25 of the Best Things to Do in Kona Hawaii (2024 Guide)

Wondering what activities and attractions you can’t miss when visiting Kona, Hawai’i? Our guide to the best things to do in Kona is just what you need!

Get ready to embark on a sun-kissed adventure as we uncover the best things to do in Kona, on the Big Island. Welcome to Kailua Kona, a dreamy destination where white sand beaches, rich history, and a caffeine fix like no other await.

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach bum or a coffee aficionado, this place has got you covered! So grab your sun hat and flip-flops as we dive into a treasure trove of excitement, from snorkeling at the iconic Captain Cook Monument to sipping on the world-renowned Kona Coffee.

With so much to see and do, Kailua Kona promises an unforgettable vacation that blends adventure, culture, and the undeniable allure of those pristine white sand beaches.

Table of Contents

The Best Things to Do in Kona, Hawaii

When visiting Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, there are numerous exciting activities and attractions to explore. Here’s a list of the top 25 best activities to add to your Big Island itinerary.

Read Next: Plan your trip to Hawaii with our Hawaiian islands itinerary.

Visit Kailua Kona and Wander through the historic town, shop for souvenirs, and dine at local eateries

Visiting Kailua-Kona Village is a delightful way to immerse oneself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Kona. Stepping into this charming historic town, you are welcomed by a blend of quaint architecture, local boutiques, and inviting restaurants.

As you stroll along the picturesque waterfront, the soothing sound of waves accompanies the exploration of art galleries and souvenir shops. Kailua Village’s warm and laid-back atmosphere offers a perfect setting for leisurely walks, savoring local delicacies, and interacting with friendly locals who are more than willing to share their island’s stories and traditions.

Whether it’s enjoying a refreshing shave ice treat, browsing for handcrafted treasures, or simply taking in the stunning coastal views, Kailua Village captures the true essence of Kona’s aloha spirit, leaving you with cherished memories of their Hawaiian adventure.

Snorkel or dive at Kealakekua Bay to see the diverse marine life and Captain Cook Monument

Kealakekua Bay is a breathtaking snorkeling and diving paradise located along the Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. This pristine marine sanctuary not only offers crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs but also holds historical significance as the site where Captain James Cook first landed on the island in 1779.

Today, travelers can explore the underwater wonders of Kealakekua Bay, encountering an abundance of tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine life. The bay’s calm and protected waters make it an ideal spot for snorkelers of all skill levels to immerse themselves in the beauty of Hawaii’s underwater world.

The highlight of the bay is the striking Captain Cook Monument, perched on the shoreline, which commemorates the explorer’s life and his connection to the region. Kealakekua Bay is not just a natural wonder but a place where history and marine biodiversity converge, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler seeking both adventure and cultural insights.

Explore a Hawaiian Coffee farm on a coffee plantation tour

When visiting Kona, one of the must-do activities for any coffee enthusiast is to explore the captivating world of Hawaiian coffee farms. The Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation stands out as a prominent destination for this experience.

Nestled amidst the lush slopes of the Hualalai volcano, the plantation offers an immersive tour where visitors can witness the intricate process of cultivating and harvesting coffee beans. From learning about the unique Kona coffee-growing conditions to witnessing the art of hand-picking the ripe cherries, the journey through Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation provides an enriching insight into the rich heritage and dedication that goes into producing world-renowned Kona coffee.

And, of course, no visit would be complete without savoring the distinct flavors of freshly brewed coffee, making it an unforgettable and aromatic adventure for travelers.

Kona Coffee
Coffee lovers have to sample some of the delicious Kona coffee!

Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and witness the active volcanoes

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a mesmerizing wonder on the Big Island, holds the captivating title of being home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Exploring this breathtaking landscape allows travelers to witness the raw forces of nature at play, where fiery eruptions have shaped the island’s topography over millennia.

The park’s centerpiece is the legendary Kilauea, a spectacular volcano that continues to spew molten lava into the surrounding terrain, creating ever-changing landscapes and awe-inspiring vistas. Visitors can embark on thrilling hikes through vast lava fields, explore lava tubes, and even catch a glimpse of glowing lava as it flows into the ocean, offering a rare and unforgettable encounter with nature’s elemental forces.

For any adventurous traveler seeking a profound connection with the Earth’s geological history, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stands as an unmissable destination that ignites the senses and leaves an indelible mark on the soul.

Stroll through the Kona Farmers Market for fresh produce and local crafts

The Kona Farmers Market is a vibrant and bustling hub of local culture and flavors that beckons travelers to explore the authentic tastes and crafts of Kona. Situated in the heart of Kailua-Kona, this bustling marketplace features a diverse array of fresh produce, tropical fruits, and handmade goods from local artisans.

As you stroll through the colorful stalls, you can sample exotic fruits like lilikoi (passion fruit), taste freshly roasted macadamia nuts, and savor the sweetness of locally grown pineapples. The market is not just a foodie’s paradise but also a treasure trove of handmade crafts, from traditional Hawaiian jewelry and clothing to unique souvenirs that showcase the artistry of the island.

The vibrant atmosphere, friendly vendors, and the rich tapestry of Hawaiian flavors and crafts make the Kona Farmers Market an essential stop for anyone eager to immerse themselves in the authentic spirit of Kona.

Read More: Check out this post on all of the other great things to do on the Big Island.

Discover the history and art of Hawaiian quilts at the Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum

The Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum is a captivating cultural institution that offers visitors a glimpse into the artistry and history of Hawaiian quilting. Situated in the heart of Kona, Hawaii, the museum houses a stunning collection of traditional and contemporary quilts, each telling a unique story through intricate patterns and designs.

You have the opportunity to learn about the significance of quilting in Hawaiian culture, where quilts have been passed down through generations as cherished heirlooms and gifts. The museum provides a rich educational experience, with exhibits showcasing various quilting techniques and the evolution of this time-honored craft.

For those seeking a deeper understanding of Hawaiian traditions and creativity, a visit to the Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum is an enriching and inspiring endeavor that celebrates the beauty and craftsmanship of this iconic art form.

Read Next: Check out these things to do in nearby Hilo.

Visit the stunning Hulihe’e Palace in Downtown Kailua Kona and learn about Hawaiian royalty

Hulihe’e Palace, nestled along the Kona coastline, offers a captivating glimpse into Hawaii’s regal past. Built in 1838, this historic landmark served as a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty during the reign of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi’olani.

Today, visitors can step back in time as they explore the elegant, oceanfront palace, adorned with intricate koa wood furnishings and beautiful artifacts from the royal era. The guided tours provide a fascinating narrative of the island’s royal history, offering insight into the customs, traditions, and lifestyle of the Hawaiian monarchs.

The well-maintained palace gardens, framed by swaying palm trees and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, create an idyllic backdrop that further enhances the experience. For those seeking a deeper connection to Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage, a visit to Hulihe’e Palace is an enchanting and educational journey through time.

Attend a traditional Hawaiian Luau, such as the Island Breeze Luau

The Island Breeze Luau is a vibrant celebration of Hawaiian culture and traditions that leaves visitors with unforgettable memories of their time in Kona. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Kona Coast, this lively luau immerses guests in a mesmerizing evening of music, dance, and authentic island cuisine.

From the moment you arrive, you are warmly welcomed with a traditional lei greeting, setting the tone for a night filled with aloha spirit. As the sun sets over the ocean, the luau comes to life with captivating hula performances, showcasing the grace and storytelling of this ancient dance form.

You have the opportunity to savor a delicious buffet, featuring a delectable array of Hawaiian dishes and tropical delights. Throughout the evening, you are encouraged to participate in fun activities, such as learning the hula or playing ancient Hawaiian games.

The Island Breeze Luau is a joyous celebration of Hawaiian heritage, offering travelers an authentic and immersive experience that brings them closer to the heart and soul of the islands.

Join a whale-watching tour (seasonal) to spot humpback whales

Embarking on a whale-watching tour in Kona is a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience that allows travelers to witness one of nature’s most majestic creatures up close. During the whale-watching season (typically from December to April), humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii to give birth and nurse their calves.

Guided by knowledgeable captains and naturalists, visitors set sail on boats equipped to respect the whales’ space while providing an unobstructed view of these magnificent marine mammals. As the boat glides through the ocean, passengers can witness humpback whales breach, tail slap, and sing their hauntingly beautiful songs.

The sheer size and grace of these gentle giants leave a profound impression, and the opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat is both humbling and exhilarating. A whale watching tour in Kona offers an extraordinary encounter with these incredible creatures and creates cherished memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

Whale Watching
Hawaii offers some of the best whale watching in North America.

Discover Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, a sacred Hawaiian site

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, also known as the Place of Refuge, is a remarkable site steeped in Hawaiian history and spirituality. Located along the Kona Coast of the Big Island, this sacred sanctuary was once a place of refuge and absolution for those who had violated ancient Hawaiian laws.

Today, the park stands as a living testament to the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii, offering you a chance to step back in time and connect with the island’s past. You can explore the restored temples, ancient stone walls, and royal grounds, gaining insights into the customs and rituals of the Hawaiian people.

The serene coastal setting adds to the park’s allure, inviting contemplation and a sense of reverence. With its deep cultural significance and serene ambiance, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park offers travelers a unique and immersive journey into Hawaii’s storied past.

Take a scenic drive along Mamalahoa Highway

Driving along Mamalahoa Highway on the Big Island of Hawaii offers travelers an enchanting journey through some of Kona’s most picturesque landscapes. The highway winds its way through lush rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and alongside stunning coastal vistas, providing an ever-changing backdrop of natural beauty.

As you venture along this scenic route, you’ll encounter charming small towns, beaches, coffee plantations, and hidden gems that showcase the island’s rich cultural heritage. The Mamalahoa Highway offers numerous opportunities to stop and explore, whether it’s to take a short hike to a hidden waterfall, savor fresh tropical fruits from roadside stands, or simply capture postcard-worthy views with every turn.

This road trip along Mamalahoa Highway is a memorable adventure that immerses visitors in the heart of Kona’s natural wonders, making it an essential part of any traveler’s itinerary.

Read Next: Be sure to add these exciting things to do on the Big Island.

Take a sunset cruise along the Kona Coast

Embarking on a sunset cruise along the Kona Coast is an enchanting experience that casts a golden hue over an already stunning paradise. As the day draws to a close, the Pacific Ocean becomes a tranquil canvas, reflecting the vibrant colors of the setting sun.

The gentle breeze caresses your skin as the boat glides effortlessly, offering unobstructed views of the rugged coastline, sandy beaches, and majestic volcanic peaks in the distance. With the soothing sound of waves lapping against the vessel, you can savor the magical moment with loved ones or in blissful solitude.

The golden hour gradually gives way to a starry sky, promising a celestial display as the boat returns to shore. The Kona Coast’s sunset cruise is an idyllic escape, a perfect finale to a day filled with exploration, relaxation, and the true essence of Hawaiian paradise.

Tour the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and Get up close with seahorses and learn about their conservation

The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kona offers a fascinating and immersive experience, providing you with a unique opportunity to interact with these captivating creatures up close. As the world’s only sustainable seahorse farm, it plays a crucial role in seahorse conservation efforts.

Guided tours take you through the facility, where they can learn about the intricate life cycle and behavior of seahorses, as well as the farm’s vital role in promoting their conservation. You are encouraged to hold and observe these delicate creatures in specially designed tanks, fostering a sense of appreciation and understanding for these mystical inhabitants of the sea.

The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is an educational and inspiring destination that leaves a lasting impression on visitors, encouraging them to advocate for marine conservation worldwide.

Go Paddleboarding or Kayaking in the tranquil waters of Keauhou Bay

Paddleboarding or kayaking at Keauhou Bay is one of the must-do activities in Kailua-Kona HI, offering an unforgettable experience for both nature lovers and adventure seekers. With the iconic Kona Coastline as your backdrop, you’ll glide serenely over the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush landscapes and breathtaking views.

Keauhou Bay is a paradise for exploration, providing the perfect opportunity to spot marine life, such as playful dolphins and graceful sea turtles, as you paddle along the coast. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned water sports enthusiast, this exhilarating adventure at Keauhou Bay guarantees an immersive and awe-inspiring encounter with the wonders of Kona’s natural beauty.

Don’t miss out on this unique and refreshing experience while discovering the best things to do in Kona!

Paddleboarding Kona
There are lots of beautiful places for paddleboarding in Kona!

Watch the Sunset at Magic Sands Beach Park

Watching the sun dip below the horizon at Magic Sands Beach is an enchanting and unforgettable experience for travelers in Kona. This idyllic beach, also known as La’aloa Beach, lives up to its name as the sunsets here truly seem magical.

As the golden rays paint the sky with hues of pink, orange, and purple, the palm-fringed shore becomes a serene vantage point to witness nature’s breathtaking spectacle. Locals and visitors alike gather on the sandy expanse, savoring the tranquil ambiance and reflecting on the day’s adventures.

The sound of gentle waves, the soft sea breeze, and the shimmering ocean create an ideal backdrop for capturing stunning photographs and making memories that will forever be cherished. Magic Sands Beach is a place of pure beauty and wonder, a reminder of the simple joys that make Kona such a special destination.

Explore the underwater world with a night manta ray snorkel tour

Embarking on a night manta ray snorkel tour is a truly awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience for visitors to Kona. As the sun sets over the horizon, travelers venture into the dark ocean waters, guided by specialized tour operators who create a safe and magical environment.

Using underwater lights, they attract plankton, which, in turn, draws in magnificent manta rays gracefully gliding through the water. Snorkelers float on the surface, mesmerized by the gentle giants as they glide beneath, their massive wings creating an ethereal dance.

The sheer size and grace of these magnificent creatures leave a lasting impression, and the experience of being in such close proximity to these gentle giants is nothing short of breathtaking. This night snorkel tour in Kona offers an incredible opportunity to witness the beauty of marine life in its natural habitat, creating memories that will stay with travelers long after their Hawaiian adventure has ended.

Visit the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary and observe unique flora and fauna

The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is a hidden gem tucked away in the lush mountains of Kona, offering a tranquil and mystical escape for nature lovers and adventurers alike. As you venture into this enchanting cloud forest, you find yourself surrounded by a rich tapestry of native plants, moss-covered trees, and a chorus of birdsong.

The sanctuary’s unique microclimate creates an otherworldly atmosphere, with misty clouds drifting through the canopy and nourishing the diverse flora that thrives here. Guided tours lead travelers on a captivating journey through the forest, revealing its ecological significance and the efforts made to preserve this delicate ecosystem.

The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is not just a haven for plant enthusiasts but a place of serenity and reflection, where the interplay of nature and tranquility invites visitors to reconnect with the beauty of the natural world and appreciate the wonders of Kona’s highland rainforests.

Enjoy a scenic hike at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park offers a captivating journey into ancient Hawaiian history and natural beauty. Located along the Kona Coast of the Big Island, this sacred site holds cultural significance as a former Hawaiian settlement and fishing village.

As you explore the park’s rugged coastline and historic features, you can marvel at the extensive system of fishponds and ancient petroglyphs that provide a glimpse into the daily life and traditions of the early Hawaiians. The park’s picturesque beaches and lava rock formations create a stunning backdrop, making it an ideal place for a leisurely stroll or a moment of reflection.

Guided tours offer valuable insights into the park’s archaeological treasures and the efforts made to preserve this precious cultural heritage. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is a sanctuary of both history and nature, inviting visitors to connect with Hawaii’s past and experience the serenity of the island’s unspoiled landscapes.

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Stargaze atop Mauna Kea, one of the best astronomical sites globally

Stargazing atop Mauna Kea, the majestic summit of Hawaii, presents an extraordinary celestial spectacle that transcends the ordinary boundaries of wonder. As night falls, the summit transforms into an ethereal sanctuary for astronomers and stargazers alike, offering a panoramic view of the universe.

At an elevation reaching nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, the clear, unpolluted skies provide an unparalleled opportunity to observe the cosmos in all its glory. The twinkling stars and distant galaxies seem within arm’s reach, while the Milky Way stretches across the heavens like a cosmic tapestry.

Visitors can join knowledgeable guides who lead astronomy programs, enriching the experience with insights into the constellations and celestial phenomena.

Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or simply seeking to connect with the vastness of the cosmos, Mauna Kea’s summit promises an awe-inspiring journey through the heavens, leaving you with a profound appreciation for the universe’s boundless mysteries.

Mauna Kea Stargazing
Mauna Kea offers some of the best stargazing in Hawaii.

Visit the Kona Brewing Company for a brewery tour and tasting

Visiting the Kona Brewing Company is an essential experience for beer enthusiasts and those looking to indulge in the laid-back Hawaiian vibe. Nestled in the heart of Kailua Kona, this brewery offers a captivating tour that takes visitors behind the scenes of the beer-making process.

From witnessing the meticulous brewing techniques to learning about the locally sourced ingredients that go into their craft beers, the tour offers a fascinating glimpse into the art of beer production. After the tour, you can unwind in the inviting taproom, where you can sample a wide array of Kona Brewing Company’s signature beers, each inspired by the island’s tropical flavors and lifestyle.

From refreshing lagers to hoppy IPAs, there’s a brew to suit every palate, making the Kona Brewing Company an excellent spot to enjoy the perfect blend of craft beer and aloha spirit.

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Explore the Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark, the former residence of King Kamehameha I

Kamakahonu, located in Kailua-Kona HI, holds great historical significance as the former residence of King Kamehameha I, the first ruler to unite the Hawaiian Islands. This sacred site is also known as the “Eye of the King” and served as a place of rest and rejuvenation for Hawaiian royalty.

You can immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii as you explore the beautifully preserved grounds and learn about the life and legacy of King Kamehameha I.

The landmark’s stunning location on the shores of Kailua Bay provides a picturesque backdrop, allowing travelers to not only connect with history but also appreciate the natural beauty that has drawn people to this place for centuries.

Snorkel with dolphins at Two-Step (Honaunau Bay), a popular snorkeling spot

Snorkeling with dolphins at Two-Step is an extraordinary and heartwarming experience that offers a unique chance to interact with these playful and intelligent creatures in their natural environment. Located near Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Kona Coast, Two-Step is a popular snorkeling spot known for its calm waters and abundant marine life.

Here you can wade into the water, and if lucky, you may encounter Hawaiian spinner dolphins gracefully swimming by. Observing these delightful creatures gliding through the sea, spinning and leaping out of the water, is a truly magical sight.

The dolphins’ friendly and curious nature often leads them to approach snorkelers, creating an unforgettable and intimate connection with the wild marine world.

However, it’s essential to remember to maintain a respectful distance and adhere to responsible snorkeling practices to ensure the dolphins’ well-being and preserve this remarkable encounter for future generations to enjoy.

Relax at Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach)

Kua Bay, also known as Manini’owali Beach, is a breathtaking slice of paradise nestled along the Kona coast that captivates travelers with its pristine beauty. This idyllic white sandy beach, fringed with coconut palms, offers a tranquil escape from the bustling world.

Its crystal-clear turquoise waters invite visitors to take a refreshing dip or snorkel among vibrant marine life. The gentle waves make Kua Bay a great spot for boogie boarding and body surfing, while the soft sand is perfect for sunbathing or building sandcastles.

As the sun sets, the beach transforms into a picturesque setting, painting the sky with hues of pink and orange, creating an unforgettable scene. Whether seeking adventure or relaxation, Kua Bay’s unspoiled charm and inviting waters make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking the quintessential Hawaiian beach experience.

Kua Bay
Kua Bay is one of the most beautiful places in Hawaii!

Take a Helicopter Tour and Get a bird’s-eye view of the Big Island’s diverse landscapes

Taking a thrilling helicopter tour is a must-do activity for any traveler visiting Kona. Soaring above the Big Island’s diverse landscapes, passengers are treated to an awe-inspiring bird’s-eye view that reveals the island’s true majesty.

From the lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls to the rugged volcanic terrain and stunning coastlines, the panoramic vistas are simply breathtaking. The helicopter tour offers a unique perspective, showcasing the island’s volcanic origins and the dynamic forces of nature that have shaped its beauty over millions of years.

It’s an unforgettable experience that leaves travelers with lasting memories of the Big Island’s natural wonders.

Learn about marine life at the Kanaloa Octopus Farm

For an intriguing and educational experience, the Kanaloa Octopus Farm in Kona is a must-visit destination. This innovative research facility is dedicated to studying and conserving octopuses while also providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about these intelligent creatures up close.

During the guided tours, visitors can witness various species of octopuses in their natural habitats and gain insight into their remarkable behaviors and adaptations. The farm’s mission to promote sustainable aquaculture practices and protect marine ecosystems adds an important conservation aspect to the visit, making it not only entertaining but also environmentally meaningful.

Whether you’re a marine enthusiast or simply curious about the wonders of the ocean, the Kanaloa Octopus Farm offers a fascinating and unique experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for these enigmatic cephalopods.

Wrapping Up

As our sun-kissed adventure in Kailua Kona comes to a close, we can’t help but reflect on the incredible experiences we’ve had exploring the best things to do in Kona. From snorkeling amidst the fascinating marine life near the Captain Cook Monument to savoring the aromatic delight of Kona Coffee, each moment in Kona has left an indelible mark on our hearts.

The rich history, the captivating beauty of the beaches, and the warm hospitality of the locals have made this destination a true gem in the Hawaiian archipelago.

As we bid farewell to the mesmerizing Kona Coast, we carry with us cherished memories of adventure and cultural discoveries. Whether you’re an intrepid traveler seeking underwater marvels or a coffee lover in pursuit of the perfect brew, Kailua Kona welcomes all with open arms.

So remember to embrace the aloha spirit and keep the essence of Kona alive in your heart. Mahalo, Kona, for an unforgettable journey filled with sun, sand, history, and a good cup of Kona Coffee!

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Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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