Kona, Hilo, or Waikoloa? Where to Stay in Big Island Hawaii

where to stay big island hawaii
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Kona, Hilo, or Waikoloa? Where to Stay in Big Island Hawaii

Hawaii’s Big Island (Hawaii Island) is HUGE compared to the other Hawaiian islands. So, it’s important you know your way around and know which area is the right fit for your ideal vacation. If you’re wondering where to stay in Big Island Hawaii, we are here to help!

The three areas vacationers typically stay in are Kona, Hilo, and Waikoloa. Each town is beautiful with lots to do, but they are definitely different. Read along to pick out your perfect vacation spot!


Kona is located on the western coast of Hawaii Island. It’s got great hotels, sunny beaches, neat historical sites, and acres of coffee farms. 

Perfect For: Families, Singles, LGBTQ, and Couples

For families, the “Kona-side” has a variety of resorts and accommodations to fit all budgets and needs. Although the hotels in Kona lack some of the expansive grounds you’ll find in Waikoloa, you can still enjoy a quality hotel with lots for kids to do, such as well-maintained pools and beach access.

Singles will love the area’s many bars, pubs, and microbreweries — local singles often frequent the area’s fun venues. Although Kona is steeped in tradition, you’ll find that the town embraces all! So the LGBTQ community will feel right at home. As for couples, you’re not far from the Four Seasons Hualalai, an extravagant yet private resort not far from the Kona Airport.

Not Perfect For: Visitors Who Hate Crowds

Kona is the most populated city on the Big Island, and the main streets in town can feel a bit crowded if it’s happy hour. If you’re looking for a more “spread-out” feel to your vacation, you’ll want to consider another area.

Things to do in Kona

Kona is a hot spot for visitors looking for exciting nightlife and fun bars and restaurants.

Whale-watching tours are highly popular on the Big Island, as are helicopter tours and luau. However, one of the neatest activities I ever did in Kona was the Manta Night Snorkel and Dive. This amazing tour allows you to actually swim with the manta rays (so what if I clung to the boat and never even got near one!). 

Dinner cruises, dolphin swims, and scuba tours are all available in Kona. But, remember to book your excursion through Hawaii Aloha Travel. Only by doing so can you take advantage of deeply discounted rates!

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa

Nearby Attractions

Kona is steeped in history, and you can learn about the area’s rich past just by walking through town. The oldest church in Hawaii, Mokuaikaua Church, still stands. 

You can also head to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which is about a 20-minute drive south of Kona. And, you may want to spend some time in Keauhou, another “mini” resort town that offers swimming, golf, and shopping.


Perfect For: Families & Some Couples. 

Hilo is mostly a residential city and is the Big Island’s county seat. It’s never been touted as a “resort” area due to its cloudy conditions and lack of accommodations. 

But, visitors will love the proximity to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A lack of nightlife will turn many singles away, but families and couples may like the smaller crowds and neat “touristy” attractions.

Not Perfect For: Resort-Dwellers

Deciding where to stay in Big Island Hawaii with high-end resorts? Hilo likely won’t be for you. This town is highly residential, and you’ll notice right away that it doesn’t cater to visitors like Kona and Waikoloa do.

Hilo Town

Things To Do in Hilo

Hilo is lush and tropical, which lends itself perfectly to nature hikes and outdoor adventures. Try ziplining through the rainforest or head out to Richardson Beach Park to enjoy the tranquil ocean. Helicopter tours to the volcano often begin in Hilo, so staying here is convenient if your primary motivation for visiting the Big Island is seeing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Nearby Attractions

Speaking of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it’s only a 40-minute drive. So, most folks who stay in Hilo take advantage of the short drive to the park. Other attractions include Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Coconut Island. 


Perfect For: Families & Couples

Waikoloa is the ultimate beach resort with expansive resorts and fantastic lodging. So, it’s the ideal place for families of all sizes, since you can also book a timeshare condo or a hotel room. 

Couples can enjoy luxe spa treatments and romantic dinners on resort grounds, or head to Kona for a beach-side cocktail. Singles will be hard-pressed to find a hoppin’ nightlife, however, and I’ve found little information about Waikoloa as an LBGTQ hotspot.

Not Perfect For: Partiers & Nightlife 

Those looking for a party atmosphere or ample singles outlets may be disappointed if they choose to stay in Waikoloa. This resort area can be somewhat quiet, especially after hours. So, if you’re looking for a party, you may want to head to Kona.

Things To Do in Waikoloa

Anaehoomalu Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, as is Hapuna Beach (which is just up the street from Waikoloa). 

You can head to the Punaluu Black Sand beach, but it will take you a while (2 hours and 22 minutes) to get there. Whale-watching tours leave from Anaehoomalu Bay, and there are ample opportunities to surf, bodyboard, stand-up paddle board, or take a sunset cruise.

View of the pool at the Hilton Waikialoa Village

Nearby Attractions

One of my favorite places on the Big Island is Kawaihae, which features some neat art galleries, restaurants, and hangouts. The main attraction here is the 83-acre Puukohala Heiau, an ancient war temple built by King Kamehameha the Great. 

Another attraction near Kawaihae is Pua Mau Place, a botanical garden on the western slope of Kohala Mountain.

More Help Choosing Where to Stay in Big Island Hawaii

If you plan to stay on Hawaii’s Big Island, you’ll need to know which resort area is right for you — we hope our guide helps you decide!

But if you need even more help, contact the travel experts at Hawaii Aloha Travel. We’re ready to provide detailed, custom information so you can make the best choices for your Hawaii vacation.