Kona, Island of Hawaii

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Overview

Commonly referred to as the Big Island, the Island of Hawaii is the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands – and there are a wide variety of ways to experience it. Hawaii has 10 climate zones, ranging from volcanic desert to snow-capped mountain and rain forest. But no matter where you are on the island, you’ll be captivated by its warm hospitality, gorgeous beaches, great accommodations and breathtaking attractions.

As you land, you'll see endless fields of black lava rock, providing an unusually beautiful welcome mat. Large areas of the coast and interior are covered in thick green vegetation. The black-sand beaches are calm and comfortable, and the ocean is a sparkling blue. Travellers looking for traditional island fun are well taken care of here. But if you're the kind of person who wants a little dash of adventure alongside luxury, the Big Island is also the perfect spot for you.

The Big Island has some of the calmest beaches in the state, making it better for wading toddlers than hardcore surfers. But don’t let that keep you out of the water. The snorkelling and scuba diving here are fantastic and the deep-sea fishing is world class.

If you head inland, you'll find that cattle ranches are plentiful here. You can even enjoy a fresh-picked pineapple for breakfast and local, grass-fed beef for lunch.

And while the island has its share of luxury mega-resorts, it is equally suited to the traveller who has a pair of hiking boots and knows how to use them. The mountainous terrain makes for ideal hiking and if you drive mountain-to-beach, it’s possible to go from parka country to bikini weather in less than two hours. Some might say the Big Island is the best of both worlds.

Kona is a fantastic destination for:

  • outdoor adventure
  • beaches
  • culture and history

Airport served by: KOA

Destination basics

Hawaii's climate is actually composed of 10 different zones on one island. From tropical, to desert, to glacial, Hawaii has it all. Within 50 km, annual rainfall totals can range from 25 centimetres to more than three metres. So in that sense, "How's the weather?" can be a hard question to answer!

Fortunately, there are a few guidelines. The Kailua-Kona (western) side of the island is warm, dry and sunny. Temperatures reach the mid-20s here, even in the winter. The sun is almost always shining and the breezes are typically soft.

If you journey to the interior, temperatures decrease by about 6 C for every 1,000 metres of elevation. Mauna Kea, the highest point on the island, is 4,200 metres high and experiences regular snowfall.

More than any other tropical destination, you’ll need to be ready for just about anything on the Big Island. So bring your umbrella and a coat, or just stay near Kona and you'll never need much more than a bathing suit and some sunscreen.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Kona, Hawaii Island

Geologically speaking, the Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Yet, when it comes to the history of Hawaiian culture, Big Island towers over its neighbours. The man who would eventually become King Kamehameha the Great was born here and it was from this island that he launched many battles, allowing him to unify all of the islands under his rule. Kamehameha moved the islands into modernity, clarifying the island nation's system of law, taxation and land ownership.

Today, it is still possible to visit Kamehameha's birth site, his personal temple (known as a heiau) and what some claim is the beach he visited when he wanted to relax.

Living on top of a molten ball of fire has a way of changing people's attitudes about life. From fishing and ranching to coffee production, Big Islanders work hard but understand that life is short. So living a balanced life with plenty of recreation time is taken seriously here. Music and dance are a big part of Big Island life, and it's not uncommon to stumble upon a hula festival or a slack-key guitar demonstration in the park.

Along the coasts, almost everyone has some kind of relationship to the ocean – whether it's deep-sea fishing, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding. In fact, one of the highest honours here is to be considered a waterman or kane o ke kai.

Although Mauna Kea has not erupted in about 4,500 years, Mauna Loa and Kilauea are still very active. In fact, Kilauea is considered the most active volcano on the planet and its lava often flows into the ocean in a dramatically sizzling fashion. To see the volcanoes' effects firsthand, hike to Kalapana, a fishing village destroyed by lava in 1990.

Living with lava is just a fact of life on the Big Island. People aren't afraid but they are careful to show proper respect to the goddess of volcanoes, Pele. On the Big Island, geology truly is destiny. And when you live in the shadow of the fire goddess, you need to make every minute count.

It is recommended that you bring U.S. dollars for general expenses. For entertainment and shopping expenses, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. On the Big Island, you will also find multiple ATMs for your convenience. Please note that transaction fees vary by ATM.

The Big Island's geography is all about volcanoes. The scenery varies from gently sloping hillsides to steep lava cliffs plunging into the ocean. The old lava flows make for dramatic black sand beaches and plains of moonlike terrain. (So moonlike, in fact, Apollo astronauts trained here in preparation for their lunar landings.)

At a mere 800,000 years old, Big Island is the youngest island in the state. And, like most youngsters, it's always growing and changing shape. That's because Mauna Loa and Kilauea are still quite active. As lava hardens, it pushes the coastline further into the ocean. Roads dead-end into rock, towns are forced to relocate and molten fissures open in the earth's surface.

The island is also famous for its lushness of vegetation. Coffee plantations are everywhere and the island has many ferns and other dense foliage.

On the Big Island, you will need a car if you plan to explore (be sure to get four wheel drive if you're headed off the main roads). You can book a rental car at the airport or arrange to pick up at the airport from the car rental agency of your choice. Just be sure to check your rental agreement for restrictions on where you can drive. Many companies do not allow you to take rentals on the steeper, winding roads.

If you choose not to rent a car, there are airport transfers, taxis and public transportation options available. You can also book hotel transfers with a WestJet Vacations representative.

Arrival

Kona International Airport is the main airport in Hawaii. Located on 3,450 acres of land, you'll know you're landing when you see this airport's 11,000 feet of runway.

Before you depart Canada, you will first go through security and U.S. Customs. Once you land in Kona, proceed to the baggage claim area to pick up your belongings. If you have pre-booked a transfer or an orchid lei greeting & transfer with WestJet Vacations, please see the Diamond Head Vacations representative in the baggage claim area.

If you've rented a car, you can catch shuttles to the car rental depots from the centre median outside the baggage claim area. Each car rental company has a designated pick up area and shuttles operate continuously. Taxis are located curbside, fronting baggage claim areas A and B. See the taxi dispatchers for service.

Departure

Located just seven miles from Kailua and 25 miles from Waikoloa, you’ll be able to quickly and easily get back to Kona International by shuttle or taxi.

Once there, smiling WestJetters will be ready to assist you at the international check-in counters. These counters open three hours prior to departure and close 15 minutes after your flight is scheduled to depart. You can also check in and select your seats ahead of time using WestJet's Web check-in service.

The Big Island is just that – big. In fact, it's so big you could fit all the other Hawaiian Islands inside it…twice! But it's not just big in circumference; it's also high. The island is made up of five volcanoes. Two of them (Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea) are more than 4,000 metres in altitude. Interestingly, if you measure from the sea floor, Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain in the world.

The Big Island is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a stunning (and very active) volcanic area. The Park covers 13,500 sq. km and is accessible by road, or via the 240 km of hiking trails.

The unique soil and terrain of the island make it ideal for producing the smooth Kona coffee beans exported all over the world. The moist, mild climate is also perfect for flowers (the Big Island is a major exporter of orchids).

The Big Island is also known as The Adventure Island. Many people consider the Big Island the top sport-fishing destination in the Pacific, if not the world. It is also considered the golf capital of the state, with about 20 unique courses taking advantage of the stunning scenery.

In addition to spectacular earth, the Big Island is also known for amazing skies. The summit of Mauna Kea houses some of the world's largest telescopes, with a combined light-gathering power 60 times stronger than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Traditional Hawaiian culture is also strong on the Big Island. Here, you'll find the state's largest petroglyph field of more than 23,000 rock carvings. And since the Big Island was the seat of power during the rule of King Kamehameha, you can also find the ruins of numerous temples, village sites and extensive fish ponds.

Whether it's golf, natural wonders or five-star resorts, everything on the Big Island is bigger and many say better than anywhere else.

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ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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