42 Best Things to do in Kona, Hawaii – From a Local!

Are you looking for a list of the best things to do in Kona? This guide from a Hawaii local has everything you need to know about the wonderful west side of the Big Island.

things to do in kona black sand beach with palm trees

There are so many amazing things to do in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. From animal encounters to black sand beaches to delicious food, there’s no shortage of activities to do there! Without further ado, here’s a local’s list of the best things to do in Kona, Hawaii.

turquoise water of Kua Bay on in Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

1. Spend a Day at Kua Bay

As a Hawaii local, Kua Bay has made it into my favorite beaches on the Big Island. From the picturesque water to the made-for-bodyboarding waves to prime snorkeling to seashell hunting, Kua Bay is an ocean lovers dream!

2. Visit the Kanaloa Octopus Farm

The Kanaloa Octopus Farm is committed to the preservation of octopi. On the whole, humans have a difficult time preserving sea creatures that they also consume, including octopi. Kanaloa Octopus Farm is working to find a solution to that problem by researching the effects of certain variables on the octopi’s living conditions.

If you plan on visiting the Kanaloa Octopus Farm, do note that the tours are only offered twice a day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In addition, for accurate directions, use the farm’s website, rather than Google Maps or Apple Maps.

*Note: For the safety and health of the animals, you are only allowed to visit one sea creature farm per day.

bright yellow seahorse against dark background

3. Pop by the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

If you love seahorses, the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm will be a dream for you! This is the only aquarium or farm in the entire United States where you can pet a seahorse! Without a doubt, it’s one of the coolest Hawaii farms around.

What’s even better is that the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm’s main priority is to help prevent seahorses from becoming extinct through both education and propagation. Because of this mindset, Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm provides the seahorses with facilities that are perfect for them.

If you fall in love with the seahorses from your visit, you can actually purchase a seahorse for your home! These seahorses can cost anywhere from $75 to $400 each. (Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm does NOT sell seahorses to residents of the Hawaiian Islands.)

*Note: For the safety and health of the animals, you are only allowed to visit one sea creature farm per day.

4. Check Out the Big Island Abalone Farm

Abalone, a type of edible mollusk, is considered to be a delicacy in some parts of the world. As a matter of fact, the abalone from Big Island Abalone is used in dozens of restaurants on the Big Island, Oahu, and even parts of the mainland U.S. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 12:15 p.m., you can take part in a guided tour of the abalone farm!

*Note: For the safety and health of the animals, you are only allowed to visit one sea creature farm per day.

5. Savor a Meal from Hayashi’s Hand Rolls

“You Make the Roll,” locally known as Hayashi’s, is the place to get hand roll sushi. The demand for the sushi at Hayashi’s is so high that sometimes the workers will have to close the shop for an hour just to catch up on orders!

There’s now a system that tells you the walk-up wait time on a chalkboard outside (be prepared to see multi-hour waits though!) There’s also the option to call in your order, but the line is pretty much always busy.

Basically, it’s a COMMITMENT to get Hayashi’s, but, if you’re a sushi lover, it’s worth it.

pile of rambutan from farmers market in Kona

6. Visit a Kona Farmers Market

Visiting a farmer’s market is just a part of getting the true feel for Hawaii. That’s why it made it onto our Hawaii Bucket List. Stock up on new fruits like rambutan, yellow dragon fruit, lilikoi (passion fruit), mountain apples, and guava. Try locally-produced honey and meat. Maybe even purchase locally-created jewelry made of flowers or shells. This list of all of the Kona farmers markets, their locations, and their hours should be helpful.

7. Soak in the Sun at Mahaiula Beach

If you’re looking for a beach on the Kona coast with amazing swimming and snorkeling conditions, Mahaiula Beach is the beach for you! Or if you prefer to stay dry, you can simply soak up the sun and the views.

stingray swimming with fish in the background

8. Snorkel with Manta Rays at Night

If you’re looking for one of the most unique things to do in Kona, snorkeling with manta rays at night is an awesome option. The plankton that the manta rays eat is attracted to light, so at night the plankton grows in the pockets of light provided by hotels and other buildings. In the case of the manta ray snorkel tours, the tours have a floating device that creates this light.

Book Here: Night Manta Ray Adventure Tour

9. Learn about Hawaiian History at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

Many visitors come to Hawaii and get caught up with the relaxing beaches, stunning hikes, and delicious food. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park encourages visitors to take a break from that to learn about Hawaiian history and culture. Check out petroglyphs (the ancient Hawaiian form of pictorial writing), learn about the engineering feats of the ancient fishponds, and even catch a glimpse of some of Hawaii’s wildlife.

surfer on large wave

10. Watch the Local Surfers at Banyans

Banyans is one of the best places to surf in Kona. Because of the huge waves and the other ocean dangers, it is recommended that only locals and pros surf there. That said, watching the surfers at Banyans can be almost as awe-inspiring at experiencing the waves yourself!

11. Learn How to Surf at Kahaluu

If you’re feeling inspired by the pros at Banyans, you can learn how to surf at Kahaluu. There are several different areas at Kahaluu where you can catch a wave, making the beach perfect for both locals and beginners alike. If you’re looking to learn, Kona Town Surf Adventures and Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors are both fantastic options.

12. Visit the Summer Home of Hawaiian Royalty: Hulihee Palace

In the past, Hulihee Palace was used as the summer home of Hawaiian royalty. It now a museum that showcases Victorian artifacts from the time period of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani.

red, yellow, and green shave ice dusted with li hing mui powder

13. Get Your Hands on Some Ululani’s Shave Ice

Time and time again, I’ve written about how Ululani’s has the best shave ice in the Hawaiian Islands. The fresh, real flavors and the soft ice texture of Ululani’s makes it undoubtedly the one you should try.

14. Get Caffeinated at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

If you happen to be in Kona in November, you can pump even more caffeine into your bloodstream at the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Choose coffee from over 30 different Kona coffee farms, learn about the history of Kona coffee, watch an international panel of judges pick the best cup of Kona coffee, and even take part in a Kona Coffee Lantern Parade.

In order to attend the event, you must purchase a souvenir festival button for $3.

15. Go on a Petroglyph Walk

Petroglyphs were the Native Hawaiians’ pictorial form of writing. Think of them as like the hieroglyphics of the Native Hawaiian people. The best place to see petroglyphs is on the Big Island of Hawaii, as many of these images have been carved into lava rock.

Check out the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve or the Puako Petroglyph Park.

Kona Brewing Co. two beers clinking together
Photo Courtesy of Kona Brewing Co.

16. Sip on Some Beer at the Kona Brewing Co.

Kona Brewing Co. is one of the most popular beers brewed in the Hawaiian Islands. This particular company puts in huge efforts to be sustainable and to encourage people to go outside and experience nature! You can also take a one-hour tour of their brewery in Kailua-Kona (which includes four 4-ounce beer samples for those 21+). Be sure to reserve your tour in advance!

*Note: If you would like to visit the Kona Brewing Co. factory, children under 15 years old are not permitted.

17. Take a Salt Farm Tour

Kona Salt Farm is one of the more unique attractions in Kona. this 7-acre oceanfront salt farm produces thousands of pounds of salt every single year — and it’s all harvested right from the Pacific Ocean. You can take an in-depth look at Kona Salt Farm’s inner workings during a 45-minute tour. Learn how the salt is harvested, how it’s prepared for packaging, and even about the significance of salt in Native Hawaiian culture.

close up of Kona coffee beans

18. Check Out The Coffee Shack

Located just above Kealakekua Bay, The Coffee Shack has stunning views, in addition to fantastic food, coffee, and service. Until the mid-1980s, The Coffee Shack roasted coffee for the many local coffee farms in the area. Now, it has become known for its ono eggs benedict, Hawaiian French toast, various cheesecakes, and, of course, the coffee.

19. Kayak at Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is actually a Marine Life Conservation District, making it a popular place for ocean creatures to hang out. In addition to the colorful coral and fish, you may also see some dolphins hanging out! So grab a kayak (or a snorkel mask) and explore Kealakekua Bay!

If kayaking isn’t quite your thing, but you still want to see the dolphins in Kealakekua Bay, you can always take a snorkeling tour on a catamaran.

Book Here: Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling Tour on a Catamaran

20. Pop into St. Benedict’s Painted Church

Between 1899 and 1904, Belgian artist-priest John Berchmans Velge painted the entire interior of St. Benedict’s Painted Church. Murals of biblical stories painted in bright colors fill the walls and the ceiling of this quaint church just a few miles outside of Kona.

large jar of ohia lehua honey from big island bees with palm trees in the background

21. Spend a Day at Big Island Bees

The workers at Big Island Bees (including the 120 million bees) put a TON of work into creating single-floral raw and organic Hawaiian honeys. In other words, each of their jars of honey is made from the pollen of just one rare Hawaiian flower.

When you visit their facility in Kona, you’ll be able to take a beekeeping tour, sample different types of honey, and visit their honey museum. You’ll also be able to purchase their special local honey! Personally, I highly recommend the Ohia Lehua honey. It’s so good that I included it in our Hawaii Food Bucket List!

22. Discover the Place of Refuge: Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park was a place of refuge for the ancient Hawaiians. If you had broken the laws or if there was simply a war in progress, no one could be hurt within the boundaries of Puuhonua O Honaunau. Today, it serves a place to learn about the Puuhonua as well as Hawaiian culture.

turtle lounging on the sand on a Kona, Hawaii beach

23. Spot Some Turtles at Honaunau Bay

Spotting turtles in Hawaii is a must in my opinion. The best place to spot them in Kona is at Honaunau Bay. Honaunau Bay is known to locals to have some of the best snorkeling on the islands. It’s not uncommon to see not only turtles, but even dolphins in Honaunau Bay!

Here are a few tips on how to respect the turtles and keep them healthy.

24. Check Out the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay

In 1779, Captain James Cook became the first westerner to land in the Hawaiian Islands – and that just happened to be at Kealakekua Bay. Captain Cook’s arrival signaled the end of the ancient Hawaiians’ way of life and changed the trajectory of the archipelago forever — for better or for worse. Now the beautiful Kealakekua Bay hosts a monument of the famous explorer.

green sea cliffs of Kona's Waipio Valley with blue water

25. Stare in Awe from Waipio Valley Lookout

Similar to Pololu Valley Lookout, Waipio Valley Lookout also boast stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, a black sand beach, and flourishing greenery. This section of land on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast is one of the most isolated parts of the island, making it a remote paradise.

26. Take a Horseback Riding Tour through Waipio Valley

In order to get to Waipio Valley, you must either hike or drive a 4WD down one of the steepest roads in the U.S. – and this road is unpaved. Or you can take a horseback riding tour. With experienced guides and horses, a horseback riding tour may actually be the safest way to get into Waipio Valley. Companies including Waipio on HorsebackNaalapa Stables, and Paniolo Adventures are all great options.

Once you finally reach the valley itself, greenery-covered cliffs, the bright blue Pacific Ocean, and even the occasional waterfall and black sand beach await! It’s the best of Hawaii’s nature, all tucked away in this one little natural nook.

27. Stare in Awe at Hiilawe Falls

Hillawe Falls is the most famous waterfall in the Waipio Valley and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Hawaii. For years, it was estimated to be 1,400 feet high!

However, recently the waters that once supplied Hiilawe Falls have mostly been redirected for agricultural purposes. That said, if you do happen to catch the falls after a drenching rain, you may be able to catch Hiilawe Falls in its former glory.

28. Take in the Views from Pololu Valley Lookout

Located on the northern tip of the Big Island, the Pololu Valley Lookout provides some of the most stunning views of the island. Just take in the breathtaking picture of the blue Pacific Ocean, black sand beach, and plant-laden cliffs.

29. Hike through Pololu Valley for the Stunning Views and the Black Sand Beach

If you get inspired by the view at Pololu Valley Lookout and want a closer look, why not hike through Pololu Valley? In order to get to reach the black sand beach, you’ll start at Pololu Valley Lookout and then take Pololu Trail (also known as Awini Trail) down to the black sand beach shore. While this hike is just over half a mile, you’ll go down 500 feet in altitude! And remember: what you go down, you must come up!

Looking for more black sand beaches in Hawaii? We’ve got a whole list of ’em for you to learn more about!

waterfall flowing into the ocean via a black sand beach in Kona

30. Check Out a Waterfall that Pours into the Ocean

Although the Hilo side of the Big Island is known for its waterfalls, Kona has a few that are worth your time. If you happen to be lucky enough (in other words, if it has rained enough recently), Kaluahine Falls might be flowing in Waipio Valley. Even better, it might be flowing right into the ocean! AND it’ll be flowing right into the ocean directly next to a black sand beach and bright green cliffs. It’s one of the most picturesque scenes in the world!

Do note that getting to Waipio Valley can be quite the challenge. Between the 4WD, extremely steep roads, hikes, and rainy weather, there are a lot of factors that may not work in your favor.

31. See SNOW in Hawaii

Mauna Kea is one Hawaii’s most amazing mountains. Because the summit is nearly 14,000 feet high, the altitude makes the Hawaii weather cool enough for snow!

If you would like to drive to the summit yourself, there are a few things you should know. Harper Car and Truck Rental is the only car rental company that allows you to summit Mauna Kea; however, know that their inspections upon returning the car are VERY thorough. Also, remember to dress warmly! Just because it’s Hawaii, doesn’t mean it’s warm everywhere.

The other option is to take a tour to the summit of Mauna Kea. These tours are usually for stargazing, but you will likely reach the peak just before sunset. So you’ll still be able to see the snow in Hawaii before it gets dark!

stars of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from the top of Mauna Kea in Kona, Hawaii

32. Stargaze at Mauna Kea

Not only can you see SNOW in Hawaii on Mauna Kea, you can also do some of the best stargazing in the world! There are two options for stargazing at Mauna Kea: at the visitor center or at the summit.

Personally, I recommend the visitor center. Most car rental companies do not allow you to go to the summit of Mauna Kea, according to the rental car contracts. However, you can go all the way to the visitor center. In addition, there is a free stargazing program at the visitor center four nights per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

If you prefer to try to go to the summit for your stargazing experience, there are a few things you should know. As mentioned previously, Harper Car and Truck Rental is the only car rental company that allows you to summit Mauna Kea. (Don’t forget about their VERY thorough inspections.) Once you get to the top, there are NO telescopes available for public use, and you will not be able to enter the buildings.

If you are set on stargazing from the summit of Mauna Kea, your only option is to take a tour. These tours, which average around $250 – $300 per person, typically last around seven to eight hours.

*Note: because of the altitude change, you should not go scuba diving and reach the summit of Mauna Kea within 24 hours of each other.

Book Here: Mauna Kea Stargazing Tour

33. Check Out the W. M. Keck Observatory

If you love astronomy, you definitely should add the W. M. Keck Observatory to your list of things to do (along with stargazing on Mauna Kea). Every Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers are available to explain the ins-and-outs of the W. M. Keck Observatory, as well as the other observatories on Mauna Kea. You’ll also be able to view models of the twin 10-meter Keck Observatory telescopes and even learn about their most recent discoveries!

two people ziplining above the trees

34. Do a Kohala Zipline Tour

If you’re an adrenaline junky, a Kohala Zipline tour should be high on your list of things to do in Kona. There are a couple of different zipline adventures for you to choose from: the Kohala Canopy Adventure and the Kohala Zip & Dip. The Kohala Canopy Adventure is three hours of nearly non-stop ziplining and stunning views! The Kohala Zip & Dip includes a bit of ziplining, views of three waterfalls, and even a quick dip in one of those waterfalls!

Book Here: Kohala Canopy Adventure

Book Here: Kohala Zip & Dip

aerial view of Hapuna Beach in Kona

35. Relax at Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Kona Coast – and rightly so. Between its sunny weather, prime snorkeling, and glowing white sand, what’s not to love? You can easily spend an entire day at this one beautiful Kona beach.

Make sure you have everything you need for your Kona beach day with a quick look at our beach packing list.

36. Ride the Tram and the Boat at Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Hilton Waikoloa Village, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, is one of the most elaborate hotels in the world, not just on the Big Island of Hawaii. The resort has the several pools, the Legends of Hawaii Luau, a fantastic spa, and a lagoon for kayaking and other boat-related activities.

But the kid-favorite of the Hilton Waikoloa Village are the trams and the boats. That’s right: the resort is so large there are trams and boats that are used to transport the guests from one point to another for free. And kids (and adults) love it.

Book Here: Hilton Waikoloa Village

37. Learn About Hawaii’s Cowboys at Parker Ranch

Unbeknownst to many people, Hawaii has their own version of cowboys called paniolos. Parker Ranch is the largest community of paniolos in the islands. Take a tour, learn about the history of the ranch, and wander around the paniolo museum at the ranch.

man holding traditional flaming oar at luau
Photo Courtesy of Paradise Cove Luau

38. Go to a Luau

Luaus first came about in 1819, when King Kamehameha II decided to abolish the practice of men and women eating separately. In celebration of this declaration, King Kamehameha II planned a huge feast with both men and women. If you’re looking for a luau in Kona, check out either the Mauna Kea Luau at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel or the Legends of Hawaii Luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

Here is more information on authentic Hawaiian luaus.

39. Swim with Dolphins in the Wild

Hawaii is one of the only places in the world where you can swim with dolphins in the wild. They can enjoy their beautiful natural home, and you can watch them enjoy it! On the Big Island, the dolphins enjoy Makako Bay, Kealakekua Bay, and Honaunau Bay.

While you can attempt to find these dolphins on your own, you’ll have a much better chance of finding them if you take a tour.

If you do choose to swim with dolphins in the wild, please give them their space. When you see them, it’ll most likely be during daylight hours, when they’re resting. If you disturb them when they’re resting, they might act in more aggressive ways then they usually would, because their brains are actually half shut off when they rest! (It’s kind of like humans in the morning – we need a little time to wake up too!)

Book Here: Big Island Snorkel & Dolphin Watching Tour

40. Take a Deep-Sea Fishing Tour

Each August, Kona hosts the International Billfish Tournament, a deep-sea fishing competition. Deep sea fishing is simply a type of fishing that occurs in extremely deep waters (at least 30 meters). If you would like to try some deep-sea fishing of your own in Kona, check out Kona Deep Sea Fishing or Hawaii Deep Sea Fishing.

things to do in Kona coffee

41. Visit a Kona Coffee Farm

If Kona is famous for one thing, it’s Kona coffee. Currently, there are over 6,000 acres of Kona coffee in Kona. If you’re looking for a coffee farm with both tastings and tours, Mountain Thunder Coffee PlantationKona Coffee Living History FarmGreenwell Farms, and Hula Daddy Coffee are all great options.

42. Do a Hike or Beach Clean-Up

It’s important to give back to the places that bring you so much joy. After surfing, hiking, relaxing, and eating your heart out, consider doing a hike or beach clean-up to help out the nature in Kona.

Not only does this activity have the potential to be a fun, fulfilling experience, but if you spend so much time on your vacation enjoying this beautiful trash-free environment, why not help the islands stay that way?

Just grab a trash bag (and perhaps some gloves) and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Thank you for your help in advance!

Do you have any other recommendations for things to do in Kona that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments!

Thinking about traveling to Kona, Hawaii sometime soon? Pin this post for later!

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