50 Best Things to Do On Hawaii’s Big Island

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If you’re heading to Kona, Hawaii 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 in Kona 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.  Kona activities are really endless!

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 Kona’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

Kona, Hawaii

Water Activities 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.

What To Do In Kona Hawaii

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.

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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 in Kona

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 in Kona

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 in Kona

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.

Guide To Snorkeling

Kona Activities 

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 in 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 in Kona

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.

Waterfalls in Kona, Hawaii

Things To Do In Kona With Kids

Hawaii’s Big Island is the island that has the best things to do in Kona, Hawaii for free.  The Big Island is a little less crowded than the other islands and perfect for families with small kids and teens.

There are a lot of amazing free things to do on the Big Island or Kona, Hawaii.  Some of the free things you can do in Kona does not even require you and your family to get out of your car.

Whenever I travel I am always on the hunt for the best things free things to do in the location I am traveling to so without further ado here are my top free things to do in Kona:

1. Big Island’s Best Beaches

Before spending tons of cash how about into all the Big Island activities that will cost your families extra cash here is my list of things to do on the Big Island for free – the beaches!

After all, beaches are the reason most families want to visit Hawaii in the first place.

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 in Kona are:

  1. Hawaii Volcanoes NP
  2. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau NHP
  3. Kaloko-Honokohau NHP
  4. Pu’ukohala Heiau NHP


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)


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).

> Visit the official park website.


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.


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.

Don’t forget to visit the museums, 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.

In 1980 it was named a World Biosphere Site by UNESCO and in 1987 the park was honored as a World Heritage Site.


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.

Halemaumau Crater 

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.

Pu’u’o’o Vent 

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.

Volcano House 

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.


  • 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.

Click Here To Watch The Video Below On Things To Do On The Big Island

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.  T

his 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.

Best Coffee Farms 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 Kona’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 Beaches in Kona, Hawaii

Best Free Things to do in Kona, Hawaii

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

Additonal Things to Do In Kona, Hawaii With Kids

1. Kona’s Best Beaches

Before delving into all of Kona’s activities that will cost families tons of money, let’s start with what’s free – the beaches! After all, beaches are the reason most families want to visit Hawaii in the first place.

Not all the beaches offer white sand. But this also means there are some very unique beach experiences for adventurous families who want to explore.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, which is easy to access for travelers with kids, is one to consider if your travels take you to the south side of the island.

2. Attend a Luau

Attending a luau can seem cheesy but if you are in Hawaii you might as well!  Luau’s can be fun the entire family to experience authentic Hawaiian dishes which offer the family a chance to sample a lot of local foods at once.

Before choosing a luau, also consider the ages of your children. The luaus begin charging child prices at different age cutoffs.

 3. Snorkel With Manta Rays

Two coves near the city of Kailua-Kona are a popular feeding spot for giant manta rays.  If your family is adventurous they can swim among these gentle giants by booking a nighttime snorkeling adventure.

SCUBA divers on the sea floor shine giant lights up at the snorkelers above that attract plankton for the mantas to feed on, bringing the Manta Rays within inches of your family.

4. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the island’s top attractions. One of just two national parks on the islands (the other is Haleakala on Maui), it protects the area around the active Kilauea volcano.

5. Take a Helicopter Ride

Taking a helicopter ride can be expensive but it will be worth it . But on the Big Island, the splurge can be well worth it, especially with older kids.  The ride will take you to view some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the Island.  

I suggest checking out Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

 6. Hike to a Waterfall 

Akaka Falls State Park has two separate falls: 100-foot Kahuna Falls and 442-foot Akaka Falls. Both of these waterfalls are along a short and easy paved path requiring about a half-mile of hiking making this a doable hike for families with both teens and toddlers.

7. Go Ziplining

My daughter Maddie is 13 and loves ziplining!  If you want to get the teens out of their electronics ziplining is an exciting activity on the Big Island. 

 One of these companies (Kohala Zipline) has lines that pass directly over portions of the Kohala Ditch that Flumin’ Kohala regularly navigates.

Best Restaurants on The Big Island

Our first stop on our weekend in Kona was the Lava Lava Beach Club which is in walking distance to the Marriott. We loved Lava Lava because of the open-air ambiance, swaying coconut trees, stunning sunsets, and tropical trade winds, the restaurant features “relaxed island cuisine” and a varied menu with options for light dining. No need to put on your finest attire for Lava Lava come as you are and enjoy the scenery.

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.

The 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.

kona Hawaii

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  1. Gorgeous!! Hawaii is one places I have to visit! My fiancé and I are considering a destination wedding there. Hawaii has a rich history and culture.

  2. First let’s talk about that view….beautiful! I am here for that and the food. Traveling and being able to taste different dishes is a dream of mine

  3. Yum!! I mean Wow. What was that scrumptous looking dessert from Brown’s Beach House. The slice with the dribbling chocolate all over it? My eyes went straight for the food. Yeah, Yeah the Island is great but that food…..(sorry, I’m a greedy girl).

  4. I really wish I hadn’t picked Waikiki as my first place to visit in Hawaii. It was really crowded and didn’t have much original character to explore. I felt like I could have been in LA. I will say the restaurants were fantastic though.

  5. It looks like an incredible adventure and vacation. I love how clean the island and water are so I’d love to visit Kona Hawaii. You snokeling photo definitely made me want to join you.

  6. I have heard a lot of beautiful things about Hawaii, but I didn’t know about Kona Island. I’ve never experience black sad, and the turtles OMG! I am a whale lover but have never been whale watching. That is on my bucket list.

  7. So absolutely beautiful and so many amazing things to do and places to see! We lived in Hawaii for nearly 3 years but I was pregnant for nearly all of them…LOL So we didn’t explore as much as I would have liked. We are planning to go back soon so we can play tourist and I will have to bookmark your post to use for tips for sure 😉

  8. I love Hawaii. The last time I went, I took a cruise. SoI would like to return and explore the islands by land. I like turtles so that would have been my favorite. Good comprehensive review for someone that wants to visit.

  9. Definitely saving thisnpost because Hawaii is on my bucket list. Looks like you had the time of your life!

  10. Definitely saving this post because Hawaii is on my bucket list. Looks like you had the time of your life!

  11. Sadly I have not visited Kona or any part of Hawaii. Well beyond a lay over or two which sadly do not count. I am planning to make my way down there this fall. Bookmarking this for my adventure! Looks so incredible.

  12. I really have no idea why I haven’t been to Kona, I can see from all these Beautiful and visula appealing photos that its an amazing place to visit. Can’t wait to see it sometime.

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