We are finally here! My favorite party of my Hawaiian repositioning cruise with Celebrity Cruises. To recap, this cruise was on the Celebrity Solstice. It started in Honolulu and went to Hilo, Kona and Maui. Each of the Hawaiian islands are a little bit different from each other. Even though Kona and Hilo are on the Big Island, the locations were very different. After this post, you are going to know how to spend a port day in Kona, Hawaii.
Kona is supposedly the birthplace of surfing that was invented by tribes who had inhabited the island. This area is also famous for snorkeling, dolphins and manta excursions. I didn’t have a lot of time to plan out this trip since I was in Italy for two weeks and left for Hawaii four days later. Jason and I looked at a lot of excursions while onboard. I asked him how he felt about snorkeling and swimming with dolphins in the wild, needless to say it was a no brainer.
We found an excursion from Hang Loose Boat Tours. This excursion was appealing because they limit the tour to 20 people roughly. For those of you that have been with me for a while, I cannot stand crowded snorkeling tours. Charlie and Jacob were kind enough to wait for our tender and uber to get to the marina which was 20 minutes later than the scheduled tour departure. This was the only tour company that we had reached out to that was willing to work with us and wait since the ship didn’t get in port until 8am. They provided us with our snorkeling equipment and we were off before we knew it with a small group of about 16 people.
The snorkeling began over by the Captain James Cook Monument. This area is said to have been the inspiration for Finding Nemo’s drop off reef. We snorkeled here for almost a hour. The water was crystal clear and the fish were beautiful. This is a protective reserve so we were not allowed on land and there is a part of this bay that you are not allowed to swim in either. Back on the boat, they had a deli lunch tray set up with plenty of drinks.
Throughout the journey we kept our eyes out for spinner dolphins in the wild to swim with. This is not guaranteed every trip because it all depends on where the dolphins are that day. The dolphins happened to appear once near the Cook Monument for us. Spinner dolphins are very playful and smaller than the bottle nose dolphins. I felt like they were the Labrador Retrievers of the sea!
Jacob and Charlie went above and beyond to make our tour successful and a pleasant experience. They took their time showing us different spots along the coast and were very knowledgeable with any question you could think of. This tour company also has Manta, Whale Watching and Private Charters if you are in the area. Here is their website: https://www.hawaiitourboat.com/
After a half day of snorkeling, Jason and I were still hungry so we headed back to port. The port is located in Kailua Bay. This felt very different from a traditional cruise port. The area wasn’t flooded with shopping and restaurants but there were a few nice options. We opted for lunch at Quinn’s Almost by the Sea (https://quinnsalmostbythesea.com/) and indulged in their Ultimate Mai Tai. It was delicious! The Mahi Mahi sandwich that I had was very good too.
As we walked back to the port, I was trying to find some good souvenirs for Olivia but there just was not a whole bunch of selection. This wasn’t a deal breaker because they day we had far surpassed any t shirt you could find. The items between all of the Hawaiian ports were about the same other than the huge amounts of Kona Coffee in Kona specifically.
Kona was my absolute favorite Hawaiian port. It felt like the real Hawaii. It was not overbuilt with tourism gimmicks. The feeling that we had was authentic. The people were kind and the snorkeling was great. If I’m going back to Hawaii, this is where I am staying!
If you want to compare Hilo to Kona, check out my Vlog from Hilo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZlLtUSf9CA&t=76s