Kona is a district and town situated south of ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay that takes up the west of the state.
It is an impressive expanse that is perfect for a relaxing getaway.
There’s plenty of stuff to do, with historic and cultural landmarks to explore and several natural waterways and beaches to relax in and romp through.
There are also numerous ways to enjoy local fare, from cuisine to coffee and from cocktails to chocolate.
The calm, clear, and beautiful waters of Kona contribute to a memorable experience.
You can spot marine wildlife both in the wild and in facilities that protect and conserve them.
You can explore the wilderness or the oceans.
You can watch performances or peruse galleries.
This is a great vacation destination, and here are the 26 best and fun things to do in Kona, Hawaii.
1. Hulihe‘e Palace
The palace was built as a vacation home for summer and is designed in a lovely, welcoming Victorian style.
It boasts two lanais on the oceanfront, six big appointed rooms, and gorgeous grounds, and is built completely from lava rock!
You’ll find the historic location on Kailua Bay.
Today, Hulihe‘e Palace retains its original appearance, with refurbished and genuine ornaments, furniture, and relics that have made it one of the top museum-type tourist attractions in all of Kona.
The Daughters of Hawaiʻi organization run it.
Its exhibits showcase numerous artifacts related to the monarchs King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiolani and items owned by them, such as portraits, furniture made from koa wood, and quilts.
Tours give you even more insight into the various royals who once walked these halls.
Once a month, Hulihe‘e Palace hosts an awesome event called Afternoon at Hulihe‘e Palace, which is a great cultural event and one of the most delightful free things to do locally.
You’ll get to experience mele and hula performances up close and personal!
The location also hosts a variety of other performance arts, such as Hulihe‘e Palace Band’s Hulihe‘e Palace Concert, the interesting Merry Monarchs Chorale, and the regular local artist folk tune performances.
Address: 75-5718 Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
2. Kona Farmers Market
The Kona Farmers Market is a fantastic opportunity to sample some of the best that Hawaii has to offer.
You’ll get to meet locals, stock up on fresh produce, try a bunch of snacks that the island is famous for, and purchase all manner of handcrafted souvenirs and gifts.
It’s definitely one of the most fun places to visit, especially if you’re hungry, so come with an empty stomach!
It’s right beside the local public library in the downtown area.
The Kona Farmers Market boasts over 40 vendors that set up every week on market days, which are Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The market runs from dawn to dusk on these days, and it’s just a minute away from the beach, so it’s a great place to just go for a relaxing stroll.
You’ll get to try awesome meals like mochi, mangoes, shaved ice, honey, flowers, bread, macadamia nuts, colorful fruits you can’t get elsewhere, and even the famous Kona coffee!
Address: 75-5767 Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
3. Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation
The most popular export of Hawaii is coffee, and one place to learn all about that is at Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.
Offering free tours every hour on the hour, with special Japanese tours twice a week, the establishment is open all week long.
Tours can be undertaken in 4×4 vehicles for a plantation tour, or you can go through the fields of organic coffee on a nature walk.
There are also special roast master experiences and a great chance to see a lava tube, which are among the best things to do in Kona!
All coffee produced by Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is grown onsite.
You’ll learn all about how coffee is grown, cultivated, and processed, and you’ll even get to taste the many roasts and blends made by the company.
The aforementioned roast master experience spans two hours and lets you get hands-on, learning about the bean selection and roasting process and trying some of that yourself!
Coffee first arrived in this district in 1828 and has only become more popular since then.
The mineral-rich soil of the island, composed of volcanic dirt, is particularly conducive to the growth of this plant.
Don’t forget to pick up a bag of coffee before you leave – there are premium, decaf, espresso, private reserve, peaberry, Vienna roast, and other varieties to try!
Address: 73-1942 Ha’o St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
4. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Looking for some interesting places to travel to for a full day getaway?
The Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is undoubtedly among the top 10 places to visit for those interested in local culture and history.
Absolutely filled with things to see, this beautiful locale is the perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and any tourists who want to get some sightseeing done.
The visitors center of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is a great starting point.
Here, you’ll learn about the numerous hiking trails, including those that will lead you through all of the area’s ahupua’a, or land divisions of mountain to sea, as well as numerous old petroglyphs and sacred temples.
Some of these will grant you insight into the early settlers’ imaginative and innovative engineering abilities, including those who made the many fish ponds in the park.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.
Go hiking, relax at the beach, try to spot wildlife like monk seals or sea turtles, and go snorkeling.
With 1,100 acres to its name, this National Historic Landmark is a symbol of the spirit of the local people, a site of renewal and spiritualism that was saved via the dedication of members of the community.
Address: Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
5. Attend A Luau
If you’re wondering what to do in Kona, don’t forget about one of the most quintessential Hawaii experiences: attending a luau!
These fun events incorporate elements like music, drinks, food, and hula dancing to create joyful performances mixed with local culture and flair.
In case you’re unfamiliar, a luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast.
Most center around a kalua pua’a, meaning a roasted pig, and the event features vibrant dance performances, lots of fire, and thrilling rum music.
Other performances, such as knife rituals of Samoan origin, are also commonplace.
The state has luaus happening all the time all over the archipelago, so you’re spoiled for choice!
Popular places to head to for an authentic luau experience include the grounds of the historic Kamakahonu Royal, the Royal Kona Resort, the Island Breeze Luau, and the Voyagers of the Pacific Lū‘au.
These places all offer slightly different experiences, but you’ll get to watch a fire dancer show, eat all-you-can-eat local fare, enjoy music and dance, and grab drinks at open bars!
Some places may even offer additional activities, like lei workshops and the option to get a temporary tattoo in Polynesian styles.
Address: Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
6. Magic Sands Beach Park
Magic Sands Beach Park is one of the best things to do in Kona for families, especially those with kids!
Situated on Kailua-Kona town’s outskirts, this immensely popular location is nothing short of idyllic, offering the opportunity for many standard beach activities, such as playing volleyball, surfing, swimming, and watching beautiful sunsets.
Though it’s not the largest beach out there, Magic Sands Beach Park is a great place to catch some waves that are suitable for beginners in the world of surfing and bodyboarding.
Lifeguards are stationed all around, so you can be sure about your safety, and amenities like modern showers and restrooms allow for a comfortable experience.
Magic Sands Beach Park’s name comes from a surprisingly scary source.
In winter, the surf is very high, often causing the entire beach to disappear underwater, revealing nothing but lava rock beneath.
Luckily, during the day and during warm months, the beach is safe and suitable for people of all ages!
Address: Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
7. Kanaloa Octopus Farm
Kanaloa Octopus Farm is one of the unique things to do among Kona attractions, a fun and exciting place to learn all about cephalopods like squid and octopus.
At this farm, all animals are raised only for repopulation and for research purposes, aquariums, and hobbyists.
Of course, most of these efforts are focused on conservation and release into the ocean.
Fresh seawater is directly pumped into the many breeding tanks, which is why the facility is conveniently situated right on the beach.
Guided tours of Kanaloa Octopus Farm will teach you all about the process of farming and raising these creatures via the available guided tours.
You’ll gain tons of knowledge about each species here.
During these tours, you’ll get to get up close and personal with the octopus, and you’ll even get the cool chance to feed them!
You’ll also learn about aquaculture research, conservation, and the problems of extinction and over-fishing that these animals face.
Keep your eyes open, and you may just spot a cephalopod squirting some ink at a fellow tank mate!
Address: 73-4460 Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy Ste 138, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
8. Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary
The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is a lush, gorgeous expense spanning 70 acres.
It is home to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the entire world and is filled almost completely with all manner of native plants.
The sanctuary is elevated more than 3,000 feet above sea level, being the only tropical cloud forest in the whole country.
It’s no surprise that this is one of the top points of interest in Hawaii!
But what’s a cloud forest?
These are essentially forests that gain a vast majority of their needed precipitation from low-hanging clouds, dense fog, and other weather that is common in high elevations.
This is contrary to the state of most typical rainforests, which gain moisture mostly from rainfall.
The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is home to thousands of native plant types, including 30-foot gigantic tree ferns and more than 100 bamboo varieties.
This is also where some of the island’s most endangered and rare bird species live safely.
The area is packed with hiking trails spanning miles, which you can explore on your own or follow a ranger through.
So if you’re looking for scenic spots to make memories, you can’t go wrong with the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary.
Address: 73-1865 Hao St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
9. Ocean Rider Inc
Ocean Rider Inc, also known as Ocean Rider Seahorse Tours, is the only establishment in the entire country that rears seahorses that are critically endangered.
Their goal is to attempt to save these animals from extinction, and as such, more than 20,000 of them – from different species – are on display within the farm.
For fans of seahorses, this is one of the most fun places to see these majestic and magical creatures!
Tours of Ocean Rider Inc are regularly scheduled, and on each, you can learn all about the life cycles of seahorses and the efforts being made to conserve them.
Feeding pools and petting pools let you get even closer to them!
You’ll also get to see some pregnant male seahorses and their babies.
Ocean Rider Inc is one of the more non-touristy things to do, despite how special and unique it is.
It is a family-operated farm and breeds over 30 species of seadragons and seahorses, which it has been doing since 1998.
You’ll get to spot tiger tail seahorses, leafy seadragons, and others!
Address: 73-4388 Ilikai Place, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
10. Moku‘aikaua Church
Moku‘aikaua Church is the oldest Christian church in Hawaii.
The church continues to operate but is also open for tours to the public, which is among the free things to do in beautiful Kona.
Whether you’re of this faith, believe in a different religion, or aren’t particularly religious at all, this is still one of the best Kona attractions to check out.
This church was established in 1837, 17 years after Christian missionaries from America first arrived to spread their truth.
They did so with King Kamehameha II’s permission and eventually built this place of worship.
At the time, it was made from wood that was gathered from rainforests locally, but after several fires destroyed that structure, they opted for stone instead.
This stone structure remains as it was back then, and you can visit it today.
Within the Moku‘aikaua Church, you’ll see numerous vestiges and artifacts.
This includes a beautiful scale model of the ship that brought the first American missionaries here, the Thaddeus.
If you follow a public island tour, you’ll also learn about the church’s history and the people who were a part of it.
Address: 75-5713 Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
11. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is situated slightly outside of Kona, and it’s one of the most important historic sites in Hawaii.
As such, though it is a fun experience and one of the island’s tourist attractions, it’s a sacred spot that deserves respect.
This is an educational site where you’ll learn about local history and culture via self-guided tours and anger talks.
Among the places you’ll see is the Great Wall, which often hits 17 feet in thickness, and the many wooden totem-like god images around the central sacred temple of Puuhonua-o-Honaunau called Kii.
When you’re exploring out and about, you’ll also see some ancient fishing pools and the royal canoe landing beach.
With 182 acres to its name, there’s no end to the interesting activities that can teach you about the area’s history on a long trip this weekend.
Once a refuge for both commoners and royalty alike, you can see recreated village huts and somber ancient burial grounds along the many easy hiking trails.
Address: State Hwy 160, Hōnaunau, HI 96726, United States
12. Two Step Beach
Situated near Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, Two Step Beach is an amazing spot for water-based activities and sightseeing to spot monk seals, dolphins, and turtles, as well as tons of vibrant fish.
Easily accessible on Honaunau Bay, this is among the top places to visit for a good beach experience.
You can swim, surf, and play games at Two Step Beach, but all the most loved features are underwater, where colorful coral reefs live beneath waves of turquoise.
You’ll have to bring your own gear or be prepared to buy some if you need any, but it’s well worth it for snorkeling enthusiasts visiting Hawaii.
Further down, you’ll also find the well-renowned lava rock pools, where diving opportunities are nothing short of incredible!
Address: Captain Cook, HI 96704, United States
13. Atlantis Submarines
It goes without saying that one of the most fun things to do in Kona is to explore the beautiful waters and all their wildlife.
After all, that’s what Hawaii is known for!
Atlantis Submarines allows you to do just this, bringing you across a stunning natural reef spanning 25 acres from the comfort of a lovely, air-conditioned underwater vessel.
As its name suggests, at Atlantis Submarines, you’ll be riding a submarine as it brings you 100 feet into the depths for a 45-minute experience.
You’ll see eels, sharks, colorful fish, stingrays, and turtles, which will not be threatened by your submarine, as it is silent and environmentally friendly!
The fact that the coral reef you’ll traverse is 18,000 years old adds an extra layer of beauty and wonder to the whole experience, which is already very much one of a kind!
Address: 75- 5660 Palani Rd #304, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
14. The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, as its name suggests, is the best spot in Kona, Hawaii for those with an insatiable sweet tooth.
Believe it or not, some of the most exclusive and delicious cacao is cultivated here in Hawaii, specifically on the Hualalai Mountain slopes.
The factory is actually the first local producer of sun-dried, hand-picked, site-processed cocoa beans in the state!
There are loads of things to see at the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory.
One-hour tours allow you to view the plantation and understand the whole process of picking, drying, and processing these beans into the desired chocolate products.
This includes criollo and dark chocolates, as well as those mixed with luscious milk to create various textures, tastes, and types of chocolate products.
The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory has been in business since 1997 and is family-run.
It goes without saying that you’ll definitely get the chance to try some of their quality, expertly-made products during your tour!
Address: 78-6772 Makenawai St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
15. Kohala Waterfalls Adventure
For even more activities, check out Kohala Waterfalls Adventure.
You may have wondered what to do in Kona if you prefer land adventure to water action, and this touring company has that covered!
Over the course of eight hours – a perfect chunk of time for an excursion this weekend – you’ll get to see all the most scenic portions of Kona, Hawaii.
During Kohala Waterfalls Adventure, you’ll hike through a private nature reserve, ride off-road in a six-wheel drive, and learn about local fauna, flora, culture, and history.
You’ll even stop off at Hawi, a historic local town.
Finally, you’ll reach the titular waterfalls and will be able to swim in the rush of the cascades, after which you’ll head to a scenic lookout to enjoy a delicious private lunch.
Address: Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
16. Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark
The Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark, situated in northern Kailua Bay, was once the home of King Kamehameha I.
This great king was the man who united the many islands of Hawaii into one, and he lived here until his death in 1819.
The structures on display harken back to that time, giving you a glimpse of the lives led by the residents of Kona all those years ago.
There are plenty of restored or well-preserved structures at Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark.
For history buffs, this is among the most fun and cheap things to do in Kona.
You’ll gain insight into the past from the lens of today as you view storehouses, thatched homes, places of worship, a personal retreat, and many more interesting sites.
Address: Kaahumanu Pl, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
17. Keauhou Bay
Keauhou Bay is one of the best cultural spots in Kona, situated close to Kailua Village.
For a long time, it’s been one of the most popular Kona attractions, even becoming a favorite getaway for royalty and monarchs of Hawaii.
Now, it’s well-known as a great location for water sports thanks to the relatively calm waters.
Paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, and even fishing are all doable in this protected bay.
You may even see some giant manta rays!
Tours and experiences are offered by various companies nearby, and you’ll be able to book with plenty of operators.
There are also some historical sites worth viewing at Keauhou Bay.
These include numerous restored temples and other cultural sites.
Address: Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
18. Fantastic Race Kona
If you’re looking for something super fun to do, take part in the awesome Fantastic Race Kona!
This is a mix of a racing competition and a self-guided tour that brings you to plenty of points of interest in this part of Hawaii.
It’s an educational experience, teaching you all about the town while also incorporating the need for solving problems and hunting for treasure to win.
Fantastic Race Kona works by giving participants a mysterious riddle that will require them to find clues, interpret them to find treasure, and learn about the histories and details of many Hawaiian gods.
Historic sites will allow you to learn and take photos, and there will be stops along the way where you can sample all sorts of local food.
Address: Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
19. Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery
The Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery is a great place to go to get a truly authentic taste of Hawaii.
There’s a lot of stuff to do and see, from traditional works to contemporary items and everything in between.
This is the ideal way to get a glimpse into Aloha culture, with great works by local creators like Ellen Crocker, Ric Stark, Phyllis Cullen, and Sylvia Pippen featured.
There are more than 60 quilts displayed at this museum and gallery, with some dating as far back as the 1800s.
From vintage offerings to island-themed motifs, you’ll gain knowledge on this lesser-known feature of local artistry and will also see some common internationally used quilting styles.
Regular events are also held, such as traveling quilt shows, and fun scavenger hunts for the whole family.
Address: 75-5706 Kuakini Hwy APT 112, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
20. Big Island Divers
This diving company is one of the most popular and trusted in Hawaii, so naturally, it’s one of the Kona attractions that isn’t to be missed.
Big Island Divers offer lessons and tours of all kinds, ranging from the expected to the unique.
You can go for the Dolphin Watch experience, undertake a Blackwater Night Dives excursion, or participate in a Manta Ray Snorkeling Adventure tour!
This operations provider also offers equipment rental.
If you need paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and even underwater cameras, you can get some here!
Regardless, it goes without saying that this archipelago is the ideal spot for water sports, diving, and other enjoyable experiences up close and personal with marine life.
Address: 74-5467 Kaiwi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
21. Kona Joe Coffee Tours
Caffeine addicts will fall head over heels in love with Kona Joe Coffee Tours, one of the best tourist attractions for coffee aficionados in Hawaii.
Here, one of the free things to do is embark on a self-guided tour, or you can join a paid hour-long guided tour.
Regardless of your method of choice, you’ll learn about the whole coffee-making process.
From the cultivation of the beans till they’re picked, from their processing to their roasting, and finally to their delicious brewing and serving, you’ll watch the entire system go from start to finish.
Better yet, you’ll be able to sample the final product and bring home a coffee mug specially engraved!
There are also more in-depth experiences at this farm.
You can be guided through the process of roasting a batch of coffee just for yourself, after which you can bring those beans home with you for your enjoyment!
Address: 79-7346 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750, United States
22. Wasabi Tours
Guided tours around the natural beauty and history of Kona are a fantastic way to kickstart a vacation in Hawaii.
You’ll have fun, gain new information, and find out a ton of different places to visit that you can check out in your own time.
Tours are small and intimate, too, and some last as long as 12 hours!
There are plenty of types of experiences offered by Wasabi Tours.
There’s the Big Island Grand Circle Tour, the Historic Kiona and Farm Tour, the Twilight Volcano Tour, and the Fire and Water Combo Tour, among others!
Depending on which one you pick, you may get to see volcanoes, snorkel alongside dolphins, or explore a black sand beach.
Address: 74-581 Honokohau St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
23. Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions
Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions is a beautiful way to explore Hawaii.
As one of the many activities and things to do in Kona, this is perfect for adrenaline junkies or people who like a little bit of a challenge with their excursions.
There are numerous available tour options and private charters available, and if you keep an eye out, you’ll probably see tons of marine life.
Tours with Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions last for approximately three to five hours, depending on your chosen experience.
The company has been operating for close to five decades, so they know what they’re doing and will ensure the perfect sightseeing and sporty adventuring experience.
You can go snorkeling, swim with dolphins, and get up close to a bunch of sea caves and lava tubes.
Seasonal whale-watching experiences are available, too!
Address: 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #16, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
24. Keahole Point Blowhole
Keahole Point Blowhole is a very unusual sight in Kona, and it’s one of the most fascinating free things to do in Hawaii – and one of the most breathtaking things to see!
Most visible during winter in the western part of the town, this is a lava tube that, in times of high surf, blows out seawater at an alarming rate.
The Keahole Point Blowhole resulted from an 1801 eruption of the Hualālai volcano, which brought lava into the sea and created Keahole Point.
The flow caused the development of the tube due to the low viscosity lava flowing in fast and cooling, thus forming a “roof” that the tube connects.
This fun feature of geology is quite majestic to see from above!
Address: Makako Bay Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
25. Fair Wind Cruises
If you’re wondering what to do that will bring you up close and personal with manta rays, check out Fair Wind Cruises!
This is one of the best ways to explore the waters of Hawaii in an exciting marine adventure.
The manta ray snorkel experience is definitely the most popular of Fair Wind’s offerings, but it’s far from the only option!
Various snorkeling excursions are available, some going to remote spots in south Kona and others taking place in Kealakekua Marine Reserve.
You’ll also get to spot dolphins and turtles, among other animals!
Expect each tour to last for between three and five hours; equipment and light refreshments are provided.
Address: Kailua-Kona, HI, United States
26. Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary
Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary is a great, fun spot for children aged six and above – and the rest of their families, of course!
This is a privately-owned sanctuary dedicated to providing a safe living space for all sorts of exotic, rare, and endangered animals.
You’ll see ostriches, owls, reptiles, zebras, chinchillas, flamingos, horses, hawks, and monkeys, among others!
If you want to add Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary to your list of things to do in Kona, be sure to schedule a tour in advance.
The sanctuary is closed to the public except via tour, so this is the one way to get inside!
Mandatory donations are required with a relatively high minimum amount, but receipts are provided for tax purposes.
Address: 75-809 Keolani Sbd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Kona
Kona is stunning and breathtaking, filled with fun attractions relating to nature, the ocean, art, culture, history, and more.
With so many options for what to see, you’ll need our guide to help you narrow down the choices so you can build the perfect itinerary for your vacation, no matter who you’re traveling with!