One of the most beautiful places to visit when on vacation in Hawaii is Kona.
Known by its full name of Kailua-Kona, this dreamy area is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, which means that it’s got some gorgeous views too.
Better yet, it’s packed with plenty of beaches, markets, restaurants, cafes, museums, and more.
Needless to say, you’re going to be spoiled for choice!
In our fun guide below, we’ve narrowed down the very best things to do when you’re next there.
You’ll find a list of the 17 greatest things to do while in Kona, Hawaii, with detailed explanations of what makes each activity and location so essential. Read on!
Enjoy The Island Breeze Luau
We’re starting our list off with a must-do activity in Kona, because it will give you a fantastic taste of Hawaii’s culture and traditions.
For those who don’t know, a luau is the combination of a traditional Hawaiian feast, or party, and some local entertainment.
It’s the perfect match, allowing you to get a taste of Hawaiian cuisine, with the packed feast of many traditional dishes, all while watching one of the many forms of entertainment specific to the region.
The Island Breeze Luau specifically offers an outdoor meal, where you get to choose from a stacked Hawaiian buffet of delicious dishes and delights, and a show of Polynesian dancing.
The fact that it’s a buffet means that you can pick exactly what food takes your fancy, while the dancing show is sure to entertain you as you eat.
This is a must-do activity, and it’s especially perfect for families.
Kids will love the Polynesian dancing, because it’ll be like nothing they’ve seen before, and everybody is sure to enjoy the mouthwatering cuisine.
Better yet, the Luau is located next to Kailua Bay, meaning that you get some beautiful views of the sea as you enjoy yourself.
See The Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark
When visiting somewhere on vacation, it’s always a nice idea to learn some of the local history, because it will help you feel more like you’re a part of the place rather than just passing through.
Thankfully, Kona has lots of fantastic historical locations for you to explore!
The historic landmark at Kamakahonu is one of the best and most interesting spots to visit, thanks to its range of features.
It was originally the residence of Kamehameha I, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii (see also ‘Top 14 Beautiful Oahu Waterfalls And How To Find Them‘).
As a result, the location has plenty of fascinating buildings to look at.
There are a variety of thatched houses which the chiefs and women used to stay in, work sheds and storehouses, an old heiau (a place of worship), and Kamehameha I’s personal retreat.
Though the original buildings are actually gone, these are reconstructions that give you an insight into what the spot looked like in the time of Kamehameha I.
It’s a great way to understand the history of Hawaii, as well the history of its rulers.
Eat At Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill
Once you’ve had a look at the history of Kona with our previous must-see activity, it’s time to experience Kona’s present again!
There are few better ways to do this than taking a trip to Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill.
This is a breezy restaurant where you can expect to find a whole range of delicious meals to enjoy, such as poke bowls and other traditional Hawaiian dishes.
They also offer Hawaiian fusion dishes, too.
These are especially interesting, because they allow you to enjoy meals that you might already know from other cultures, but instead prepared with Hawaiian ingredients.
This way you get a Hawaiian twist on something familiar!
On top of that, there is also a fresh fish counter, where you can see the tastiest, most recent catches.
Umekes pride themselves on working with local fisherman and farmers, making this a truly local food destination.
See The Huliheʻe Palace
This is another fantastic way to learn about Hawaii’s historical rulers!
This fascinating palace was originally built for the governor, but it wasn’t long because it was passed down through a few more owners, eventually finding its way to Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani.
While owning it, she would invite all of the reigning monarchs to come and vacation there.
She left it to her cousin, another Princess, but it was later sold instead to King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani.
They had the place replastered in order to make it look more refined, and it went to two Princes once they died.
By 1927, the palace was restored by the Daughters of Hawaii, a group that preserves Hawaii’s cultural legacy.
The palace was turned into a museum, and that’s how you can view it today!
It’s a great way to inhabit a location that was once lived in by so many influential Hawaiian rulers, all the while learning about the history from all the fantastic exhibits and information on display.
Have A Meal At Huggo’s
If you’re looking for a perfect place to eat, then you must visit Huggo’s, a restaurant with plenty to offer.
They have a great variety of food for you to choose from, with mouthwatering steaks, lovely pasta dishes, and a range of delicious seafood.
On top of that, they also have some tasty desserts to enjoy.
If you want something smaller for your meal, they have plenty of pupus to pick from, which are cold or hot appetizers.
As for drinks, they’ve got Tiki cocktails to try, as well as some wines.
You’ll be able to enjoy all this delicious food and drink while gazing out over a gorgeous view, since Huggo’s has a scenic waterfront location.
Better yet, there is also live entertainment to appreciate during your visit, too.
Marvel At The Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum And Gallery
This is certainly a unique spot for you to visit while you’re on vacation in Kona, because it will teach you all about a very important piece of Hawaiian culture and history: quilting.
At the Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery, you can learn all about Hawaii’s unique culture of quilting, while viewing a range of beautiful and intricate quilts yourself.
You’ll see a mix of both vintage and contemporary ones, allowing you to see how design styles and practices might have changed over time.
To get even more involved with the history, as well as give you a lovely souvenir to treasure with you afterwards, you can even create your own quilt pattern!
Well, we say “your own”, but it’s really a case of you getting to trace a pre-existing Hawaiian quilt pattern.
Either way, you’re going to get a better feel for Hawaii’s quilting practices. On top of that, you can also buy other quilts from their gallery.
This is a great place to visit if you’ve got the family with you, because kids should enjoy tracing quilt patterns and seeing all the fabulous designs on show!
Relax At Makalawena Beach
Beaches! Beaches are one of the most important parts of Hawaii, so it’s not surprising that we’ve come to them sooner or later in the list.
Makalawena Beach is going to be one of the nicest spots you’ll find in Kona, and it’s a lot of fun getting to it too.
To get to this lovely location, you need to do a small hike on a rough lava trail.
The hike should only take about 20 minutes, and before you know it you’ll be walking out onto the sand!
You’ll notice the sand is a brilliant white, which makes the place especially calming and serene.
On top of that, Makalawena is quite remote, which makes it feel very private and peaceful!
There are two lava pools to see, as well as some beautiful tall trees that will give you some nice shade while you’re lounging on the sand.
If you’re going to go swimming at Makalawena, you need to be careful.
The water can sometimes be quite violent, so you need to make sure that you don’t go out when it’s like that.
Instead, take a dip when the water is tranquil and calm, and make sure you don’t go out too far.
You should see plenty of other people enjoying the water while you’re there, especially since it’s a popular location for snorkelers (thanks to the great range of marine life to look at) and boadboarders.
Visit The Old Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
A must-do trip when you’re on vacation in Kona is the Old Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, which will be an especially good spot to visit if you’ve got your family with you!
After all, what kids don’t love chocolate?!
You’ll have had chocolate before, but you probably haven’t had Hawaiian chocolate before, which is why this is such an important part to visit!
You can see how they do this perfect confectionary on the Hawaiian islands, with 100% Hawaiian grown cocoa beans .
You’ll find that the factory makes three different types of chocolate: their deliciously light milk chocolate, their deep and fruity dark chocolate, and their criollo chocolate.
Criollo is a dark variety, which has a complex taste to it, with an earthy feel.
Drink Craft Beer At Kona Brewing Co.
It’s also important to try the local beer when you’re in Kona, because it can be a big part of the culture.
There is plenty of craft beer to try in Hawaii, but you’ll want to make a trip to the Kona Brewing Co. brewery.
You can enjoy a brewery tour here, allowing you to see exactly how their delicious beers are produced.
Naturally, you can then enjoy some of them! Kona Brewing Co. brews over a dozen beers every year, each with their own unique tastes and delicious flavor.
For example, you can try the Big Wave Golden Ale, which is extremely refreshing and golden.
On the other hand, you can have their Hanalei island IPA, which will give you that famous IPA kick but with a taste of Hawaii underneath it all, too.
Relax At Manini’owali Beach
Another fantastic beach here, you’ll want to make a trip to Manini’owali Beach for a day of lounging, lazing, and overall relaxing!
This is another white sand beach, which you’ll find really glows in the sun and gives the spot a magical vibe.
However, it’s worth mentioning that there is no shade at the beach, so you will need to bring some cover if you’re going to stay a while – and, of course, you need to lay on the sunscreen!
One of the best things about this particular Kona beach is that it’s relatively small and secluded, which makes it a very cozy place to lounge about.
However, it may take a little bit of effort to get there – but it’s worth it when you do!
If you’re staying for lunch, you’ll want to bring a picnic yourself. Besides the occasional food truck, there are no places to buy food or drink there.
Make sure to keep an eye out for beautiful Hawaiian wildlife, because you’ll often be able to see turtles from the beach! Better yet, you might even spot a dolphin.
Visit Thunder Mountain Coffee Plantation
Coffee is another big part of Hawaii, so you’ll want to visit one of the most interesting coffee-related spots when you’re in Kona.
Mountain Thunder prides themselves on their 100% Hawaiian coffee, which is extra special because Kona is one of the most ideal spots in the world to grow coffee.
This is because there are two active volcanoes there, and the volcanic soil and weather conditions are perfect for coffee production.
You can take a farm tour at their coffee plantation, with a variety of different tours available.
For example, you can take a private plantation tour in a 4X4, driving through the organic coffee fields while learning about their harvesting processes.
On the other hand, you could take the “Roast Master Experience Tour”, where you’ll learn about roasting theory and other specific coffee production techniques.
See The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
This is one of the most fascinating pieces of history that you’re going to find when visiting Kona, a museum that allows you to jump back in time and inhabit a famous old Hawaiian store that was established all the way back in 1870.
The original H.N. Greenwell store helped to serve the immigrant community of Kona, providing them with the goods and supplies that they needed each day.
The founder, Henry Nicholas Greenwell, also collected together thousands of acres of ranch land, to help make a big impact on the Kona ranching industry too.
This store is the oldest surviving one in all of Kona, as well as being one the very oldest buildings in Hawaii as a whole – meaning that you’re really in a part of history.
Some parts have been updated, and loads of effort has been put into accurately recreating the original interior as close as possible.
Visit The Kona Coffee Living History Farm
On the topic of inhabiting fascinating Kona history, you should also visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm!
Here you’ll be able to explore a 1920’s coffee farm, led around by guides in costumes who educate you on the place and demonstrate some of the work tasks that have been performed there.
Since coffee is such an important part of Kona’s history, there are few better ways to understand its cultural impact than by visiting the site of this historical farm and finding out all about the area’s coffee pioneers in the early 20th century.
You’ll get to see what kinds of techniques they would use to prepare the coffee, such as the kuriba and hoshidana processes that were essential to the milling and drying of the coffee.
On top of that, you can go inside the farmhouse, where you’ll likely find the homemaker making musubi, or doing other tasks.
This is a great spot for an educational day out, and children will especially love being part of the history and seeing guides dress up and perform tasks.
Take A Trip To Menehune Coffee Company
Since we’re talking about Kona’s history of coffee and where it used to be made, why not see how it’s made now?
Menehune Coffee Company harvests, roasts, and ships their coffee to plenty of locations, and you can visit them to see it at the source.
They pride themselves on the best quality coffee, a drink that will also give you an authentic taste of the region.
While there, you can try a range of their coffees.
They’ve got their typical roasts, medium and dark, as well as exciting varieties like chocolate macadamia nut flavor coffee. You can even try their pumpkin spice flavored coffee!
Shop At The Kona Village Farmers Market
Visiting a local farmer’s market is always a great way to really immerse yourself in a place, browsing and buying their local produce and seeing all the different kinds of things that they grow in the area.
There are a handful to choose from around Kona, but the Kona Village Farmers Market is one of the best.
It’s open on Wednesday through Sunday, so make sure that you find the time to squeeze in a visit during your time in Kona.
You’ll find everything you’d expect to get at a farmers market, with plenty of choice of fresh food and fruit, as well as trinkets and souvenirs to buy and take home with you.
Interacting with the vendors will really make you feel like a local, as will poring over all the classic Kona wares.
Walk Through The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
If you want to do a bit of wandering around, soaking up the gorgeous views that Kona has to offer, while at the same time immersing yourself in the culture and history of the place, then this is the spot to visit!
The location is famous for its spiritual significance, as well as its cultural and historical importance.
The native Hawaiians used to use ancient fishing skills here to help them survive in the hot environment, and you can see the water and pools that they used when you visit there today.
The combined knowledge of the elders at the time with the people’s spirit has made the place a well-known landmark of respect in Kona.
You’ll be able to enjoy fascinating history, beautiful sights, and even a wide range of gorgeous plants when visiting.
Eat At The Island Ono Loa Grill
We’re finishing our list off with an essential eating destination! No trip to Kona is complete without a visit to the Island Ono Loa Grill, where you can pick from a varied menu of delicious dishes.
They have a range of burgers to pick from, as well as tasty sandwiches and a char-grilled fish taco. You can also get a taste of Kona, with the selection of “local plates”.
If you want something lighter, you can always try the salads and full-size sides.
Whatever your tastes, there’s sure to be something here, and it’ll be a great spot for lunch.
The area of Kona in Hawaii is a beautiful destination, which makes it a popular vacation spot. There is loads to see, do, and eat while you’re there – use our guide for inspiration!