Exploring (+ Relaxing) in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Contributor Brooke Fitts takes a respite from the holiday madness and shares her must-visit spots on Hawaii's Big Island.
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Photography by Brooke Fitts

Photography by Brooke Fitts

This post is in partnership with Uber

Lucky for me, my folks live in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, so going home to visit usually equates to a full-on vacation. My daughter, Aven, and I recently took a pre-holiday trip to spend some quality time together as a family (and to enjoy a sunny escape from winter).

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By the moment our flight rolled around, I was in extra need of some serious R&R and wanted to be as intentional as possible about making our stay easy and hassle-free. I planned to take advantage of Hawaii’s relaxed atmosphere and really unwind from my normal day-to-day schedule – and from the stress that comes along with the holiday season, too.

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I wrapped up all of my work and projects prior to leaving, so I would be able to unplug completely, and I scheduled and booked an uberX to the airport in advance, so that logistic was sorted out. I also decided not to buy much in the way of gifts this year, which eliminated a huge holiday stress. My goal for our ten-day getaway was to eat, drink, play and relax without worrying about much of anything else.

While Kona is a sleepy island town without a ton of options for restaurants, there are a few classic standby spots that I’m sure to hit every time I visit. Coffee is always a first necessity, and why stay in Kona without drinking 100% Kona Coffee? Kona Coffee and Tea makes a mean flat white and sells the beans from their farm up the road, along with local honey – both lovely little takeaways to bring back in my suitcase.

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Once I’m ready for some food, I always head to Umeke’s for the freshest ahi poke around. (The last time I stopped in, they were literally bringing dripping wet, freshly caught yellow fin tuna inside while I ordered my lunch.) It’s the perfect fresh and light meal and an easy grab-and-go option before heading to the beach.

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Aven and I went to the beach every single day it was sunny. (And I’m glad we did, as it poured rain on our last two days on the island!) Different beaches offer different things. We went to Kahalu Beach for snorkeling, and we visited Kua Bay for the aquamarine colored water, sugar white sand and barreling waves for bodyboarding. But most often, we went to Queen’s Bath, a protected little bay that’s a perfect play spot for smaller people. There are no big waves or sharp coral to be wary of there, so even mamas can be pretty relaxed and at ease while their littles play in the gentle water.

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Hawaii has an endless variety of activities and adventures, oceanside and otherwise, to keep you busy, like paragliding, kayaking, scuba diving, and horse and helicopter rides. One day, for our own exploration, we opted to check out Hilo. Upon arrival we hopped in an uberX and explored the other main town on the opposite side of the island. It has a very “old Hawaii” feel to it, almost like you’re in another era, and there’s an amazing farmer’s market there. But to stick to the intention of keeping things super chill, we usually chose to just hang out on the beach for the majority of the day (and maybe look for geckos in the afternoons). 

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Having a kid in my life means that there’s a lot of post-beach shaved ice to be had. It’s quite honestly the ideal afternoon snack to cool down after a day in the sun. While most shaved ice spots tend to use sugary syrups full of cornstarch and artificial dyes, One Aloha Shaved Ice is our go-to, because they make all of their organic syrups from scratch, using only the freshest island fruits and cane sugar. I rave about this place as a must-go spot for everyone who visits.

The perfect way to wind down a lazy island day is to head to the Kona Brewing Co. for pizzas and beer. Their Lavaman red ale has been a longtime favorite of mine, but lots of people love their island fresh gingerade and always amazing pizzas. However, here’s a word to the wise: Kona does a lot of random DUI checks, and the police love to post up right outside the Brew Pub and randomly check drivers heading home. You may be in low-key vacation mode, but be very careful not to drink too much and drive – call an Uber if you do decide to have a few.

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Now, we’re back in Seattle for the remainder of the holiday season, and I can’t remember being more warm, happy and relaxed right before Christmas Day. As a creative, I’ve learned the importance of taking time away from the computer to recharge and refuel, and I’m so grateful for having been able to do that in Hawaii this year. I’m taking all of that with me into the New Year and am already feeling full and ready for what it has to offer. 

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