Kona tourist attractions

45 BEST Attractions and Activities in Kona, Hawaii (2023)

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Looking for the best attractions, activities, and things to do in Kona, Hawaii?

Kona on the Big Island is a popular tourist destination, well known for its white sand beaches, brand-name resorts, and world-class snorkeling.

There are several unique activities and attractions in Kona geared towards tourists, with Kona primarily being centered around tourism.

In Kona, you will find National Historic Parks to learn the history and culture of Hawaii, the best snorkeling spots of the Big Island, including the world-famous snorkeling with manta rays, several amazing beaches, coffee and cacao plantations, several easy as well as challenging hikes and much more.

Kona is also a great base to explore day trips to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, rainforests and waterfalls, and the unique green and black sand beaches.

During my visit to the Big Island of Hawaii with my family, I thoroughly explored the activities and things to do in and near Kona in my 7 day Big Island itinerary.

In a hurry and looking for top activities and attractions for Kona? Below are my top recommendations:

45 best attractions and things to do in Kona

Kona region in Hawaii has a very touristy vibe, and there are a lot of Kona tourist attractions to give visitors the unique and unforgettable experience they are looking for!

Kona has a lot of incredible activities like world-class snorkeling, pristine white sand beaches, helicopter tours, and whale-watching excursions. It also has unique historical and cultural attractions like the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

Several Hawaii attractions near Kona are worth exploring, like hiking in Volcanoes Park, unique black and green sand beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, and so much more!

Let’s dive in and discover all that Kona has to offer! You can explore many of these yourself, and for excursions that require tours, I will recommend the best ones for you.

Best activities in and near Kona

There are several incredible bucket-list activities in Kona, like snorkeling with manta rays, whale watching, helicopter tours, ziplining, coffee and chocolate farm tours, and much more.

1. Try manta ray snorkeling in Kona

Big Island is well renowned for snorkeling and has several world-class places for snorkeling. Snorkeling is one of the most popular outdoor excursions in Kona.

Snorkeling with the manta rays is one of the most unique and popular Kona tourist attractions. Keauhou Bay in Kona is world-famous for its resident manta rays. 

I highly recommend taking a tour for a manta ray nighttime snorkeling experience!

Seeing Manta Rays underwater is one of the best Kona Snorkel Tours
Manta Ray Snorkeling in Big Island

Typically, these tours take you on a boat a little further into the ocean at dusk, and you get to see the giant manta rays up close. You can choose to go in the water or stay on the boat.

These tours are very professional and big on safety! They ensure you have a safe and good experience seeing these magnificent creatures.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated
Sunset and Manta ray snorkeling adventure.

If going in the ocean at night is not your thing (it’s not mine either! I went along in the boat while my kids did this), you can also see this activity happening from the overlooking terrace at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. The resort shines bright lights in the water to attract the manta rays.

2. Go on a whale-watching adventure

If you are traveling during the whale migration season, which is typically December to April on Big Island, you can see humpback whales up close by taking a whale-watching tour from Kona.

During the winter season, the magnificent humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii, and there is a very good chance you will see one or a lot of whales on a whale-watching tour.

These tours take you on a boat where the whale pods are, and you will receive excellent information from the tour crew about various whale behaviors.

Whale Watching Tour
Whale Watching Tour on a Catamaran boat

Many tour companies in Kona offer these tours. We went on a Catamaran boat and had the best time. Sitting on the net in the back of the boat is so much fun.

We even saw a mama and baby whale swimming together! It was amazing to hear the whales singing through the provided hydrophones.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated small group Whale watching tour from Kona in a catamaran boat.

I also did a similar whale-watching tour in Maui, which was equally amazing.

3. Stargazing at Mauna Kea Summit

Stargazing at the Mauna Kea volcano summit is one of the top attractions in Kona.

Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in Hawaii and is known for its astronomy observatory sites. The summit is devoid of light pollution, which makes it excellent for stargazing.

Keep in mind that the weather on Mauna Kea is very different than in Kona, and it can be cold, foggy, or rainy at the summit. Make sure to call the Mauna Kea visitor center before you drive up the mountain for the weather forecast.

Sunset at Mauna Kea Summit
Sunset at Mauna Kea Summit

I highly recommend taking a tour to the Mauna Kea summit for a sunset and stargazing experience. Tour companies ensure you are acclimatized at the Visitor Center before going to the summit to avoid altitude sickness.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated small group Mauna Kea sunset and stargazing tour – includes warm jackets, hot chocolate, and photos.

It is not recommended that kids under 13 go to the summit because of the altitude change and associated health risks.

If traveling with kids under 13, you can also do stargazing at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. You do not need a tour for this. This is what we did as our younger one was not 13 yet.

We arrived at the visitor center an hour before sunset, and there was plenty of parking. There is a small hill opposite the visitor center parking lot, from where you can do stargazing.

There is a dirt path to go up the hill. It is really cold up there, so make sure to bring some warm clothes. We saw the sunset and some incredible stars. But the fog settled in later, and we had to turn back.

It was, overall, a very unique experience in Big Island. I packed a beanie, gloves, and a warm jacket for a Hawaii trip! We had a similar sunset and stargazing experience at the Haleakala summit in Maui, which was equally spectacular.

Stargazing at the Mauna Kea visitor center is one of the free things to do in Kona.

4. Enjoy aerial views of the Big Island with a helicopter tour

View Kona and the Big Island’s varied landscape by taking a helicopter tour from Kona. This would be an experience of a lifetime!

Helicopter tours are the best way to see aerial views of the volcano peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the stunning waterfalls, the lush rainforest, and the valleys.

Kona is on the leeward, drier side of the island, and taking a helicopter tour is the fastest way to reach the eastern side, which has rainforests, volcanoes, and waterfalls unique to Big Island.

Several incredible waterfalls on the Big Island are on private property but can be seen on a helicopter tour.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona – includes flying over Volcanoes Park and waterfalls.

5. Enjoy a sunset cruise in Kona

One of my most memorable Hawaii experiences was to take a sunset cruise in Kona and enjoy the spectacular Hawaiian sunset on a beautiful Catamaran boat. During the winter months, you might spot some whales too!

Sunset in big Island
Sunset cruise in Kona

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated Sunset Sail by catamaran boat from Waikoloa – includes drinks and snacks.

6. Zipline over waterfalls or ride an ATV

Does ziplining over lush green rainforests and waterfalls sound amazingly adventurous? Big Island has ziplining over several impressive waterfalls, and it is an incredible experience.

The Umauma Falls zipline experience is the most scenic zipline in Hawaii, with views of the Pacific coast.

The course has nine ziplines with dual lines that will take you soaring over treetops, rivers, and waterfalls and get your heart racing. Kids over four years of age are allowed to zipline here.

➡ Check rates and availability for Umauma 9-line zipline experience.

After ziplining, let the adventure continue by riding an ATV at Umauma Falls on their Deluxe ATV tours.

You will be given a lesson on a practice track before you explore the off-road coastal trails.

➡ Check rates and availability for Deluxe ATV Waterfall Tour

7. Visit Mountain Thunder Coffee plantation

The world-famous Kona Coffee is grown in Kona! If you love to drink coffee, then you will have a fantastic time exploring the several Kona coffee farms.

Many of these farms offer tours and coffee tastings. Visiting a Kona coffee plantation is a popular thing to do in Kona.

Mountain Thunder Coffee plantation is a large grower of private reserve 100% Kona coffee, only 15 minutes from Kona International Airport and downtown Kona.

They offer free 20-minute tours of their Kona coffee processing center every half hour from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

The complimentary tour includes sampling their 100% Kona coffee! They have a gift shop to buy their delicious coffee to take home and for gifts!

They also have a paid nature walk in which you can explore the grounds and check out a lava tube. Mountain Thunder is a really cool coffee plantation to visit if you like coffee.

8. Visit Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Kona Coffee Living History Farm is a one-of-a-kind living history museum that shows the daily life of early Hawaiian coffee farmers with docents in period costumes.

There are no reservations needed; you pay the entrance fee and take the self-guided tour through the museum and the farm.

Please note that this is not a coffee-tasting farm. This is more like a museum showing life in early coffee farms.

9. Visit a Cacao – chocolate farm

Kona weather is very favorable for growing cacao, and there are several cacao farms in Kona that offer tours of their farms.

The tours demonstrate how they process the cacao pods and beans to make chocolate. You even get to taste chocolate samples!

➡ I recommend this highly-rated small-group Coffee and Chocolate farm tour that includes tastings!

Cacao pods farm tour Big Island
Cacao pods seen in the Cacao farm tour

The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm in South Kona offers one-hour tours of their orchard and demonstrates how cacao pods and beans are processed to make fine chocolate.

We took this tour, and it was very informative and amazing. The tour offered three varieties of chocolate to sample – milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and criollo flavor. You can buy their delicious chocolate from the gift shop to take home.

You can book their tour from the Original Hawaiian Chocolate website.

10. Attend a luau and experience Hawaiian traditions

Attending a luau is a great way to experience the traditional Hawaiian culture, songs, and hula dance. Dinner is included in the luau experience, and you get to taste the local Hawaiian cuisine and foods.

fire dancing in Hawaiian Luau
Fire dancing in Hawaiian Luau

The Voyagers of the Pacific Luau at Royal Kona Resort is one of the best luaus in Kona. The outdoor setting is beautiful along the ocean with sunset views.

Dinner and drinks are included. You will also witness the Imu ceremony in which the pig is roasted in a traditional underground oven. The performance includes fire dancing, which will delight kids and adults too!

Sip Mai-Tais and enjoy the sunset views and the show!

➡ Check rates and availability for Voyagers of the Pacific Luau

We always try to attend a luau on every visit to Hawaii as it is one of our favorite Hawaii attractions.

When we visited Maui, we really enjoyed our evening at the Old Lahaina Luau. On our trip to Oahu, we loved the luau and the show at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

11. Snorkeling at Two Step Beach

Two Step Beach is a famous snorkeling area in Kona, also known as Honaunau Bay. This popular snorkeling spot is right outside the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

There is no sandy beach here, just a shore with volcano rocks. But this area is excellent for snorkeling and has some great coral reefs to explore. Water shoes are recommended as the rocks can be sharp.

Snorkeling at Two Step Beach is free, although you might have to pay for parking.

12. Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook’s Monument at Kealakekua Bay is a popular snorkeling attraction in Kona.

It is best to go to the Captain Cook Monument by boat tour as the hike to it is quite strenuous. There are many incredible Kona snorkel tours to take you to Kealakekua Bay, which has a great reef with plenty of marine life.

This Snorkel Tour to Captain Cook Monument takes you on an inflatable boat and includes sightseeing to lava tubes and sea caves. Depending on the season, you might even see humpback whales and dolphins!

➡ Check rates and availability for Snorkel Tour to Captain Cook Monument

13. Explore the Kona farmer’s market

In central Kona, make sure to check out the Kona farmer’s market, a popular place to find local handmade gift items and arts and crafts.

This is also a great place to shop for fresh fruit and produce for your stay. You will find flowers and lei garlands as well.

It is located on Alii Drive in the heart of downtown Kona. It is open Wednesdays to Sundays, 7 AM to 4 PM.

14. Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm tour

If you want more marine life experience besides snorkeling and whale-watching, check out the seahorse tour at Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kona.

This unique farm is located just 5 minutes from Kona airport. Reservations are required for this tour and can be booked on their website.  

15. Kanaloa Octopus farm tour

There is an Octopus farm near Seahorse Farm that allows tours as well. Kanaloa Octopus Farm is located in the Hawai’i Ocean Science and Technology Park behind the Kona International Airport.

If you want to visit both seahorse and octopus farms on the same day, make sure you visit the seahorse farm first.

Because of strict biosecurity rules in place, you will not be allowed to visit the Seahorse farm if you have been to any other aqua farm, including the Octopus farm, earlier that day. 

Top Historical and Cultural Attractions in Kona

Even though Hawaii is synonymous with beaches and resorts, Kona and the Big Island of Hawaii are home to some amazing places that represent the history and culture of native Hawaiians and are a must-see on your visit to Kona.

16. Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

The Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park in south Kona was a place of refuge for Hawaiian ancestors. Now, it’s open for visitors to explore and learn about this peaceful place.

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

The historical park is in a beautiful oceanfront setting with panoramic views. There is an easy walk to explore the cultural sites and the historical artifacts. You might even spot some Hawaiian green sea turtles resting on the beach here.

Visiting Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is one of the most popular historical Hawaii tourist attractions. My family loved looking at all the exhibits and the nice coastal walk with ocean views.

17. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is another coastal park south of Kona airport and has historical and cultural significance for the natives of Hawaii. There are some amazing fishponds here, and you can spot wildlife like turtles.

At this park, you can learn about the ancient Hawaiian culture, explore the trails, and enjoy the amazing coastal views. The beach here has calm waters and is good for kids. This is a great beach to spot green sea turtles!

Kona Big Island

There are no entrance fees here. Visiting Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is one of the free attractions in Kona.

18. Hulihee Palace

Hulihee Palace is in the heart of downtown Kona on Ali’i Drive. The Hulihee Palace has historical significance and was once a vacation home to the Hawaiian royalty. It is now converted into a museum showcasing royal artifacts.

Visit the Daughters of Hawaii official website for more information about hours of operation and to book a tour.

19. Mokuaikaua Church

Right across the street from Hulihee Palace is Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s oldest Christian church. This is a beautiful historic church right along Ali’i Drive. The church is still functional and holds services.

Visiting Mokuaikaua Church is one of the free sights in Kona.

20. ‘Painted Church’

St Benedict Catholic Church, also known as the Painted Church, is in South Kona and is a beautiful historic church and worth a visit if you have time.

The walls are painted with stories about early Hawaiian life. The grounds are beautiful, too. The church is still active. Check the open hours before your visit.

Visiting Painted Church is one of the things to do in Kona for free.

Best Day Trips from Kona

Kona is an excellent base to explore the Big Island, and you can make a lot of day trips to different parts of the Big Island.

Below are some of the best day trips from Kona, Hawaii. Make sure to start early in the day from Kona to maximize your exploration time.

21. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Making a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the best ways to spend a day on the Big Island. It is a bucket-list Hawaii tourist attraction and the most visited place on Big Island!

You can drive yourself or take one of the Big Island volcano tours from Kona.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is around a 2-hour drive each way from Kona. If making a day trip from Kona, make sure to start really early in the day.

The Halema`uma`u crater Overlook at the Volcano House is a great spot to see the steam rising from the Kilauea crater.

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail is a very popular thing to do in Volcanoes Park. On this hike, you will walk inside a volcano crater and rainforest and explore a huge lava tube!

Kilauea Volcano glow Big Island
Kilauea Volcano glow seen from Devastation Trail Big Island

Driving the Chain of Craters scenic drive all the way to the sea is another popular activity. At the end of the Chain of Craters road, you will see the unique Holei Sea Arch, a 90-foot-high arch carved in the lava rocks due to erosion by the ocean.

If there is volcanic activity happening in the park during your visit, you can do the short hike at sunset from the Devastation trail parking lot to the Kilauea overlook. We saw amazing lava glow as the Kilauea volcano erupted around our visit!

Alternatively, you can take a tour from Kona to explore the Volcanoes Park and ensure that you cover all the top sights.

These tours can also provide an amazing stargazing experience at the park. Volcanoes Park is miles away from light pollution and amazing for stargazing.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated Small Group Big Island Twilight Volcano and Stargazing Tour

22. Explore the town of Hilo

Explore Hilo town by visiting the downtown Hilo region. Hilo has a very laid-back, local vibe and has several interesting things to see and explore, like waterfalls and rainforests.

Hilo also makes a great base to explore the Volcanoes Park as it is closer, and there are several Hilo volcano tours that you can take instead of driving yourself.

Hilo is lush and green due to the large amounts of rainfall it receives. It actually rained every day we were in Hilo, but the rain was sporadic and never lasted more than an hour.

Coconut Island is a small island on Banyan Drive popular for swimming and taking in panoramic views of the ocean and Mauna Kea mountain peak. On a clear day, you can even see the observatories on the top.

Downtown Hilo
Downtown Hilo

The Banyan Drive is a great street to walk around and admire the huge banyan trees, many of which were planted by celebrities. It is also called the ‘Hilo Walk of Fame‘.

Liliuokalani Park is a beautiful Japanese-style garden near Coconut Island, great for a stroll.

Hilo has several spectacular waterfalls to explore as Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Peepee Falls. Akaka Falls in Akaka State Park is the most impressive waterfall in Hilo.

➡ Check rates and availability for this highly rated Hilo shore excursion tour that combines Volcanoes National Park and Hilo sights!

23. Day trip to Papakolea green sand beach and South Point

Papakolea green sand beach is on the southernmost part of the Big Island. It takes around 2 hours to drive each way to reach this beach’s parking lot from Kona.

The hike to the green sand beach from the parking lot is another 6-mile round trip. The hike is along the coastal bluffs and sand dunes, and it can be very windy here. Sunglasses are a must for this hike.

The green sand beach is unique, and the sand is made of olivine crystals, giving it a slightly greenish appearance. The surf is very rough here and not suitable for swimming.

The South Point is the southernmost tip of the Big Island and a great place with coastal views to stop by on the way to the green sand beach.

24. Visit the unique Punaluu black sand beach

Punaluu Black Sand Beach is on the southeast part of the Big Island and is a must-see Hawaii attraction! This beautiful black sand beach is easily accessible from the parking lot and has an amazing stretch of soft black sand and lava rocks.

Punaluu black sand beach Big Island
Punaluu black sand beach in Big Island

The black sand is made of tiny particles of black lava rocks. This is also a great place to spot sea turtles. We saw several turtles in the few hours we were there!

It is free to visit the Punaluu black sand beach. We did not notice any parking meters when we parked there.

25. Visit the Waipio Valley and drive the scenic Hamakua coast

Waipio Valley, considered one of the world’s most beautiful locations, holds a significant spiritual significance for the island’s inhabitants.

Waipio valley lookout big island
Waipio Valley Overlook in Big Island

At the parking lot, visitors can take in the awe-inspiring vistas of the valley from an overlook. The outlook also provides a view of Waipio’s black sand beach.

If you have an additional day to spare in Hilo, it’s worth driving towards the picturesque Hamakua coast to the north.

The stretch between Waipio Valley and Hilo offers a scenic route with several charming plantation towns, cascading waterfalls, and awe-inspiring views and panoramas on the way.

➡ Check rates and availability of this private full day Hamakua Coast and Sugar Tour from Kailua-Kona – includes Waipio Valley’s black sand beach, Hilo waterfalls, Hamakua coast, and Mauna Loa Volcano.

26. Visit the Pololu Valley lookout

Pololu Valley Lookout, in the northeast part of the Big Island, is an oceanfront vista point with stunning views and a hiking trail to the beach.

Parking is limited here, but there is street parking as well. If you plan to hike to the beach, ensure you have proper shoes, as the trail is steep and rocky but doable.

Best beaches in and near Kona

The western coast of Hawaii is home to some of the best white sand beaches, apart from the snorkeling spots mentioned above. You will find some great beaches in and near the Kona region.

27. Maniniʻowali Beach

Maniniʻowali Beach in Kua Kay is a small, secluded white sand beach in North Kona. This beach is part of Kekaha Kai State Park and is very popular with locals and tourists for swimming and snorkeling. The beach gets crowded fast on the weekends, so come early in the day.

The water here is quite clear, and you can see a variety of fish and sea turtles too. You might even see some whales! The waves are sometimes strong, so be careful.

There is a parking lot, showers, and restrooms here. There is no food nearby, so bring your own. There might be an occasional food truck. Also, this beach has no shade, so avoid very hot afternoons. Bring an umbrella!

This is a great place to watch the sunset, but keep in mind during the summer that the park gates close at 7 PM.

Visiting Maniniʻowali Beach is one of the free Kona attractions.

28. Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach is a gorgeous, secluded white sand beach in North Kona. Getting to this beach requires around a 2-mile hike across lava fields, making it less crowded even on weekends.

Once you make it to Makalawena Beach after the hike, the beach itself is very beautiful, with clear waters and wildlife like fish and turtles. Excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and tide pooling.

There are no facilities at this beach like restrooms or parking. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended for hiking across the lava fields. The terrain is quite rough with the lava rocks.

Visiting Makalawena Beach is one of the free Kona activities.

29. Hapuna Beach

Located in the Waikoloa region of Big Island, Hapuna Beach is one of the best white sand beaches to the north of Kona. This was my family’s favorite beach of all the Big Island beaches we went to!

Its expansive white sandy shoreline and its family-friendly atmosphere make it an ideal spot for families. We found a cave at one end of the beach, and it was a cool spot to take some pictures.

This beach is right next to the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. There is a large paid parking lot next to the beach.

30. Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach, situated in the Waikoloa region of the Big Island to the north of Kona, is another fantastic, family-friendly white sand beach.

Adjacent to the Mauna Kea resort, the beach offers a peaceful atmosphere, stunning powdery white sand, and a wide shoreline to walk on.

While parking is available at the beach, it is paid, and the lot is smaller than some other nearby beaches. We had to circle back a few times before a parking spot opened up. It might be challenging to find a parking spot in the mornings.

Best hikes in and near Kona

Kona makes a great base for hiking enthusiasts as it provides convenient access to the most popular hikes on the Big Island.

31. Walk along Alii drive

This is more of a leisurely coastal stroll/walk to browse the shops on Alii Drive and take in the coastal views. Alii Drive starts a little north of Kailua Pier in downtown Kona and goes around 12 miles south.

You can just walk a portion of it and turn back. Make a lot of stops to explore Kona. Walking on Alii Drive is one of the best free activities in Kona, unless of course you are like me and love souvenir shopping!

32. Hike to Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach, located in North Kona, is a stunning and secluded white sand beach that can only be accessed via a 2-mile hike across rugged lava fields.

It is highly recommended to wear closed-toe shoes while hiking across the rough terrain of lava rocks.

Hikers should also be aware that there is no shade along the way, so it is essential to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated during the hike.

It is also important to note that no facilities, such as restrooms or parking, are available at the beach. It is free to hike Makalawena Beach in Kona.

33. Hike to Captain Cook Monument

The Kaawaloa Captain Cook Monument hike is a total 4-mile out-and-back hike in south Kona and is quite intense with around 1250 feet elevation.

The hike down to the monument is easy, but it is quite difficult to climb back up. Make sure to save your water for the climb on the way out while doing this hike.

There is excellent snorkeling at the Captain Cook monument, which makes the hike worth it. Also, the ocean views going down to the base are stunning.

34. Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach

Papakolea Green Sand Beach hike is in the southern part of the Big Island and around a 1.5-hour drive each way from Kona. The hike to reach Papakolea green sand beach is a 6-mile long hike along the ocean.

Papakolea green sand beach
Papakolea green sand beach

There is no shade anywhere on this hike, and it can get windy and dusty due to the sand. Note that this is a very secluded area, and there are no restrooms or water past the parking lot. So carry enough water with you on a hot day.

Hiking and visiting Papakolea green sand beach is one of the free things to do near Kona.

35. Kilauea Iki Crater Hike

Kilauea Iki Trail is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is one of the best hikes on the Big Island.

What makes this hike so unique is that it takes you through the hardened lava lake inside the volcano crater, as well as a beautiful and lush rainforest. Plus at the end, you can visit the super cool Thurston lava tube! 

The hike is a 3-mile loop with a 700 feet elevation gain. I recommend doing the hike counterclockwise, starting from the right side of the parking lot, which is what we did.

That way, you walk through the cool rainforest towards the end of the hike, after the crater walk, which has no shade and can get hot on a sunny day.

Kilauea Iki Crater hike
Kilauea Iki Crater hike

It around takes around 2 hours to drive each way to reach Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Kona.

I recommend staying overnight in Hilo or at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to minimize driving time. We stayed in Hilo for two nights and spent a full day at Volcanoes Park.

36. Pololu Valley hike

Pololu Valley is around a 1.5-hour drive from Kona and on the northern Kohala coast of Big Island, Hawaii.

Pololu Valley trail is a 1 mile out and back hike from the Pololu Valley Lookout to the Pololu Valley and the black sand beach. The trail is very steep and rocky and slippery if wet. Good hiking shoes or sneakers are recommended.

The parking lot is small, but there is street parking as well. The valley behind the beach is private property, so it is advisable to stick to the Pololu lookout, the marked trail, and the beach.

37. Akaka Falls hike

Akaka Falls hike is in the Akaka Falls state park in the Hilo region. This is more like a leisurely stroll through a beautifully maintained rainforest.

Akaka falls in Big Island
Akaka Falls on Big Island

You can access the Akaka Falls overlook via a short, easy, and paved trail that meanders through a stunning and dense rainforest.

The Akaka waterfall itself is an impressive sight, with a 422-foot drop surrounded by lush greenery. The trail loop spans just half a mile, making it accessible to most people.

Best restaurants in and near Kona

There are several amazing restaurants in and near Kona. Below are the ones we tried:

38. The Coffee Shack

The Coffee Shack in Kona is so worth it for the views! Try to get a seat in the inside room next to the window. The views were amazing here, and so were the pies. Liliokai pie was delicious! The geckos roaming on the window were so cute.

39. Island Ono Loa Grill

Island Ono Loa Grill in Kona is a great non-fussy eatery serving delicious fire-grilled food like burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, and Hawaiian lunch plates. They also have vegetarian options.

40. Lava Lava Beach Club

Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa is another very popular beachfront restaurant in Waikaloa. Great sunset views and a very relaxed vibe. They have lawn games and live music.

41. Merriman’s Big Island

Merriman’s Big Island in Waimea is a very popular restaurant. Little on the pricey side, but the food is worth the price. Reservations are highly recommended for this one.

42. Gypsea Gelato

Gypsea Gelato in Kona is great for ice cream! The Mauka trail flavor is so good with macadamia nuts, chocolate, and coffee. Yum!

43. James Angelo’s Underground Pizza

James Angelo’s Underground Pizza in Waimea served us the most delicious New York-style pizza I have ever eaten! The tiramisu was very good as well. Make sure to sit at the Godfather table and click a picture!

44. Pineapples restaurant

Pineapples restaurant is great in downtown Hilo. The food was good, and the pineapple drinks were amazing.

This was the first restaurant we tried on the Big Island, as we drove straight from the airport to Hilo and stopped at Pineapples. The open-air restaurant had cool Hawaiian vibes and was a great first experience of dining in Hawaii.

45. Ken’s House of Pancakes

Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo is a 24-hour Diner with classic American food and Hawaiian cuisine.

Where to stay in Kona, Hawaii

Kona offers a range of hotel options that cater to different budgets. The northern Waikoloa region of Kona has the larger, brand-name resorts.

➡ Check out my detailed article about the best resorts in Big Island and what amenities they offer!

Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is a highly sought-after resort due to its prime location in Kona downtown and beachfront access. It is popular resort with families.

The Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa (formerly known as the Sheraton Kona) is a good resort offering stunning views of Keauhou Bay. Guests can witness the spectacular sight of the nightly manta ray feeding show from the resort viewing area.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is an exceptional luxury resort that offers world-class luxury amenities and services like a championship golf course, multiple swimming pools, a full-service spa, a fitness center, and various dining options.

Most brand-name resorts in the Big Island are in the Waikoloa region, which is just 20 minutes north of Kona by car. This is the most popular area with tourists and has the best white sand beaches, like Hapuna Beach and Mauna Kea Beach.

Hilton Waikoloa Village is a grand resort, complete with its own tram to transport guests between buildings! The resort has a lagoon with dolphin shows and a massive swimming pool complex. The oceanfront setting is perfect for experiencing breathtaking sunset views in the evenings.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is in a prime location, just a short walk from the beautiful Anaeho’omalu Bay. It has a huge outdoor pool area and a beachfront to enjoy stunning sunsets after your island excursions.

Westin Hapuna Beach Resort is a luxurious resort located on the beautiful Kohala Coast that offers guests easy access to the stunning Hapuna Beach, which is among the top beaches in Hawaii.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection is yet another luxury resort situated next to Mauna Kea Beach and has great resort amenities.

Hilo region also has some hotels, and it is generally cheaper than Kona.

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is a great option to stay in Hilo, with its oceanfront setting and proximity to Coconut Island.

Grand Naniloa Hotel, a Doubletree by Hilton is another oceanfront hotel on Banyan drive and the only brand-name hotel in Hilo.

Check rates and availability for your stay in Kona, Hawaii

Between Hilo vs Kona, I would recommend spending more days in Kona than in Hilo. We stayed five nights in Kona and two nights in Hilo.

Travel Tips and FAQs about Kona, Hawaii

Below are some travel tips and frequently asked questions about Kona and the Island of Hawaii to help you plan your trip.

When is the best time to visit Kona, Hawaii?

Kona is on the drier side of the Big Island of Hawaii (also called the leeward side) and has sunny weather year-round. It does rain in Kona, but the rainy season is typically November to March in the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Thanksgiving week in November and the two weeks of winter break are the busiest tourist seasons, and prices are generally high for flights, hotels, and rental cars. The summer break months of June, July, and August also see a high influx of visitors to Kona.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly trip to Kona, then the shoulder months of September to mid-November and mid-January to mid-March are comparatively the cheapest and least crowded months to visit Kona.

Is Kona worth visiting?

Kona in the Big Island of Hawaii is a world-class destination famous for snorkeling with the manta rays, amazing white sand beaches, brand-name resorts, whale watching and sunset cruises, luaus, and historical and cultural sites.

It is a great base for day trips to Volcanoes National Park and to explore rainforests and waterfalls in Hilo.

The weather in Kona is perfect year-round, with it being on the drier side of the Big Island, making it 100% worth visiting!

How to get to Kona, Hawaii?

Flying in the Kona International Airport is the best way to get to Kona, Hawaii, from within the US or internationally. Big Island has another small airport in Hilo, and if you are coming from another Hawaiian island, you can fly into Hilo as well and then drive to Kona.

How to get around Kona and Big Island?

If you are planning to just chill in the resort or beach in Kona, you might probably be able to get around by taxi to restaurants and by booking excursions from Kona.

But most visitors use Kona as a base to explore other parts of the Big Island like Volcanoes National Park, waterfalls and rainforests in Hilo, and other beaches. Big Island is huge in size; it takes a couple of hours to drive west to east on Big Island, and it is best explored by car.

It is ideal to rent a car while on the Big Island, and I recommend using Discover Cars as they check the top car rental brands and offer the best rates.

How far is Kona from Volcano Park?

Kona is 83 miles away from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and it takes around 2 hours to drive from Kona to Volcanoes Park. If making a day trip from Kona to Volcanoes Park, I recommend starting early in the day, around 7 AM.

What is Kona known for?

Kona is world-famous for snorkeling with the manta rays and other water activities like surfing and scuba diving. Kona is also well known for Kona coffee, considered one of the best coffees in the world.

Kona has some of the best beaches in Hawaii, like Hapuna Beach, and is home to many historic sites like the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

How do I spend a day in Kona?

If you have only one day in Kona, you can take a Kona coffee farm tour during the day and in the evening, snorkel with the manta rays in this sunset and manta ray snorkel tour.

Alternatively, you can do a day tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and explore the Punaluu black sand beach on the southeast part of this island.

What to do in Kona before the flight?

Ocean Rider Sea Horse Farm and Kanaloa Octopus Farm are both near Kona International Airport and can be explored in a couple of hours if you have time before your flight.

Remember to visit the sea horse farm first because if you visit the Octopus farm first, you will not be allowed to visit the Sea horse farm due to the biosecurity rules in place.

What are some unique things to do in Kona?

Snorkeling with the majestic manta rays is the most unique thing to do in Kona. Kona is home to historical sites such as Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which is sacred to the people of Hawaii.

Kona is world famous for Kona coffee, and taking a tour of a Kona coffee farm is one of the unique things to do in Kona.

How many days do you need in Kona?

You need at least 2-3 days to explore everything that Kona has to offer, from world-class snorkeling and water activities to beautiful beaches, hikes, and Kona downtown.

If you plan to explore other parts of the Big Island from Kona, like the Volcanoes National Park, waterfalls and rainforests in Hilo, Waipio Valley, and the green and black sand beaches, you should plan for at least five days in Big Island or Kona, Hawaii. We spent seven days on the Big Island during our trip.

Final Takeaways: Best activities and things to do in Kona, Hawaii

Kona is a beach town with a touristy vibe on the Big Island of Hawaii and has a lot of excursions and activities to enjoy for people of all ages and skill levels.

You can enjoy manta ray snorkeling, whale watching, helicopter tours, volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, hikes, historical sites, beautiful white, black, and green sand beaches, and more in Kona.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post about the best things to do in Kona. Add a few of them (or all!) to your Big Island vacation itinerary, and have an awesome time in Kona, Hawaii!

Below is a summary to help you plan your visit to Kona:

Top attractions and activities in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii:

Best places to stay in Kona:

Planning to drive yourself around Big Island?

You will need a rental car! I recommend booking your rental car with Discover cars, as they check the top rental car brands and offer the best rates!

Related Posts

Planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii? Check out my other posts from my trip to Big Island of Hawaii: