Kailua-Kona is often referred to simply as Kona, is a city in the North Kona District on the Island of Hawai’I in the island state of Hawaii. The city is famous for its stunning coastline, outdoor activities, and coffee production. If you are visiting this city, you will find a vast array of things to enjoy during your stay. These vary from outdoor activities to attractions relating to the history of the area. To help you plan your visit to this beautiful part of the world, here are the 20 best things to do in Kona, HI for first-timers.
20. Have Fun at a Big Island Luau
Hawaii is famous for its Luau, which is entertainment involving traditional Hawaiian music and dancing. Not only is seeing Luau fun, but it is also a wonderful way to enjoy the traditions and culture of the islands. In Kona, there are several venues where you can enjoy a Luau. Explore the Big Island lists some of the top venues as Sheraton Keahou Bay Resort, Royal Kona Resort, and Kona Beach Hotel. You might even get the chance to take part in a performance.
19. Try Kona Sport Fishing
Another activity for which Kona is famous is sport fishing. Many fishing enthusiasts travel to this part of the world specifically to go fishing. Charter boats can take you out to enjoy some deep-sea sport fishing during your visit to Kona. If you are new to fishing, there are options for beginners, and equipment hire is available.
18. Enjoy a Manta Ray Night Snorkel
Although many people enjoy snorkeling in the day, going snorkeling at night is an entirely different experience. Manta rays are unique to the Big Island, and they come out at night. If you are scuba certified, then you can go out at night on your own. Those who have less experience can book a manta ray night scuba tour with one of the local operators. Swimming amongst these beautiful creatures in the dark is an amazing and unique experience.
17. Try the Seafood at Umekes
There are some outstanding places to eat in Kona, and seafood is often the highlight of the menus. If you want to sample some of the fresh, locally caught seafood, then one of the best places to dine is at Umekes. According to Be My Travel Muse, this restaurant is famous for its poke and seafood. They have two locations in Kona; one on Kaiwi Street and the other at Ali’i Plaza. Although both venues have the same owners, each has its own menu and atmosphere. Therefore, you might like to try both during your stay.
16. Stroll Around Kona Farmer’s Market
Hawaii has some wonderful produce, and one of the best places to sample some of the freshly grown goods is at the Kona Farmer’s Market. This is open from Wednesday through to Saturday, and the stalls set up at 7 am. Although most of the stalls sell fresh fruit and vegetables, there are also coffee vendors, flower stalls, and people selling local arts and crafts. There are also a couple of food stalls where you can grab a bite to eat of something that is made using local produce.
15. Hike in the Waipio Valley
Hiking is a popular activity in Hawaii, and there are plenty of great hiking trails around Kona to explore. Hula Land Blog recommends hiking in the Waipio Valley. Apparently, this is the most photographed spot on the Big Island, and it sits along the north shore. If you are an inexperienced hiker, it is best to take a tour as the terrain is challenging in this area. There are some fantastic photograph opportunities along the hike, and you will get up close and personal with some of the island’s wildlife.
14. Go to the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
Although you may not associate Hawaii with chocolate, it is where some of the most exclusive cacao in the world are cultivated. Head to the slopes of the Hualalai Mountain, and you will find the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. The cocoa beans are hand-picked, sun-dried, and then processed. You can take a tour of both the farm and the factory, and these tours last for approximately one hour. This is an amazing experience for chocolate lovers. You also have a chance to sample their products and to buy some chocolate to take home.
13. Go Surfing
The activity for which Hawaii is probably the most famous is surfing. If you are a surfing enthusiast, then you will have the chance to surf in one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Even those who have never tried surfing before can have the chance to give this activity a go during their vacation. There are plenty of instructors and equipment hire places along the coast. If surfing seems a bit adventurous for you then, you may prefer to try paddleboarding or longboarding as these are tamer activities that require a little less skill.
12. See the Waterfalls
The Big Island is home to some of the most magnificent waterfalls you will ever see, including Kohala Waterfalls. There are tours that take you on an eight-hour excursion to see the waterfalls. This involves a lot of hiking through some of the Big Island’s most scenic parts. The guide will teach you about your surrounding environment as you walk to the falls. Once you reach your destination, you will have the chance to swim in the pool below the cascading waterfalls. Take along your camera to capture the wonder of the cascades.
11. Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Island
A fantastic way to see Kona and any other part of the Big Island is to get a bird’s eye view. There are many tour operators that have airplane or helicopter tours. This will give you a different perspective of the stunning natural landmarks and the spectacular coastline. If you are brave enough, there are also skydiving centers in the area. Airplane and helicopter tours are some of the pricier activities to enjoy on the island, but they are worth the cost for the experience they offer.
10. Enjoy a Submarine Ride with Atlantis Adventures
Snorkeling and scuba diving are not the only ways that you can explore the wonders of the waters surrounding Kona. If you prefer to keep dry, then you can take a ride on a submarine with Atlantis Adventures. This eco-friendly submarine takes you 100 feet below the surface so that you can see the tropical fish, turtles, eels, stingrays, and sharks in their natural habitat. Each of the tours takes approximately 45 minutes. This activity is a good option if you have younger children who are too young to snorkel and would otherwise not have the opportunity to see the magic that lies below the surface.
9. Visit Hulihee Palace
This historic property was built in 1838, and it was a summer home to the royals throughout the 19th-century. Now, this Victorian-style home is open to the public. It is filled with antique furniture, artwork, and textiles that will take you back in time and give you a glimpse of what life was like for the royals in the past. There are guided tours of the Hulihee Palace twice a day, and a free concert takes place at this venue once a month.
8. Take a Coffee Tour
Kona is famous for its production of coffee, and five different varieties are grown in this part of the world. It is worth booking yourself on one of the coffee tours to learn more about coffee production on the island. The guided tours will take you to see the beautiful coffee plantation, where you will learn about the cultivation, picking, processing, roasting, and brewing of the coffee beans. Some tours offer the opportunity for you to roast your own batch of coffee with the supervision of one of the roastmasters. Your roasted coffee beans are then gift wrapped for you to take home. One of the best coffee tours is of Mountain Joe Coffee Farm, as the tours are free.
7. Go to the Kanaloa Octopus Farm
An unusual activity and one that both adults and children will love is a visit to the Kanaloa Octopus Farm. Cephalopods, such as squid and octopus, are sustainably raised for research, aquariums, and hobbyists. It sits next to the beach so that they can pump the fresh saltwater from the ocean directly into the breeding tanks. There are guided tours of the octopus farm every day, so you can learn interesting facts about these creatures. You will also have the chance to interact with them.
6. Visit Puuhonua-o-Honaunau National Historical Park
One of the most sacred historic sites in Hawaii, this national park is a place where you can learn about the history, heritage, and culture of Hawaii. One of the highlights is the 17-foot thick Great Wall, which features totem-like images of the gods protecting the sacred temple. There are also the ancient fishing pools and the royal canoe landing beach. Every day, guided ranger talks take place, and this will give you a clearer insight into the relevance of the park and its history.
5. Spend a Day in Kailua Village
Vacation Idea recommends spending a day in Kailua Village. This historic location was once a small fishing village on the coastline of Kona. However, it is now a lively coastal town that offers shopping, dining, and various leisure options. It is also home to some interesting historic properties, including the Hulihee Palace and Mokuaikaua Church.
4. Explore Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park
Those who are interested in the long and unique history of Hawaii should visit the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. This is a designated Hawaiian Heritage Site that has historical, cultural, and national significance. It is a chance to learn how the native Hawaiians lived in the past by building lava stone walls, thatched-roofed houses, and making engineered fishponds. Around the park, you will also see petroglyphs. The park leads to the beach, so not only is it an educational place to visit, but it is also in a beautiful setting.
3. Spend Time at Manini’owali Beach
The coastline of Kona is spectacular, and there are some amazing stretches of beach. Manini’owali Beach, sometimes called Kua bay, is considered one of the best beaches on the big island. This crescent-shaped stretch of beach boasts pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters. People go to relax, take a walk, swim in the ocean, or try boogie boarding. This activity is a good option if you are visiting Kona on a budget as you can spend a few hours on the beach at no cost, and even enjoy a picnic.
2. Try Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
Many people who visit Kona do so to go scuba diving and snorkeling, as these are some of the most popular activities in this area amongst locals and tourists alike. Even novices can have a go as there are instructors available to take you out, teach you the basics, and allow you to experience the underwater wonders of Kona. The waters around Kona are home to creatures including tropical fish, dolphins, and Hawaiian sea turtles.
1. Climb to the Mauna Kea Summit
According to the Hawaii Guide, the best things to do in Kona, HI for first-timers is to climb to the Mauna kea summit. It is the tallest mountain in the world, although its height is measured from its base on the seafloor, and a lot of the mountain is below the surface. The views from the summit are spectacular, and it is a popular place for stargazing as the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy is on the way up. At the top, you will breathe some of the cleanest air in the world.
Written by Liz Flynn
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