Updated: Jun 23
Kailua-Kona is the number one tourist hotspot on the Big Island. But don’t let that scare you away – it is filled with charm and local influence. This beach side town is one of two cities you’ll fly or cruise into (the other city is Hilo which is located on the opposite side of the island) so chances are you’ll definitely be spending time in this town. “Kona” means dry side of the island in Hawaiian which is a fitting name compared to Hilo’s wet climate.
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Check out my favorite things to do in Kona, Hawaii below!
1. Kailua Bay -
If you arrive by cruise ship, Kailua Bay will be the first thing you see! It might not be the most awe-inspiring beach due to its very small size, but it is perfect for snorkeling! Since it is protected by the pier, the waves are minimal and great for kids. This is also the start of the IRONMAN Triathlon.
2. Kona Farmers Market –
I love exploring the Kona Farmers Market for local trinkets or fresh produce to snack on. There are over 40 vendors here so you’ll find lots of options! My favorite thing to purchase here is fresh banana bread and locally made soaps (perfect for gifts). The market is open Wednesday – Sunday from 7AM to 4PM.
This is one of my favorite free things to do on the island. For more ideas on FREE Things To Do, check out this post HERE.
3. Kona Brewery Company –
YUM! This is an absolute must every single time I visit the Big Island (which is once a year, for 20 years)! You may see Kona beers in your grocery stores back home. Well, now is your chance to see where it is made and taste it fresh! Kona Brewery was founded in 1994 and offers a wide variety of local beers. You can take tours of the brewery for $15 which include 4 samples of beer.
My family and I enjoy dining here for lunch or dinner because their pizzas are amazing (thanks to the yeast from the beer).
4. Walk along Ali’i Drive -
Talk about shops and restaurants galore! This is the main street in Kona and it parallels to the beach. Walk along this drive and pop in and out of stores while getting a great glimpse of the ocean. My favorite stores include Crazy Shirts and The ABC Store.
5. Kamakahonu Beach –
There is a small beach located right in the town of Kona. However, it’s not my favorite beach on the Big Island. Similar to Kailua Bay (listed above) it’s great for small children since the waves are minimal and the beach area is small. Check out my list of Top 10 Beaches on The Big Island for alternatives.
6. Hulilee Palace –
Travel back in time to get a glimpse at Hawaiian royalty. This palace was designed in 1838 as a summer vacation home for royalty like King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. For a small fee, you can explore the palace and take a tour (offered at 10AM and 1PM). Be sure to check out the gift shop as well! (Open 9AM-4PM on Mon-Sat; 10AM-3PM on Sun).
7. Seahorse Farm Tour -
Seahorses are the cutest little animals, and now you can get up close and personal with them at the The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. This is technically just north of Kona. You'll need to receive tickets in advance (cost is about $15 per person). Tours are available Monday through Friday 3 times a day (10 am, noon and 2 pm) during high season, fewer times during low season. It takes about an hour to explore the farm and in that time you'll see baby seahorses, pregnant male seahorses, and over 36 other seahorses!
8. Kona Coffee and Tea–
Okay, call me crazy… but I don’t like coffee. In fact, I’ve never tasted it. However, it would be erroneous for me to leave Kona Coffee off of this list. This coffee is grown on a single estate and small-batch roasted in Kona! You can visit their coffee shop “Kona Coffee & Tea” for a taste and amazing latte art.
9. Donkey Balls –
I love Donkey Balls and I’m not afraid to say it! :) Donkey Balls is a storefront that sells unique macadamia chocolates with fun names. For instance, they have “Salty Balls” which features a macadamia nut rolled in dark chocolate and sea salt or they have “Crusty Balls” which features macadamia nut rolled in milk chocolate and toffee bits. Not only do these taste AMAZING, but they’re a fun gift to bring back to friends.
10. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Explore the history of the Big Island through the Kaloko-Honokaohau National Historical Park!
Well, there you have it - my favorite things to do in Kona, Hawaii! It is such a fun beach town with so much to offer!
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