Kona Bali Kai (also called Castle Kona Bali Kai) is a popular condo building located on the Big Island of Hawaii on Kailua-Kona’s Ali’i Drive. My sister and I recently booked a 3 week vacation rental there, and loved it, so we were a little perplexed by some of the negative reviews we saw of the property. As it turns out, vacation rentals here can be great, but who you rent from makes a big difference in your experience. Here’s everything you need to know about vacation rentals in Kona Bali Kai:
Renting Through the Resort vs Renting From Individual Owners
We rented our condo at Kona Bali Kai through the owner, who has it listed on VRBO and Airbnb. There are quite a few listings for Kona Bali Kai condos on Airbnb and VRBO that are listed by condo owners. And it seems like the organization that owns the resort also rents out some of the condos in Kona Bali Kai on platforms like Expedia, treating it more like a hotel.
This seems to be one of the major determiners of guest experience. The condos that are rented through the resort on sites like Expedia appear to have fewer amenities, and more complaints about lack of cleanliness, extra fees, and dated rooms.
There are many individual owners of condos in the building, so as with any vacation rental, the quality can vary among those. But it seems like on the whole many of the owners have renovated their condos –some really beautifully!–and have far better reviews.
I will point out that the small upside in the “resort” owned rooms (to be honest, I’m not sure the property offers enough amenities to call it a resort) is that they’re generally cheaper than owner-listed condos. We paid a significantly higher daily rate for our owner-listed condo rental, but it was worth every penny!
How to Book a Good Condo at Kona Bali Kai
If you’re thinking about booking at Kona Bali Kai, I’d recommend renting from a condo owner through VRBO or Airbnb (both of whom provide an extra layer of protection if things aren’t as described), and looking carefully at photos and reviews.
When looking on VRBO for Kona Bali Kai rentals, start with this search, then zoom in on the map a little bit to make sure you’re looking at listings that are within the property, and not in nearby buildings. Airbnb makes it a little more difficult to search for listings in a particular building, and they don’t show property names on their map. You’ll need to do a search for Kailua-Kona listings, then zoom into the exact area where the Bali Kai is located.
Pay Attention to Which Side of the Street the Condo is on
It may not be immediately obvious when you’re booking that there’s a main Kona Bali Kai building on the ocean side of Ali’i Drive, and a second building across the street. Whereas most of the units on the ocean side have amazing views of the ocean (some in the main building do face the street), units in the building across the street are just as likely to have no view at all.
Units across the street appear to be less common among owner-listed condos; the majority I found on VRBO seem to be on the ocean side. Perhaps the property owner mainly owns and rents out the units in the second building, or vacation rental owners rightly figure that a condo without a view isn’t a good investment. But it’s something to look out for when choosing your vacation rental!
What Our Kona Bali Kai Condo Rental Was Like
Kona Bali Kai was constructed in 1969, so no surprise that the building shows its age in spots. However, the public spaces are well maintained overall. Where I think you find more variance is in individual condos. We booked an owner-listed condo that wasn’t super newly renovated, but still felt modern, and very clean.
Overall, we loved our stay at Kona Bali Kai, and would definitely stay again! Our unit was a 2 bed, 2 bath on the 3rd floor, and so close to the ocean you could hear the crashing waves throughout the condo! We spent as much time as possible on the spacious lanai, and there was more than enough room in the living area for us to spread out as well. It was just my sister and I for this portion of our trip, though I don’t think we would have felt cramped if we’d brought along partners.
Part of what made our experience so great was the extremely well-stocked kitchen. With budget and health in mind over a 3 week stay, we cooked many of our meals at the condo, and really appreciated all the cooking tools available. Our unit also had a washer and dryer, a necessity for a long stay. Those details are obviously specific to our unit, but you can book the same condo through the link above if it sounds appealing.
It is worth noting that many units here do not have AC–this is fairly common in Hawaii. We truly didn’t miss it at any point, as you can leave the patio door and front door open while you’re there (both have screen doors) and get a cooling ocean breeze through the condo. Our unit also had multiple ceiling fans to move air, and that seems to be the case with other units as well.
Kona Bali Kai Amenities
The main building has good-sized pool with a small adjoining hot tub. The pool is fenced off and locked, so that only guests and residents can access the pool with their keys.
The pool is not heated, and is shaded for much of the day since it sits in the courtyard. So it can be a little on the cool side, but more refreshing than outright cold.
The main building is ocean side with fantastic views, but the beach is very rocky and not good for swimming, so you’ll need to head down the road to one of the sandier beaches for that. A rocky coastline is the rule, rather than the exception, on the Big Island, so this isn’t really a mark against the location.
There are several ocean side gas barbecues that are well maintained. Staff clean them daily and refresh the propane.
The building also has an elevator, and a luggage cart in the small lobby area, so getting our luggage up to the third floor was easy.
The famous poke shop Da Poke Shack is located on-site, so we only had to walk downstairs to pick up some ridiculously fresh and delicious poke for lunch. Don’t wait too far into the afternoon, though–they start selling out of flavors in the early afternoon.
Finally, parking is free in the garage under the building. Free parking is important, because you will want a car to get around, even if you’re not venturing beyond Kailua-Kona.
Kona Bali Kai is located on Ali’i Drive, about a 10 minute drive from the small downtown area of Kailua-Kona. It’s about a 20 minute walk to nearby swimming spot Magic Sands Beach park. There’s a multi-purpose walking/ bike lane along Ali’i Drive, and the speed limit in the area is low, so it’s safe and commonly used by pedestrians and joggers.
You’ll likely find that you drive most places. Still, nothing in Kailua-Kona is too far away, you’re within 10-15 minutes of grocery stores, gas stations, shopping, and we loved being only a 10ish minute drive from the magical Maka’eo Walking Path.