Kailua Kona is the Big Island capital if it comes to outdoor activities. On this side of the island it is almost always sunny and access to outdoor activities is nowhere as easy as in Kona. The Kona (west) side of the island is also the place to be if you like watching the sunset from the beach!
Table of contents
We split our list of things to do in Kona into two parts for clarity:
- The more general outdoor activities that you can enjoy outside Kona.
- Activities and attraction that are specific to the Kona region. Think of Kona coffee tours, farmers markets, and the local brew pub.
If you think the choices you have are overwhelming you should have a look at what we think are the highlights for Kona.
Activities and Attractions in Kona
There are also plenty of activities to be found in and around Kailua Kona. You can use your time in Kona to visit the farmers market or to taste the local beers from the Kona brewing company. 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 e.g. coffee, vanilla, honey, and chocolate farms/producers that organize tours. 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. Read more about 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 like coffee you have to try Kona coffee! Read more about Kona coffee tasting.
Kona Farmers markets
There are 7 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 the 7 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 Hawai’i 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 the Kealakekua Bay (a.k.a. Captain Cook).
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.
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.
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.
Some people never leave Kona and take day-trips from to the rest of the island (e.g. the Volcanoes National park). 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 nut (bean), exploring the Kona coffee lands and taking having a look 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.
You can rent a bike in Kona to explore the coast at your own pace. If you want to drive your bike up (by car) up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that is also possible. Read more about Biking on the Big Island.
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 Big Island.
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 Halema’uma’u and Pu’u O’o craters the Kilauea volcano? Read more about taking a helicopter tour on the Big Island.
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 (Waipi’o valley and Pololu valley). Read more about Hiking in Kona.
Several ranches around Waimea north of Kona 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 Waipi’o valley. Learn more about horseback riding on the Big Island.
Manta-Ray Night Dive
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.
The Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Step back in time and into a piece of living Hawaiian history. A tour of the Pu’uhonua 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 Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
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 Big Island Scuba Diving.
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 around Kona.
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.
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 on the Big Island.
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 Big Island.
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 Big Island.
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. Read more about Ziplining in Kona.