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If you’re heading to the Big Island, you’re going to have so much fun because there’s sooooo much to do! In fact, the island is so big that it’s usually broken up into “Kona side” and “Hilo side.” Kona side is pretty dry and sunny and home to most of the island’s beaches. It’s also got great snorkeling, water activities, cultural sites, and so much more. Here’s a list of 25 things to do in Kona (or at least the Kona side) of the Big Island:
1.Snorkel Kealakekua Bay. This is the spot that Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii and it’s widely recognized as the best snorkeling spot in all of the islands. While you can reach the bay via a challenging hike, most people come on a snorkel tour or kayak tour. Bonus: if you’re visiting during whale season (November through April), this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone! Read more about snorkeling Kealakekua Bay here.
2.Night scuba (or snorkel) with the manta rays. Manta rays are unique to the Big Island and they LOVE to come out at night. If you’re scuba certified, this is a must do, but it’s amazing to go even on a snorkel tour.
3.Visit the summit of Mauna Kea. At 14,000 feet, Mauna Kea is one of the most impressive sights in Hawaii. You’ll need 4WD to reach the summit (sunset is beautiful) or book a tour that includes sunset at the summit and then star gazing at the visitor’s center. Read more about visiting Mauna Kea here.
4.Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. If you’ve ever dreamed of wrapping a seahorse around your little pinky, you won’t want to miss this hour-long tour!
5.Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. The National Park Service has preserved this ancient settlement and fishponds. If you’re interested in learning more about Hawaiian culture, plan to stop by this site.
6.Tour a coffee plantation. If you want to see how that famous Kona coffee is made (and even pick up a package), take a complimentary tour at Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.
7.See historic Kona town. This charming seaside town dates back to the early 1800s. Tour the Hulihe’e Palace (a former royal vacation home) and Mokuaikaua Church (the oldest Christian church in Hawaii), and have a sunset dinner.
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8.Tour Kona Brewing Co. Tour the brewery of just stop in for lunch and a flight.
9.Visit the world’s first octopus farm. While Kanaluoa Octopus Farm isn’t technically a farm (they aren’t breeding YET), it’s an amazing place to learn about these mysterious creatures and the research that’s currently being done to assist in their conservation efforts.
10.Swim with dolphins. Dolphin Quest at Hilton Waikoloa Village allows you to get up close and personal with dolphins on a variety of different tours.
11.Golf at Mauna Kea. Recently ranked #19 of Golf Magazine’s top 100 golf courses, if you’re a golfer, you’ll definitely want to snag a tee time here!
12.Visit Ho’omau Ranch. Take an ATV tour or go horseback riding at Ho’omau Ranch, a ranch that focuses on the conservation of many tree species native to the Big Island.
RELATED: Need a packing list for the Big Island? Find my best packing advice here.
13.Zipline through a Hawaiian forest. Kohala Zipline has some of the best zipline courses in Hawaii. If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll definitely find it here!
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14.Go on a paniolo adventure. Did you know Hawaii has a rich “western” culture of cattle and cowboys? Pony up and go on a horseback adventure on one of Hawaii’s most beautiful ranches.
15.Visit the Kona Historical Society. Take one of the tours at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm or swing by on a Thursday when locals get together and practice the art of Portuguese stone oven baking.
16.Helicopter Tour from Kohala. While most Big Island helicopter tours leave out of Hilo for the volcano, Blue Hawaiian operates a tour that departs from Kohala and does a fly over of the gorgeous north shore on the way to the volcano. If you’re looking to splurge on one big experience, this is it!
17.Visit the City of Refuge (Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park). Not only does this site have tremendous culutural significance, but it’s so beautiful! If you’re only going to visit one of the Big Island’s National Historical Sites, make it this one!
18.Hike the Waipio Valley. The gorgeous north shore spot is one of the most photographed spots on the Big Island. If nothing else, stop at the overlook. The drive down into the valley is kind of scary and the hike is extreme, so if you want to explore the valley itself, I recommend a tour.
19.Watch sunset at Anaehoomalu Beach. This gorgeous golden beach is a photographers dream at sunset. Orangey pink sunsets and palm tree silhouettes? Yes please.
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20.Sunbathe on Hapuna Beach. This is probably the most popular beach on the Big Island and for good reason. It’s large, stunningly beautiful, and perfect for swimming.
21.Discover Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach). This stunning white sand beach is beautiful and a bit secluded.
22.Learn to surf (or paddleboard). Book a private or small group surf lesson and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll have you standing up on the board and catching waves!
23.Visit the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Field. Hike the 1.5 mile Malama Trail to view petroglyphs, some of which date back to the 16th century!
24.Spot “graffiti” in the lava fields. Tourists and locals alike use pieces of white coral to spell out messages in the black lava fields between Kona and Kohala.
25.Walk in Kamehameha’s footsteps at Pu’ukohala Heiau National Historic Park. This temple was built in 1790 right before Kamehameha the Great set out to conquer the neighboring islands.
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