drinkers. Try to buy at one of the plantations or at a grocery store rather than in a tourist outlet. You’ll get a much better price in the grocery stores although the packaging might not be as pretty, and at the plantation, you’ll find coffee varieties you can’t find in retail stores.
For other food souvenirs, head to a KTA Super Store or Long’s Drugs to pick up local favorites such as ulu (breadfruit) chips, Kona Chips potato chips, mochi (a sweet rice cake) and manju (a confection filled with red bean paste), or Donna’s Cookies. If you’re looking for shot glasses, keychains and the ubiquitous chocolate-covered macadamias (which you can also find in your hometown Costco), head to an ABC Store, Wal-Mart or most any shopping area. You’ll find the bigger chains up Palani Road from the pier and a variety of tourist shops along Alii Drive.
Points of Interest
- Kona – a seven-
Kona Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
Kona Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible