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Highlights Along Kona's Ali‘i Drive

Posted in: Big Island 2021, Food & Drink, Shopping, Things to Do

Ali‘i Drive in historic Kailua-Kona offers visitors a coastal walk perfect by day and in the evening hours. As you can see, there’s lots to do along this stretch!

Alii Drive seawall
A view of the seawall along Ali‘i Drive

SHOP:

If you’re a runner or have one on your gift list, look no further than Big Island Running Company, the only running store on the island. The store is located just a short jog from the finish line of the world-renowned Ironman Triathlon.

I ask Melissa Braswell, owner of the store since 2009 what the most popular sellers are to visitors. “Anything with the ‘Run Big’ or ‘Run Aloha’ logos on them,” she says. “Hats are probably the most popular, partly because people don’t have to worry about size.”

“The latest collection of Hawaiian hydroflasks just came in and are very popular. They come in four colors with four designs. We also now have seven different ‘Run Big’ and ‘Run Aloha’ face masks in stock. People love to give them to friends and family back home. They’re inexpensive, easy to pack, and who can’t use an extra face mask nowadays?” 

Other great, inexpensive gift ideas include socks and even cold weather running gear. “We brought in cold weather stock a couple of years ago and we’re shocked how well it sold. Obviously, that merchandise is 100% bought by visitors.”

“Sometimes,” she adds, “guests will come in with photos from people who have requested specific items. That makes the souvenir shopping experience easier.”

 Run in to Big Island Running Store and you can turn a souvenir shopping marathon into a sprint.

 Located along the oceanfront, Kona Inn Shopping Village provides an opportunity for visitors to leisurely explore shops, galleries, boutiques, Hawaiian gift shops and restaurants. Free parking is available on nearby Hualalai Road.

Pearl Factory makes your shopping experience fun as “Hawaii’s Original Pearl-In-The-Oyster.” Creating excitement and memories is what they’re all about. All of their pearls come from genuine saltwater-cultured oysters. Discover Akoya, Tahitian, South Sea and freshwater pearls in fine jewelry pieces such as necklaces, lariats, bracelets and earrings.

With pearl in hand, select from over 135 jewelry mountings in a variety of styles and price ranges for a custom experience.

Surfin’ Ass Coffee & Donkey Balls is the Donkey Balls Café in Historic Kailua Village. Focusing on coffee, candy and teas, Surfin’ Ass is centrally located in the Kona Inn Shopping Village. Find chocolate-covered macadamia specialties like Donkey Balls, Flakey Balls, Mocha Balls and Salty Balls, plus Hawaiian honey. Choose from Surfin’ Ass or Happy Hawaiian Coffee and Teas. All products are made in Hawai‘i.

Kona Inn Shopping Village is home to a variety of shops and restaurantsKona Inn Shopping Village is home to a variety of shops and restaurants

 

EAT:

Visitors to Hawaii from all points east spend the first few days of their vacation waking up very early. Fear not, early risers in Kona.

Pouring 100 percent Kona coffee starting at 5:30 a.m. daily, Menehune Coffee serves smoothies, acai bowls, sandwiches, wraps, desserts and tropical fruit smoothies throughout the day.

 Get your day off to a good start at Menehune CoffeeGet your day off to a good start at Menehune Coffee

Popular breakfast items (served all day) include their sausage, egg and cheese bagel; turkey and swiss croissant and local avocado toast. There is a fantastic selection of pastries made from scratch as well.

Customers rave about their lunch menu. “Our most popular lunches are the veggie and kalua pork wraps,” says owner Naneki Astronomo. “The veggie wrap comes with tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, fresh spinach with a drizzle of chipotle aioli. The kalua pork wrap includes avocado, fresh spinach and chipotle aioli. We serve them with chips or a house salad on the side.”

Why is that Hawaii seems like the perfect place for a scrumptious acai bowl? We don’t know, but the acai bowl at Menehune Coffee is a healthy snack or meal any time of day. “Our acai bowl starts with an acai berry blend, says Naneki. “We top it banana and almond milk, layered with granola, and topped with bananas, pineapple and coconut.”

Savor the Honu specialty drink: a chocolate, caramel and macadamia nut latte. Other favorites include the Paradise Panini, made with bacon, turkey, cheese and tomato on a hoagie roll, and the Green Honu Smoothie concocted with island banana, papaya, pineapple, spinach and Spuralina.

They also have a large selection of pure Kona coffee beans to go; pick your roast and flavor.

Menehune Coffee is located in the courtyard of the King Kamehameha Hotel right across from the Kailua-Kona Pier. Open 5:30-5:00 pm daily.

When you’re heading to Captain Cook (South Kona), keep an eye out for Menehune’s second restaurant. In addition to serving many of the offerings described above, the Captain Cook location serves up the best omelets, biscuits and gravy and loco mocos on the island.

 “The loco moco is a local favorite. Our is served with an eight ounce beef patty, choice of fried or white rice, any style egg- traditionally sunny side up- and topped with mushroom gravy and crispy onions. Once customers try it, they come back!”

 The lunch menu features burgers and sandwiches. “Our two most popular sandwiches are the Waimea Burger and the Holo Holo BBQ kalua pork sandwich,” Naneki says. “The Waimea Burger comes with an eight ounce beef patty, bacon, BBQ sauce, crispy onions, lettuce, tomato and pickle on a toasted bun. The Holo Holo sandwich features our delicious BBQ kalua pork, topped off with melted cheddar cheese and lilikoi aioli on a toasted bun.”

 Menhune’s Captain Cook location is open from 6 am-3 pm daily. Breakfast is served from 6:00-12:00 and lunch is available from 11:00-3:00. Look for them a quarter mile past Patel’s gas station on the right hand side.

Residents and visitors have been coming and going from Oceans Sports Bar & Grill for the last 15 years, and it’s all thanks to owners Todd and Shirley Hull.

“My husband and I love watching sports, and enjoy food and drinks while doing so,” says Shirley. It was the inspiration behind opening this casual dining spot featuring sports games on TV monitors. But don’t let that distract you from the ocean and sunset views—they’re incredible!

There’s lots to like on the menu. Shirley’s favorite is the “one-pound peel-and-eat Cajun or Garlic Butter Shrimp, as well as the Cobb Salad and Tomato Stack. People love our fried pickles too!”

Check on their daily specials as well. “We’re known for our Taco Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday,” says Shirley. “Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays we run a $9.95 fish and chips special that’s become really popular too. And you can’t beat the $4 Mai Tai all day, every day.”

One of Oceans Sports Bar’s signature cocktails is the Queen’s Favorite. “It’s a Lilikoi Margarita with Li Hing Mui on the rim. Another is the Passion Tea, which is a twist on a Long Island Iced Tea,” shares Shirley. Accompanied by an island sunset on the water, it sounds perfect.

She says Oceans Sports Bar’s casual open-air atmosphere along with affordable prices is what brings people back, which makes it a great stop along Ali‘i Drive.

Foster’s Kitchen prepares their menu items in-house daily from scratch. It may take a little longer, but it’s definitely worth the wait. They procure the freshest ingredients from local farmers and are committed to the highest quality of service.

Experience fine dining in a casual and family-friendly atmosphere, plus enjoy liquid perfection with their handcrafted cocktails. One of the highlights is the Lele Cocktail made with hibiscus, citrus and lemongrass in Kai Coconut Pandan. Pair it with one of the delicious appetizers for a perfect taste of Foster’s.

 

PLAY:

Clark’s Hawaii Tours makes it easy to explore the many stops along Ali‘i Drive whenever the cruise ships come in. The Hop-On Hop-Off shuttle stops at Keauhou Shopping Center, Kahalu‘u Beach, Magic White Sand Beach, Ali‘i Garden Market Place, Coconut Grove, Farmers Market, Hulihe‘e Palace and Mokuaikaua Church. Visit their website for more tour options!

 

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