I recently was in Kauai and stayed at the Waimea Plantation; a rustic resort that I said you must know what you are getting into. The Royal Kona, in the town of Kona on the Big Island, is another place that you will enjoy if you have realistic expectations. It is not fancy, it is not over the top, it is not modern. If you want somewhere that is uber deluxe, there are probably better options north of Kona. However, the Royal Kona Resort, and Kona in general, is a great casual place to relax and have fun.
I have stayed at the Royal Kona Resort three different times. The price cannot be beat. The first time I stayed was for my sister’s wedding and they treated everyone right. Now it feels like a second home.
Location: First of all, the location can not be beat. Literally the hotel is ON the ocean. The waves at times crash over the rocks and into the hotel restaurant or pool area. You can hear the waves from your room even with the A/C on and windows closed. It is simply as close to the water as you can get. Every night you get to watch the sunset. You will likely see dolphins and turtles without leaving the property.
If you are flying in from the mainland, there are a lot of direct flights to KOA. The airport is only about a 20 minute drive north from the town of Kona and the resort.
Swimming: The pool is nothing special; and there is no hot tub. But if you have young kids, the 2 foot kiddie pool is perfect. The swimming pool itself is refreshing. There is also a saltwater lagoon on the south end of the property with a sandy beach. There were fish for snorkeling and a turtle was spotted multiple times swimming around the lagoon. It is very peaceful as it is protected from the tide by rocks that break the waves.
Eating: The onsite bar that literally sits at the water’s edge has okay food and good drinks. Great place to relax in the evenings. For food though, I would suggest all meals at Huggos or Huggos on the Rocks (get their Rainbow Hawaiian or Mai Tai during happy hour!) just next door. There is an ABC Store just across the street, as well as a couple other restaurants and bars. But don’t expect fancy, this is Kona, a fun and funky town.
Room: Splurge for a Ocean Front Room. The rooms are not fancy, but they are clean and comfortable. I would suggest a room in the Ali’i Tower. All the staff are very nice; and the entire grounds are kept clean and in good shape.
One thing that people should know is about the vog, or volcanic fog. When I was there in September, it would roll in around noon and stay until about 5:00. Apparently it is actually toxic and makes a bit of a haze (which actually is a nice relief), but if you are visiting for a week, I’m sure there is no long term effect. I honestly didn’t mind it.
The Royal Kona Resort is Hawaii at it’s most fun and relaxing! Check it out, you will not be disappointed.