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25 best things to do in Kona
Although this post is called the 25 best things to do in Kona, it covers far more area than just Kona town. Generally, Hawaii Island is broken down by the “Kona side” and “Hilo side.” 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!
If you’re still in the planning stages of your Hawaii adventure, I’d love to help you! As a Hawaii Travel Agent, it’s my job to make sure that my clients have the best experience possible. Check out my blog post about why to work with a Travel Agent here.
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. In my opinion, not landing isn’t a big deal at all, as the biggest draw to kayaking 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. This one 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!)
There are several other cruises that Body Glove offers such as dinner cruises and whale watching tours during the winter. Contact me to see which tours are available during your visit.
3. Snorkel Two Step
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 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 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 locals and do not trespass. This Valley is almost like another world with stunning waterfalls and wild horses. A small group tour is the best option if your lease agreement does not allow you to drive into the valley.
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. Pololu Valley on the Kohala Coast has another beautiful black sand beach, although you have to hike down to get to it.
To visit a Green Sand beach, you’ll need to hike a couple of miles to Papakolea Beach near South Point. 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 near 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
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.
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 tour, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a 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.
20. Take a submarine tour
If you want to see underwater but aren’t comfortable diving or snorkeling, a submarine tour might be perfect for you. You can explore underwater, 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 Splashers Grill (not truly oceanfront but a beautiful ocean view), Lava Lava Beach Club, Huggo’s, Bongo Ben’s (just across the street from the ocean, great Happy Hour) and Kamana Kitchen.
22. Explore Kona Beaches
You’ll find plenty of great beaches right in Kona town. Don’t miss Pahoehoe Beach Park, Magic Sands Beach, Honl’s Beach, and Old Kona Airport Beach. You can also check out the best places on the Big Island to find sea turtles.
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!
The best 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.
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