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The Definitive Guide To Hawaii Vacations in 2020

information iconAbout This Guide

This is the ultimate guide to Hawaii, Hawaii in 2020. And let's do this the right way:
This is NOT your average “Top 10 things..." list.
Yes, we’ll cover the most-visited favorites. But you’re also going to find hidden experiences that our clients remember for decades. So if you’re looking to explore Hawaii, you’ll love this new guide.

About Hawaii iconGet Your Bearings on Hawaii

Overview of Hawaii

Hawaii, also known as "The Big Island", is equal in size to all the other islands combined. Upon arrival at Kona International Airport, you might think you have arrived on the moon because of the massive lava flows. This island has a unique and varied topography: active volcanoes, miles of lava rock fields, beautiful green landscapes, magnificent waterfalls, large ranches, quaint towns, and the Kohala Coast communities with their sparkling beaches and upscale resorts. Due to the extensive volcanic activity, the number of natural beaches are limited. However, the waters off of the coastline offer wonderful experiences for fishermen, boaters and divers. To see the entire island, you should allow a full day.

Hawaii Facts

  • Size: 4,028 Square Miles
  • Length: 93 Miles
  • Width: 76 Miles
  • Coastline: 266 Miles
  • Population: 148,677

Hawaii Airports

  • Main Hawaii Airport: Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO)
  • Driving from the airport:
  • From Kona International Airport Kailua-Kona: 7miles (10 min)
  • Keauhou: 15 miles (20 min)
  • Kohala Coast Resorts: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Waimea: 39 miles (50 min)
  • From Kailua-Kona Hilo: 99 miles (2.5 hrs Kohala Coast Resort: 27 miles (40 min)
  • Volcano: 110 mi. 3 hrs)
  • Waimea: 40 miles (50 min)

Hawaii Weather

Although the island of Hawaii is relatively close to the equator, it experiences a mild tropical climate throughout the year. With a temperature variance of only 4 to 8 degrees between winter and summer, the weather conditions on the islands are considered by many to be the world's most inviting. Although humidity is higher than normal U.S. mainland standards, Pacific trade winds bring a stabilizing influence to the islands, making them delightfully comfortable year-round. In the lowlands, temperatures range from 60 degrees at night to 80 degrees during the day. As with any area, the higher you go, the colder it gets. With some of Hawaii's mountains topping 13,000 ft., parts of Hawaii are even under snow from December through March!

A Brief History of Hawaii

Hawaii (also known as "The Big Island") is the youngest and largest island in the chain. Polynesians are thought to have discovered the island more than 1,200 years ago after crossing over 3,000 miles of open ocean. By the time it was re-discovered by Capt. James Cook in 1779, the Polynesian population on the Big Island had grown to more than 80,000. Polynesians flourished here under a system of chiefs and commoners, a culture of strict rules, and an abundance of mythology. The march toward modernization began in the 1820's when islanders embraced the Christian teachings of missionaries who had arrived from Boston; with the missionaries came reading and writing, and soon businessmen from America and Great Britain took an interest in the island. With the new industries came a gradual phasing out of the power of Hawaiian royalty, until Hawaii and its sister islands became the 50th state on August 21st, 1959. (This was done at the urging of Hawaiians themselves, as evidenced by the nearly unanimous vote on the Hawaii statehood bill.) The Big Island is now one of four counties in Hawaii. Hawaii quickly became completely modernized after gaining statehood and has become a center for research and education on the islands. On the island are some of the world's most important astronomical observatories, as well as centers for geothermal, alternate energy, and ocean research.

Things to do in Hawaii iconThings To Do in Hawaii

Land Experiences3

Luaus on the Big Island

Though there are many Big Island luaus, they all display certain similarities:

THE FOOD: Sharing of the "gift of food" is an integral part of every Luau. The main ingredient of any luau is "Kalua Pork" or pig. Preparations for the cooking of the pig begin early the day of the luau. A large pit called an "imu" is dug in the sand. Dry, hardwood Kiawe wood (known in North America as Mesquite) is placed into the pit with rounded river rocks assembled on top. The wood is lit on fire and after a couple of hours all that is left on the bottom are hot coals and incredibly hot rocks which will maintain the heat for hours to come. The rocks are then spread evenly on the bottom and fresh cut banana stalks are placed on top. Finally, a layer of banana leaves provide a bed for the pig. The pig is then placed in the pit and covered with more banana leaves and ti leaves and usually a gunnysack to keep the heat in. Finally the pit is covered with a tarp and beach sand. The rocks heat the juicy banana stalks causing a pressure cooker effect in the imu. After 6 to 8 hours the finished pig is unveiled. The intense steam has cooked the meat so it just falls away from the bone, and the moisture from the banana stalks has kept the meat moist and delicious.

Other delicacies usually provided at a luau are chicken long rice, lomi lomi salmon, haupia (coconut desert), poi (very nutritious), veggies, salad, steaks, roasted chicken, fresh fish, rice, lots of specialty items, deserts and much more. An open bar is usually provided which includes Mai Tai's and other adult beverages while the children are provided with lots to drink. Although you will probably find a number of the items on your plate unusual to say the least, you can be assured that there will be plenty of food available that has some semblance of what you are familiar with.

THE ENTERTAINMENT: Another integral part of every luau is the entertainment included from many of the various cultures of Polynesia. Here you will find some variation with regard to what various luaus provide. Only a very few of the luaus are traditional Hawaiian in that they will provide only dance and song of the hula that is specific to the culture of old Hawaii. The vast majority of the others will provide entertainment that can be found from other cultures throughout the Pacific Rim such as from Tahiti, Samoa (with its famous fire dance), Fiji, and New Zealand.

Luaus are always held during sunset. Most are located on beautiful beach locations with a view of the setting sun over the ocean. They will last about three hours and there is no question that you will not only leave full and happy, but with an extra bit of the "Spirit of Aloha" that Hawaii is famous for.

Big Island Land Tours - Hawaii Forest Trail

Hawaii Forest & Trail offers guided nature adventure tours to a variety of remote and spectacular places on Hawaii's Big Island, introducing visitors to the incredible natural diversity of this largest of the Hawaiian Islands. On their eight different nature adventures, ranging from half day to full day tours, they share with guests pristine rainforests, rushing waterfalls, cliff side trails, rare birds, stargazing atop Mauna Kea and the awesome beauty of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Six of these tours feature relaxed, easy walks, with transportation to the site in comfortable, customized vans. Two of these tours - new for 2006 - are fun, off road adventures in six-wheel drive Pinzgauer vehicles, with stops and easy walks along the way.

Tours are small - 12 people maximum - and all are led by professionally-trained interpretive naturalist guides. Though the areas visited are spectacular, it is the guides who really "make" the experience for guests, helping them understand, learn about and really forge a connection with the unique natural areas found here.

More than just an adventure, these tours are really a means for visitors to take home a story, a profound insight into evolutionary processes and natural history that are showcased so well here. Hawaii Forest & Trail is among only a handful of companies in Hawaii offering guests the opportunity to see rare native birds in natural habitats.

It is also among a half dozen Island tour companies offering stargazing on 13,796 foot high Mauna Kea, which Fodor's guidebook called "one of the 10 unforgettable experiences in the world for 2006". Hawaii Forest & Trail is the recipient of the 2006 Ecotour Operator of the Year Award from the Hawaii Ecotourism Association.

Daypacks, water bottles, binoculars, walking sticks, warm wear and rain gear provided.

Big Island ATV Tours

The ATV tours on the Big Island are among the most adventurous of the outdoor activities available in Hawaii. The Big Island is the original site of the very first 4-wheel ATV tours in the state, and that"s not by accident. The original company, ATV Outfitters, has an assortment of ATV four-wheel options which include the jungle and mountains of the Kohala Mountains above the town of Hawi, incredible ocean cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls.

The ATV tours include: Historical Ocean Cliff Trail 1 1/2 hour tour. See the hidden Hawaii on All-Terrain vehicles. Cruise towering ocean cliffs before touching the ocean at a remote private pebbled beach. Your guides will explain the culture and rich history of the area throughout your adventure. 15 Mile Waterfall Adventure Traverse through brisk mountain streams; enter a rainforest filled with native Hawaiian trees and canopies of ferns and flowers before discovering a private secluded waterfall. Your guide will paint a historical picture of the rich culture in the area.

A visual rush of panoramic collages makes this a driving experience to remember. 22 Mile All Day Adventure Ride along the beautiful Kohala Coastline cruising on top of 200 foot majestic ocean cliffsides. Continue your journey to a private and secluded bay (once private property of King Kamehameha) where there is a bird's eye view of a 1930's lighthouse.

Native Hawaiian guides share genuine history and let you enjoy the special beauty. Next you travel high into the mountains through a cool eucalyptus rainforest and brisk mountain streams. You will then make your way up to a 2000 foot elevation of the oldest volcano of the Big Island and stop at two waterfalls, taking a 5 minute walk to the foot of a private exclusive waterfall.

Water Experiences3

Dolphin Excursions on Big Island

Without question the ultimate fantasy of visitors in Hawaii would be swimming with the dolphins in the wild. Fantasy is the key word here as in practice this is fairly rare (with the possible exception of off the leeward coast of Oahu) although certain activities provide encounters with dolphins in resort pool settings.

Though actually swimming with them is fairly rare, finding them and seeing them and enjoying their manuvers as they swim, surf, dive and jump off the wake of your boat is extremely common. It is for this reason that dolphin watches and dolphin excursions which offer information on dolphins are very popular in hawaii.

Known for their inshore habits, playfulness around vessels and star performances at oceanariums, bottlenose dolphins are probably the most popular of all cetacean species. Adults range in size from seven to eleven feet in length and weigh between 600 and 850 pounds. Their backs are medium gray, their sides are lighter gray and their bellies are white or pink. Offshore animals are darker in color than those found inshore and sometimes appear to be less interested in swimming along with boats.

A few thousand bottlenose dolphins are believed to inhabit the waters around Hawaii, usually living in groups of two to fifteen individuals. Most of these groups are permanent residents of certain coastlines and harbors, and are therefore easy to spot.

Spinner dolphins are the smallest of Hawaii's common dolphins. They are generally between five and six feet in length and weigh 130 to 200 pounds. Hawaii has its own subspecies that is easy to recognize by its distinctive "three-tone" color pattern which consists of a sharply defined dark gray "cape" on their backs, a stripe of lighter gray on their sides and a white or pink belly. This species gets its name from its spectacular habit of leaping high into the air and spinning several times on their tails before falling back into the water. Researchers are not sure why the dolphins spin, but most people who have had the opportunity to watch the dolphins don't seem to care, and find it a real treat. Around Hawaii, spinner dolphins congregate at night in large herds in the deep channels between the islands to feed. During the day, they break up into smaller groups and come near shore to rest and play. A few of the places where they can commonly be seen are in Kealake'akua Bay on the island of Hawaii, off the Leeward Coast of Oahu, on the southern boundries of Maui and off the coastline of Lanai.

The life cycle of dolphins is similar to that of other cetaceans. As mammals, dolphins bear live young, and the mothers nurse them on milk and provide care. A dolphin calf is born tail-first with eyes open, senses alert and enough muscular coordination to follow its mother immediately. At birth, the mother helps her calf to the surface to get its first breath. While nursing lasts between one and a half to two years, the mother will remain with her calf for a period between three and eight years. As there is some variation in the age at which sexual maturity is reached, the reproduction rate and the life expectancy among the different species of dolphins vary. Most species tend to bear one calf every other year or so during their reproductively active years and are believed to have an average life expectancy of about thirty years.

Kayaking on the Big Island

The calm waters, abundant sea life, great snorkeling, picturesque sea caves and beautiful weather surrounding the Big Island of Hawaii make it an ideal location for Big Island kayak companies to operate a variety of kayak tours. The most exciting locations for kayaking are to be found off the Kona coast.

Here in the lee of the giant volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea the tranquil waters are crystal clear and teeming with sea life. Don't be surprised to see dolphins, turtles, perhaps a manta ray or even enjoy whale watching in season. Snorkeling is particularly great as well and can be done right from your kayak.

One of the great kayaking and snorkeling spots off the Kona coast is the famous Kealakekua/Keaehou coastline. A number of kayak and eco tour companies paddle their way along this historic (Captain Cooke was killed here) and beautiful coastline, complete with rugged sea cliffs and spectaclar sea caves.

Some companies even allow a supervised version of cliff diving when the conditions are considered safe enough.

Dinner and Sunset Cruises on the Big Island

Do you like to party? Hop on a Hawaii dinner cruise, sunset sail, booze cruise or party boat from Kona. These boats off the Big Island have been known for years as the spot to "party your sandals off."

The sunsets off the Kona coast are absolutely gorgeous. Your island hosts are friendly and accommodating. The dinner and cocktails are a special treat. The entertainment is exotic and you'll be in heaven.

I always like to recommend these trips for your last days on the island. They are so very special and will provide you with some of your most wonderful memories of the times you had on the "Big Island. It's a great send-off and, if you're like most people, you'll have a hard time leaving the next day to head home.

Air Experiences1

Helicopter and Air Tours on the Big Island

For years the magma under Kilauea has been pushing to the earths surface through "puu" or vents and has been making its way through a series of lava tubes to the seacoast. Here the hot lava pours into the sea at such enormous temperatures that vast plumes of steam and mist are formed and often ascend hundreds of feet into the air. Vast areas of the Big Island have been burned and paved over as a result, and the destruction and raw power of the earths creative force is one of the most spectacular sites to ever be seen.

This spectacle of nature is often much too dangerous to be viewed up close and visitors are prohibited to go close to the most spectacular fiery displays. Therefore, the only way to realistically see the active volcano is by helicopter or small plane. Helicopter trips in Hawaii and particularly the helicopter trips of the Big Island which fly over the volcanoes of Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are considered by many to be the single most spectacular trip available in all of Hawaii and should not be missed if at all possible.

Helicopter tours in Hawaii to see Mount Kilauea and the active volcanoes of Hawaii Volcano National Park depart from both Hilo and Waikoloa. Most visitors visiting the Big Island will stay on the Kona or Waikoloa coast. Since there are tours leaving from these resort areas, this is often their first choice of departure points.

It should be remembered, however, that the reason the Big Island is called the "Big Island" is that it is very, very big (it is a fact that the total land area of all the other islands combined would fit within the confines of the island of Hawaii) and as a result the tours that leave from Kona to view the volcano are generally over two hours in length and are fairly expensive. Many people as a result choose to drive the 2 or 3 hours or so from Kona to Hilo and depart from there, as the flight to see Kilauea is only 45 or 50 minutes in length and considerably less expensive.

The longer tours do have their merit, however, as they visit the slopes of both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa as well as the spectacular Kohala Coastline, so if expense is not an object please enjoy the longer flights.

Resort Areas in Hawaii iconExplore all the Resort Areas in Hawaii

Waikoloa

Mauna Lani

Kailua

Kona

Keauhou

Hilo

Volcanoes National Park

South Point

Hapuna

Mauna Kea

Kailua/Kona/Keauhou

Honokaa

Pahala

Kilauea

Waimea

Best Beaches in Hawaii iconFind the Best Beaches in Hawaii

Waikoloa

Mauna Lani

Kailua

Kona

Kahaluu Beach Park

Kahaluu Beach is one of the busiest along Hawaii's Kona Coast, a small strip of grey sand backed by coconut trees and small grassy dunes.

An offshore reef protects the small shallow bay, making the snorkeling fun amongst the vivid sealife that live in and around the coral. Tuna, marlin, and dolphin can often be seen jumping just outside of the reef and the protected waters inside form calm lagoons for safe swimming, with interesting tidepools and rocks on either end.

High surf develops in winter, along with a strong rip current, so surfers and boogieboarders make the most of the beach during that season while the year-round lifeguards watch. There are restrooms, showers, picnic tables, beach-gear rentals, and food concession available.

This West Hawaii beach is located next to St. Peter's Catholic Church and the ancient Hawaiian temple Ku'emanu Heiau, known as the only temple site dedicated to surfing (back when only chiefs were allowed to surf, they came here to pray for big waves).

Take Alii Dr. south and the beach sits along the coast by mile marker 5.

Kekaha Kai State Park

Kekaha Kai or Kona Coast State Park includes 5 miles of beach pockets, Mahaiula Bay, and coves.

According to legend, a village once existed around the bay, but was destroyed by a volcano when its chief refused to feed a hungry old woman who was actually the goddess Pele in disguise. Only one home was spared by the volcano - that of a kind villager who fed the old woman when the chief wouldn't - and the park is full of archaeological and historical sites related to volcanoes and old villages.

A rugged road leads through old lava fields to reach the salt and pepper beach, where freshwater springs bubble up through the sand to sometimes form small pools.

Swimming and snorkeling are terrific in the protected coves (although the water can be a bit cloudy near the bubbling springs), the offshore diving is great, and surfers frequent the beach when winter waves kick up.

There are portable toilets, picnic tables, and barbecue facilities. No lifeguards are on duty so look out for occasional strong currents.

Turn left off Hwy. 19 north onto a semi-paved road between mile markers 91 and 90. Drive slowly down that bumpy road for about a mile and a half to the shore.

Keauhou

Hilo

Leleiwi Beach Park

Leleiwi Beach Park in Hilo is located within an area called Richardson's Beach, which boasts unique scenery and some of the best snorkeling on the Big Island.

Freshwater springs feed into a collection of tidepools formed by black lava rock to create natural jacuzzis, while a seawall and low lava shelf provides a good place to enter the larger body of water.

Palm trees are scattered along the coast and slow waves roll in over the coral reef.

The beach's protected shallow ponds are usually calm and ideal for swimming, but winter waves can sometimes splash in.

There's a variety of sealife in this small bay, including endangered green sea turtles, making it a superb location to snorkel.

There are paved walkways, picnic areas with pavilions, restrooms, and showers available, plus lifeguards on duty and a marine life exhibit.

The beach is approximately 4 miles East of Hilo on Kalanianaole Ave. along the Keaukaha Coast.

Volcanoes National Park

Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay)

Anaehoomalu Bay, sometimes simply called A-Bay, is a gorgeous curve of salt and pepper sand in front of the Outrigger Waikoloa Resort. The beach is great for swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, and is fairly well protected from strong surf by an offshore reef.

Rare green sea turtles are sometimes seen at the far end of the bay, and a nearby shoreline trail between resort hotels winds along the lava, sand, coral, and tidepools of the Kohala Coast.

A-Bay offers stunning views, especially at sunset, and includes restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and parking.

Just inland from the beach is a large ancient Hawaiian fishpond that was used to raise fish for royal families, and you can still see mullet swimming in that pond. Palm trees sway above and educational plaques sit along the trail to teach you about the area's history.

Turn left at mile marker 76 off Hwy. 19 north, then left again at the road across from Kings' Shops. Beach parking is at the end.

South Point

Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach)

Papakolea Beach is a strip of famously green sand enclosed on almost three full sides by a steep cliff. It's secluded and difficult to reach but can be an adventurous highlight of your trip on the island if you get there. That cliff, Pu'u o Mahana, is actually a formation referred to as a littoral cone, with somewhat horizontal layers of cinder rock sloping back from the beach, resembling amphitheater seating.

The erosive force of the ocean washing into its base extracts small green mineral grains of a semi-precious stone called olivine from the rock and deposits them onto the sand, resulting in the beach's renowned green tint.

There are no lifeguards or other facilities available and it's generally quite windy with open waters that can get rough. Bodysurfing can be great under the right conditions, but waves and currents can pick up quickly so keep an eye out. Before you make your way down the cliff, make sure the tide is low enough to leave lots of room for you on the sand between the rock wall and where the waves break.

This secluded beach near South Point in the Kau district of Hawaii is also sometimes called Green Sand Beach. You can reach it via a 3 mile road over lava and pastureland from ancient volcanic eruptions, then up a rugged road to the top of the cliff, and finally by climbing down a precarious trail to the water (with large lava boulders and up to 5-foot drops). A four-wheel vehicle may help with the first part of that trip, but the old road is so full of holes and jagged rocks that you might just want to factor in the exercise as part of your day trip.

Remember to consider the time it will take you to return, too, and make sure to wear good shoes - especially for the rock climbing part. Although walking around the cliff seems easier, it's actually wiser to follow the trail that starts at the edge of the cliff's overhang. And for non-rock-climbing types, the green sand and aqua water view from the top of Pu'u o Mahana might be worth the trip in itself.

Hapuna

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is one of Hawaii's most popular with calm waters, sand up to 200 feet across, and lifeguards on duty during the summer. It's a half-moon shape of gold sand about a half mile long, at the edge of a park with restrooms, showers, picnic pavilions, and camping facilities.

The crystal clear water is surrounded by lush greenery with a coral reef at the south end where snorkelers enjoy hanging out with various kinds of tropical fish.

This beach is also great for swimming and body or boogie boarding, and there are places to rent water sports equipment. Strong currents and waves can kick up during the winter and there are not always lifeguards on duty, so make sure to check conditions carefully before jumping in.

Turn left off Hwy. 19 north onto the access road before mile marker 69. At the end of that road, turn left, then take an immediate right to the parking lot.

Mauna Kea

Kaunaoa Beach (Mauna Kea Beach)

Kaunaoa Beach (also sometimes referred to as the Mauna Kea Beach) is a beautiful quarter mile crescent of golden sand at the foot of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

There's a natural rock reef with two black lava points at each end protecting the small bay from the surf.

The shore slopes slightly towards the calm waters which provides perfect swimming, snorkeling, and boogie boarding conditions most of the year.

Coconut trees are nearby and there is a sand volleyball court off to one side. Colorful tropical fish, turtles, and even manta rays frequent the area, and there are restrooms and showers but no lifeguards on duty and limited parking spots available.

Turn left at mile marker 68 off Hwy. 19 north and follow the road to the end for public access parking.

Kailua/Kona/Keauhou

White Sands Beach

The Kona Coast's small White Sands Beach is also called Magic Sands, Disappearing Sands, or La'aloa Bay Beach. This grey sand beach with a rocky shore is one of the few West Hawaii ones with lifeguards.

Conditions are excellent for swimming and boogie boarding when the shallow, offshore sandbar is around, but that protection disappears during high surf and the water becomes choppy and dangerous.

The sand and rocks of the beach itself sometimes disappear from view during high tide or storms (thus one of its nicknames), but in calmer weather, it serves as an excellent place to swim, snorkel, or scuba dive to explore the underwater caves and large colorful fish.

Children learn how to surf in the slow and gentle summer swells at Magic Sands, and expert surfers gather there during winter months when the waves are bigger. The park also includes restrooms, showers, parking, a sand volleyball court, picnic facilities, and lifeguards.

To get to White Sands Beach on Alii Dr., take Hwy. 11 south from Kailua-Kona and look for the rocky shore just before mile marker 4.

Honokaa

Pahala

Kilauea

Waimea

Golf in Hawaii iconWhere to Golf in Hawaii

Waikoloa

Mauna Lani

North Course at Mauna Lani Resort

  • Address: 68-150 Ho'ohana St. Kohala Coast
  • Fees*: $200
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,913
  • Slope: 136

Description: The resort, which was named to "GOLF Magazine's" 1998 list of "Gold Medal Resorts," features two outstanding eighteen hole championship courses. On the North Course, rolling terrain and groves of Kiawe trees come into play.

The four finishing holes on the North Course are scenic and well designed. Hole #17 is the North Course' signature hole. This par 3, measuring 132 yards, requires a tee shot from an elevated tee to a green that is framed by a natural amphitheater formed by lava. Try to avoid the large lava rock and the sand bunker on your way to the green.

"Golf Digest" rated the North Course 74th under the 1996 category of "Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S." I n the category of "Best in State," it was ranked 9th in 1997-98.

"GOLF Magazine" selected this course 75th in the 1998 category of "Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S." Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright redesigned both courses in 1991.

South Course at Mauna Lani Resort

  • Address: 68-150 Ho'ohana St. Kohala Coast
  • Fees*: $200
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,938
  • Slope: 133

Description: The PGA Senior Skins Tournament is held on the South Course each January. "Golf Digest" rated this as the 11th "Best in State" course for 1995-96, and 12th in 1997-98. Highlighting the South Course are two holes that play alongside the ocean. Hole #15, a 196-yard, par 3, requires a tee shot over the ocean to the green, and is one of the most photographed holes in the world. Hole #7, a 214-yard, par 3, borders the Pacific Ocean and during the winter months golfers can enjoy watching humpback whales migrating offshore. The rough is rather thick. Most of the fairways are lined by the natural rough along with red and black lava rock. The lava rock is definitely something to avoid. Even if you are lucky enough to have your ball bounce back to the fairway your ball will never be the same. Most of the greens are flat where you can roll your ball to the flag. The speed of the greens is sometimes hard to determine and there are many subtle breaks.

Kailua

Kona

Big Island Country Club

  • Address: 71-1420 Mamalahoa Hwy. Kailua-Kona
  • Fees*: $85
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,004
  • Slope: 126

Description: The Big Island Country Club, on the slopes of Mauna Kea 2000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is an enjoyable playing experience but it can also be very challenging.

The views and beauty are remarkable and the course is maintained at a championship level. It is a very unique course. The tee options can vary the length from 800 to over 7000 yards so the course fits any level of golfer. The course also fits the environment and its beauty will have you reliving your round for many years to come.

Feature or signature holes are the four par threes, the par five sixteenth, and the ninth and eighteenth holes. Of the par three holes the seventeenth (17th) will undoubtedly be revered.

Alii Country Club

  • Address: 78-70 Alii Dr. Kailua Kona
  • Fees*: $110
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 5,828
  • Slope: 0

Description: The Kona Country Club at Keauhou Bay offers numerous golfing experiences. The club offers 36 championship holes, golfers find themselves playing over lava tube blow holes, look over onto the Pacific Ocean or admire ancient Hawaiian archeological sites. The golf course and Kona Surf Resort are situated between the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Hualalai, allowing you to admire ocean and mountain views.

After developing an additional nine holes onto the Mauka end of the course, the Ocean Front and Back Nine have now become the Kona Country Club and the Mauka Nine, with the additional newly developed nine holes, have become the Alii Country Club.

The Kona Country Club's Ocean course offers difficulty to golfers because the course is situated so close to the shoreline and has a strong crosswind. Being so close to the ocean, golfers may even get sprayed by ocean mist. The handicap-one hole, number 8, a 355-yard strong dogleg right features a long right fairway bunker lodged in the bend and a small green bunkered on the left. Out-of-bounds markers line the right side of this par-four hole.

Two of the Kona Country Club's back nine holes, the 12th and 13th, play along the ocean, giving additional hazards. The 13th, a 387-yard par-four hole offers additional difficulty, a blow hole, located on the shore line, about 100 yards left of the tee, formed from a lava tube which occasionally provides a "geyser-like fountain" of ocean mist. The 14th hole provides two right fairway bunkers in additional to a raised green which is bunkered on the left and right.

The Alii Country Club's Mauka course is located 500 feet above the coast, and provides sloping fairways, in opposed to the wider, flatter Kona Country Club's Ocean course. The fairways are concurrent to the ocean, and everything, including most greens, break toward the ocean.

The 7th hole, the number-one handicap 420-yard par four, is the club's PGA golf pro Ron Wohlemuth's favorite hole. He believes it to be the prettiest hole he's ever played. This hole features an elevated tee shot to a narrow landing area, and two right fairway bunkers and impinging lava. To make this tee shot successful, a gentle "right-to-left" shot should give you an advantage over the approaching sloping fairway. The approach is 130 yards from the right center of the fairway to a double-tiered mid-sized green, which is protected by a lake as well as a bunker at the back. Wohlgemuth recommends using brighter balls, possibly a yellow or orange, especially for tee shots, and to use inexpensive clubs when playing in lava.

The setting of the Alii and Kona Country Clubs, Keauhou, also have historical and archeological meaning. The birthplace of King Kamehameha III is located near the first hole of the front nine, as well as King David Kalakaua's Royal Beach House. Ancient Hawaiian archeological sites include the Kapuanoni heiau, or temple, as well as the Royal Holua Slide. Royal Holua was a milelong stone slide on which ancient islanders would race their kukui nut greased canoes along, can be viewed near the 1st hole of the Alii Country Club's Mauka course.

The Alii and Kona Country Clubs is also the host of the annual Paniolo Cup, a three-day men's amateur tournament.

The courses also offer a wide range of services including a driving range and a clubhouse with a fully-stocked pro shop,where clubs and golf cars can be rented. The Alii and Country Clubs also have the Vista Restaurant and Lounge, where breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just cocktails can be enjoyed overlooking the Keauhou ocean from each table. The Alii and Kona Country Clubs are a short 10 minutes from historic Kailua-Kona. Golfers should follow the Alii Drive south toward Keauhou Bay or take the Keauhou Bay exit on Highway 11 down King Kamehameha Road, and then go south on Alii Drive to the Kona Country Club entrance.

Keauhou

Hilo

Hilo Municipal Golf Course

  • Address: 340 Haihai Street. Hilo
  • Fees*: $25
  • Par: 71
  • Yards: 6,006
  • Slope: 118

Description: This course has elevated greens, no sand bunkers, and tree-lined fairways. Water hazards come into play on about twelve holes. This is a great course for the average player.

The Hilo Open and various local tournaments are held here annually. The course can be crowded so reserve in advance.

Naniloa Country Club

  • Address: 120 Banyan Dr. Hilo
  • Fees*: $40
  • Par: 35
  • Yards: 2,875
  • Slope: 115

Description: What this nine-hole facility lacks in structural elegance, it makes up for in local exuberance. Boasting the largest membership of any country club (over 2,000), the course is centered in the heart of Hilo on a resort peninsula. Because of the ample rainfall, the fairways have no bunkers, but lots of trees: pine, banyan, mango, palm, coconut and ohia.

Only four grass and four sand bunkers serenade the greens. Water is in play on three holes. Half of the golfers enjoy the healthy, tree-lined walk.

Walk-ons are invited (encouraged) to take this stroll or to use the driving range with its commodious bays.

Volcanoes National Park

Waikoloa Village Golf Club

  • Address: 68-1792 Melia St. Waikoloa
  • Fees*: $65
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,230
  • Slope: 128

Description: Nestled in the foothills of Mauna Kea overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Waikoloa Village Golf Course is truly one of Hawaii's most beautiful courses. This little piece of heaven is an oasis of emerald-green overlooking the Kohala Coast.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. the Waikoloa Village Golf Course fits harmoniously into the natural beauty of the setting. A course that is challenging enough for the serious golfer, but fun for beginners as well.

The 6,791-yard par-72 course has all of the characteristics of Jones designs, with additional challenges unique to this island landscape. A relaxed pace that is inviting and serene makes this course a favorite of local golfers, who consider it one of Hawaii's best-kept secrets.

With complete practice facilities available and a Pro Shop stocked with golf equipment and accessories the Waikoloa Village Golf Course is a great place to practice, shop and play.

Waikoloa Beach Golf Course

  • Address: 1020 Keana Place. Waikoloa
  • Fees*: $195
  • Par: 70
  • Yards: 6,566
  • Slope: 133

Description: The Waikoloa Beach Golf Course winds its way through ancient lava fields along the breathtaking Kohala coastline, Waikoloa's Beach Course is, quite simply, resort golf at its finest. But don't let the swaying coconut trees and gentle ocean breeze lull you into a false sense of security.

The Beach Course can also be a significant challenge for quality players. The classic Robert Trent Jones Jr. design was literally carved from the lava flow along the picturesque Anaeho'omalu Bay. Immaculate greens are well-guarded by numerous white sand bunkers and strategically placed water features.

The crowning glory of the Beach Course is the 502-yard par 5 12th hole, known throughout the islands as the most spectacular oceanfront par-five in Hawaii. Not only is it a challenging golf hole, it's a great place to watch humpback whales and catch splendid views of the other Hawaiian Islands.

Waikoloa Kings Golf Course

  • Address: 1020 Keana Place. Waikoloa
  • Fees*: $195
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 7,074
  • Slope: 133

Description: For a rigorous test of golf skills, no facility on the Kohala Coast compares with Waikoloa's unique Kings Course. Designed by former British Open champion Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish, the Kings Course offers golfers the best of two worlds - golf in an island paradise, on a course that more closely resembles a layout along the coast of Scotland.

With stunning views of the towering volcanoes of the Big Island framed by palm trees and vibrant flowers, you'll have no trouble remembering that you're golfing in paradise.

The 7,000+ yard links-style course snakes over and around an ancient lava flow and is best known for its wide undulating fairways, multiple tee placements, and challenging pot bunkers. To complete the Scottish links experience there's even a double green at holes 3 and 6.

South Point

Hapuna

Hapuna Golf Course

  • Address: 62-100 Kauna'oa Dr. Kamuela
  • Fees*: $195
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,029
  • Slope: 122

Description: An Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay design, the Hapuna Golf Course is the sister layout to the more renowned Mauna Kea across the street. But comparing the two is "apples and oranges." Mauna Kea is longer (7,165 yards) and more difficult, but Hapuna (6,875 yards) is more memorable because of its rugged beauty -- dark lava fields, tall brown grasses, emerald fairways and greens -- all topped with brilliant blue sky and ocean views.

Considered the most environmentally sensitive course in the islands (and near the top in that category on the mainland as well), this wild links course is a target golfer's dream, and just plain fun to play.

Ranging along a rumpled stretch of land rising to 700 feet above sea level, the layout overlooks the Kohala Coast and the Pacific. Inland, the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes and the Kohala Mountains form a spectacular backdrop.

This beautiful course features spectacular views of the Kohala Coast and the Pacific, with snow-capped Mauna Kea volcano as a backdrop. Hapuna's challenging play and environmental sensitivity make it one of Hawaii's most unique golf courses. Though the layout may seem short by mainland standards, here in the islands courses like Hapuna become monsters when the trade-winds are howling.

If you catch it on a rare calm day, the main hazard is the narrow fairways. But factor in the wind, and all bets are off. It's possible to have a 10 to 15 mph wind in your face all day. From 7:30-10:30 in the morning it is in your face, and then it can do a 180-degree change so that you're facing it again on the back nine. The holes wind through kiawe (mesquite) scrub and jagged beds of lava.

The trip from greens to tees is a delight -- with tall grasses, waste bunkers, dense shrub, and massive fields of brown lava rocks that often seem to close in around you. Local rules say anything outside of the manicured areas of the holes is a lateral hazard and can be played accordingly.

Mauna Kea

Kailua/Kona/Keauhou

Makalei Hawaii Country Club

  • Address: 72-3890 Hawaii Belt Rd. Kailua Kona
  • Fees*: $110
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 7,091
  • Slope: 143

Description: The Makalei Hawaii Country Club showcases its spectacular 18-hole course 3000 feet above the coastline, just north of Kailua-Kona. Its cool elevation, fast bent grass greens and rolling fairways make you think you are in northern California.

This course provides a challenging test of golf with spectacular views of the mountains and the coastline of the island. Bring your A-Game when you tee up on this great 18-hole course.

Kona Country Club

  • Address: 78-70 Alii Dr. Kailua Kona
  • Fees*: $130
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,510
  • Slope: 133

Description: Description

Honokaa

Hamakua Country Club

  • Address: P.O. Box 751. Honokaa
  • Fees*: $10
  • Par: 33
  • Yards: 4,950
  • Slope: 101

Description: The Hamakua Country Club is an unusual nine-hole layout located on the high- cliffed coastline that is marked by many beautiful waterfalls below the north- eastern slopes of Mauna Kea. The country club is about 20 miles east of Waimea-Kamuela and 60 miles north of Hilo. The Hamakua Country Club is very unusual in that the par-33, 2,520-yard layout (from the men's tees) is unlike any other in Hawaii, with seven of its nine holes intersecting with at least one other hole.

Holes 3,4, 5 and 9 cross their fairways at a single intersection! This is a very tight layout spreading over only 19 acres. Golfers on this course need to particularly careful when making long drives or when crossing intersecting fairways. This strange layout could be hazardous to the golfer on days when the course is crowded.

While the Hamakua Country Club has a club membership structure, it is open for public play as well. It is probably a good idea to play on weekdays, when there may be fewer golfers on the course and fewer balls in the air.

The clubhouse has a cocktail lounge but no food service is available. There is no golf pro shop at Hamakua, and like most nine-hole layouts, no golf carts to rent. But the green fees are among the lowest on the island, and Hamakua Country Club is a good choice for golfers who want to experience low-key play Hawaiian style on a short but tricky course.

Mauna Kea Golf Course

  • Address: 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr. Kamuela
  • Fees*: $150
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 7,114
  • Slope: 143

Description: This club, which hosts various local PGA events, has the reputation of having a difficult course and for setting the standard for many courses in Hawaii. One of its most famous holes is its signature hole, #3, a 210-yard, par 3, requiring a tee shot that must carry over 182 yards of ocean to reach the green.

To make a successful shot on this hole (with the unpredictable winds coming off the ocean) is a real thrill. There are several changes in elevation on the course, highlighted by holes designed to play uphill away from the ocean.

Special green fee rates apply if you play the Hapuna Golf Course during the same week. Tee times can only be reserved two days in advance for off-property guests.

Pahala

Sea Mountain Golf Course

  • Address: P.O. Box 190. Pahala
  • Fees*: $40
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,106
  • Slope: 129

Description: The Sea Mountain Golf Course at Punalu'u offers a distinctly Hawaiian golf experience. The 18-hole, par-72 golf course measures 6,106 from the regular tees.

Starting at sea level, it moves up to 600 feet in elevation offering ocean views from every hole. The fairways at Sea Mountain are planted with common Bermuda grass, while the greens make for fast putting. C. Brewer Corporation developed the 435-acre resort, which includes the golf course, the Aspen Conference Center, four tennis courts and a swimming pool (free to golfers), and the Punalu'u Black Sand Restaurant.

The golf course, designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, was opened for play in 1974. The golf course's natural beauty can make it appear easy, but even the short holes can be deceiving. Sea Mountain offers complete facilities including a clubhouse with a restaurant, cocktail lounge, snack bar and locker room.

There is also a driving range and a fully-stocked pro shop with golf club and golf car rentals. Golf cars are required on the course. Open daily all year, reservations for tee times are required. About an hour's scenic drive from Hilo, this golf course and resort are certainly worth visiting.

Kilauea

Volcano Golf & Country Club

  • Address: 17th Hole.Golf Course Rd. Volcano Nat'l Park
  • Fees*: $60
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,503
  • Slope: 128

Description: The Big Island's oldest golf course, with roots back to the late 1920s, is set at 4,200 feet of elevation, just a driver/wedge from the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Crisp fresh air combining with the elevation delivers extra distance on well-struck shots even though cooler temperatures prevail. In the midst of stunning views of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes and between pine and ohia trees is a delightful layout that offers more than a decent challenge.

The back nine has several marvelous holes with one of Hawaii's best par-5s.

Waimea

Waimea Country Club

  • Address: PO Box 2155 Kamuela
  • Fees*: $70
  • Par: 72
  • Yards: 6,210
  • Slope: 125

Description: Waimea Country Club's Scottish links design is set with views of both the ocean and Mauna Kea. The golf course is a great golfing escape where you will find some of the finest bent greens in the Hawaiian Islands.

The course was built on pasturelands and is surrounded by cattle ranches. Although it is wide open, there are many Ironwood trees that can affect your golf shots.

As you play, you will enjoy observing the wild turkeys, pheasant and ducks. This is not your typical Hawaiian resort golf course.

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