Bali Ha'i on the Big Island?
January 26, 2009 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Hawaii-filter: I've been to Kauai twice and absolutely fell in love with Hanalei. My extended family is thinking of going to the west side of the Big Island this summer. Can you help point me to towns on the Big Island that are in some sense Hanalei-like?

More info: meeting up with sun-starved family, so the east side of Hawaii is probably not an option. Family is thinking of South Kona but this is still up in the air (none of us have been there and guidebooks can be misleading), alternate suggestions are very much appreciated.

Things I enjoyed about Hanalei: general vibe, great snorkeling, the size of the town and proximity to beautiful beaches, the lack of resorts, nearby hiking along the Na Pali Coast, the great fish market, the overall feel of a nice community in a special place.

Things I'm anxious about on the Big Island: being surrounded entirely by tourists, being trapped in a resort with no local flavor, having to drive to get anywhere.

(Suggestions on particular towns, places, restaurants, etc. are also very welcome.)

posted by genug to Travel & Transportation around Kauai, HI (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My family lives in Kona, so if you do decide to go there, feel free to PM me for restaurant recs and super-secret (kinda) good beach locations and the like. Kona has good snorkeling and a very laid back vibe, and isn't super-touristy, especially if you don't stay down in the waterfront area where the cruise ships dock. My parents are big fans of Kona Web ( ) and that might have more information that's useful to you. If you're looking for beautiful white-sandish beaches you'll almost certainly have to drive pretty far out of town. If you just want snorkeling then there are good beaches around town, but for the stereotypical sandy beach we drive out 30ish minutes to get there. I've never been in Kona without a car, but I would think you'd want one. I'm not sure if you're thinking about staying in a resort or condo or house but some of the resorts are pretty far outside the town, and you'd definitely want a car if you were going to do any exploring.

Sorry for the rambling response, I have kind of the weird position of having been to Kona 10ish times (family moved there when I was in college) but never lived there, so what I know about it is neither exactly from the local or tourist POV. If I get remember, or if you want to PM me to remind me, I can ask my parents for specific recommendations of towns similar to Hanalei and all the other stuff you're wondering about.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 8:26 PM on January 26, 2009

My impression of the Big Island is that you pretty much *have* to drive. There are limited shuttle services, but they are neither frequent nor particularly convenient. Kona is indeed very laid back, and even when it is busy, it doesn't seem overrun with tourists. I think that owes to the fact that most resorts aren't in Kona proper but it still manages to attract enough people to seem lively. If a car is definitely out of the question, staying in Kona itself might be your best option.

I stayed in South Kona (about halfway to Keauhou) and it was very peaceful and nice. The resort was pretty dead though, so we pretty much had to get a hire car, as the walk to Kona was just a liiiiiittle too far.
posted by ryanbryan at 12:41 AM on January 27, 2009

We stayed about 3/4 of a mile south of the main section of Kona on Alli Drive. I couldn't imagine being in Kona without a car. While Kona was full of interesting people and sights, most of the great stuff is only accessible via car (e.g. Volcano National Park, the waterfalls on the northeast side of the island, black sand beaches and the Waip'o Valley). Also, the major gigantic resorts are all north of the airport so you should be able to easily avoid those places. The one thing I will mention about Kona is I am not sure you are going to find beaches super close by. Beaches aren't my thing so I wasn't looking for them too closely and my copy of The Book is lent out but I want to say that most beaches near Kona proper are relatively small and rocky.
posted by mmascolino at 6:57 AM on January 27, 2009

Response by poster: Really helpful - thanks everyone. South Kona - away from resorts - sounds promising. (We will definitely have a rental care, wherever we go, we just want to avoid using it too much.)
posted by genug at 8:50 AM on January 27, 2009

Other than the driving thing, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I liked the dry side just as much as the wet one (I stayed in Waikoloa). It was all pretty mellow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:00 PM on January 27, 2009

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