On the western side of the Big Island of Hawaii sits sunny Kailua-Kona. This town of about 15,000 residents is the center of commerce and the tourist industry on the western half of Hawaii’s largest island. Served by the Kona International Airport, it’s definitely a favorite destination for tourists! Being the tourism hub of the area, there is no shortage of things to do in Kailua-Kona! Whether you’re planning your getaway to the Big Island or just daydreaming, check out our 5 best Kona, Hawaii things to do. (Bonus: We even included some that are free!)
”Interesting fact: There is also a town called Kailua on the island of Oahu. It’s easy to get these confused, so make sure you are looking at the right island as you plan your trip!
5 Best Things to Do in Kailua-Kona
Bonus! Top 3 Things to Do in Kona For Free
1. Go on a Big Island ATV Tour or Polynesian Wood Carving Tour with Aloha Adventure Farms
Come experience the magic and adventure of Polynesia at Aloha Adventure Farms. There are two tours to choose from:
- On our ATV Tour, you’ll get to drive an ATV (ages 16 and up) or be chauffeured in a UTV through an organic Kona coffee farm and up into the jungle. Your journey will take you through different villages that represent the islands of Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. Play games, taste new things, and learn all about what makes Polynesia so special!
- Our second adventure, the Polynesian Wood Carving Tour, allows you to carve your very own tiki to take home with you. No experience necessary! It can sound daunting at first, but trust us, our master carver is amazing and one of a kind! Everyone walks away with not just a souvenir, but something to pass on for generations to come.
2. Experience a One-Of-A-Kind Manta Ray Dive
By far one of the coolest things to do in Kona is a manta ray adventure. Yeah, we know it can seem a little creepy getting in the ocean when it’s dark, but trust us, it’s amazing! Watch these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. There are only a few places in the world where this can be done!
3. Kayak / snorkel at Kealakekua Bay (and swim with dolphins!)
About 20 miles south of downtown Kona is Kealakekua Bay, where the infamous Captain Cook landed in 1779. The bay is widely believed to be the site of the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii — how could it not be when it looks like this? However, this treasure is well guarded, as the snorkeling spots can really only be reached by a strenuous hike. A better option is kayaking across the bay on your own. We really recommend Bayside Adventures. They are right on the bay, no hauling your kayak, affordable, and best of all no time restrictions on your kayak! Also there is often a pod of dolphins here which can be pretty magical to see. Please respect them and don’t chase them. Keep your distance to keep them and you safe! As it can get quite busy, we definitely recommend making a reservation.
4. Visit a Coffee Farm and Try Kona Coffee
There are several nearby coffee farms to choose from. A fabulous organic coffee farm is Holualoa Kona Coffee Company. Award-winning, run by fabulous hard-working ladies, it’s a great stop to make!
5. Spend the day at Anaeho’omalu Beach (30 miles north of Kona)
The beach is protected by an offshore reef, keeping the water calm and providing ideal circumstances for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. You also have the option of renting outdoor equipment to play with for the day, like kayaks, hydrobikes, and bodyboards.
1. Take a Walking Tour of Town
Kona is steeped in history and Hawaiian culture, and taking a walking tour of the town is a free and fascinating way to spend a few hours. Starting at Coconut Grove Marketplace, you can work your way south and experience ‘Ahu‘ena Heiau, which was King Kamehameha the Great’s personal temple, Moku‘aikaua Church, Hulihe‘e Palace, the historic Kona Inn, and more. Also, Kona town is chock-full of eclectic shops and art galleries. A haven for artists and craftspeople, one could spend hours just taking in the unique and creative artworks and handicrafts throughout the town. Take a stroll down Ali‘i Drive; you’re bound to see plenty of unusual displays that will stop you in your tracks.
2. Go Beach Hopping
The Kona Coast boasts the most beautiful beaches and calm waters on the Big Island, and there is no shortage of them. Right in Kona town, you will find Kamakahonu Beach, Keiki Ponds (a great place for those with young children), Magic Sands Beach, and Honi’s Beach, which is a popular surf spot. Just north of Kona is Old Airport Beach and Kekaha Kai State Recreation Area, which encompasses four beautiful beaches including picturesque Manini‘owali Beach and Makole’a Black Sand Beach. Please check with the lifeguards on duty or government of Hawaii websites for the latest conditions and information on entry.
3. Hike at Kekaha Kai State Park
Beautiful Kekaha Kai State Park runs along the coast just north of Kona and encompasses three stunning white sand beaches, a black sand beach, two bays, two inland ponds, and a cinder cone. The trail is an 8.5-mile loop; however, you can hike as far or near as you want. Be sure to wear rugged shoes and bring water and sunscreen. To get there, take Highway 19 north. Between mile markers 88 and 89 turns left at the sign for Kekaha Kai State Park.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the best things to do in Kona, Hawaii!
There are numerous options for excursions and things to do in Kona, Hawaii. We also have resources to help you plan your Kona vacation, see the Big Island with kids, and execute the best Big Island Hawaii road trip itinerary.