There is something so special about Kailua-Kona. This is a guide to things to do in Kona and the nearby area.
Are you planning your trip to Kona last minute?
If you’re traveling to Kona last minute, you want to ensure you have lodging ahead of time! Below are some of our top picks in town!
Best Tours and Activities from Kona:
- Mauna Kea Summit and Stars (Small group tour)
- Morning (or Afternoon) Kealakekua Snorkel Tour
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park + Kona Coffee Farm (my top pick!)
- Zodiac Raft Whale Watching from Kona
- Hawaii Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona
- Manta Ray Night Snorkeling Tour from Kona (likely to sell out!)
Best Hotels in Kona:
- Holualoa Inn (located nearby in beautiful Holualoa)
- Aston Kona By The Sea (oceanfront property!)
- Kona Magic Honu Room (affordable option for 2 travelers)
- Hale Honu – Spectacular Oceanfront Home (has a hot tub and wading pool!)
For its small size, there sure is a lot to do in this Big Island city! I loved its cafes, calm weather (compared to Hilo), and accessibility to so many sights. If you’re looking for what to do in Kona, you will find plenty of options!
Kona is also a great base to explore the many state parks on the Big Island (and even some of the beautiful green sand beaches on the island)!
Address: 75-5718 Alii Dr, Kailua, HI 96740
Huliheʻe Palace is located in historic Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi. This was the former vacation home of Hawaiian royalty but was later on converted into a museum run by the Daughters of Hawaiʻi.
It now showcases various artifacts coming from the era of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiolani, featuring beautiful koa wood furniture, portraits, Hawaiian quilts, and many other royal items.
The Hulihe‘e Palace has six large appointed rooms, two large inviting oceanfront lanai, and also some lovely grounds. Every month, the Hulihe‘e Palace features an “Afternoon at Hulihe‘e Palace”, a cultural day accompanied by hula and mele.
That’s a great activity to experience while spending the day with your family there, having a good time, and admiring the Hawaiian culture.
Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery
Address: 75-5706 Kuakini Hwy APT 112, Kailua, HI 96740
The Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery is a great place to get acquainted with or just to visit and enjoy the richness of the Aloha culture.
Starting from traditional vintage to quite contemporary pieces, you have a chance to participate in sales that take place in the gallery.
Some of the great works of local designers like Ric Stark, Phyllis Cullen, Ellen Crocker, and many more outstanding artists are exhibited here.
You can also learn about the traditional art of making kapa and witness an original Hawaiian flag quilt.
In case you’re planning a visit here, make sure to check out the gallery’s website because they’re frequently arranging special exhibits and other exciting cultural challenges.
Thunder Mountain Coffee Plantation
Address: 73-1942 Ha’o St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Open 7 days a week, you definitely need to add the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation to your list of things to do in Kona. They offer several tours and experiences, hitting even the person who does not share the same affinity for coffee that I do!
You can book a plantation tour that is private and in a 4×4, a roast master experiences (suitable for up to 6 guests), or a lava tube and nature walk through organic coffee fields.
The coffee is 100% Kona grown and it is truly delicious and one of the best souvenirs to tote home from the Big Island (or Hawaii, in general)!
Old Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
Address: 78-6772 Makenawai St, Kailua, HI 96740
A real paradise for chocolate lovers, the Old Hawaiian Chocolate Factory offers its visitors a taste of 100% Hawaiian grown chocolate and cacao from Hualalai Mountain’s Kona region on the Island of Hawaii.
They hand-pick, sun-dry, and process only 100% Hawaiian-grown cocoa beans and make sure to preserve the quality at its best by skipping any blending.
The factory also produces dark and criollo chocolates to pair up with their mouth-watering milk made up of excellent texture and taste.
Guests that want to take things one step further can visit not only the chocolate factory but also the cacao plantation itself. The place also conducts educational tours and tastings.
There’s no way that any chocolate lover (or any visitor in general) can go to Kona and resist visiting this amazing factory.
Island Breeze Luau
Address: 75-5660 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
If you’re looking for a luau in Kona for your family or group on your vacation, the Island Breeze Luau is a great pick!
Located at the Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, you’ll get a chance to enjoy an outdoor dinner and a show that includes a deliciously abundant Hawaiian buffet with a lot of Polynesian dancing.
It is situated right on the Kailua Bay is a must for first-time visitors to Kona.
Kona Village Farmer’s Market
Address: 75-5767 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
There are a few farmer’s markets in Kona and the nearby area, and one of the top ones is the Kona Village Farmers Market that sits just south of Kailua Bay. It is open from Wednesday-Sunday from 7am until 4pm.
You will find 40+ vendors there and you can pick up delicious Hawaiian fruit as well as local, handmade crafts and souvenirs.
H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
Address: Kealakekua, HI 96750
When in up-country Kona, you can go to the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum, which will be like visiting a past version of nowadays Walmart.
This 1,000-square-foot general store was built in 1870 by an entrepreneur named Henry Nicholas Greenwell. The shop displayed plenty of different kinds of products, from castor oil to coffee and crochet yarn, specifically designed to meet the large farming community’s needs.
Kona Historical Society has restored and restocked the store with the exact reproductions that customers would’ve bought there some 150 years ago!
They were very attentive and successful in recreating the tiniest details to make it look as close to the original as possible. If you ever wondered what a general store in the 19th century was like, buckle up, because this place will definitely give you a taste of traveling back in time.
Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark
Address: Kaahumanu Pl, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Located at the northern end of the Kailua Bay, Kamakahonu was the residence of Kamehameha I. The area included several different buildings and parts, including a place of worship, thatched houses, a personal retreat, storehouses, and much more!
Visiting Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark will give you a bit of insight into the history of the Hawaiian islands, which is truly imperative for understanding the culture a bit more in-depth.
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Address: 82-6199 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704
One of the top “must-see”s in Hawaii, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the only functioning history coffee farm in the nation.
Based on an extensive list of reviews, it is also in the leading 10 percent of Farms and History Museums globally.
Here you can learn the history of Kona’s coffee during the early 20th century, meet a “Kona Nightingale,” and walk among the coffee trees.
You can also visit the 1920’s farmhouse and watch how the farmers collect and dry kurida and hoshidana, essential to making their famous coffee.
Needless to say, there is so much to see and experience at this farm, so you most definitely won’t get bored during this trip.
Island Ono Loa Grill
Address: 75-5799 Ali’i Drive Suite A4a, Kailua, HI 96740
From this point on, the list goes on with some of the best places in Kona and Kailua with delicious, but not limited to, Hawaiian-like food.
Island Ono Loa Grill is a great place with a menu covering many internationally loved dishes, like burgers, sandwiches, veggie salads, etc.
However, you’ll probably be more interested in trying out the flavorsome traditional dishes of Hawaiian food culture.
Examples include local food with famous dishes like Loco Moco, Kalua Pork Loco Moco, and Kalua Pork Plate. We also highly recommend trying the Pineapple Coleslaw, which is a delicious tropical salad.
Cause obviously, where else should you taste something like that if not in Hawaii?
Address: 5308, 75-5828 Kahakai Rd, Kailua, HI 96740
A very casual type of spot, Huggo’s Restaurant offers a variety of international and Hawaiian-like dishes. It has an excellent location on an awe-inspiring site and some really delicious food.
It’s located right in front of the Pacific Ocean, making the restaurant an excellent spot where you can eat and admire the ocean’s breathtaking view during Kailua’s frequent colorful sunsets.
The restaurant conveys the spirit of the Hawaiian food culture, starting from the interior design to the way the dishes are served. There are separate hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The owners try their best to make their customers’ experience exceptional, highlighting the tasty food and the idea of a memorable evening and dining experience.
Overall, the place displays a full tropical atmosphere for visitors to delve into delicious meals paired with live music for true magical evenings.
Craft Beer in Kona
Kona Brewing Co.
Address: 74-5612 Pawai Pl, Kailua, HI 96740
Kona Brewing Co. encompasses the great aloha spirit of Hawaii. Founded back in 1994, a fine collection of local island craft beers are now available here.
Known as “Liquid Aloha” among locals, Kona Brewing offers a large diversity of Hawaiian beers, from light spicy tastes to passionfruit and citrus tones.
There are more than a dozen craft beers produced by the company. Top selections include Longboard, Big Wave, Fire Rock, Koko Brown, Wailua Ale, and Pipeline Porter. All of these mentioned ones are regularly exported to 36 states and 9 countries.