Ultimate Kona Cruise Port Guide for Pride of America Guests

Hawaii Cruise Ultimate Kona Port Guide
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Hawaii Cruise Ultimate Kona Port Guide

Hey cruisers, Justin here! If you’re planning a cruise on the Pride of America and making a stop in Kona, you’re in for an incredible experience. Kona, on the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island, is famous for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and unique attractions. This guide will help you navigate every part of Kona’s cruise port and make the most of your visit. From tender ticket details to the best things to see and do, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in and explore the ultimate guide to Kona’s cruise port.

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Arriving at the Port

When you arrive in Kona, the Pride of America uses a tender process to bring passengers ashore because there is no dock for large cruise ships.

  • Pride of America Port Address: Kailua Pier (Kona), Kaahumanu Pl. Kailua, HI 96740, USA
  • Schedule: Arrives 7 AM
  • Remember to grab your beach towels normally on deck 4 mid-ship as you go down the stairs to deck 3 to get on the tender. I would grab some from deck 11 the night before if you can.
  • Tendering: The ship will anchor offshore, and you’ll take small boats called tenders to get to the pier. The tender ride is short and offers beautiful views of the coastline. (watch for dolphins and whales!)

Kona Tendering Instructions

  • Tendering between 7:00am and 7:45am does not require a tender ticket, just head to Deck 3 midship to disembark the ship like normal.
  • To tender after 7:45am, a tender ticket is required. Tender tickets are free.
  • Tender tickets are available starting at 6:30am on Wednesday at Pink’s Champagne (Deck 6, midship) and will be available until open tender is announced
  • Tickets are given out by group number, with an approximate call time.
  • If you have a shore excursion through NCL on Wednesday, your shore excursion ticket will count as your tender ticket. Just show your yellow excursion ticket to get off the boat AT LEAST 45 minutes prior to your schedule excursion meeting time
  • You do NOT need a ticket to return. Simply line up where they drop you off on the tender pier.
Pride of America  Kona Tender Ticket
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Pride of America Kona Tender Ticket
  • Location: The tender pier is located in Kailua-Kona, a charming town right on the waterfront. It’s close to many shops, restaurants, and attractions, making it easy to start exploring right away.
  • Facilities: The pier area has basic facilities like restrooms and a tent area for shade waiting for tours to load.
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Getting Around

Once you’ve arrived at the pier, you’ll need to decide how to get around Kona. There are several options available, depending on your plans for the day.

Expedia offers great prices and deals on rental cars since they all compete for your business on their website. See Rental Car Deals here.

  • Walking: Kailua-Kona is a compact town, and many attractions, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance of the pier.
  • Shuttles: Some attractions and rental car companies offer shuttle services from the pier. Check with your tour operator or car rental company for details.
  • Taxis and Ride-Sharing: Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are available. These are good options if you prefer not to walk or drive. NOTE: The Taxis will normally only take cash and will have a flat starting minimum around $20 dollars because of the short distances for places so they can still make money.
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  • Rental Cars: Renting a car is one of the best ways to explore the wider Kona area. It gives you the freedom to visit remote beaches, scenic spots, and other attractions at your own pace. Be sure to book in advance, especially during peak tourist season. Make sure to ask your rental car company if they would meet you at the pier area. I know some guests were able to arrange this.
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Things to Do Near the Pier

If you’re looking to stay close to the pier, there are plenty of things to see and do within walking distance.

  • Hulihe‘e Palace: This historic palace, located right on Ali‘i Drive, was once a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it’s a museum showcasing Hawaiian artifacts and furniture.
  • Mokuaikaua Church: Hawaii’s oldest Christian church, built in 1837, is located across the street from Hulihe‘e Palace. It’s a beautiful and historic site worth a visit.
  • Kona Farmers Market & Kona Inn: Located a few blocks from the pier, this market offers fresh produce, local crafts, and souvenirs. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday.
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  • Ali‘i Drive: This main street runs along the waterfront and is lined with shops, restaurants, and historic sites. It’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll and soak in the local atmosphere.

Exploring Kona

Kona is known for its stunning beaches, outdoor adventures, and rich cultural heritage. Here are some top things to do during your visit.


Kona is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii. Here are a few you won’t want to miss:

  • Kahaluu Beach Park: Known for its excellent snorkeling, Kahaluu Beach Park is home to a wide variety of marine life, including colorful fish and sea turtles. It’s just a short drive from the pier.
  • Magic Sands Beach: Also known as White Sands Beach, this spot is great for swimming and bodyboarding when the surf is up. It’s located a few miles south of Kailua-Kona.
  • Honokohau Beach: Located within Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, this beach is less crowded and offers a mix of sandy and rocky shoreline. It’s a great place for a quiet, relaxing day by the water.
  • Kamakahonu Beach: that is right next to the pier where the tenders drop you off in Kona. It can be crowded there sometimes so it is worth taking a quick taxi to the other close by beaches.
Historical and Cultural Sites

Kona has a rich history and plenty of cultural sites to explore.

  • Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: This historic park, also known as the Place of Refuge, is about a 30-minute drive from Kailua-Kona. It offers a fascinating look into ancient Hawaiian culture and traditions.
  • Kealakekua Bay: This historic bay is known for its excellent snorkeling and as the site of Captain James Cook’s first landing in Hawaii. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the pier.
  • Hawaii Island’s Historical Society: Located in Kailua-Kona, this small museum offers exhibits on the history of the Big Island, including early Hawaiian life and the arrival of European explorers.
Outdoor Adventures

If you’re an adventure seeker, Kona has plenty to offer.

  • Snorkeling and Diving: Kona’s clear waters and vibrant marine life make it a top spot for snorkeling and diving. Consider a guided tour to the best sites, like Kealakekua Bay and the underwater caves of Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau.
  • Whale Watching: If you’re visiting between December and April, you can join a whale watching tour to see humpback whales migrating through Hawaiian waters. This was the first port that I was able to see whales right by the ship.
  • Deep-Sea Fishing: Kona is famous for its deep-sea fishing. You can book a fishing charter and try your luck at catching marlin, tuna, and other big game fish.
Private Tours and NCL Excursions pricing and descriptions.

There are plenty of guided tours and excursions available in Kona. Here are some popular options:

  • Coffee Plantation Tours: Kona coffee is world-renowned. Visit a coffee plantation to learn about the growing and roasting process, and of course, sample some fresh Kona coffee.

On the top part of the from below you can see the Kona NCL excursions list and pricing. Remember this is subject to change and prices have been going up quite a bit the last few years. I will point out some of the advice I would give to guests.

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First as you can see by the maps and the walking distances that Kona is a great port to explore and walk around for part of the day. Doing a half day or less tour gives you time to enjoy the port. This makes the smaller tours like Glass bottom boat, Atlantis Submarine and Historic Kona fill up quickly.

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The water is just different in Kona and that makes it great for snorkeling! If you want to do Big Island Snorkel make sure to pre-book it as soon as you can. It rarely ever had spots open and they would be gone in less than 5 minutes of guests getting on the ship. For the Zodiac rafts make sure you have your Dramamine ready and take some just in case. You can get enough for the cruise here.

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Now here is the main tour I would always point out to guests and ask them about if the already booked it, Volcano National Park & Black Sand Beach. Now this isn’t a bad tour but you get to Kona see its a great place to enjoy the day by the water, but your going to get on a bus to pretty much drive to the Hilo. To see the volcano that you could have seen on Tuesday in a shorter tour that is half the cost. If your only reason was a black sand beach they have that on Road to Hana in Maui and Richardson’s in Hilo not too far from the ship.

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Dining in Kona

Kona has a fantastic food scene, with options ranging from casual beachside cafes to fine dining restaurants. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Island Lava Java: This casual cafe is known for its great breakfast, coffee, and oceanfront views. It’s a perfect spot to start your day.
  • Da Poke Shack: For a taste of local cuisine, visit Da Poke Shack for fresh poke bowls made with local fish and ingredients.
  • Kona Brewing Company: Located near the pier, Kona Brewing Company offers a variety of craft beers and a menu of tasty pub fare. It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner.

Practical Tips for Your Visit

To help you make the most of your time in Kona, here are a few practical tips:

  • Book Excursions Early: Kona is a popular destination, and tours and activities can fill up quickly. Be sure to book your excursions in advance to ensure you get a spot.
  • Pack Sunscreen: The Hawaiian sun can be intense, so be sure to pack plenty of reef safe sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to bring a hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  • Stay Hydrated: It’s easy to get dehydrated, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: If you plan to do a lot of walking or hiking, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Many attractions require some walking, and you’ll want to be prepared.
  • Respect the Environment: Hawaii is known for its beautiful natural environment, and it’s important to do your part to protect it. Be sure to follow all guidelines and regulations, and leave no trace when you visit parks and beaches.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to reach out. Mahalo, and happy cruising!