If you're heading to the Big Island there's certainly one area you cannot miss... the Kona (West) Coast. This warm and sunny leeward area has become the resort area of the island.
You'll find a vast array of ocean-side restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and activity huts promoting various water activities in the nearby Kailua Bay. Accommodations in Kailua-Kona are generally less expensive than along the Kohala gold coast (Waikoloa), and many resorts/condos are located along Ali'i Drive.
In total the Kona Coast stretches some 40 miles along the rugged west coast of the Big Island. Many historical sites, beautiful beaches (some well hidden), pristine bays, and lava fields (with prominent petroglyphs) criss-cross and line the coast of this area. North Kona has some of the most gorgeous white sand beaches on the island, like Makalawena Beach and Mahai'ula Beach located at Kekaha Kai / Kona Coast State Park. Accessing them is a bit tricky however, see the individual pages for details.
Inland (mauka) of the coast are the slopes of Hualalai and upon these hills the famous Kona coffee plants and macadamia nuts are grown, harvested, and processed.
Each fall, normally around October, Kailua Bay serves as the starting point for the Iron Man Triathlon (the swimming portion). Heading towards south Kona you'll find Kealakekua Bay is where Captain Cook was killed. Today the bay offers some of the best islands snorkeling via permitted tours. Further south you'll find Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. This ancient Place of Refuge is probably the most visited site on the west side of the island, and it's one of two major national parks on the island, Hawai'i Volcanoes being the other on the eastern coast.
This section of our site contains a large portion of land north of Kailua-Kona and just south of Waikaloa, an area many consider truly to be in Kohala. We've decided to include it in our Kailua-Kona section (both on the web and in our physical guidebook) due to the proximity of these locations to the downtown Kailua-Kona area. Whether you see them as a part of Kona or Kohala is up to you.