Kona vs Hilo: Which Hawaiian City Is Right For You?

Are you torn between the two Hawaiian cities of Kona and Hilo? Choosing between Kona vs Hilo can be a tough decision, with so many options for lodging, cuisine, shopping opportunities, and recreational activities.

Let’s take a closer look at Kona vs Hilo so that you can make an informed decision about where your next vacation should take place. From cozy beachfront hotels in Kona to unique boutiques in Hilo – this blog post will provide all the information needed for making the perfect travel plans.

Table of Contents:

Kona vs Hilo: Overview

Kona and Hilo are two of the most popular destinations on Hawaii’s Big Island. Kona is located along the western coast, while Hilo is situated in the east. Both locations have unique climates that offer visitors different experiences.

Kona enjoys a warm and dry climate, with temperatures usually between 70-90°F, making it an ideal destination for those seeking sun and outdoor activities. The area receives very little rain, making it an ideal destination for beach-lovers or those who love to explore outdoor attractions.

Meanwhile, Hilo is much wetter than Kona with more frequent rainfall due to its location on the windward side of Hawaii’s Big Island. Temps vary from 60-80°F, and the air can be quite sticky at times.

Hilo offers a more relaxed atmosphere with its lush gardens, like Liliuokalani Gardens & Japanese Teahouse which invite visitors to take their time and wander through the pathways or partake in traditional tea ceremonies (weather permitting). Other notable sites include:

  • Rainbow Falls State Park, featuring breathtaking cascades
  • Akaka Falls State Park where towering 400 foot tall waterfalls can be seen
  • Waipio Valley Lookout providing panoramic views of this majestic valley
  • Mauna Kea Summit Observatory for some stellar stargazing opportunities
  • as well as numerous botanical gardens showcasing native plants found only on the Big Island.

We highlly recommend soaking up all that Hilo has to offer and explore its natural beauty.

Cost of Living:

Generally speaking both areas are affordable places to visit but costs will vary depending on your accommodation choices (hotels/resorts vs vacation rentals) plus any additional activities you plan to do during your stay (such as sightseeing, tours, etc..) Additionally, transportation options are plentiful so getting around is not difficult whether you are staying in one spot or exploring multiple destinations across the Big Island.

For those planning to get around via public transportation, there is Hele On Bus Service offering convenient routes between major towns like Kailua-Kona and Hilo, plus smaller villages scattered throughout the island. They even have special “Big Island Explorer” passes allowing unlimited rides over a 7 day period (perfect if you’re looking to save money).

Additionally, taxis are available, though fares may vary based on distance traveled so it’s best to check ahead of time to make sure you budget accordingly.

Lastly, car rentals provide a great option for those wanting the freedom to explore without having to worry about catching buses or waiting for taxis – just remember to always drive safely and obey all traffic laws.

Kona and Hilo offer unique experiences for travelers, so it is important to consider the factors discussed in this overview before deciding which destination best suits your needs. Accommodations are a critical factor when arranging any journey, so let’s take an in-depth look at the choices of places to stay available in both Kona and Hilo.

Key Takeaway: Kona and Hilo offer contrasting climates, from the sunny beaches of Kona to the rain-drenched landscapes of Hilo. Both areas feature a range of natural sights for explorers to discover, and economical transportation is accessible for those wanting to get around in luxury without draining their wallet.

Accommodations in Kona vs Hilo

When it comes to accommodations, Kona and Hilo have a variety of options for travelers. Hotels and resorts in Kona and Hilo provide the ultimate luxurious experience, with features like pools, spas, fitness centers, and on-site eateries.

For those looking for more affordable lodging or a home away from home experience, vacation rentals and Airbnb options are available in both Kona and Hilo.

For the ultimate outdoor adventure seekers, there are camping sites as well as glamping spots that come with amenities, such as air conditioning units, kitchenettes, bathrooms with showers, BBQ grills, fire pits and more.

Kona is known for its luxury hotels that cater to honeymooners or anyone looking to indulge in island living at its finest. From five-star resorts overlooking the ocean to quaint beachfront cottages – there’s something for everyone when it comes to accommodation choices in Kona.

Vacation rental homes range from one bedroom condos perfect for couples all the way up to large villas ideal for family gatherings or group vacations.

The Big Island also offers plenty of camping opportunities where you can sleep under the stars surrounded by lush vegetation while listening to the sound of crashing waves nearby. Glamping tents provide an upgraded version of traditional camping with features like king size beds equipped with memory foam mattresses plus cozy linens and towels so you don’t have worry about packing your own bedding.

Hilo town has a selection of hotels ranging from budget friendly inns close to downtown shops and eateries all the way up through mid-range properties right on Hilo Bay’s shoreline offering stunning views over Banyan Drive Park and Coconut Island beyond.

Vacation rentals here include everything from studio apartments suitable for solo adventurers up through multi-bedroom houses ideal if you’re traveling with friends or family members who need their own space too.

Camping grounds are abundant around this area, many set within tropical forests boasting incredible scenery complete with waterfalls cascading down into natural swimming holes below. What better way could there be spend time outdoors?

Additionally available are glamping locations featuring high end amenities such as hot tubs and gourmet kitchens which make staying out under nature even more enjoyable than ever before.

Kona and Hilo both offer a variety of accommodation options to suit any traveler’s needs, from luxurious resorts to camping under the stars. Let’s now investigate the various culinary options each city has to offer.

Key Takeaway: Kona and Hilo offer travelers a range of options for accommodations, ranging from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly inns. Both cities provide camping sites as well as glamping spots with all the bells and whistles, making it easy to enjoy an outdoor adventure in style.

Dining in Kona vs Hilo

Local Cuisine Specialties

Kona and Hilo offer unique flavors that make up the local cuisine.

In Kona, you can find traditional Hawaiian dishes such as poke, laulau, kalua pork, poi, and haupia. You can also sample fresh seafood from the ocean or try some of the island’s famous macadamia nut-based dishes. For a sweet treat after dinner, be sure to try one of Hawaii’s many shave ice options.

In Hilo, you’ll find more Japanese influenced cuisine like sushi rolls and tempura as well as other Asian inspired dishes like ramen noodles and teriyaki chicken. Local favorites include malasadas (Portuguese donuts) and saimin noodles with SPAM®.

For a more upscale dining experience in either Kona or Hilo, one can find several options to choose from.

Kona Dining Recommendations

  • Huggo’s on the Rocks boasts breathtaking ocean views
  • The Fish Hopper Seafood & Steaks provides stunning sunset vistas
  • Merriman’s Market Café offers al fresco dining
  • Umeke’s Restaurant serves up innovative Hawaiian fusion fare
  • Holuakoa Gardens & Cafe presents farm-to-table meals made with organic ingredients grown onsite.

Hilo Dining Recommendations

  • Uncle Billy’s Island Grill features contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine
  • Bamboo Restaurant & Sushi Bar specializes in sushi rolls and sashimi plates
  • Kenichi Pacific dishes out modern Japanese food in an easygoing atmosphere
  • Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory serves classic American comfort food incorporating locally sourced macadamia nuts.

Dining in Kona and Hilo offer a variety of delicious local cuisine specialties, fine dining restaurants, and casual options. Shopping in Kona and Hilo provide plenty of shopping malls, centers, boutiques, and specialty shops to explore.

Key Takeaway: Kona and Hilo both offer unique flavors that cater to all tastes, from traditional Hawaiian dishes in Kona such as poke and laulau to Japanese influenced cuisine like sushi rolls in Hilo. Diners can treat themselves to a luxurious dining experience with breathtaking views of the sea, or savor freshly-prepared fare made from locally sourced ingredients in an outdoor setting.

Shopping in Kona vs Hilo

Shopping in Kona and Hilo offers travelers a wide range of options to find just what they’re looking for. From shopping malls and centers to boutiques and specialty shops, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the perfect souvenir or gift.

Kona is home to some of the largest shopping malls on Hawaii Island, including The Shops at Mauna Lani, Queens’ MarketPlace, and Kona Commons Shopping Center. At these various locations, shoppers can find a variety of retail stores ranging from designer boutiques to major department stores. For those who prefer smaller shops, there are also boutique-style stores offering unique items such as handmade jewelry or island-inspired apparel.

In Hilo, shoppers will find two main shopping areas: Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall and Hilo Shopping Center. Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall features an array of national retailers such as Target, Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls HomeGoods Store & More. There is also a selection of local businesses that sell items like Hawaiian art prints or vintage aloha shirts made with traditional fabric patterns known as “kapa moe” (printed bark cloth). The nearby Hilo Shopping Center has more than 50 different merchants selling everything from high-end fashion labels to everyday essentials like groceries or household goods.

For those seeking one-of-a-kind gifts crafted by local artisans in both towns, there are several artisan markets where visitors can browse through handcrafted jewelry pieces, pottery, wood carvings, quilts, koa bowls and paintings by renowned artists. In addition to these markets, there are many small specialty shops located throughout both towns which offer unique finds ranging from antiques and collectibles to books and records, making them ideal places for treasure hunters looking for something special.

Shopping in Kona and Hilo offers a variety of options to meet any traveler’s needs. For those looking for outdoor activities, we will next explore what each city has to offer in terms of water sports, hiking trails, parks and sightseeing tours.

Key Takeaway: Shoppers in Kona and Hilo have plenty of options to find just the right souvenir or gift, with designer clothing stores, department stores, boutiques, artisan markets and specialty shops. From handmade jewelry pieces to vintage aloha shirts made from “kapa moe”, these towns are a treasure trove for those looking for something special.

Outdoor Activities in Kona vs Hilo

Kona and Hilo are popular Hawaiian destinations that offer a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking to spend time on the beach or explore some of Hawaii’s natural beauty, both Kona and Hilo have plenty to offer.

Kona’s stunning beaches draw visitors from around the world to enjoy its plentiful water sports activities. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving at Kahalu’u Bay, kayaking off the coast near Honokohau Harbor, or take a boat tour around the island. In Hilo, Wailoa State Park offers excellent opportunities for swimming and stand-up paddle boarding while Richardson Ocean Park is perfect for surfing.

For those looking for an outdoor adventure, Kona and Hilo offer a variety of hiking trails to explore, from the Kilauea Caldera Trail’s lush rainforest along an active volcano to Mauna Kea Summit trail with its panoramic views from over 13000 feet above sea level. In Hilo you can find Akaka Falls State Park with its breathtaking 400 foot waterfall as well as Rainbow Falls which has been featured in many films due to its unique rainbow effect caused by sunlight reflecting off mists rising from below.

Sightseeing Tours

No trip to either destination would be complete without taking a sightseeing tour. There are several companies offering tours throughout both towns, including helicopter rides over volcanoes or historical sites such as Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (The City Of Refuge) where Hawaiian lawbreakers were once absolved their sins before entering into society again. If you’re looking for something more leisurely, then why not take a cruise around Big Island aboard one of many boats available? From whale watching excursions to sunset cruises, there’s something for everyone.

Both Kona and Hilo provide amazing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure during their stay in Hawaii, whatever your preference may be. With all these options available, it is easy to see why these two locations remain so popular among visitors year after year.

Heard the story about monkeys inhabiting Hawaii?

Key Takeaway: Kona and Hilo are two of Hawaii’s most sought-after destinations, offering a plethora of outdoor activities ranging from water sports to hiking trails. Both locations boast stunning sights, such as the Kilauea Caldera Trail, Akaka Falls State Park and Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. For those looking for some sightseeing tours or leisurely cruises around Big Island, both Kona and Hilo have great options.

FAQs in Relation to Kona vs Hilo

Which is better, Hilo or Kona?

Both Hilo and Kona offer unique experiences for travelers. Hilo boasts a lush rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, and active volcanoes, while Kona’s beaches provide ideal conditions for snorkeling or swimming. It also has a variety of restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums to explore. Kona boasts some truly magnificent shorelines, with inviting azure waters ideal for snorkeling or a dip. Outdoor pursuits abound in this balmy haven, with a range of hikes and golf courses to enjoy. Ultimately it depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for when deciding between Hilo or Kona – both locations have something special to offer visitors.

Is Hilo or Kona rainy?

Hilo and Kona are both situated on the Big Island, an area renowned for its exotic climate. Hilo experiences more rain than Kona due to its location in a windward valley that captures moisture from passing clouds. The average annual rainfall in Hilo is 128 inches compared to just 15-20 inches in Kona. While visitors can expect some rain regardless of where they stay, those looking for sunny days should plan their trip around Kona instead of Hilo.

How many days to spend in Kona vs Hilo?

Kona and Hilo are both popular destinations in Hawaii, but they offer very different experiences. The length of time spent in each location should be determined by the type of experience desired. Kona is great for beach-goers and offers a variety of activities such as snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, fishing, hiking and more. It also has plenty of restaurants and nightlife options. Hilo is known for its lush rainforest hikes with beautiful waterfalls to explore. Both cities have museums that provide insight into the culture and history of the island chain. Depending on your interests, it’s recommended to spend at least two days exploring each city so that you can get an authentic Hawaiian experience from both locations.

Is it cheaper to fly into Hilo or Kona?

The season and one’s travel requirements can determine the most cost-effective option. Generally speaking, it is usually cheaper to fly into Kona International Airport (KOA) than Hilo International Airport (ITO). Nevertheless, there may be instances where flying into ITO is more economical, such as if you’re looking for direct flights from certain cities or staying in a hotel near downtown Hilo. If you plan to stay in a hotel near downtown Hilo or if you’re looking for direct flights from certain cities, then flying into ITO may be more cost effective. Additionally, during peak season and holidays, fares tend to be higher at both airports so it’s important to compare prices before booking your flight.


Visiting Hawaii does not have to be difficult. When considering Kona vs Hilo, careful consideration of a variety of factors, such as the availability of Hawaii hotels, dining options, shopping opportunities and outdoor activities is required. Both places boast a wide range of lodging, eateries, shopping opportunities and recreational activities to meet the needs of different travelers. Ultimately the decision will come down to personal preference; both locations have something unique and special for visitors looking for an unforgettable Hawaiian experience.

Explore the unique experiences that Kona and Hilo have to offer with our comprehensive travel guide! Get started now and plan your perfect Hawaiian getaway.

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