Big Island Snorkling Tours Blog


Visiting the Kona Inn Shopping Village is a great way to experience the culture of Kona after enjoying one of our snorkel tours.  Chantal Dechape for Aloha Visitor Guides on the historical Kona Inn Village.

Many years ago, Papa ‘ Ula (papa = flat, ula`ula = red, red flats), was an area that contained a Hawaiian sacred temple (heiau) built under Chief Umi, a ruling chief of Hawaii Island. The temple was once used as a temple of human sacrifice (luakini heiau) as recently as the 15th century. This is today where the historically famous Kona Inn Shopping Village is located.

The Kona Inn built in 1928, by the Inter-Island Steamship Navigation Company, was the beginning of commercial tourism in Kona. In its heyday, the 20-room hotel was always booked. It catered to the leisurely wealthy with it’s salt water swimming pool, tennis courts, cocktail lounge, was known for the best luau in town and enjoyed an unbeatable ocean view. Due to lack of fresh water, it took some time before Kona became a true tourist destination. It wasn’t until 1953 when Kona Inn took over the Kona Development Co.’s abandoned sugar mill water system, which it piped to the hotel.

For those who experience being stuck in traffic in the Kona area today, just imagine what it was like years ago before Kona became a resort destination. Visitors would travel approximately 121 miles from Hilo through Volcano in an estimated 14 hours. The return trip (estimated 9 hours) would be a 97 mile “short cut” to Hilo via Waimea and Hamakua Coast, with a spare tire and patch kit. The roads were unforgiving because of sharp lava, deep gulches and steep slopes.

Credit for the distinctive style of Hawaiian architecture goes to Charles William “C. W.” Dickey (1871-1942). His initial designs in Hawaii were eclectic. He felt a strong need to adapt his buildings to the local environment. Such was the case for his designs for the hotel at the edge of Kilauea Volcano known as Volcano House and the Kona Inn. At the center of the Kona Inn Shopping Village, which stands out from the rest of the inn, is the “Lava Lookout Tower” and is of Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture.

Kona Inn stopped housing guests in 1976 and became Kona Inn Shopping Village in 1980. With its charming boardwalk on the makai (ocean) side of Ali`i Drive, you will find some of the best galleries, restaurants, specialty shops, and day spas offering an array of unique gifts and services, not to mentioned free live entertainment on most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

E komo mai or welcome and enjoy all that the Kona Inn Shopping Village has to offer!



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