Kona Kona includes Kailua-Kona and surrounding areas like Holualoa, Keauhou, Captain Cook, and Kealakekua. The area extends from Manuka State Park in the Kau desert to past Kiholo Bay heading towards Kohala. The area is very dry and sunny, and famous for its sportfishing, but not so famous for its beaches. There are a few – but they are sometimes rocky, and usually small.
Kohala Coast (the Gold Coast) The Kohala Coast runs from above the Kona Coast all the way to Upolu Valley (where the road ends). This is where the large, luxury hotels like the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and the Hapuna Prince Hotel. This area also includes Puako, which is a sleepy town that averages only 7 inches of rain per year. The beaches along the Kohala Coast are some of the best in Hawaii; be sure to check out Kaunaoa Beach, Hapuna Beach, and Anaehoomalu Beach.
Kau Kau is the southern area of the island and runs from Volcano Golf Course to Manuka State Park. It is dry, hot, and sometimes windy. It includes South Point, the Green Sand Beach, Punaluu Black Sand Beach, and the small towns of Naalehu and Pahala. Although there are no hotels, very good deals can be found in this area at vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts. Puna Puna is a large area that covers some very wet and a few pretty dry regions (Kalapana, Kapoho). Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the town of Volcano are in Puna. There are many small communities that offer inexpensive vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts here.
Hilo Hilo is the largest city on the Big Island (about 40,000 people). It has a beautiful bay, a deep-water harbor, ocean parks, and waterfalls right in town. It is near the Onomea scenic drive and Akaka Falls. The beaches are usually rocky, but the water is gorgeous and good for snorkeling and kayaking. It rains a lot in Hilo, but that just makes it all the more tropical looking. Palms trees and coconut trees in Hilo grow like mad and give the whole area a look of paradise.
Hamakau Coast The Hamakua Coast starts above Akaka Falls and runs to Waipio Valley. The ocean views are amazing on this drive, and Waipio Valley is a fabulous destination for those not scared of heights. There are small bed and breakfasts dotted along the countryside and even a country club.
Kohala Kohala includes the inland areas of the Kohala Mountain Road, Waimea and Waikoloa. This is where the Paniolos (cowboys) rule, as Parker Ranch here is the largest ranch in all of Hawaii. The weather ranges from dry and hot to dry and cool (at elevation). Waimea is another good place for lodging deals in a central location.