If you’re planning a trip to Kona, we’ve got just the thing for you! We’ve put together a list of our favorite things to do to help you make the most out of your vacation.
Our top picks include snorkeling with manta rays, coffee tasting, ziplining through a forest, playing a round of golf on one of Kona’s world-class courses, taking a helicopter tour, and so much more!
Here is our top list of must-see attractions and activities in Kona, Hawaii!
1. Go to the Beach
One of the best things to do on the Big Island is to go to the beach. You can spend the day relaxing and enjoying nature.
Here are some of my favorite beaches in Kona: Spencer Beach Park, Hapuna Beach, and Kahaluu Beach Park.
There are also many hidden beaches along the south shore of Kona that are not crowded at all! Make sure to do the Makalawena Beach hike if you are looking for a spectacular secluded beach.
2. Go Coffee Tasting
You can’t go to Kona without visiting a Coffee farm! They offer tours and free coffee tastings of some of the best coffee on the planet. Here is my top recommendation for the best coffee farm to visit while on the island:
Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm
They have a free tour that incorporates history and a look into the process of making coffee, as well as offering samples at the end!
3. Manta Ray Night Dive/Snorkel
Hawaii is home to two of the most spectacular spots for manta diving, Kona and Maui!
The best manta snorkeling known to mankind is at night in Kailua Bay on the west side of Kona.
The water isn’t too cold, and hundreds of manta rays congregate near the surface to feed on plankton as they migrate from feeding in deeper water during the day to resting around boat docks at night.
You’ll need a local guide who knows where and when to go. We used Ocean Encounters and had an amazing time. They were one of the cheaper options, offered free snacks and drinks, and were super knowledgeable about the area and marine life. I highly recommend their tour and would book with them again in the future.
4. Go to the Kona Farmers Markets
There are about seven farmers markets in Kona, with the Kona Farmers Market being the largest.
The market is open 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Wednesday through Sunday, providing an opportunity for people to get fresh produce and products straight from the source. The market also offers locally made crafts and jewelry.
Here are some farmers markets you can visit in Kona: the Kona Village Farmers Market, Palisades Farmers Market, South Kona Fruit Stand, and Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market.
5. Go to a Luau and Hula Show
Going to a Luau is a must while you are on the island. You get to feel like royalty while indulging in traditional Hawaiian food and entertainment. To learn more about the nine Big Island luau shows, you can check out the above article.
If you are looking for a Luau recommendation, check out Legends of Hawaii.
Legends of Hawaii Luau is an Authentic Hawaiian Experience at the Hilton Waikoloa Village located on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island!
This luau features storytelling, singing, dancing, and the finest traditional Hawaiian cuisine.
6. Seahorse Farm Tour
The Kona Coast of Hawaii is one of the best places to experience a seahorse farm tour. Ocean Rider Tours is one of the best and most popular tours on the island.
Tour this truly unique farm and learn how seahorses are farmed. You’ll be amazed at what you see as you walk around these pools full of life!
7. Helicopter Tour
Take a helicopter tour around the Island. You will have an opportunity to see all of the beautiful nature and wildlife Hawaii has to offer!
You can see waterfalls, black lava fields, green mountains, and much more.
8. Go Horseback Riding
If you love horses, then you should go horseback riding while on the Big Island. You will see lots of beautiful scenery and feel the peaceful tranquility that the countryside has to offer!
You can find many great places to ride horses. One popular place is Mauna Kea Stables.
There are horseback riding stables all over the Big Island, so you should be able experience this activity no matter which side of the island you stay!
9. Visit the Mauna Kea Summit
One of the best things to do on the Big Island is to see Mauna Kea at night. The summit of Mauna Kea can be reached by car or tour van from Kona or Hilo, Hawaii.
It is possible to drive up if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, which you can rent in Kona.
10. Go Snorkeling/Diving in Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful snorkeling and diving location in Kona. It includes coral reefs, cliffs, and the historically significant site where British explorer Capt. James Cook was killed in 1779. This is also where the first significant contact between Westerners and the native Hawaiians took place.
The bay is a marine life conservation district, so no fishing or removal of coral or rocks is allowed in order to help preserve its beauty.
It’s about 30 minutes south of Kona, and it’s a majestic place that everyone should visit at least once!
11. Go Snorkeling/Diving at Two Step Beach
One of the best things to do in Hawaii is to snorkel at Two Step Beach. It’s located south of Puʻuhonua o Hōnauna (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park.
Two Step offers excellent snorkeling with beautiful fish, turtles, and even dolphins that come here every day!
Two Step Beach is truly my favorite place to snorkel while on the Big Island!
12. Visit the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park
This is one of the most underrated places to visit on the Big Island!
At this park you’ll find remnants of a beautiful ancient Hawaiian settlement, complete with informative signs to help guide you along the way.
It was an area reserved for defeated warriors and their families who had violated one or more laws and wished to avoid the death penalty.
13. Hulihee Palace
Hulihee Palace was the home of Hawaii’s last ruling monarchs.
You can visit this authentic Hawaiian palace and learn a lot about King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, who were both influential in shaping Hawaii’s history!
This is a fun place to spend a few hours learning about the royal family of Hawai’i. This historic landmark is a great place to visit for some culture and history!
14. Swim with Dolphins
One of the most exciting experiences you can have is swimming with dolphins.
You can do this on the Big Island’s Kona Coast, specifically at Kealakekua Bay. You’ll get to swim with these majestic creatures in their natural environment, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Please be sure to respect the wildlife at all times and do not attempt to touch them.
15. Go Whale Watching
Whale watching is another experience that I recommend you do while visiting the Big Island of Hawaii.
Make sure to take your camera with you because it’s a fantastic sight that you’ll definitely want to look back on!
There are many great places to go whale watching in Hawaii, but one popular place is off the coast of Kona, where you can spot humpback whales.
16. Go Scuba Diving
Hawaii is one of the best places to scuba dive. The Big Island has some fantastic diving spots that are not crowded at all — especially if you go around South Kona/Kohala!
Check out the Manta Ray spotting on night dives. It’s the underwater experience of a lifetime!
17. Go Surfing
The south shore is where you can go surfing in Kona. There are many great places to surf near Keauhou Bay and also at Honokohau Harbor!
18. Go to Kona Town
The town of Kona, which is situated along the coast, contains most of the shopping centers in Kona. There are boutiques, souvenir shops, and stores offering Hawaiian arts and crafts.
It’s an adorable little town that offers delicious food with amazing views!
19. Go Ziplining
There are excellent ziplining tours on the Big Island.
I recommend ziplining at Kohala Zipline. They have a fantastic zipline course, and it’s one of my favorite things to do on the Big Island.
This adventure will have you flying high above the forest floor, soaring from tree to tree!
20. Sunset at Anaehoʻomalu Beach
Kona is where you will see some of the best sunsets that the Big Island has to offer.
Another great spot is Anaehoʻomalu Beach, which is a little over 30 minutes north of Kona. This was our go-to beach for spectacular sunsets!
21. Kona Brewing Company
This is a fun place to spend the afternoon and throw back a few cold brews!
It’s located in Kailua-Kona and has lots of great food and drinks, and you can take a tour of the brewery to see how their beer is made!
22. Kona Inn Shopping Village
Kona Inn is an excellent place to walk around in Kailua-Kona and partake in a little retail therapy! You can find many cute shops, restaurants, and cafes here.
There are lots of souvenirs as well as unique finds!
23. Hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park features two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
The most accessible section of this massive volcano is designated Crater Rim Drive and marks the boundary of the main caldera and rift zones where lava oozes from underground.
This is one of my all-time favorite things to do on the island. It’s a blast (no pun intended) to explore this vast spread of land and all of the unique aspects it has to offer. From the Thurston Lava Tube, the Hōlei Sea Arch, and all the amazing hiking, you’ll want to spend at least one full day here to really take it all in!
24. Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark
This is where King Kamehameha I established Kona’s first royal residence and government seat.
Now the site includes the restored Ahu’ena Heiau, which still holds great spiritual significance to Native Hawaiians today.
You can learn about this historic landmark at the Kailua Pier parking lot next to Kamakahonu Beach.
25. Go Fishing
You can go fishing in many different places on the island. I recommend you check out Kona Shoreline Fishing Adventures, especially if you have kids that love this activity!
This place is super fun, and they have excellent guides to show you the ropes (and worms). They are very patient and good with kids. They are kind, professional, and have great equipment. You can get a pole to use, or just watch if you’d prefer that!
There are lots of places to fish on the west, south and north shores. There are also family-friendly charter boats that will take you on a full-day trip!
26. Go Golfing
There are many places to play golf on the Big Island. One really nice golf course on the northern side is the Mauna Lani Resort Golf Course.
This resort has some great amenities such as spas and restaurants. It’s a great choice for those who are looking for a luxurious vacation.
27. Go For a Walk
There are many places you can go to enjoy some nature as well as see local scenery. Make sure to check out Maka’eo Walking Path and the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve.
28. Take an ATV Tour
There are so many places you can tour with an ATV. I recommend you check out Aloha Adventures for some of the best tours on the Big Island!
29. Botanical Gardens
There are two botanical gardens in Kona; one is located a few miles south of Kona and the other north of the Kohala Coast.
You can find many orchids and flowers here as well as learn more about them. Make sure to bring your camera so you can take some pictures of these beautiful plants!
Also, make sure to stop by the gift shop and pick up some souvenirs!
30. Go Hiking
The Big Island has a lot of amazing hikes for all different levels.
Makalawena Beach hike and Mahai’ula to Kua Bay are some of our favorites.
Make sure to make time for these fantastic hikes while you are here on the Big Island! I promise you they are worth the visit.
31.Take a Scenic Drive
There are many beautiful places to take scenic drives. One of the most popular is the Saddle Road drive, where you will get amazing views of lava fields and lush vegetarian.
The views are amazing, and this drive is a must-do in Hawaii!
The south part of the Big Island is full of places to go and see many scenic drives. There are lots of lookout points, historical Hawaiian sites, and waterfalls!
32. Hike to Pololu Valley
Pololu Valley is indeed one of the best hikes on the Big Island. The hike is a short but very steep 0.6 miles, but the views and work it takes to get there are well worth it!
This hike is a must-do while on the Big Island! You will be walking through a lush forest and then alongside cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Make sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and lots of water, as you’ll probably want to spend a decent amount of time taking in all that this location has to offer.
33. Go Touring in Hilo or Hamakua Coast
You can do many fun things in these areas, such as watching the best sunrise on the Big Island, visiting the best waterfalls on the Big Island, swimming at the best black sand beaches, and petting baby goats at the Hawaiian Ranch!
With so many options of fun things to do, being spontaneous and touring around this beautiful island can be exactly what the soul needs.
Wrapping It Up: The Best Things to Do in Kona
While there are many things you can do in Kona, we hope this list has helped make your vacation planning a little easier.
The Big Island is packed with incredible sights and activities to keep you busy throughout your stay!
Make sure you check out all these great activities that you can, and don’t forget to have the time of your life while you’re here!!
Until next time, Aloha!