Best Things To Do in Kailua-Kona Like a Local: Why is Hawaii’s Best-Kept Secret

Ever find yourself daydreaming of a destination that’s the epitome of paradise? You know, the kind of place where the sky seamlessly blends into the ocean, and the word ‘stress’ feels like a foreign language? Well, I’ve got just the place for you—Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Imagine stepping off a plane and immediately being welcomed by the embrace of warm, tropical air. You’re not just anywhere; you’re in the heart of Kona district, a realm where golden sands meet azure seas. This isn’t just a sunny escape; it’s the sunny escape.

Located on the Big Island’s western coast, Historic Kailua Village, or Kailua-Kona as it’s commonly known, offers so much more than just a pretty view. I’m talking world-class snorkeling, beaches that could give any postcard a run for its money, and a local vibe that’ll have you saying ‘Aloha’ like you mean it.

Here, the weather doesn’t just cooperate; it actively encourages you to bask under the sun. It’s the ultimate launchpad to explore the riches of the island’s western side. And if you’re a fan of beaches—and let’s face it, who isn’t?—you’ll be downright spoiled for choice.

Whether you want to float in calm waters, snorkel with exotic marine life, or just lay back and soak up some good ol’ Vitamin D, Kailua-Kona is the stage for your tropical dreams to play out.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Imagine descending into an aquatic wonderland, away from the usual hustle and bustle of tourist hotspots. That’s what scuba diving in Hawaii offers—an intimate experience with nature, where it’s just you, your bubbles, and the fascinating marine world. The Hawaiian Islands, and Kona in particular, are a magnet for divers across the globe, and for good reason.

Let’s talk specifics: the Big Island boasts warm tropical waters that feel like a hug from Mother Nature herself. Add to that a colorful mosaic of marine life, and you have a diver’s dream. But that’s not all. Snorkeling here isn’t your average look-into-the-fishbowl experience. Picture crystal-clear waters with coral reefs creating vibrant pockets of life among ancient lava rocks. You couldn’t dream up a better snorkeling scenario if you tried.

Snorkeling Diving Big Island Hawaii

Kealakekua Bay: Ever heard of Kealakekua Bay? If not, it’s time to put it on your bucket list. Not only is it a snorkeling haven, but its coral reef also holds its own when compared to any in the state. This bay is a patchwork of history and natural beauty, surrounded by lush, tropical landscapes and dotted with archeological treasures. So, you’re not just snorkeling; you’re traveling through time.

Manta Ray Night Dive: Picture this: It’s nighttime, and you’re floating on the ocean’s surface. Below you, giant manta rays with wingspans stretching up to 16 feet glide gracefully, performing an underwater ballet lit by your dive light. The Manta Ray Night Dive isn’t just another dive—it’s an encounter with one of the ocean’s most enigmatic creatures. If there’s one water activity you can’t afford to miss in Kona, this is it.

Must-See Beaches

The beaches of Kona—a tapestry of colors and textures that almost seem too good to be true. If you’re in this slice of paradise, make no mistake: a day (or more!) at the beach is a mandatory part of your itinerary. And it’s not just about the sun and surf; each beach has its own unique personality.

White-Sand Beaches: Let’s start with the iconic white-sand beaches. These are the kinds of beaches that you see on postcards and think, “No way that’s real.” But trust me, they are. The powdery, white sand feels like a cushion beneath your feet, and the blue of the ocean seems to go on forever.

Kukio Beach Big Island Hawaii
Punaluu Beach With Black Sand Must Do Activities

The Enigma of Black and Green Sands: Kona keeps you on your toes with not just white, but black sand beaches too! The stark contrast between the dark sand and the azure sea creates a surreal, otherworldly beauty.

But hold on, Kona isn’t done surprising you. There’s also a green sand beach, and yes, you read that correctly. The olivine crystals in the sand give it a unique green tint, making this beach a must-see for anyone looking for something truly different.

Outdoor Activities

So, you’ve made it to Kailua-Kona and are itching to explore? Fantastic! Here’s where the Big Island really shows off its outdoor prowess.

  • Camping in Kona: There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Hawaii’s natural beauty than by going camping. Kona has a few scenic campsites and beach parks where you can set up your tent and be one with nature. You’ll need to reserve your spot in advance.
  • Helicopter Tours: Here’s the thing about Hawaii’s Big Island—some of its most jaw-dropping wonders are hidden away. We’re talking lava lakes, secret waterfalls, the whole nine yards. The best way to see them? From the sky, of course! Helicopter tours offer unparalleled views of the Kilauea volcano’s Halemaʻumaʻu and Puʻu Oʻo craters, among other natural wonders. It’s a whole new perspective you won’t want to miss.
Helicopter Tours Above A Live Volcano
  • Golfing in Kona: If your idea of paradise involves a 9-iron and a putting green, then Kona has got you covered. Known as the golf capital of Hawaii, this region boasts some of the most beautifully designed championship courses you could dream of. It’s not just a game; it’s an experience that keeps calling you back to the green.
  • Horseback Riding Tours: Ever wanted to feel like a cowboy or cowgirl but in a tropical setting? Ranches around Waimea offer horseback riding tours that are as scenic as they are enjoyable. From the saddle, you’ll see views that stretch from the rolling pastures to the coastline and mountain peaks. And for the more adventurous, some tours even venture into other stunning parts of the island, like the Waipiʻo valley. Yeehaw, but make it Hawaiian!
  • Dolphin-Watching: Few things can compare to the sheer joy of watching spinner dolphins play in the waters off Kona’s coast. Just remember—these are wild animals, and it’s essential to admire them from a respectful distance. The best part? You don’t have to be a pro swimmer to enjoy this activity; people of all ages can indulge. So don’t forget to pack your waterproof camera; you’ll want to capture every second.
  • Spot the Majestic Whales: If you happen to visit Kona between December and May, you’re in for an absolute treat—whale watching! The Big Island is a hotspot for this spectacular activity, offering you the chance to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Bring your binoculars and your sense of awe!
Whale Watching Big Island Hawaii
  • Surfing and Paddleboarding: Stand-up paddle surfing, or Hoe he’e nalu in the native tongue, is more than just a trendy sport—it’s a nod to Hawaiian tradition. Originating from these islands, SUP has taken the world by storm, but there’s nothing like trying it in its homeland.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Bringing the little ones along? Fantastic! Kailua-Kona isn’t just for the grown-ups; there’s a ton of activities that are perfect for family bonding.

  • Activities for Kids: From paddleboarding lessons to kayaking adventures, the sea is the perfect playground for kids. On land, consider a trip to a macadamia nut farm or coffee plantation for an educational twist.
  • Spots for Family Outings: Planning a family day out? Head to Hulihe’e Palace for a touch of history, or perhaps a trip to Kona Cloud Forest, a sanctuary that feels like you’ve walked into a fairytale.
  • Water Parks and Adventure Zones: While the natural world here is a massive playground, sometimes you just need slides and swings. Check out some of the local water parks and adventure zones designed with family fun in mind.

Adventure for the Adrenaline Junkies

Looking for something that kicks the adrenaline up a notch?

  • Off-Road Trips: Ever experienced the thrill of barreling down a dirt road in an ATV or 4×4? Here, you can go off the beaten track—literally—to explore hidden gems that aren’t accessible any other way.
  • Ziplining Adventures: Fly through the canopy of a tropical rainforest with nothing but air beneath you. There are several ziplining tours available that offer a bird’s-eye view of the island’s lush landscapes.
Ziplining Big Island Hawaii

Petroglyphs and Historical Parks in Kona

When you walk through the fields of petroglyphs near Kona, you’re essentially walking through an ancient art gallery. These petroglyphs, or stone carvings, offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives and beliefs of the island’s original inhabitants.

Think about it: some of these images have been around since the 16th century, watching silently as the world around them has evolved. It’s awe-inspiring, to say the least.

Where to See Petroglyphs: Waikoloa and Pukao Fields: For those hungry to see these etchings up close, there are two main sites you should aim for—the Waikoloa Petroglyphs and the Pukao Petroglyph Field.

Both are conveniently located close to Kona and offer their unique styles and histories. Remember to bring your camera but also to treat these archaeological sites with the respect they deserve.

History Comes Alive at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Shifting gears from petroglyphs to palaces and temples, a visit to the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is like stepping into a time machine.

Situated on the Big Island’s western coast, the park offers a rich tapestry of Hawaiian history and culture. The structures here have stood the test of time, preserved to educate visitors about the island’s vibrant past.

Farm Tours

While the beaches and waters of Kona get a lot of attention, there’s another side of this Hawaiian paradise that often goes overlooked: its farms. In Kona, agriculture isn’t just about growing crops; it’s an art form.

Whether you’re a foodie, an animal lover, or someone who’s fascinated by sustainable practices, the agricultural scene here has something delightful for you to explore.

Best Time Of Day For A Kona Coffee Tour
What To Expect On A Kona Coffee Tour

Coffee and Vanilla Farms: Kona is like the Hollywood of coffee growing regions. Nestled between the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, the area is known for producing some of the world’s best coffee.

A visit to one of these farms is not just an educational journey but also an experience that delights all your senses. Oh, and if you’re a fan of vanilla, you’ll be pleased to know Kona’s also home to some aromatic vanilla farms!

Weather in the Kona District

Wondering what type of weather you’ll be soaking up in Kailua-Kona? Spoiler alert: it’s mostly the sunny, wish-you-were-here type.

  • Tropical Paradise Year-Round: Thanks to its tropical climate, Kailua-Kona is a year-round destination. The average daytime temperature usually hovers around a comfy 75-85°F. So yeah, you can leave that winter coat at home.
  • Dry and Wet Seasons: That said, it’s good to know about the dry and wet seasons. Dry season typically runs from April to October, and it’s all about those endless summer vibes. Wet season is from November to March. But hey, even the wet season isn’t a washout; we’re talking brief showers that make everything more vibrant, not day-ruining downpours.
  • What to Pack: Given the climate, light and breathable clothing is your best friend. And while you’re at it, throw in a light raincoat if you’re visiting during the wet season. Sunscreen is a must, as are sunglasses and a good hat.

How to Get Kona, Hawaii

So you’ve landed at Kona International Airport, and you’re eager to kickstart your Hawaiian adventure. The good news is, you’re just a hop, skip, and a 15-minute drive away from the heart of Kailua-Kona. But it’s not just about the destination; it’s also about the journey. Here’s your quick guide on how to get to Kailua-Kona and some nearby spots worth a detour.

Flight Information and Airports Nearby: First things first: you’ll likely be landing at the Kona International Airport (KOA), the main gateway to this island paradise. Flights from the mainland U.S., as well as several international flights, frequently touch down here. Don’t sweat it if you don’t live near an airport that has a direct flight; connecting flights through Honolulu are a breeze.

From Kona International Airport to Kailua-Kona: You’ve landed, grabbed your bags, and you’re ready to roll. A mere 15-minute drive (without traffic, of course) separates you from Kailua-Kona. You can grab a taxi, book a rideshare, or pick up a rental car right at the airport.

Road Trips Worth Taking

There are several jaw-dropping spots within driving distance that you won’t want to miss.

Road Trip Scenic Drives Big Island Hawaii
  • Hilo: This lush, eastern city is a sharp contrast to the dry landscape of Kona. The driving distance is 86 miles, and you’ll want to allocate about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there. The drive itself is a scenic wonder, showcasing the island’s diverse ecosystems.
  • Waimea: This charming town is the epitome of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture. Driving distance: 40 miles; driving time: about 1 hour and 10 minutes. The green rolling hills and misty mornings offer a unique Hawaiian experience.
  • Volcano Village: If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing an active volcano up close, this is your chance. Located near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village is 95 miles away and will take you about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get there.

Public Transport: The Hele-On Bus

If you’re not in a rush and would like to reduce your carbon footprint, consider taking the Hele-On Bus. This public transport service runs routes that can take you all over the island from Kailua-Kona. It’s affordable and convenient but keep in mind it won’t win any races.

Best Time to Book Tickets

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to nabbing those elusive cheap flights. While it varies by departure city, generally the sweet spot for booking is about 3-6 months in advance. And let’s not forget about those airline miles you’ve been hoarding; this is the perfect time to use them!


So, are you packed yet? From its awe-inspiring natural beauty to its thrilling outdoor activities, Kailua-Kona is more than just a destination; it’s an experience. It’s a place that captures your heart and soul, inviting you to come back even before you leave.