Big Island has lots to offer visitors, and Kona is a great place to enjoy some of the best experiences available on Hawaii’s largest island. From lounging on the beach and trying local food to discovering the history and culture of the area, there’s something for everyone in our guide to Kona.
Experience Local Culture at a Luau Show
If you want an insight into Hawaiian culture, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Hawaiian party called a Luau. The Luau experience usually includes a buffet of traditional foods, such as pork cooked in a Kalua, or underground oven. After dinner, a show with music, dancing and traditional stories usually takes place, with plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Kona has a few locations where you can enjoy a Luau, with many of them taking place at resorts along the beach. If you don’t want to commit to the full Luau experience, there are quite often free Hula performances and other cultural events around the island, so there is no excuse not to experience a bit of Hawaiian heritage during your trip.
See the Petroglyphs
One of the best-preserved Petroglyph fields is a short drive from Kona, and well worth the visit if you are interested in Hawaiian history and culture. They are scattered along the sides of the footpath, depicting animals, birds, canoes and other objects, or forming patterns with lines and dots. Dating back to the 16th century, they give a fascinating insight into the people who lived on the islands before the impact of Western influence. Many of them mark historic boundaries or line footpaths, although the reason for their creation remains a mystery.
Browse the Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets are abundant across the Big Island and there are several in Kona for you to explore, depending on the day of the week. These colourful markets are the hidden gems of Kona, perfect for chatting to locals, people watching, and finding some really good food. As well as locally grown fruit and veg, there are often stalls selling freshly prepared food that will give you an authentic taste of the island. It’s also the best place for buying souvenirs, as you can find local craft products at amazing prices and end up with something truly unique.
Visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm
There are more than 650 coffee farms in the fields around Kona, with many of the plantations providing tours and tastings. You will typically be shown around the plantation, with the opportunity to see the coffee growing in the field, as well as being taken through the process of turning a growing bean into your cup of coffee.
Although many of the farms offer tours, one of the best is the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. Visitors are taught about the history of coffee growing in the area, with traditional crafts and daily activities demonstrated by workers in traditional costumes. It is open Monday to Friday and it is close to a number of modern coffee farms so you can easily organise an additional tour nearby.
Night Dive with Manta Rays
Night dives with manta rays are a famous Kona activity and are widely regarded amongst the most memorable dives you can do anywhere in the world. Divers and snorkelers can both swim with the manta rays, with tour operators bringing diving lights that attract the plankton the manta rays feed on. The fish swim through the beams with their mouths open to catch the plankton, swooping and pirouetting gracefully through the light. It really is a magical experience, and well worth doing during your stay on Big Island. There are plenty of tour operators around Kona that offer manta ray snorkelling and dives, so you can shop around for the best one.
Lounge on the Beach
Kona gets plenty of sunshine, so if you were hoping for a relaxing beach day it’s pretty likely you’ll have plenty of opportunity for sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming. There are beautiful beaches all around the area, with white sandy beaches for sunbathing, as well as beautiful black lava sand beaches and lava fields that provide amazing snorkelling.
It is probably best to look at the different beaches and see which ones offer the type of experience you want. To give you an idea, Kiholo Bay is great for swimming, Kuki’o Beach is home to green sea turtles, and Kika’ua Point Beach is perfect for young children. Grab your beach towel and go enjoy the beautiful beaches around the area.
Try the Beers at Kona Brewpub
Beers from Kona Brewing Company can be found all over the island, but they taste best on tap straight from the source. You can tour the brewery to see how the different beers are made, with the added advantage of getting to taste some at the end. The brewery’s pub usually has a big range of beers on tap, so it is perfect if you want to taste a range of the company’s products. If you need something to soak up the alcohol, they serve a range of great Hawaiian pub food, such as pizzas, salads and sandwiches. The bar snacks are great as well, so even if you aren’t eating a meal, definitely get a bowl of homemade pretzels to share with the table.
Cool Down with the Best Shave Ice Around
You can’t go to Hawaii without sampling as much shave ice as you can get your hands on. Kona has some of the best, with locals swearing by Scandinavian Shave Ice, or Scandi’s as it is called for short. They have around 45 flavours, plus the day’s specials, and lots of different toppings to choose from. Try it ‘snow-capped’, where condensed milk is added to the top of the snow for a rich, creamy flavour.
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