Summer of Go: Hawaii
ABOUT OUR “SUMMER OF GO”
In true Tommy Bahama fashion, we're celebrating the season of sun in style from coast to coast. Over the years, we've made friends in all the right places: Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Kona, to name a few. During this “Summer of Go,” we'll share our favorite things to see, do and experience in each of those locales.
HAWAII IS FOR LAVAS
The waves are lapping. A spectacular sunset fills your field of vision. And lava hits the water in an awe-inspiring marriage of land and sea. Put a Mai Tai in your hand and your feet in the sand, because we’re going to Kona.
Natives have been holding down the Big Island of Hawaii since the sixth century. This is where Captain Cook met his demise (after trying to take King Kalaniʻōpuʻu hostage) and that great unifier, King Kamehameha I, spent his final years. It’s home to the last religious temple in the state, sacred royal grounds and ancient petroglyphs. Not many other places offer black, white and green sand beaches, graceful manta rays, and one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kīlauea. Well, no other place offers that last one.
Gracefully residing along Hawai'i's southwest coastline, the Kona District offers spectacular sealife, shopping, nature and history. Where else can you compete in the Iron Man World Championship, hop a cruiser for first-rate sport fishing and reward yourself with a shave ice the size of your head? Aloha, Kona!
KONA’S BEST: THINGS TO DO
Spend One Day in the Valley
Referred to as Hawai’i’s Valley of the Kings, Waipi’o Valley boasts rivers, waterfalls and emerald foliage beyond compare. With cliffs rising 2,000 feet in every direction, it’s home to a smattering of locals and wild horses. The descent to the black sand beach (and inevitable ascent back) are hikeable if you’re physically up to the task, but can also be done via shuttle tour. And for those made queasy by the idea of the steep trek, the grandeur at Waipi’o Lookout is still worth your while. Or save your legs by kicking back in a wagon tour or seeing the valley on ATV or horseback; some outfits will take you to hidden waterfalls where you can swim and picnic.
Swim with the Fishes
The Kona coastline is home to the majority of Hawai’i’s coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea.” Strap on some snorkeling gear and get to exploring. To experience the diversity of Kealakekua Bay, reserve a spot on a commercially guided charter boat or kayak tour; they’re state-regulated and eco-friendly. For serious magic after sundown, book a manta ray night dive — they can grow up to 22 feet across! While they feast on plankton in illuminated waters, these mesmerizing creatures glide within inches of curious humans. If that’s too close for comfort, you can also get an amazing show via boat tour.
The archipelago of the Hawai’ian Islands was formed over countless years by volcanic activity. And there’s no better way to get a sense of the awesome power behind that process than visiting the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. A two-hour drive from Kona along Route 11 (a.k.a. Volcano Road), the park impresses and delights with dramatic magma flows, ever-changing landscapes and rare species of plants and animals. It’s a magnificent sight to behold. Personalized tour packages are also available.
Go Where the Gardens Grow
The east side of the Big Island flourishes with lush gardens ripe for exploration. Fans of the Japanese aesthetic will enjoy the serenity of the Lili’uokalani Gardens, while orchid lovers will be in heaven at the greenhouse of the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens. Meander through more than 2,500 species of tropical plants in the renowned Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden and nature sanctuary, and get adventurous on the Segways and zipline at the World Botanical Garden.
Stroll Through Halls of Royalty
For fans of Hawai’ian history, the Hulihe’e Palace on Ali’i Drive is a fascinating find. Built in 1844 out of lava rock by one of the Kingdom of Hawai’i’s governors, the palace changed hands many times. Its exterior, plastered over by Kamehameha, was later restored by its current owners and operators, the Daughters of Hawai’i. Decorated with ornate furnishings, hardwood floors, lavish upholstery and exquisite chandeliers, today the palace serves as a popular museum. Monthly concerts are also performed there; call or email ahead to learn more.
At nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, the Mauna Kea Observatories have the clearest views of the cosmos this side of the Hubble. But you don’t have to be an astrophysicist to take advantage. Paid shuttles or your own 4WD vehicle can get you to the wintery summit (as can your feet, but it’s an 8-hour round-trip hike). Visitor Info Station (VIS) guides offer free daily tours, and you’ll want to take the one-mile, round-trip hike down to icy Lake Waiau, the only glacial lake in the mid-Pacific. After viewing an extraordinary sunset at the top, head back down to the VIS for unrivaled stargazing. The altitude adjustment can be challenging; be sure to observe all safety precautions.
Tour a Coffee Farm
Coffee lovers, prepare to have your mind blown. Hundreds of coffee plantations dot the Big Island and several offer tours to the public. The Kona Coffee Living History Farm, part of the Kona Historical Society, provides informative lectures on the preservation of Hawai’i’s coffee-growing heritage. The Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation offers tastings and facilities tours for both the public and VIPs. And Greenwell Farms offers continuous tours from 8:30AM – 4:30PM, Monday through Sunday.
KONA’S BEST: PLACES TO EAT
65-1227 Opelo Rd, Waimea / 808.885.6822 / merrimanshawaii.com
Why we love it: For over two decades, Chef Peter Merriman has created the finest in Hawai’ian regional cuisine. With exceptional service and a highly local, farm-to-table emphasis, it’s a critic's darling for good reason.
Da Poke Shack
76-6246 Ali’i Dr / 808.329.7653 / dapokeshack.com
Why we love it: It’s tiny, divey, and arguably one of the best spots in the state for the beloved raw delicacy; they’ll likely cart in just-caught fish while you wait in line. Seating’s extremely limited; take your food to the nearby sea wall and enjoy the crashing waves.
La Bourgogne French Restaurant
77-6400 Nalani St / 808.329.6711
Why we love it: Sidestep traditional island flavors for one evening and enjoy the European atmosphere of this charming gem. Be sure to make reservations, and then bask in the deliciousness of classic Gallic cuisine and exceptionally personal service.
Beach Tree Bar and Lounge
72-100 Kaupulehu Dr / 808.325.8000 / fourseasons.com/hualalai
Why we love it: With the luxurious atmosphere of a beach house, this part of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai serves world-class fare with Italian, Mediterranean and Californian influences. Dine al fresco with the sand at your feet and watch the sun set as their staff caters to your every need. Casual attire is welcome.
Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar
201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa / 808.886.6286 / sanseihawaii.com
Why we love it: You want fresh sushi? You got it. This contemporary spot in nearby Waikoloa offers award-winning Japanese and Pacific Rim dishes. Weekend karaoke and killer cocktails keep the place humming; it's best to make reservations first.
Kīlauea Lodge and Restaurant
19-3948 Old Volcano Rd, Volcano / 808.967.7366 / kilauealodge.com
Why we love it: German cuisine in Hawai’i? Ja! If you’re on an extended visit to the Big Island, the two-hour drive to Kīlauea Lodge in Volcano Village is worth it. Cozy and inviting, its décor and cuisine reflect the chef’s heritage. Try specialties like the German sausage plate, Hasenpfeffer or their signature Lilikoi Margarita.
Brown’s Beach House
1 North Kaniku Dr, Waimea / 808.885.2000 / fairmont.com
Why we love it: Make time to savor the view and the locally sourced food at this romantic, upscale spot. World-class service is accompanied by spectacular sunsets, inviting and understated live music and, of course, the lapping ocean.
KONA’S BEST: PLACES TO DRINK
Manta Wine Bar
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Kamuela / 808.882.5707 / princeresortshawaii.com
Why we love it: This posh spot within the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers an atmosphere of romance and breathtaking ocean views. Sample 48 different wines with their fascinatingly high-tech Enomatic experience, or order traditionally.
Huggo’s on the Rocks
75-5828 Kahakai Rd / 808.329.1493 / huggosontherocks.com
Why we love it: With seating right on the beach, this sibling to Huggo’s (the restaurant next door) boasts knowledgeable bartenders and waitstaff, great happy hour prices and live music seven nights a week. Get there early, order some pupus and chill out.
Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar & Market
Kalapana Kapoho Beach Rd, Pahoa / punacoast.hubpages.com
Why we love it: On Wednesday evenings, people from all walks of life gather at this private property-turned-marketplace and festival for dining, dancing and drinking. Try the earthy local specialty – Kava – for a mellow only nature can provide. It's an experience unlike any other.
Big Daddy’s Pupus & Beers
75-5626 Kuakini Hwy / 808.333.5729 / facebook.com/BigDaddysPupusBeers
Why we love it: Billed as being “like your backyard,” this friendly, easy-on-the-wallet joint will treat you like family. Scarf up the pupus, enjoy a schooner or two of beer and rub elbows with locals who have perfected the fine art of kicking back and relaxing.
Don’s Mai Tai Bar
75-5852 Ali’i Dr / 808.329.3111 / royalkona.com
Why we love it: The lore of Don the Beachcomber is legendary, as are the sweeping ocean views from this Royal Kona Resort spot (and largest open-air bar in the area). Sammy Hagar fans can order one of his Beach Bar Rum specialties, and the Mai Tai flight’s a must. Award-winning live entertainment sets the laid-back mood.
Big Island Brewhaus & Tako Taco Taqueria
64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea / 808.887.1717 / bigislandbrewhaus.com
Why we love it: Beer lovers who make the trek to nearby Waimea will love “Hawai’i’s highest brewery at 2,764’ above the sea.” Brewing and offering their own IPA, lager, wheat beer, Irish stout and much more, they also serve up massive burritos and an easygoing vibe.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar
68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr, Kamuela / 808.881.8686 / tommybahama.com
Why we love it: Allow us to toot our own conch for a moment. We may appear to be playing favorites with this entry, but guests do rank it as one of the best bars around (as of this writing, it had a 90% rating on urbanspoon.com and 4/5 stars on yelp.com). Popular cocktails include our Mai Tai, Bailey’s® Banana Colada, and Leap of Faith. (You can even take your cocktail into our store there! Just sayin’.)