Famed for its stunning beaches and exceptional coffee, Kona is a true Hawaiian gem. While you’ll no doubt want to explore several corners of the Big Island, you could easily spend an entire vacation in Kona and still not cover it all. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll be reluctant to leave. To help you plan the ultimate Kona itinerary, we’ve highlighted several of the area’s best activities, dining establishments, and shopping destinations.
Keep reading to discover the best of Kona.
Lounging on the beach is always fantastic, but the real appeal of the Kona coast lies in its myriad of active adventures. From snorkeling and scuba diving to bodyboarding and even surfing, there are plenty of ways to stay active at the area’s top beaches.
Gems worth checking out include:
- Kamakahonu Beach
- Kekaha Kai State Beach
- Magic Sands Beach Park
- Honl’s Beach
- Wawaloli Beach Park
- Kona Dog Beach
If you decide to spend the day at the beach, be sure to do your research first. Most beaches have specific activities to which they’re well-suited — but they may be less-than-impressive for other purposes. For example, Wawaloli Beach Park is known for its awe-inspiring tide pools, but its rocky areas may keep some people from swimming. If you understand the benefits and downsides of each beach, you’ll be more likely to choose a destination that lives up to your expectations.
A simple walk along the beach can be a dream come true, but there’s no denying the appeal of hardcore hiking adventures in Kona. Thankfully, there are several options both near the coast and further inland. No matter your level of physical fitness, you will always benefit from grabbing your hiking boots and exploring.
For a leisurely stroll, begin your journey at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. In addition to gorgeous views, this unique park is worth visiting for its historic component; it tells the story of how Hawaiian people lived hundreds of years ago. Favorites at this Kona gem include the Mamalahoa, Ala Hele Ike, and Ala Kahakai trails.
The Kona Cloud Forest is another wonderful source of hiking adventures. Spanning seventy acres, this sanctuary aims to protect old-growth native forests and restore tropical oases that had previously been turned into pastures. During guided sanctuary tours, you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the lush environment and the local geology. Guided meditation journeys are also available.
If you prefer to hike at your own pace, you’ll find delightfully challenging journeys as you tackle the Makuala O’Oma and the Puu Waa Waa Cinder Cone trails. What’s more, easy-to-navigate trails are available at the beautiful Kekaha Kai State Park.
While the weather should be nice enough to keep you outside most days, you may eventually want to learn about the area while checking out a local museum. Thankfully, there are several excellent options. We’ve already discussed the historic appeal of the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, but the Kona Coffee Living History Farm also deserves a spot on your itinerary if you’re willing to make the short drive to Captain Cook.
If you prefer to remain in town, stop by the Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery. There, you can explore the fascinating traditions of Hawaiian quilting. For a quick, but important stop, check out the Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark, where you’ll find the restored site of King Kamehameha’s temple. Don’t forget to browse the Victorian artifacts at the famed Hulihee Palace.
Whether you’re interested in how coffee is produced or simply want to enjoy the freshest blends the Hawaiian Islands have to offer, you’ll be in caffeinated heaven when you visit Kona.
Begin by checking out the area’s top coffee shops, where you can grab an amazing latte or iced drink:
If you want to learn everything there is to know about coffee and how it’s produced on the Big Island, you’ll definitely want to sign up for one of the area’s top tours. Many local plantations provide valuable insight, plus opportunities to taste the best brews. When in doubt, hit up the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, Lyman Kona Coffee Farms, or the Hula Daddy Visitor Center. Tours are popular, so be sure to book your visit far in advance.
Eating out is a delight in Kona, where you’ll find an abundance of both casual establishments and fine dining. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brunch, you’ll be amazed by the whirlwind of flavors.
The following restaurants should be especially compelling when you crave Big Island’s tastiest eats and best vibes:
- Big Island Grill
- Honu’s on the Beach
- Quinn’s Almost by the Sea
- Kona Canoe Club
- Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill
Dessert is always worthwhile, even after a hearty meal. Shave ice is a Hawaiian staple, so treat yourself at Gecko Girlz or Ululani’s. Authentic Hawaiian chocolate can be found at the Puna Chocolate Company, where you can stock up on the best treats. Better yet, participate in Puna’s orchard tours; you’ll handle cocoa pods and learn how beans become the chocolate bars that you adore.
Before you return home, you’ll want to get your hands on some gorgeous gifts and souvenirs. Options abound throughout Kona, which is home to several galleries, as well as kitschier tourist shops with all kinds of thematic items.
Begin your shopping expedition at the Kona Inn Shopping Village, where you’ll find several cute stores, as well as restaurants offering Kona’s best happy hour opportunities. Alii Drive is where you’ll find the best shopping; this tourist enclave is always fun to wander. The Kona Farmers Market offers all the best products from local farmers, so you can grab snacks, souvenirs, or ingredients for your next meal.
It’s impossible to get bored at Kona, where relaxation and excitement coalesce to form a satisfying vacation experience. Explore this remarkable area at your own pace — you’ll find unexpected delights everywhere you look.