Best Things to Do in Kona: Located on Big Island’s western coast, Kona (officially known as Kailua-Kona) is a vibrant town with plenty of attractive offerings. With the backdrop of the Mauna Kea volcano, Kona offers access to volcanic adventures in a rugged landscape.
There are numerous lava fields nearby that stretch down to the water’s edge. The town is also home to some of the most picturesque beaches on the Big Island.
Once the capital of the initially unified Kingdom of Hawaii, its rich history and culture add to its allure.
From adventure junkies to nature lovers and history buffs, the town is a treasure trove with plenty of fun activities to offer.
Planning your vacation to Kona?
With so many fun activities available, it can be challenging to decide which ones to include in your itinerary.
So, we’ve got you covered with our list of the top-rated best things to do in Kona, HI: –
Visit Hulihe’e Palace #1
Kailua-Kona has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. One of the most popular historical places to visit here is Hulihe’e Palace. Built-in 1838, it was once the home of King Kamehameha the Great.
Subsequently, it became the residence of High Chief John Adams Kuakini, the brother of Kamehameha’s favourite wife. Intended to be a vacation home, the palace offers a peek into the life of the Hawaiian monarchy.
It features Victorian-style architecture and is built out of lava rock. It has two lanais on the oceanfront, beautiful grounds, and six large rooms.
You’ll also find artefacts from the time of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi’olani.
It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers tours where visitors can learn more about the palace and its history.
Explore Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park #2
If you’re interested in knowing more about Hawaiian culture, head to Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. Sprawled over 1,000 acres, the park offers information regarding the early Hawaiian settlements.
You can learn about the settlers’ imaginative ways and methods of surviving in the volcanic landscape around Kona.
From historic fishponds, and petroglyphs to sacred temples, there are various impressive features here. Numerous trails go through the rugged landscape allowing visitors to explore the area and also enjoy wildlife spotting.
You can also relax at the beach, go hiking, spot sea turtles, and snorkel, there are endless recreational activities to enjoy here.
Make a splash at Magic Sands Beach #3
A short distance away from Downtown lies the Magic Sands Beach. Also known as White Sands Beach, its bed of rocky lava and soft white sands make for a postcard-perfect scene.
It’s called Magic Sands since it can disappear overnight.
At times of high tide, the ocean carries the sand away, revealing a bed of rocky lava.
Gradually, the ocean currents bring the sand to the shore again. From snorkelling to swimming and sunbathing, there are various fun activities to enjoy here.
When hunger strikes, head to one of the several restaurants nearby. You can also go shopping along Ali’i Drive.
Rejuvenate your senses at Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary #4
Sprawled across 70 acres, Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary features one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.
Nestled at an elevation of over 3,000 feet above sea level, it’s home to thousands of native plant types. You’ll find a rich variety of flora from huge tree ferns to different types of bamboo plants.
The tropical environment is often covered in misty clouds, that make for a dreamy landscape. The place is also home to many endangered and rare species of birds.
Several trails go through the area, allowing visitors to explore it.
Various immersive experiences such as mindfulness sessions, educational workshops, Forest Immersion Guided Meditation, and South Bath Meditation, etc. are also offered here.
Shop local produce at Kona Farmers Market #5
If you’re interested in experiencing the local vibe, one of the best things to do in Kona is to explore Kona Farmers Market.
Whether you’re looking for handcrafted souvenirs, fresh produce, or some delectable snacks, Kona Farmers Market won’t disappoint.
Located downtown, beside the local public library, the market features around 40 stalls on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
You can try shaved ice, mochi, mangoes, macadamia nuts, colourful fruits, the popular Kona coffee much more here.
After a fun stroll exploring the stalls, you can head to the beach which is only a short walk away.
Learn about the region’s history at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park #6
This spiritual site holds much significance in Hawaii’s culture. It used to be a place of refuge for those who broke Hawaiian law and features notable highlights such as the Great Wall, which is around 17 feet thick in certain places.
You’ll also find wooden totem-like pictures of the gods who protect the sacred temple, old burial grounds, ancient fishing pools, and the royal canoe landing beach.
Take a self-guided tour or go for daily ranger walks to immerse yourself in its rich history.
Stretching over 180 acres, the park also has scenic hiking trails and beaches, palm tree groves, and sea turtles. You can also catch mesmerizing sunsets.
Soak in breath-taking views from the Mauna Kea Summit #7
One of the highlights of the Big Island is the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. Set at an elevation of 13,800 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea Summit offers spectacular views.
It takes a two-hour drive from Kona to the Mauna Kea Summit.
You’ll have to go through a narrow gravel road which makes for an adventurous journey. The mesmerizing view from the top makes it worth the effort.
With clouds floating over the stunning Big Island, it seems straight out of a fairy tale.
Make sure you spend at least 30 minutes at the visitor center to acclimatize yourself before going to the summit.
The center is located halfway up the volcano and is a top spot for volunteers who set up telescopes here.
Lounge at Manini Owali Beach #8
Dip your toes in soft white sand and enjoy a vista of turquoise blue waters at Manini’owali Beach which makes for a surreal sight.
The beach stretches for three-quarters of a mile and offers many water recreational activities.
From swimming to snorkelling and kayaking, there is something here for everyone. There’s a reef just offshore that offers opportunities for spotting tropical fish.
You’ll also find all the amenities you need for a comfortable beach outing including picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and a parking lot.
Drive the Saddle Road #9
How about a scenic drive through the Big Island?
Saddle Road offers the perfect opportunity.
Going over a high mountain between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the road winds through rolling green fields, rainforests, and dried lava flows.
It goes for around 54 miles. Want to stop and explore the scenery on the journey?
Several of the island’s hiking trailheads lead to stunning landscapes. Take note that you won’t find any gas stations along the way so prepare accordingly.
Attend a luau #10
One of the must-have Hawaiian experiences is attending a luau.
A luau is a traditional Hawaiian fest full of fun events such as hula dancing, fire dance performances, thrilling rum music, delicious food, and much more.
It offers a peek into the rich culture of Hawaii.
Some luaus also feature knife rituals of Samoan origin and activities such as getting a temporary Polynesian-style tattoo, and lei workshops.
Some of the most popular places to attend a luau in Kona are the Royal Kona Resort, the Island Breeze Luau, the Voyagers of the Pacific Lū‘au, and the grounds of the historic Kamakahonu Royal.
Feed a seahorse at Ocean Rider Inc #11
Home to over 20,000 seahorses, Ocean Rider Inc. is the only organization in the country to rear critically endangered seahorses.
You can take a tour and gain knowledge regarding the life cycles of seahorses and the conservation efforts of the organization.
You’ll even see some pregnant male seahorses here.
There are feeding and petting pools as well that offer an immersive experience. Operational since 1998, this family-run farm features over 30 species of seahorses & sea dragons.
Travel back in time at the Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological District #12
The Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological District is nestled in the Mauna Lani resort area. Sprawled across 233 acres, it features thousands of ancient petrography designs.
You can access it through the Malama Trail which has 1,200 petroglyphs along the way.
You’ll be walking less than two miles to and from but the journey is special since the trail winds through ancient lava fields and paths surrounded by tunnel-like branches.
The district has one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the state.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly activity, a solo adventure, or some romantic moments amidst stunning Hawaiian landscapes, Kona offers it all.
So, choose the one that ticks off all the boxes on your checklist and begin your epic vacation in this incredible town.
Follow us for more such insights!
Q. What is Kona Hawaii best known for?
Kona Hawaii is known for its delectable coffee, the royal Huliheʻe Palace, and spectacular beaches that offer various activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and kayaking.
Q. Is it worth staying in Kona?
Kona has many fascinating attractions and also offers easy access to many highlights of the Big Island, which makes it an excellent destination to stay in.
Q. How many days should I stay in Kona?
Three days are considered enough to explore the various attractions in and around Kona.