The Big Island is my favorite area to visit out of all the islands in Hawaii. You won’t find all the tourists flocking to it as you’ll see in Maui or Oahu, and there is much room to explore on the island. Kona is one of the main cities on the island and where most people stay, and it makes a convenient base for your trip. There are also numerous things to do in Kona if you don’t feel like going far.
You can choose to make your trip as active or as relaxing as you want by picking and choosing from the list below. The first time I visited in 2016, I wanted to be as active as possible during my time there. Knowing what to pack for Hawaii before you go will also make your trip easier so you can bring everything you need. For example, I made sure to bring sturdy walking shoes since I planned on walking around and exploring every day.
From scuba diving to visiting historical sites, here are some of the best things to do in Kona next time you visit.
The facts in the post have been checked and updated as of March 2021.
Explore Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
If you prefer your Kona activities to include a mix of outdoors and ancient Hawaiian culture, then this historical park is the ideal spot for that. It’s located north of Kona, making it an easy afternoon trip. You’ll find some amazing hiking trails and natural scenery as well as some unique petroglyphs. This is a great place to start your drive around the Big Island if you’re exploring for the day.
There’s a visitor center where you’ll find all the necessary information on what to see and do here. Visiting Kaloko-Honokohau is one of the best things to do in Kona because you’ll learn about the very unique history of the first settlers of the islands.
Visit Kanaloa Octopus Farm
Where you’re looking into what to do in Kona, make sure to check out the amazing octopus farm. It’s located right by the beach, which gives it access to fresh seawater. Here you’ll learn and interact with octopi and squids, and you’ll even have a chance to feed them.
This facility is also equipped for researching these creatures. There are daily tours being offered, but make sure to book in advance, as it’s one of the more popular things to see in Kona.
Go Scuba Diving
One of the top things to do in Kona among water lovers is diving. With the water always being so clear and visibility high, it’d be a shame to miss out on something so spectacular. Numerous spots around Kona are ideal for diving.
There are plenty of underwater species to discover as well as reefs to explore. Diving is one of my favorite activities and I actually learned how to do it and got certified in Kona. I went to Jack’s Diving Locker, but there are multiple places to choose from. Just read their reviews and make sure they’re certified.
Take a Tour of Hulihee Palace
This palace was originally built in the early 1800s to serve as a summer home for the king. It’s a Victorian-style vacation home and it’s furnished with beautiful and ornate furniture. Nowadays it serves as a museum and it displays many relics of that era.
There are also daily tours offered at this lovely Kona activity place and each month there is a Palace Concert with the Palace Band. It’s one of the best things to do in Kona, especially if you’re a fan of history and music.
Taste the Local Coffee
There are over 600 coffee farms around Kona. That’s because this region of the island is considered to be a coffee country. Kona coffee is one of the world’s leading types of coffee and is sought after in many parts of the world. While you can easily sample it in the many coffee shops and restaurants, one of the most unique things to do in Kona is going on a coffee tour.
There are usually walking tours that will you take you to some of the farms where you’ll sample some of the freshest coffee on the island. Make sure to buy a bag to take home during this Kona activity!
Shop at the Farmers Market
Sampling foods in the Farmers Market
Trinkets, arts, and crafts are also sold in the Farmers Markets and they represent the incredible cultural diversity present on the island. I purchased some beautiful handmade clothing when I was here last time. Make sure to add the Farmer’s Market on your list of what to do in Kona.
Relax at Keahou Bay
Relaxing on this wonderful bay has always been one of the best things to near Kona. It’s been a popular vacation spot for a long time now as its beaches are simply stunning. Watersports are readily available because the waters are clear and calm, and it’s one of the things to do in Kona for free.
Diving and snorkeling are popular activities that will allow you to see giant manta rays and many other species of marine wildlife. When you’re figuring out what to do in Kona, make sure to put
Go Underwater in a Submarine
If you’ve ever wanted to dive underwater in an air-conditioned submarine while you’re surrounded by marine creatures, then this is a dream come true. Atlantis Adventures gives anyone the chance to experience the pure magic that is Hawaii’s underwater heaven.
This is one of the most amazing things to do in Kona, especially from an ecological point of view. It promotes understanding the oceans, and the entire 45-minute trip is completely eco-friendly.
Spend the Evening at a Luau
A luau is often considered a must-do when it comes to experiencing Hawaiian culture and one of the best fun things to do in Kona. It’s a lively event often held in gorgeous surroundings accompanied by great music and even better food. Attending this is one of my favorite things to do in Kona, so you’ll want to add it to your 5 day Big Island itinerary.
You will be surrounded by hundreds of people, all enjoying the same festivities as you. Definitely put it on your list when considering what to do in Kona. It’s a fun social event and a great way to spend your evening.
Stroll Through Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens
Hawaii’s climate is lush, exotic, and pretty much perfect for plant life. There are numerous different species of plants and flowers that grow in Hawaii’s rainforest. These botanical gardens are dedicated to Sadie Seymour, who focused on beautifying Kona’s community and its surrounding region.
The gardens are comprised of different terraces that represent Hawaii’s separate ecosystems. It’s one of the most relaxing things to do in Kona, and it offers plenty of scenic views. It’s a Kona activity that’s enjoyable to many people, as it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the island.
View Mokuaikaua Church
This Kona attraction is, in fact, the oldest Christian church in Hawaii. It’s also one of the most endangered historical sites in the United States. It was originally constructed in the 19th century and is a direct remnant of the first American missionaries that visited the island.
The structure is built from the stones of an ancient Hawaiian temple and its interior is intricately designed from Koa wood. Visiting it is one of the most interesting things to do in Kona.
Spend the Day at Kamakahonu Beach
Considered one of the gentlest beaches on the island, Kamakahonu Beach is also the spot of the final home of King Kamehameha II. It’s also one of the safest beaches on Kona, which is why it’s been nicknamed the Children’s Beach. Many of the king’s buildings can still be found here.
Some of them are where the king used to hold office while some are old, important temples. When you don’t know what to do in Kona, you can’t go wrong with a mix of lounging on the beach and old Hawaiian history.
Tour Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
This national park is considered one of the most sacred sites in Hawaii. It’s an old refuge and is an important cultural and historical place in Hawaii. It’s a very spiritual place and there are daily talks with the rangers of the park. They’ll offer guidance on what to see and do in this spiritual part of the island.
Some of the highlights include the Great Wall as well as some ancient wooden totems. Those totems are carved in the shape of the gods and were believed to protect the island from misfortune. The royal canoe landing beach and the ancient fishing pools are also popular spots for a visit.
Try the Local Food and Drink
Hawaiian drinks and food are delicious and one of my favorite reasons to visit. Whether you like drinking a mai tai by the beach or eating fresh seafood, there’s an option for everyone.
- Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse – This Alaskan favorite has a Hawaiian location too that focuses on local seafood. Their beer selection is also great, as it’s procured from the many local breweries.
- Umeke’s – Poke is their specialty but Lau Lau is also a favorite of many. Umeke’s also has a full bar but there is also an outdoor seating area so that you can enjoy the amazing atmosphere of Kona.
- Da Poke Shack – This is hands-down my favorite restaurant in Kona. Fresh seafood is always on the menu and poke is obviously a specialty. Shrimp and octopus are also available.
- Kona Canoe Club – One of the best things about the Canoe Club is the views. Every afternoon meal is always accompanied by a relaxing sunset. They serve a variety of appetizers like pupus, entrees, salads, and sandwiches. (this is temporarily closed as of March 2021)
Join a Big Island Tour
Want to sign up for a tour in Hawaii? There are plenty that will take you around the island so you don’t have to rent a car.
Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling Tour
The waters on the Kona coast are some of the clearest and biodiverse waters in the entire wider region. There are plenty of unique and amazing species of marine life. One of the best Big Island tours is sailing along the Kona coast on a luxury yacht where one could explore some of the finest snorkeling spots.
This means that along with the many different species of marine life you could see, you will also be able to spot dolphins. Being on a luxury yacht means that you will have access to fresh-water
Helicopter Flight Tour
Hawaii is filled with dramatic natural beauty. There are only a few places on the planet that have such diverse and gorgeous scenic locations. Discovering the most beautiful spots on the island by helicopter is definitely a great way to do it. This is one of the best Big Island tours for those that want to be wowed by Hawaii’s landscape.
You will fly over waterfalls and volcanoes and see the beauty of Hawaii first-hand from very high above. A tour like this is great for taking some of the most memorable pictures possible.
Snorkeling With Manta Rays
When looking for things to do in Kona at night, this is a bucket list item you’ll want to add. Night diving with manta rays is one of the most popular Big Island tours, and for a very good reason. You will get to interact with one of the most famous underwater creatures of Hawaii.
The daunting manta ray is a magnificent underwater creature with a massive wingspan. The length of their wings often reaches 20 feet. Once you’re underwater, you’ll be able to see how they proceed with their daily lives their feeding habits. They often get close to the coast to feed on planktons.
No matter what you decide to do during your vacation, you’ll love all the things to do in Kona to choose from!