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If you’re heading to the Big Island there are plenty of beautiful beaches including Papakolea the Green Sand Beach, authentic Hawaiian cuisines, sunny weather and culture that the entire family will not want to leave the Big Island. There are so many things to do on the Big Island including some of the best restaurants, shops, and nightlife plus it’s the perfect place to snorkel, fish, and surf.
No other island allows you to swim with manta rays, go horseback riding, watch volcanoes erupt, explore waterfalls, stunning sunsets, black sand beaches and even whale watching all in one trip. No other island offers so many cultural treasures in its natural environments. Kona has so much to offer, you’ll see why it is known as “Hawaii’s Island of Adventure.”
You can get up close and personal come with molten lava or kaleidoscopic sand, you won’t have trouble finding things to do in Kona, Hawaii. From awe-inspiring volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to the Instagram worthy Akaka Falls to the Eden-like Waipio Valley, the Big Island is full of natural wonders. In addition to the Big Island’s hiking and stunning beaches make sure you stop by the Hilo Farmers Market to try authentic Hawaiian treats or purchase crafts to take home as souvenirs.
I don’t want you to miss any of these great adventures so here are my Top 50 Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii
Island of Hawaii Fishing
The Kona Coast is renowned for its deep sea fishing, and visitors can rent charters out of Honokohau Harbor (just north of Historic Kailua Village) in search of marlin, mahimahi, ono, ahi and more. If low-key shore fishing is more your speed, bring your rod and tackle to the island of Hawaii's jetties, beaches and piers.
Kayak Kona with Kona's #1 Rated Kayak Shop, Kona Kayak Rental, Tours
Twogood Kayaks Hawaii Summary Twogood Kayaks has been providing guided and self guided kayak ... tours, + kayak & snorkel rentals for 28 years. Let us show you Hawaii's most beautiful beaches, ... kayaking and snorkeling in the world’s most exquisitely beautiful waters. It’s safe and fun.
Kona Snorkel Tours | Fair Wind Cruises
Experience a beautiful Kona morning cruise to historic Kealakekua Bay aboard the Fair Wind II. Enjoy pristine snorkeling, an island-fresh breakfast, and a tasty grilled bbq lunch -- and maybe even try the waterslide and high jump! Perfect for all ages and abilities.
Kona Surfing Spots, Lessons Board Rental, Sales, Surf Forecast
Surfing was born in Hawaii and is deeply intertwined with its history and culture. If you dream of riding the waves, there’s no better place to learn how to surf and truly commune with the ocean. Learn about the origins of surfing in Hawaii and find out where you can watch the pros or take a surfing lesson on your visit.
Island of Hawaii Whale Watching
From December to May, you may catch a glimpse of a majestic kohola (humpback whale) off the island of Hawaii's shorelines. These gentle giants come to the warm Hawaiian waters every year to breed and give birth to new calves. Seeing one of these 40-ton, 40-foot long giants breach the water is an unforgettable sight.
From towering cascades tucked in the back of valleys to streams pouring over cliffs into the sea, Hawaiʻi has it all. The best islands for chasing Hawaii waterfalls are the Big Island, Maui and Kauaʻi. There are several easily accessible and stunningly beautiful waterfalls across the islands. Some, however, can only be reached by long hikes or air tours.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Island of Hawaii
Experience some of nature’s most awe-inspiring wonders at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located 45 miles southwest of Hilo, the park is home to two volcanoes including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. The chance to witness the primal process of creation and destruction makes it one of the most popular visitor attractions in Hawaii and a sacred place.
Kona Coffee Farm | Buy 100% Big Island Kona Coffee Online
Greenwell Farms is situated in the heart of the Kona Coffee country adjacent to the ancestral home of Henry and Elizabeth, which is now occupied by the Kona Historical Society and Museum. The farm is managed by fourth generation Tom Greenwell. Greenwell Farms grows its own coffee, and operates its processing and visitor attractions on just under 100 acres of the most productive land in the Kona District.
Top Things to do on the Big Island
Kona Hawaii has more miles of coastline than any of the other Hawaiian islands which makes the things to do in Kona on the water endless. The waters of Kona are shielded from the winds by Maunaloa, making it a perfect place to snorkel, scuba dive or dive with the manta rays at night.
Fishing on the Big Island
If you love fishing Kona is known for sports fishing because the waters are full of marine life not seen in other bodies of waters including green sea turtles, whales, sperm whales, pygmies and false killer whales.
There are deep-sea charters out of Honokohau Harbor just north of Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) where you can fish for marlin, mahimahi, ono and ahi. You don’t need to rent an expensive charter to find fresh fish Kona just bring your rod, tackle and bait along piers, shores, and streams and you might just reel in that big you have always dreamt about catching.
Kayaking on the Big Island
For a fun family or an adventure with the hubby, I suggest renting a canoe or kayak and take a guided tour of the Kona Coast or Kohala Coast and ride the waves back into shore.
Explore the numerous coves on both the Kohala and Kona Coast. You can rent a kayak or canoe and head off in a group, take lessons or a guided tour so you will not miss a thing as you discover the waters of Kona.
Snorkeling and Scuba on the Big Island
For snorkeling on the Kohala Coast, I suggest Hapuna Beach, Anaehoomalu Beach as well as Ohaiula (also known as Sam Spencer Park) below Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site.
Honaunau Bay is the perfect example of the calm and clear waters of south Kona and it is the perfect entry point spot for snorkeling and diving especially if you are afraid of snorkeling like I am. Click here to read how I overcame my fear of snorkeling.
One of the most memorable things to do in Kona Hawaii is a swim with manta rays. I suggest booking a sunset dive tour and head out to the Kona or Keauhou coast to either scuba dive or snorkel with these gentle mantas (mantas don’t have stingers like sting rays or eagle rays).
You’ll be blown away at how these creatures glide within inches of you.
Surfing on the Big Island
Surfing was originally reserved only for (royalty) only but today surfing is for everyone including novice like me who has never surfed.
Many of the beaches on Kona are for more experienced surfers but there are a few spots for beginners if you want to give surfing a try for the first time.
- Pine Trees Beach north of Kona Airport
- Kahaluu Beach in Keauhou
- Banyans in Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona).
- Honolii Beach Park in Hilo – Experienced surfer’s dream during seasonal swells.
Whale Watching on the Big Island
From December to May, can catch a glimpse of a majestic humpback whale off of Kona’s shorelines. These gentle giants make their way to Hawaii annually to breed and give birth to new calves. Seeing one of these 40-ton, 40-foot long whales will definitely be an unforgettable experience.
I suggest scheduling a tour or charter a boat to go whale watching. The guides will know the best spots to observe whales playfully surfacing, tail slapping, or blowing spouts in the air. Regulations prohibit boats from approaching within 100 yards of a whale and you should never swim with or touch whales.
Kohala Waterfalls Adventure
If you’ve had enough of the beaches, snorkeling and kayaking how about swapping your water shoes for hiking boots? Sign up for a Kohala Waterfalls Adventure. This 8-hour excursion will take you to see some of the most scenic parts of the Big Island and includes an off-road ride in a six-wheel-drive followed by a relaxed guided hike through a private nature reserve.
Along the way, your guide will tell you about Hawaiian history and culture along with all of the plant life you will pass on your hike. The highlight of our day was swimming under the cascading waterfalls before we set off to enjoy a private picnic lunch in a scenic lookout spot.
Big Island’s Historical National Park
The Big Island has stunning natural beauty and a rich cultural history which is why 4 (out of 5) of the National Parks in Hawaii are on the Big Island.
The four national parks on the Big Island are:
- Hawaii Volcanoes NP
- Pu’uhonua o Honaunau NHP
- Kaloko-Honokohau NHP
- Pu’ukohala Heiau NHP
1: HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
This National park is located between Hilo and Kona on the southern tip of Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcano which is by far the most popular attraction on the Big Island. It also is one of the few places where you can safely watch an active volcano.
Opening hours – Daily: 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Kilauea Visitor Center), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Ranger station, chain of craters road)
2: PU’UHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Pu’uhonua means “place of refuge”: this is the site where Hawaiians that broke the law fled to avoid punishment.
Pu’uhonua National park also contains archaeological sites including temple platforms and royal fishponds to the “Hale o Keawe”.
Opening hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Visitor Center).
3: KALOKO-HONOKOHAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Kaloko National park is archaeological site known as Honokohau settlement which protects an ancient Hawaiian settlement. You can also find ancient petroglyphs or rock engravings, housing platforms, and stone slide.
Opening hours – Daily 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Hale Ho’okipa Visitor Center)
Visit the official park website.
4: PU’UKOHALA HEIAU NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK
The majestic, stone Puukohola Heiau can be seen off the road, just north of the resorts of the Kohala Coast. This National Historic Site is home to one of the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii and is part of the National Park System. Heiau were sacred places of worship for Native Hawaiians, and Puukohola Heiau was a site built to fulfill a historic prophecy.
Opening hours – Daily 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Visitor Center)
Visit the official website.
Additional Information on Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is located 45 miles southwest of Hilo, the park is home to two volcanoes including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. The chance to witness the primal process of creation and destruction makes it one of the most visited attractions in Hawaii.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses 333,308 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. There are150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts, and rainforests, as well as a museum, petroglyphs, and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3, 1983.
Kilauea is sometimes called “the world’s only drive-in volcano.” This prolific volcano produces 250,000–650,000 cubic yards of lava per day—enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road each day. As of January 1994, 875 acres of new land have been created on the island of Hawaii.
In 1980 it was named a World Biosphere Site by UNESCO and in 1987 the park was honored as a World Heritage Site.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK HIGHLIGHTS
Kilauea Visitor Center
Open daily: 9:00 a.m.–5 p.m.
Begin your visit at the Kīlauea Visitor Center for a great introduction to the park. Ranger talks are offered, hike suggestions for the day, and ranger-guided activities. Pick up maps, learn about the park’s hikes and get the latest volcano updates here.
Crater Rim Drive
Crater Rim Drive is the 10.6-mile drive that circles Kilauea Caldera. Driving around this loop will take you to the park’s main attractions: the Kilauea overlook, Devastation Trail and Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook.
Steam vents plume from this massive crater, known as the home of Pele, the volcano goddess. In 2008, this crater was filled with a lake of lava that disappeared earlier this year. Seismic activity caused by the crater walls falling into itself created a much larger crater. In May 2018, the Halemaʻumaʻu’s volume was about 70-78 million cubic yards. It is now about 1.2 billion cubic yards. The crater floor has dropped more than 1,600 ft. Great respect should be paid at this sacred site. Also worth noting is that higher elevation near the crater means that temperatures can drop fairly quickly. If you’re coming from the beach in shorts and a t-shirt, be sure to pack some warmer items like a light jacket while you’re here.
On April 30, 2018, the lava lake from Puʻuʻōʻō Vent vanished and headed toward the Lower East Rift Zone. Puʻuʻōʻō had been erupting almost continuously since January 1983.
Chain of Craters Road
Ranger station open daily: 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Veering south of Crater Rim Drive is Chain of Craters Road. This 3,700-foot drive eventually ends where a lava flow has overtaken the road.
The Volcano House hotel overlooking Halemaumau Crater has been operating since it was a grass shack in 1846. Mark Twain once stayed here on his visit to Hawaii.
TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT
- Please stay on marked routes, heed all warning signs, and stay out of restricted areas.
- Allow plenty of time for your trip. The drive to and from Kona is about 2.5–3 hours each way.
- Stay on open trails and roads.
- Stay away from cracks and sinkholes.
- Rockfalls are unpredictable. Pay attention and keep away from all cliffs.
- Wear sturdy shoes and long pants, falling on lava rock is like falling on broken glass.
- Do not hike after dark.
Best Coffee Tours in Kona, Hawaii
Mountain Thunder Coffee Farm
Thunder Mountain Coffee is considered the best coffee plantation tour in Kona. I don’t suggest wearing nice shoes because this is an active coffee farm in the cloud forest of Hualalai. You might recognize the place from an episode of Dirty Jobs. At the entrance you’ll be greeted by ducks, chickens and dogs. The farm tour covers it all and in incredible detail. They have also perfected teas as well if coffee isn’t your thing. This is a perfect stop for families to spend the morning and experience a place unlike any other.
Don’t forget to stop by the retail store.
Greenwell Coffee Farm
Our last stop on our weekend in Kona was Greenwell Coffee Farm and I have a new admiration for coffee and all that goes into the coffee making process and why coffee is so expensive. I will never complain again about the cost of coffee!!
Greenwell Farm is managed by the descendants of Henry and Elizabeth the original owners of the farm and they turned Greenwell Farms into a multi-faceted Agribusiness:
The farming operation is located on the same farmland once cultivated by the Greenwell Family in the 1800s. Today Greenwell Farms employs modern farming practices to ensure consistent supply and the highest quality possible.
In addition to farming, the company purchases coffee cherry (just harvested) from over 300 farmers in the North and South Kona Regions. Greenwell has their our own pulping and drying facilities, dry mill, and green beans grading and storage facility.
A roasting plant is also located on the farm to roast and package Greenwell Farms Coffee. The company ships green bean to the gourmet coffee industry around the world and over the years has established itself as the premier source of Kona Coffee. The Farm Tour has become a very popular tourist stop along the Mamalahoa Highway and it was well worth the tour and a great end to our weekend in Kona.
Sunsets on The Big Island
Watching a Hawaii sunset is one of the most satisfying things to do in Kona. And the best thing is that you can do it just about every day. Even on rare rainy or overcast days, the sunsets on the west side of the island are remarkable.
Hawaii sunsets are visible from just about anywhere on the Big Island’s western Kona coast. While the sun rises over Hilo, it sets over Kona and the result is absolutely perfect sunsets each and every day. From golden colors to pinks and purples, each Hawaii sunset on the Big Island is a unique and memorable experience.
Best Free Things to do on the Big Island
There are a lot of amazing free things to do on the Big Island. If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend a ton of money here are a list of free things to do on your Big Island adventure.
- Hike to see a volcano
- Walk around Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
- Marvel at Rainbow Falls
- Lava Tree State Monument
- Black Sand Beach
- Learn about how Honey is made
- Tour a coffee farm
- Tour a Macadamia Nut farm
- Visit the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
- Stargaze at Mauna Kea
Food, Desserts, Take Out
A hand-painted sign at the entrance of Hana Hou Restaurant in Naalehu reads, “Drake and Patty Fujimoto proudly welcome you to the southernmost restaurant in the USA!” The menu serves ono local fare but the homemade pies (get the macadamia-nut cream pie!) and baked goods, alone, are worth the visit. The tropical décor and vintage Formica tables create a fun, nostalgic vibe. 95-1148 Naalehu Spur Rd., Naalehu , Hawaii Island, hanahourestaurant.com.
Kaleo's Bar & Grill
Welcome to Kaleo's Bar & Grill, the Big Island's favorite dining and entertainment spot. Located just outside the big city lights, Kaleo's in Pahoa Town is quickly making a name for itself as the go to place for Hawaiian, local favorite foods.
With nightly live entertainment, great food, and warm service, Kaleo's has something for everyone.
We appreciate that this popular Kona poke shop has stuck to its “always fresh, never frozen” motto even when seafood prices (especially for popular ahi) rise. Customers understand the worth of paying a bit more for the luxuriously clean tasting, sweetly briny “sea candy” Da Poke Shack uses in its takeout poke and poke bowls—your choice of multiple daily varieties, served with rice and a kimchee or veg side. Two locations on Hawaii Island, dapokeshack.com.
Hilo, Hawaii Shopping Center
Two dishes put this otherwise simply satisfactory Hilo Chinese restaurant on this list of local faves. First, a breathtakingly monstrous, umami-rich crispy chicken with oyster sauce over fried rice plate lunch found nowhere else this good. Second, a twice-cooked—first roasted then deep-fried—version of crispy Chinese roast pork so sinful, eating it feels like a criminal act. Puainako Town Center, 2100 Kanoelehua Ave., Hawaii Island, (808) 981-1689.
Lucy's Taqueria | Fresh Mexican food in Downtown Hilo, HI
This downtown Hilo restaurant is known for its large selection of meat choices for your burrito, taco or whatever—everything from beef and chicken to tripe, tongue and beef cheek. Lucy’s menu as a whole wins a spot here for somehow managing to be huge and wide-ranging yet sticking to the simple flavors and ingredients of the best homestyle Mexican food. 194 Kilauea Ave., Hawaii Island, (808) 315-8246,
Kona Accommodations/ Luxury Hotels on the Big Island
I love luxury hotels and specifically boutique hotels so I know exactly what luxury travelers are looking for when booking their Kona accommodations. When I review luxury properties I evaluate how every feature stacks up against the competition, from the rooms to the pools to the restaurants.
After you have researched all of the things to do in Kona, Hawaii you need to figure out where you are going to stay and I have taken all of the guesswork out and here are my top picks for Kona accommodations on the Big Island to get you inspired!
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
The pristine Four Seasons, the only five-pearl property on the Big Island, is unlike any other resort on the Kohala Coast. Lush and beautifully landscaped grounds surround private bungalow-style rooms and suites tucked along winding paths throughout the large property.
The thoughtfully designed architecture, pools (all seven of them), and public spaces are indulgent without seeming excessive. Dining options on-site are few in number but high in quality, and include what is arguably the best restaurant on the Big Island. BOOK NOW!!!!
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
The Marriott Waikoloa Beach is a 533-room resort is perched on Anaehoomalu Bay on the Kohala coast, offering on-site beach access, lovely grounds with winding paths and fish ponds, and two pools. Rooms are big and stylish, but they lack Wi-Fi, and bathrooms are typically on the small side. The hotel is next to two championship golf courses and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. BOOK NOW YOUR KONA ACCOMMODATIONS!!
Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
This 32-acre luxury resort in Waimea delivers all the high-end Big Island essentials: A beautiful spa, comprised mostly of outdoor huts; a white-sand beach on a calm lagoon; beautifully landscaped grounds, and a huge pool with ocean views. But rooms, though tasteful, aren’t quite as luxurious as you’d expect at this price point, and numerous extra fees can leave guests feeling nickel-and-dimed. Click here to reserve your special rate today.
The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort
The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, formerly The Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, has been completely transformed with a new personality, property enhancements and guest experiences that reflect the destination and Westin’s commitment to rejuvenation, exploration, and wellness. The resort will feature 232 guestrooms and 17 suites), including some of the largest rooms on the Kohala Coast, all entirely redesigned. Click here to reserve your special rate today.
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