Food is expensive in Hawaii. Dining out even moreso. So we bought sandwich materials at the beginning of the week and ate sandwiches every day until we ran out of bread. We also brought some pasta salad mixes with us, which is a good thing to toss in the fridge and pick at after a day of diving. Our condo had a grill, and one night we bought some local fish and some produce and grilled out and watched the sunset. It was a beautiful meal with an unbeatable view and it only cost $20. Some people don't like to cook on vacation, and I totally get that, because some nights we decided it was vacation and we wanted to go out. (More on that later.)
If you want to rent a condo, and you go to VRBO, you get pretty overwhelmed by the options. The places aren't listed on a map and you don't know where they are really and it's hard to know where to stay. It mostly comes down to what do you want to do, which I can't answer for you, but try to find somebody who likes what you like and then stay where they stayed.
In our case, we like to be able to walk places, we wanted to be able to easily go to the dive shop and to dive sites, we wanted to be close to the beach, and we didn't want to have to drive home late at night down a dark road. So staying in downtown Kailua-Kona seemed like our best option.
We stayed in Kailua on Alii Drive at Alii Villas. It was lovely and right close to town so we could easily walk the mile into town or the half mile to the local beach. Keauhou is another good option, and is really close to a grocery store. I would say that Keauhou is about as far as I would have wanted to be from town, giving how much driving we did to the dive shop.
Everyone gathers at the end of the condos to watch the sunset. It's pretty cool.
Your options that are further out of town are places like Captain Cook, which is a 20 minute drive from Kailua-Kona but a fun-looking small town, Honaunau is further still - close to City of Refuge, which is a 30 minute drive from Kona - but you get some great looking places (and this one comes with dive weights and kayaks), or Kealakekua Bay which is near really fantastic snorkeling and fabulous ocean views, and pretty close to City of Refuge if you are planning on diving there. These are also near places like coffee farms, which don't interest us at all, but might interest you. The biggest disadvantage of staying in a place like Captain Cook or Honaunau is that the drive home after the manta night dive would have been really, really tough. There are also places that are north of Kailua, like Puako and the big long resort stretch. I didn't research them at all, although it looked really nice when we drove through that area.
We also stayed in Volcano - Volcano is a surprisingly pricy area, and food is of limited availablity and expensive there. We stayed at the Volcano Hale in the Lokelani room - if you are looking for a place to stay and relax and stretch out, this isn't it. The Volcano Hale is basically an upscale hostel - shared kitchen, shared common area, and barely enough room for suitcases and people in your bedroom. We loved it. Everyone was friendly, and it was great to have a kitchen in a town with two restaurants. We were looking for someplace to crash after a lot of hiking, not really a place to luxuriate. If we were looking to luxuriate, we wouldn't have stayed in a room described as "tiny" and would probably have gone for one of the larger rooms. The description was accurate, but the room was clean, the bathroom was lovely and well stocked with towels, shampoo, soap, etc., and the kitchen was well supplied, although it didn't have any basics like olive oil and salt (which our condo had), so don't count on anything being there. The management was also great about the fact that we forgot to check out and had to mail our key back to them from a post office an hour away.
Anyone else have lodging recommendations?