Located in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, Kailua Pier is a very popular place. This pier is commonly used by boat charter companies to launch small watercraft like kayaks and canoes as well as mid-sized boats, while cruise ships often load and unload passengers from its end. So if you are traveling to the area by cruise boat or plan on joining a boating adventure launching from Kailua-Kona, then chances are you’ll find yourself Kailua Pier. But even if not, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this part of the village’s historic waterfront.
Kailua Pier juts out at an angle at Kailua Bay. There is a small white sand beach to its right called Kamakahonu Beach and an even smaller golden sand beach on its left. Both of these beaches are good for launching small boats, with Kamakahonu popular for wading and some snorkeling.
Snorkeling is popular at Kailua Pier because there is a small coral reef that has been incredibly well protected despite the constant churning of the water due to boats coming in and out of the pier. In fact, it just might be one of the best places on this side of the island to snorkel from the shore at. You will commonly see colorful tropical fish, manta rays, sea turtles, and more at the reef at Kailua Pier. Spinner dolphins also are commonly see leaping about the area.
However, while this is an excellent snorkeling spot for its varied marine life, exceptional caution must be practiced. Remember, there are boats regularly going in and out of this area. Snorkelers and swimmers should always do so with a buddy and use the appropriate flags when going out. Dive flags are actually required by law here and can be cheaply rented from any of the town’s dive and snorkel spots. Some Hawaiian hotels and resorts will also offer them as a complimentary amenity for their guests.
If you are in this area in the late afternoon, make sure to stop by the pier between 4 and 5 pm. This is when the fishing charters and small commercial fishers come in to weigh their catches of the day. This often includes massive, sometimes record-setting marlins. If you’re not especially in a hurry, you might even wait and enjoy a wonderful sunset here as both the pier and neighboring beach offer exceptional western coastline viewpoints to watch the sun sink into the sea.
Parking here can be problematic. Permits are required for parking on the pier itself, and those permits are generally held by boat owners and affiliates. If you have big gear, such as a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, you can pull up to a small loading area near a ramp launch spot to drop off the gear before parking elsewhere. You can find street parking throughout the town of Kailua-Kona or dedicated paid lot parking one block west near the Alii Drive and Likana Lane intersection
At Kailua Pier, there are full public restrooms and outside showers available for all general use.
-Cruise ships are limited to Kailua Pier to help keep the waters looking as beautiful as they do. As such, you will only see them on Wednesdays and Saturdays — making those the best days to avoid Kailua Pier if you don’t want to worry about the crowds and water disruptions.
-Across from the end of Kailua Pier is the Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark. This is the official reconstruction of the last residence of King Kamehameha I. Unfortunately, while the reconstruction is very architecturally accurate, you cannot go inside. It is interesting though to look at and to swim up to though.
-Every October, Kailua Pier is used as the official start and finish point for the prestigious Triathlon World Championship. This year, that event will take place from October 6 through October 8. Part of the Ironman World Championship is also held here.