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Things to do in Kona
Kona, technically Kailua Kona, is the place to be on the Big Island! This part of the island is almost always warm and sunny, and most of the Big Island resorts are nearby.
Although this is the 25 best things to do in Kona, it covers far more areas than just Kona town. Generally, Hawaii Island is broken down by the “Kona side” and “Hilo side.”
I do have a blog post with 20 things to do in Hilo if you want to check it out after this.
You can consider this post what to do on the West Side of the Big Island, or what to do on the Kona side of the Big Island. Although not everything on this list is actually in Kona town, quite a few of them are!
Fun things to do in Kona
Whether you’re spending one day or a week on the Big Island, you’ll find something to do in Kona.
Feel free to mix and match days to create the perfect Big Island vacation. Now, let’s get to my favorite Kona activities.
The Big Island is Big and has little public transportation, so you’ll definitely need a rental car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii.
1. Kayak Kealakekua Bay
Kayaking Kealakekua Bay is one of my favorite things to do on the Big Island. Several tour companies land at the Captain Cook monument and others that do not.
You can also rent kayaks from several local companies and explore on your own, but you are not allowed to land at the monument.
In my opinion, not landing isn’t a big deal at all, as the biggest draw to kayaking in this area is sea life. You’ll regularly see dolphins and some of the best snorkeling on the island is here.
2. Body Glove cruise
If you want to snorkel Kealakekua Bay but not kayaking isn’t your thing, several tour companies offer snorkel tours on a boat and include breakfast and lunch.
The deluxe sail and snorkel cruise is my favorite. A snorkel cruise is one of my top recommendations and one of the best things to do in Kona (although it’s technically just south of Kona.)
3. Snorkel Two Step
If you love snorkeling, you’ll love the Big Island! Located right next to the Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park (City of Refuge), Two-Step is one of the best snorkel spots on the Big Island.
This is home to beautiful live coral as well. Please be respectful when snorkeling over the reef and do not touch or step on the coral.
There are no snorkel rentals at Two Step, so make sure to bring your own here. Here are some of my favorites:
4. Have a beer at Kona Brewing Co
Have a locally brewed beer or a meal at Kona Brewing Company.
5. Check out the petroglyphs at the Pukao Petroglyph field or Waikoloa Petroglyph field
Petroglyphs offer a unique view of the history of Hawaii. Development of the island has sadly destroyed many of them, but a few remain. As always, please be respectful and do not walk in the fields.
6. Visit a Farmers Market
There are many farmers markets on the Kona side of the island, including:
- Kona Farmers Market
- Kona Village Farmers Market
- Ali’i Garden Market Place
- Keauhou Farmers Market
- Captain Cook Farmers Market
- South Kona Fruit Stand
- Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market
Farmers Markets are a great place to pick up local produce and locally made gifts. Some of the markets do include fruit being resold from Costco or made-in-China “souvenirs” so be mindful of that.
7. Visit the City of Refuge
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (also known as the City of Refuge) preserves the site where Hawaiians who broke Kapu could avoid death if they made it here.
Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but you’ll have to visit yourself to learn more. Again, please be respectful.
I’ve seen too many people touching things that they shouldn’t or just generally being rude. Don’t be that person.
8. Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm tour
One of the best things to do in Kona, and the most unique, is to take a tour of Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. The farm is an excellent tour for families, but it’s fun for adults.
9. Check out stunning Waipio Valley
Take a tour or (carefully, with a 4-wheel drive) drive yourself down to visit beautiful Waipio Valley. Please be respectful of those who live in Waipio Valley and do not trespass. Most rental car companies do not allow you to drive down here so check your agreement first.
Waipio Valley is currently closed to visitors while the road conditions are accessed. PLEASE do not trespass as the road is still open to locals. You can still look at the overlook, and I recommend checking out Pololu Valley which is a short hike instead.
Hiking into Waipio Valley is allowed but I would not recommend it. Driving is scary enough. 😉
Waipio Valley is almost like another world with stunning waterfalls and wild horses. A small group tour is the best option if your rental agreement does not allow you to drive into the valley.
You’ll also have Waipio Beach, a black sand beach in Waipio Valley. I also have a blog post with all the info you ever wanted to know about black sand beaches as well as a post with all of the beaches on the Big Island.
10. Visit colorful beaches
No visit to the Big Island is complete without visiting the picturesque beaches. Punalu’u Black Sand beach is easy to access and a popular stop on the way to Volcanos National Park.
Punalu’u is a great place to find sea turtles. Make sure to check out the ultimate guide to Hawaiian animals to learn more. You can also check out the best places on the Big Island to find sea turtles.
Pololu Valley on the Kohala Coast has another beautiful black sand beach, although you have to hike down to get to it. The hike is short but steep making Polulu Valley a great family hike for families with older kids.
To visit a Green Sand beach, you’ll need to hike a couple of miles to Papakolea Beach near South Point. Don’t forget to check out my post with all of the beaches on the Big Island to learn more about Papakolea and other colorful beaches.
Although none of these beaches are technically in Kona, I had to mention them on this list of the best 25 things to do in Kona anyway. They are all just a short drive and well worth the trip.
11. Kekaha Kai Beach Park
There are so many beautiful beaches on the Big Island, but this one just north of Kona Airport is my favorite. The road to get there is a little bumpy, but you can make it in a car. Drive slowly and carefully; it’s worth it!
12. Enjoy a mai tai at the Kona Inn
You can’t visit Hawaii without enjoying a mai tai. For the best mai tai in Kona, check out the Kona Inn. I will warn you that the food here is only okay but enjoy the view and a mai tai at Happy Hour and you’ll thank me later.
Check out this post for the 7 best Happy Hours in Kona.
13. Hike into Pololu Valley
I already mentioned the black sand beach, but this is a fantastic hike even without the beautiful beach that greets you at the bottom.
The hike down into Pololu Valley is relatively easy, and it’s a beautiful and peaceful place.
14. Manta Ray night dive
If you’re looking for the best Kona activities, this is one that I recommend all the time.
Snorkeling or scuba diving at night with manta rays is such a unique experience; it’s one of the best things to do in Kona. This experience is unique to Hawaii island, so don’t miss it during your trip.
15. Visit the summit of Mauna Kea
The top of Mauna Kea is like another world. Make sure to bring a jacket because it’s chilly up there. It even snows in the winter.
Don’t worry; you can enjoy a warm sunny beach after you get back down the mountain. You’ll need to take a tour or have a 4-wheel drive, but it’s a fun experience.
As a bonus, this is one of the best places to see a Hawaii sunset.
16. Visit Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Located just south of the Kona Airport, you can explore this early Hawaii settlement on the rugged Kona coast. This park is home to two fishponds and many species of local wildlife.
Check out the visitor center for guided tours and special programs.
17. Zipline with Kohala Zipline
If you like to zip line, you’ll love to zip line in Hawaii. My personal favorite is Kohala Zipline.
18. Take a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian
If you’ve ever talked to me about Hawaii, read very many of my blog posts, or checked out my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I always recommend a helicopter tour.
Yes, it’s a splurge, but it’s also a unique way to see parts of the island that you’ll never see on land. I recommend a Kohala/Hamakua tour or a volcano and waterfalls tour. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a 2-hour tour of the Kohala Coast and the volcano area!
19. Take a surf lesson
One of the best things to do in Kona is to take a surf lesson. Yes, even if you think that you won’t be able to do it! I’ve had many clients tell me that they were scared to do the lesson, but it ended up being a favorite experience.
I recommend either a small group or private surf lesson for the best experience. Kona is one of the best places in the world to learn to surf!
20. Take a submarine tour
If you want to see underwater but aren’t comfortable diving or snorkeling, the Atlantis submarine tour might be perfect for you.
A submarine tour is also an excellent option for families with littles who can’t snorkel yet or are afraid of the water. You can explore underwater life with no swimming skills necessary.
21. Have an oceanfront dinner
Kona has so many oceanfront dining options; you’ll want to try them all. Some of my favorites are Lava Lava Beach Club, Huggo’s, and Kamana Kitchen.
22. Visit rescued animals
If you’re an animal lover like I am, you’ll enjoy visiting Big Island Farm Sanctuary.
Located in South Point, the sanctuary provides a safe, loving, forever home for animals who have been orphaned, abandoned, injured, abused, or exploited.
Big Island Farm Sanctuary offers a guided tour on Saturdays. The cost is only $15 per person and children 4 and under are free. You can also book a private tour on any other day for a very reasonable price.
If you’re an animal lover who wants to give back during your trip to the Big Island, make sure to check out the sanctuary.
Photo Courtesy of Big Island Farm Sanctuary and used with permission.
23. Learn how to standup paddleboard
Did you know that this increasingly popular sport originated in Hawaii? Now you know! West Hawaii has many bays that are perfect for newbies learning to paddleboard and plenty of waves for those with a little experience.
If you’ve never done it before, don’t worry, you can take a SUP paddleboard lesson.
24. Parasail over Kona
If you want to see Kona by air, why not give parasailing a try? Parasailing is a great way to see the sights of Kona with a unique view.
25. Take professional photos
As a photographer myself, I couldn’t leave this out! Kona is one of the most beautiful places in the world. What better backdrop to have your photos done?
Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon, babymoon, family vacation, a friend trip, or any other occasion, make sure to have it documented by one of the many talented Kona photographers.
I recommend booking with Flytographer to find a fun, friendly local photographer. Pricing starts at $250, and as a professional photographer, I will tell you that it is a good deal!
Things to do in Kona
If you’re looking for more Big Island travel tips, check out some of my other Big Island blog posts:
- How to plan a Big Island Vacation.
- 15 free things to do on the Big Island.
- How to survive the flight to Hawaii.
- The 10 best tours on the Big Island.
- 7-day Big Island Itinerary
- 7 Best Big Island resorts.
- The 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island.
- The Best Happy Hours in Kona.
- 20 things you should never do in Hawaii.
I’ll leave you with a beautiful Kona sunset. Click over to YouTube to watch it full size.
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