The beautiful region of Kailua-Kona is located on Hawaii’s Big Island. One of the best things about this area is that they have direct flights here at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole. If you’ve never been here – you must add it to your bucket list! The city’s charm will take your breath away and leave you counting down until the next time you return.
Aside from the raw beauty of Kona, there are a plethora of activities to keep you and your group busy! Read on for our top 21 activities in this area.
Pictures do not do this activity justice! The Kohala Waterfalls are considered private property – protected by the state of Hawaii. Therefore, the only way to experience this magnificent area is via private tour. From Kailua-Kona, it is about a one-hour drive Northeast to reach the location. Your knowledgeable, local guide will take you through a short and easy trail where you can view seven different waterfalls and even swim in one!
2. Day Trip to the Kilauea Volcano
This volcano is one of the most popular activities on the Big Island because it is currently erupting! (December 2021) That’s right, you can see actual lava at this volcano right now! You will need to go on a private tour in order to do this, but from what we’ve heard it’s worth every penny. If your primary goal is to view the currently erupting volcano during your time in Hawaii, check out this awesome rental home we have in Volcano Village.
3. Kanaloa Octopus Farm
I can’t think of anywhere you can get a controlled experience with an octopus than here at the Kanaloa Octopus Farm. The Kanaloa Octopus Farm is a non-profit organization that is committed to learning about octopuses and their reproductive process. Their goal is to be able to repopulate octopus in parts of the world that eat octopus in their regular diets. The minimum donation to the farm is $50 for a 1 hour immersive and education tour of the farm. You will be able to touch, play, and feed the octopus (as long as they are willing to come out of their homes – some are a bit shy but they do like to play!) This is a unique experience we highly recommend.
The bay in Kailua-Kona is a very special place to snorkel because there are some fish that are only found there! Tropical, saltwater fish also tend to be very colorful. There are many places near the beach that rent snorkel gear and also various tours you can go on that will provide the gear for you. Going on a boat tour may be a great option if you want more of a group/party style experience, plus you will cover more of the island in a shorter period of time.
5. Submarine Tour
Did you know only 2% of people in the world have been 100ft underwater? Hosted by Atlantic Adventures, this is guaranteed to be an experience you won’t forget. While underwater you will get to view schools of fish, boat wrecks, and maybe even sharks or dolphins. Your spirited guide will make tons of jokes while educating you on the types of fish you’re viewing! This is a rare opportunity to join that 2% of people!
What kind of blog post would this be if we didn’t mention surfing? As you probably know, Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for surfing! The mild water and temperament of the state calls to every surfer’s heart! But don’t worry if you’re not a pro. There are tons of lessons available.
7. Participate in a Luau
Immerse yourself in Hawaiian food and culture by going to a traditional Luau. A Luau is an ancient ritual meant to bring a community together. Here you will meet tons of people while being surrounded by festive music and games. Feast on Hawaiian favorites such as poi, kalua pig, lomi salmon, laulau, poke, and haupia.
8. Coffee Farm Tours
Hawaii is famous for their island-grown coffee! Coffee lovers can all agree that Hawaiian coffee just hits a little differently. Coffee farming is a large industry in Hawaii so there are a few different farms to choose from. No time in your itinerary for a coffee farm tour? No problem. Most of the local cafes and coffee shops serve exclusively Hawaiian roasted coffee so you can still try it.
9. Chocolate Farm Tour
Not much of a coffee person? How about trying a chocolate farm tour. As the first chocolate farm on the island, The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, has their chocolate making process down to a T. Tour the farm and learn about the process of cacao and how chocolate is made while getting to sample their chocolate.
One of the most special places an animal lover could go – this ranch serves as a sanctuary for exotic and endangered animals. Due to their commitment to providing animals with as little stress as possible, this sanctuary is not open to the public. However, they do offer educational tours at the cost of a minimum donation of $50/person. They do not allow booking online, you must call or email for availability before prepaying for your tour.
11. Whale Watching
One of the most peaceful activities you can do in Kona is going whale watching at sunrise. Whales tend to be more active in the early morning so chances would be good at this time. Additionally, watching the Hawaiian sunrise in itself is a reward!
12. Sunset Dinner Cruise
Island sunsets over the water are absolutely gorgeous! Now imagine viewing that while on a romantic dinner cruise with gentle music playing and a delicious dinner in front of you. If you’re a couple, celebrating something, friends, or a single person who enjoys romanticizing your life (go you!) – this is a must!
This is a popular and easy water sport for all ages! If you’ve never been paddleboarding before, don’t worry. Basically, you stand on a surfboard type of board and use a paddle to move. This is done on very calm waters so you don’t have to go in the water if you don’t want to.
14. Visit Beaches
No matter where you choose to stay in Kona, you are never too far from a gorgeous beach. There are some black sand beaches nearby such as the popular Punalu’u Black Sand Beach which is about an hour south of Kona. Many of our rentals even have private beaches for your community to enjoy. Check out Kona by the Sea, Hale Kona Kai, and Kona Bali Kai.
15. Seahorse Farm Tour
The Ocean Rider Seahorse Aqua-Farm is the only one of its kind in the United States! This farm specializes in seahorse research and conservation. With 25 different species breeding on their farm, they hope to help all 34 species one on their farm one day. They are dedicated to providing visitors with knowledge and upholding very strict breeding guidelines for an eco-friendly solution to seahorse conservation.
16. Take a Helicopter Tour
If your budget is large or flexible, helicopter rides are an awesome excursion! See Kailua-Kona from a bird’s eye view with a helicopter ride over the island. There are various options for tours including tours that go over volcanoes; you can’t get that many places in the world! Not only is this a unique way to see all the beauty of Hawaii, but it’s also an exciting way to propose. *wink wink*
17. Horseback Riding
Take in the scenery of Hawaii with a horseback ride! Go on an excursion with Paniolo Adventures, one of the highest rated experiences on the entire island. You can truly explore the beauty of Hawaii on their unspoilt ranch. Coupled with one of the most beautiful animals, you can’t go wrong.
18. Manta Ray Night Dives
Go on a night dive and swim with the (completely harmless) manta rays of Hawaii! There aren’t too many activities this cool that take place at night so this is a must! These tours sell out quickly due to limited capacities so make sure you book ahead of time.
Golfing in paradise? We’re there! The tropical climate and ocean view makes Kona the perfect place to be outside all day. If you want something really unique, check out the Volcano Golf Course. The site says they are permanently closed, but they’re set to re-open in 2022. Some of the most popular courses include the Kona Country Club, Malakei Golf Club , and the Mauna Lani Courses.
20. Scenic Hikes
There are numerous scenic hikes all over Hawaii, the tough part is choosing which one you want to do! There are varying levels of difficulty and durations, we recommend checking out this list here to help you find the best fit: Hikes in Kailua-Kona.
21. Visit Hulihee Palace
Once the home to more royal family members than any other home in Hawaii, it is now run by an organization called the Daughters of Hawaii. It has been converted to a museum of artifacts and furniture. Their goal is to preserve Hawaiian culture and language. This museum is open to the public by reservation only. You can make a reservation and purchase your tickets here.