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Hawaii Island, Key attractions on the west side

 Hawaii Island, Key attractions on the west side

Hawaii Island

Sunsets in West Hawaii are spectacular

West Hawaii attractions

After showing you some of the beautiful spots and attractions to visiting on the east side of Hawaii Island, this post will explore some of the key attractions and historic sites on the west side of the island.  Blessed with sun and clear skies, the west side of the island is drier and hotter compared to the lush east side. What it lacks in lush rain forests and tropical jungles is offset with beautiful sandy beaches, warmer weather and resort style living with plush resort living, ultra lux dining experiences and outdoor adventure travel experiences. The west side of the Hawaii Island caters to more outdoor, resort and travel lifestyles with a focused attention to tourism, adventure travel along with many levels of tourism to attract every budget and personal interest when visiting Hawaii.

Hawaii Island

Kona town at sunrise

Kona Town

Kailua Kona once a sleepy fishing village and a royal Hawaiian retreat, the town is bustling with restaurants, tourist shops and affordable accommodations. Historic sites are easy to visit in town including the royal summer palace at Hulihee Palace, the Mokuaikaua Church and Ahuena Heiau, located at the Kamehameha hotel, is a reconstructed temple rebuilt by King Kamehameha the Great  (The Hawaiian king that unified the Hawaiian Islands.) There are many activities to do in town including visiting farmers and crafts markets, boating and snorkeling excursions, luaus, and enjoying a nice drink or meal at sunset in many of the fine dining venues around the village.

Hawaii Island

The Place of Refuge

Puuhonua o Honaunau or the place of refuge

This National historic park is located in South Kona on Honaunau bay. Once the home of Hawaiian royalty and at the same time a place of refuge to ordinary commoners that have broken a kapu (Hawaiian sacred law sometimes punishable by death). If the maka’ainana (commoner), makes it to a place of refuge then absolution is eventually given and they can return back to society. It was believed that the mana (spiritual energy) of the chiefs bones gave additional protection to the place of refuge so no harm could be done to those seeking protection in this sacred sanctuary and life begins anew for those ancient Hawaiians. The park has several historic and recreated structures including: the Hale o Keawe Heiau (sacred temples housing bones of the chiefs), rock walls, wooden carved images, and the royal compounds. . Close-by to the park is a wonderful snorkeling spot called Two Step which is one of the nicer places to see some beautiful coral and Hawaiian tropical fish and honu (turtles) basking in the sun. There are many attractions and historic landmarks to visit in the park, here is the official national park website to visit and get more information on this historic sanctuary.

Hawaii Island

Koloko Honokohau National Park

Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park

South of the Kona International airport is this coastal area and national park that depicts an early Hawaiian settlement along the Kona coast. The national park is home to two fish ponds, petroglyphs embedded on lava rocks, heiau (sacred temples), rock walls and other historic monuments. There are many coastal trails to take and discover wildlife including honu(turtles), native birds, and even the rare Hawaiian monk seal. This national park has a welcome center and official website that you can also visit here to learn more about this beautiful Hawaiian sanctuary. I also wrote a recent post on this beautiful sanctuary here, there many beautiful trails, scenic vistas, the heiau and fish pond that I visit on this tour and included more images of the gorgeous coastline.

Hawaii Island

A bay, Waikoloa Hawaii

Sandy beaches

Kona and the sunny areas of the Kohala coastline are blessed with sunshine and beautiful sandy beaches and coves worth exploring. Favorite local and tourist beaches include the popular white sandy beach at Hapuna and Mauna Kea, Kua bay and A bay along the Kohala coasts and in Kona White Sands, Kahaluu beaches are easily accessible. For beach camping popular spots include Spencer beach, Kehaka Kai In the Kohala area and Hookena in South Kona. There are many more hidden or not easily accessible beaches throughout the west side of the island also worth discovering with their own unique charms, beautiful beaches or snorkeling appeal.

Hawaii Island

Polulu Valley, Hawaii

Hawi and Polulu Valley

The west coastline of Hawaii Island is also lush, serene and beautiful with charming towns like Hawi and Kapaau with their art galleries, shopping and cafes to draw visitors from all around the island. Close-by is the dramatic coastline and cliffs of the Polulu Valley with a fantastic look out to the coastline and beaches. You can hike down to the beautiful black sand beach below and enjoy some scenic views of the valley. The surf is usually rough currents along the beach so swimming is generally discouraged unless it is an extremely calm period during your visit.

Hawaii Island

Kona coffee farms in West Hawaii

Coffee Plantations and Holualoa

Hawaii is an agricultural island and Kona coffee is very well-known internationally for its exceptional taste and quality. There are many coffee tasting rooms and some farms open to the public for touring in the South Kona area and up in the cloud forest belt in Holualoa, an artist community with many small art boutiques, shops and cafes along with coffee tasting rooms. To see a more detailed map of the many tasting places and coffee farms in West Hawaii, visit this link with maps to each location.

Hawaii Island

Honu (turtle) basking on the sandy beaches in Hawaii

West side snorkeling spots and wildlife

There are many popular snorkeling spots and touring companies that offer boating tours of harder to reach places where the snorkeling is outstanding on the west side of Hawaii Island.  There are even popular tours for whale watching, manta ray diving and deep-sea fishing. The more popular areas that are easier to reach by driving include places like Two Step in Honaunau, the beginner beach at Kahaluu and White Sands in Kailua Kona and Hapuna or Spencer Beach in the Kohala areas. Very popular but only accessible by a long downhill hike, via kayak or boat cruise is at the Captain Cook monument at Kealakekua bay, it’s definitely a unique and beautiful area to snorkel and visit the monument for the famous British Captain, James Cook who was killed here in 1779.

Hawaii Island

Pu’ukohola Heiau

Pu’ukohola National Park

Pu’ukohola Heiau and National Park is a significant heiau in Hawaii that was created by Kamehameha the Great in honor of the Hawaiian god Ku. The heiau means ‘Temple on the hill of the Whale’ is built on an older temple built in 1580. Constructed from stones with no mortar, a human chain of thousands of civilians forming 14 miles from the Polulu Valley to the heiau and passing the rocks along this chain. It took one  year to complete the heiau in 1791 and starting Kamehameha’s campaign to unify the entire island chain. The heiau is still used regularly for spiritual ceremonies including a yearly event commemorating the building and unification of the Hawaiian people. Along with the heiau, there are a few more heiau in the park including a shark heiau underwater, a visitors center and trails leading to various historic monuments around the park. There is a beautiful visitors center and gallery and website, to learn more about this historic sanctuary visit the national park’s website here.

Hawaii Island

Morning sail along the Hawaiian coastline

Adventure sports and off the beaten path

West Hawaii is the epicenter of adventure travel activities covering water and land recreation and sport. This includes fun land adventure sports like ATV drives along the Hamakua coasts, horseback riding in Waipio valley, Ziplining in Hawi. On the water you can go on a variety of snorkel and diving adventures, Manta ray night dives, deep-sea fishing and parasailing, boogie boarding and surfing. There are many outdoor adventure activities that can keep you busy for any adventure related travel.

Hawaii Island

Hapuna Prince sunset, upper terrace

Fine Dining and, luaus and resort lifestyle

West Hawaii is a fine dining destination with its world class resorts and upscale restaurants. Each hotel also sponsors a regular Hawaiian luau on the premisis which is a representation of a tradition form of celebration and gathering along with festive hula shows, crafts exhibits and other sharing of Hawaiian culture and history.  Ocean front dining is at its best with world-class restaurants like the Kamuela Provision company, Browns Beach House, Manta and Pavilion , ‘Ulu Ocean Grill and the Canoe House, you can’t go wrong having a fantastic meal especially with a spectacular sunset view. Take a look at some of these amazing restaurant venues if you want excellent service, food and a beautiful sunset view to cap off a wonderful dining experience in West Hawaii.   Thanks for taking a tour of some attractions and key sites in West Hawaii, there are so many other beautiful places not mentioned in this post. If you also visited someplace worth noting from the west side of Hawaii Island, please share it with us in the comments section. Also take a look at some of the top sites to visit on the east side of the island on this post Today I’m linking to Travel Photo Thursday  and Oh the places I’ve been , go visit these blogs from around the world.

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30 Responses to Hawaii Island, Key attractions on the west side

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  2. Hawaii Vacation July 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    See the best scenes in foreign countries without spending much.

  3. budget jan July 27, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    A gorgeous place and you really take great photos. Your sunset photos are superb.

  4. Insidejourneys July 26, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Wow, stunning, Noel! Just stunning. Love your photos.

  5. Mary {The World Is A Book} July 26, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Gorgeous photos and perfectly capture this beautiful side of Hawaii. We were only in the Kona for a day during a cruise prot stop so I would love to return to explore this area. We loved the coffee plantations and Puuhonua o Honaunau. My kids loved the turtles basking in the sun here. Thanks for the virtual tour and a major inspiration to go back.

  6. Marisol@TravelingSolemates July 26, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    Hi Noel,
    Oh, gosh, every image is like paradise. Siimply stunning places and photos.
    Thanks for the nice round up of attractions. I haven’t been to his part of Hawaii and will definitely like to see them next time.

  7. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs July 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Wow, it looks amazing! Those photos just bring you right there! I so wish to visit now! 🙂

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Hi Marysia,

      thanks for all the nice comments, yes come and visit Hawaii some day 🙂

  8. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} July 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    What a fantastic virtual tour of the west side of the island. Do locals visit all these places often or is it more of a tourist thing? I especially like the photo of the sea turtle basking in the sun. Have you visited the Cocoa Plantation? I wish I had made time when we were there a few years ago.

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Coming from the East side this is a fun thing for me to revisit, I’m sure many of these places are visited regularly by locals especially since a lot of festivals center around these temples and monuments.

  9. jill July 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    My favorite Hawaiian island! You captured it so beautifully…

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      thanks for visiting, come and join us with your photos for Travel Photo Mondays 🙂

  10. travelnwrite July 25, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Noel, what a beautiful tour you have taken us on today. Mahalo!

  11. Debbie @ European Travelista July 25, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Love the island of Hawaii for its amazing diversity! Really enjoyed all your photos but especially the sunset at the Hapuna Prince. Spectacular!

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for your comments, I enjoyed your tour of Budapest and your other posts of the city, look forward to my visit this October!

  12. Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans July 25, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    You offer a great roundup – Kona looks especially inviting. I’m long overdue for another trip to Hawai’i!

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      Aloha Dana,

      Yes come and visit, it’s always perfect anytime of the year!

  13. Mica July 25, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Hi Noel, really liked this post and want to share on twitter, if you can fix your share buttons so that your twitter address shows up, it makes it easier to retweet your posts!

    • Noel July 25, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      Hi Mica,

      Thanks for the comment, I’ll look at trying to put in the twitter handles correctly, thanks

  14. Linda Ballou July 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    You have some lovely shots of places I write about in my book Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii…set in pre-contact Hawaii…I will share your page on social networks. I would appreciate if you would come to Wai-nani’s page on FB and her page on my website.
    http://www.lindaballouauthor.com/Wainani.html

    I also have a lot of blog posts about old Hawaii and many travel articles…please come and visit.
    Linda

    • Noel July 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Aloha Linda, thanks for the visit and comments. I will definitely visit your your page and learn more about your stories, mahalo.

  15. Faythe @ GrammyMouseTails July 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    what beautiful scenery! a place on my wish list (if I ever win the lotto ;D )
    I am really enjoying your photography, too. thanks for stopping & commenting at my site.

  16. Marilyn Armstrong July 24, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    It’s almost as good as a real visit … not quite … but almost 🙂

    • Noel July 24, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      yes you do have to come to enjoy the real thing, thanks for visiting meanwhile Marilyn.

  17. Stephanie July 24, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Another scrumptious article. Gorgeous photos. Shared all around. If I spend the $200 roundtrip to go see my family on Big Island this weekend, I’ll blame it on you. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Noel July 24, 2013 at 11:15 am #

      It’s great the roundtrip prices are sometimes a deal to the outer islands. THanks for visiting and sharing my post Stephanie much Aloha!

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