Thursday, May 29, 2014

Courtyard King Kamehameha Beach Hotel in Kona

On the Big Island of Hawaii, you can spend more than $1000 for a standard room with no view at a 5-star big name property or you can find a tiny bungalow for about $100/night in a no-star beach community. My needs were specific… I wanted an ocean view room in a fab hotel convenient to shopping, and my budget was $200/night. The Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel ( was a perfect choice and my island home for five nights.

The beachfront property, completely renovated two years ago, sits on a small beach on Kamkahonu Bay right in the heart of Kailua Kona. While the location is central, the grounds are spacious and surrounded by lush greenery so you still get that relaxed beachy vibe that we all crave. There’s a large heated pool with jacuzzi next to the Billfish Bar & Grille where drinks are generous and the service is quick.

For $153/night plus tax, I had a beautiful room with lanai and partial ocean view. My bed was well equipped with a fluffy duvet and lotsa pillows (I requested down pillows when I reserved and I had four of them on my bed!) Other necessities included a big flat-screen TV, fridge, coffeemaker with Kona’s famous coffee and free Internet. The spacious bathroom had stacks of big white towels, a standard size shower-over-tub combo, and the new vanity was topped with granite. The Paul Mitchell shower amenities were tiny, but when I explained to the maid that it took two bottles to work up a shampoo lather, she giggled and left about a dozen every day.

There’s a good shopping center just off the hotel lobby featuring a day spa, beachwear boutique, coffee shop, art gallery, jewelry store and best of all, a big branch of ABC Stores. This store carries everything you need including groceries, booze, drugs (Tylenol, etc), sunscreen and yeah, a few t-shirts and muumuus. Prices are reasonable and I loved stocking my fridge with snack foods, Bombay Sapphire and tonic, yogurt, etc.

Like most beach hotels, the King Kam hosts a Polynesian Luau, complete with live entertainment and endless food. If, like me, you’re not a fan of these extravaganzas, book a dinner res at Honu’s on the Beach, the hotel’s signature restaurant. We dined on fresh Hawaiian fish while enjoying the luau music and entertainment from across the lawn. Perfect evening!

Book early on the hotel website for the best deals. I’m already planning a return visit for 2015!

Shopping Kona, Hawaii

Let’s face it… The Kona Coast on the big Island of Hawaii has never been celebrated as a shopping destination. It’s perfect for a romantic getaway/honeymoon/family/fishing/girlfriend trip, but is there good shopping? YES! And I’m not talking about muumuus.

I wisely chose to stay at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel ( on Ali’i Drive, smack dab in the center of Kailua Village. The hotel is a newly revamped four star property and the best shops and markets are all about a ten-minute walk away.

King Kam Mall
This is one of my favorite shopping spots and it’s location, right next to my hotel, is perfect. The King Kam Mall (not to be confused with the King Kam Shopping Center in the hotel) is a small laid-back neighborhood mall and caters more to locals than to visitors. The best stores include da Bead Shop (, a two-floor beader’s emporium where the owners will help you create the jewelry of your dreams. Great bead and shell selections along with every tool, wire and clasp needed to do the job.  When I asked two friends who live in Kona where they shop for clothing, both recommended Ginger and Koi. It’s an upscale boutique featuring contemporary clothing and accessories that you’ll wear at home as well as on holiday. Quilters will want to visit Quilt Passions ( for fabrics and inspiration.

Kona Inn Shopping Village
This is basically a cutie-pie hotel shopping center for tourists. There are art galleries, gift shops, swim and beachwear boutiques and a nice restaurant where you can order frozen fish and gaze out at the ocean. I needed another swim suit and found a couple of shops selling Havianas, my flip-flop of choice. Don’t miss Keoki’s Donkey Balls and Coffee.  These world famous candy balls are made of Hawaiian macademia nuts rolled in Guittard chocolate and then flavored with toppings including sea salt. Clever marketing has no doubt played a role in their success but frankly, it’s great candy and a wonderful gift to bring home. “Donkey balls, boar balls, goat balls, monkey balls – all balls, all the time”. The courtyard atrium of the hotel is home to some pretty impressive fishing trophies. My friend, Pam Basco, holds the women’s world record for yellowfin tuna and along with her “catch”, there are other huge fishing trophies on display.

Queens’ MarketPlace
We drove up the Kohala Coast one day to have lunch at the fab Four Seasons Resort and made a stop at the Queens’ Market Place, a local mall for the Waikoloa Beach Resort’s many residents and visitors. Along with a great food market, Island Gourmet, you’ll find Hawaiian Quilt Collection, Reyn’s, Persimmon, and other upscale boutiques. There’s a Dairy Queen in the food court where I happily spent $3.28 on a small vanilla cone. This same treat was 28 cents at the Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok in December. Oh well. Across the street, you’ll see the Kings’ Shops where you can find big name fancy stores. But really… did you come to Hawaii to shop at Louis Vuitton and Tiffany?

There are probably more than a hundred pearl shops on the island and after visiting at least a dozen, I gave up. Seriously, every piece of jewelry I saw was overpriced, poor quality and so ordinary…. BORING! If you’re serious about pearl shopping, book a cheap flight to Manila and head to the Greenhills Shopping Center.  

Shopping Stroll
Once a month on Sunday (usually mid-month), you can browse among arts and crafts vendors when Ali’i Drive is turned into a pedestrian marketplace. Kokua Kailua takes place from 1 – 6pm in Kailua Village. More than 100 local merchants, artist and artisans exhibit and sell unique merchandise, gift items, original art and crafts. Check for details and dates.

Your Paradise Gal
Okay, you’ve fallen in love with Kona and you’re thinking about renting a condo next time, or even buying a holiday home. The first thing on your must-do list is to contact Carol Fuller ( She’ll organize your space, stock your fridge and cupboards, and jump overboard to make sure your needs are met. 

Medical Matters
Hopefully, you won’t need to know this, but if a medical situation requires a look-see, head straight to Hualalai Urgent Care, 77-311 Sunset Drive. It’s about a ten minute taxi ride from downtown. The wonderful Dr. Tomkin took great care of me and saved my holiday.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Kona Bound!

I'm packing my bags and counting down til I board a plane for Kona on Sunday. It's been a couple of years since I've been to Hawaii and this will be my first extended stay in Kailua. I've booked a week at the recently revamped Courtyard King Kamehameha Beach Hotel; it's location is perfect for shopping!

Donkey balls, anyone? Hint: think chocolate, macadamia nuts… Details coming soon!