Kailua Kona is the Big Island capital if you are talking about access to (outdoor) activities. On this side of the island it is almost always sunny and yet you can find a great variety in beaches and temperatures going from the northern Kohala coast all the way south to the south Kona district.
We split our list of things to do in Kona into two parts for clarity:
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Activities and attractions that are specific to the Kona region.
- Outdoor activities that you can enjoy outside Kona.
Have a look at what we think are the highlights for Kona if you think the choices we give are overwhelming.
Activities and Attractions in Kona
Next to all the “typical Hawaii” activities that are doable from Kona (see the next chapter) there are also a few activities and places to see that are specific to the Kona coast. Think, for example, about visiting a local farmers market or a visit to the brewpub downtown. Worthwhile activities that take a bit more traveling are half day trips to go to the Captain cook monument (GREAT snorkeling), indulge in some Kona coffee tasting, or to see the historic Waikoloa petroglyph field (on the way to the beach!).
Farm Tours, exotic animals, and bees!
In the Kona district you can find many coffee, vanilla, honey, and chocolate farms/producers that are open to visitors. Animal lovers can also find a seahorse and an octopus farm, a parrot sanctuary, and an exotic animal sanctuary.
Read more about the Farm Tours near Kona.
The Kona Brewing Company is a small, independent traditional brewery in Kona, which also runs the great Kona Brewpub. This is a not-to-miss place for dinner and beers if you are in Kona, and they also arrange short brewery tours!
Read more about visiting the Kona Brewpub.
Kona Coffee Tasting
Kona lies in the heart of “Coffee Country”, and coffee can only be called “Kona Coffee” if it grows on the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes in the north and south Kona district. If you are into coffee you have to try Kona coffee!
Read more about how to visit one (or more) of the many small coffee farms close to Kona in our guide on Kona coffee tasting.
Kona Farmers markets
There are several farmers markets in and near Kona that you can visit. The most popular one is the Kona farmers market in central Kona which is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Read more about all the Farmers Markets around Kona.
Located on the lush and tropical South Kona coast, Kealakekua Bay is home to a spectacular coral reef. The bay is home to one of the best snorkeling spots in the entire state of Hawaiʻi and the nearby lush and tropical region is also a place of great historical significance, as it holds many archeological and historical sites. This region is definitely worth a visit!
Read more about visiting Kealakekua Bay.
Manta-Ray Night Dive / Snorkel
The famous Kona Manta Ray Night Dive is one of the most memorable dives around the planet. It is one of our favorite things to do in Hawaii and we thing you shouldn’t miss doing it!
Read more about the Manta Ray night dive.
Petroglyphs are images carved in stone and offer a unique view into the history of Hawaii. Some petroglyphs date back to the 16th century – only one century after Columbus first landed on American soil! There are two petroglyph fields close to Kona: the Waikoloa Petroglyphs and the Pukao Petroglyph field.
The Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Step back in time and into a piece of living Hawaiian history. A tour of the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is one of the top things to do on the west side of the Big Island and an excellent way to experience traditional Hawaiian culture. Bonus points for the excellent snorkeling right next to the park entrance!
Read more about visiting the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
Seahorse farm tour
There is a seahorse farm between Kona and the airport, and they organize tours! The tour takes between 1 and 1.5 hours and lets you see baby seahorses, pregnant males, and leafy and weedy sea dragons. Read more about the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm tour.
Outdoor Activities in and around Kona
Kailua Kona is outdoor-paradise. Perfect weather and a stunningly beautiful natural surrounding make this a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike.
Good to know: Some people never leave Kona and take day-trips from to the rest of the island (e.g. to the the Volcanoes National park or to visit the Maunakea summit). Because of the long (2+ hr one-way) drive times we do not recommend this. Instead, why not choose to spend at least one night in Volcano village?
Browse around below for your favorite activities. We especially recommend all the ocean-related activities such as the manta ray night dive, snorkeling or just chilling out on the black- or white-sand beaches. If you are a coffee lover, exploring the Kona coffee estates and taking a tour around a coffee farm is a must-do.
If you are spending time in Kona you simply cannot miss going to a beach at least one time. Many of Hawaii’s nicest beaches are just around the corner. Here you can find world-class white sand beaches, but also black sand beaches and even a green sand beach!
Read more about the Beaches around Kona.
There is a small botanical garden a few miles south of Kona, and one up far to the north on the Kohala coast. The latter one is also a good place for whale watching.
Read more about Botanical Gardens near Kona.
There are a few campsites and beach parks in and around Kona where you can pitch your tent and “really” be outdoors. Plan ahead because most campsites need to be reserved ahead of time.
Read more about Camping on the Big Island.
The Big Island is known as the golf capital of the state, and Kona is in the heart of it. Some of the biggest names in course design have carved championship golf courses into the island that will call you back to the green – again and again.
Read more about Golfing on the Kona coast.
The Big Island hides many of its awe-inspiring wonders behind obstacles that are impassable and are impossible to see – except through the air! Think about the hidden waterfalls or fresh lava flows, and what about the lava lakes in the Halemaʻumaʻu and Puʻu Oʻo craters the Kilauea volcano?
Private Kona Sunset Helicopter Tour (Big Island)
A 30 minute private helicopter tour during sunset along the magnificent Kona coastline during the “Golden Hour”
Duration: 30 minutes
Free cancellation: up to 24 hours before tour
Read more about taking a helicopter tour from Kona.
The Big Island hosts some GREAT hikes through barren lava fields, lush rainforests or to secluded beaches. You can find the most impressive hikes north of Kona, on the Kohala coast and in Waimea (Waipiʻo valley and Pololu valley).
Read more about hiking around Kona.
Several ranches around Waimea offer the opportunity to explore their (often very large) range as part of a guided tour of the pastures with spectacular views of the coastline and peaks. It is also possible to make it of the range and explore other spectacular parts of the island, such as Waipiʻo valley.
Learn more about horseback riding around Kona.
Luau and Hula Performances in/near Kona
A Luau show is a good way to experience local food and culture during a festive evening. There are also options to visit free Hula performances.
Read about all your options in to visit a luau in Kona.
A small detour to your destination can often open up a whole new face of the Big Island. Our favorite scenic drive close to Kona explores the Coffee country of South Kona.
Read more about Scenic drives on the Big Island.
Scuba diving in Hawaii is a great way to get away from the crowds and enjoy the Big Island underwater paradise on your own. The underwater world around all Hawaiian Islands is a #1 destination for Scuba divers worldwide.
Read more about Scuba Diving on the Kona coast.
Hawaii is famous for its warm tropical waters and extremely diverse marine life. Snorkeling in the waters around Kona is great! Warm, clear water, plenty of fish and coral reefs mixed in between the lava rocks make for a stunning snorkel.
Read more about Snorkeling on the Kona coast.
Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP)
Stand up paddle surfing (SUP), or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, is an emerging global sport with a Hawaiian heritage. Kona has SUP board rentals and lessons available and is a great place to try out SUPping.
Read more about SUP close to Kona.
Swim with Dolphins
Swimming with the dolphins on the Big Island can be done by people of all ages and swimming skills. Those that have done it describe it as an unforgettable experience that will leave you with memories for a lifetime. Do not forget to take your (waterproof) camera.
Read more about swimming with dolphins.
Hawaii is literally the birthplace of surfing and the Big Island offers surfing for all levels. If you have never experienced the thrill of riding a wave, why not sign up for a surfing class at a local surf school?
Read more about surfing on the Kona coast.
One way to have fun AND do good at the same time is to become a volunteer on Hawaii. Giving something back to mother nature is guaranteed to be a memorable experience and, besides, it will take you into a wilderness that few other visitors (and locals for that matter) will ever experience!
Read more about the volunteering opportunities on the Big Island.
Hawaii is a great place to go whale watching during in the period between December and May, and the Big Island is one of the most popular Hawaiian Islands for Whale watching.
Read more about whale watching on the Kona Coast.
Ziplining is an activity where you are attached with a harness to a rope that is strung between a high and a low point. The zip lines are built high above scenic areas and features such as ravines, jungles, meadows, and forests. The ziplining course nearest to Kona is in the forests on the Kohala volcano, and can be enjoyed by themselves or as a ʻzip and dip (in a waterfall) combination.
Read more about Ziplining in Kona.