I recently got to explore Kona, Hawaii, (the biggest Hawaiian Island), with my favorite travel buddy, Kevin. I had never been to the Big Island before. While Maui will always be my favorite, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the black sand, wild horses, tropical foliage and people there!! After talking to my friend who just went to Kona a couple months ago and listening to our tour guide talk about Kona, we determined that the Kona water is one of the big reasons people come to Kona- deep water and different things to see in the water vs Maui. Also lava rock was everywhere on Kona, very different scenery in some areas compared to Maui.
Today we are sharing all of the things we did in Kona and what a lot of you recommend in a printable! You can print it out or just save it to your phone!
I love to share what we did on vacation and asked my instagram audience to weigh in with some of their must-do/must-eat recommendations, too! Here is a master list of everything they said! Many of these were listed multiple times, so they have to be good!
Where we stayed in Kona:
- Hilton Waikoloa- It is all-inclusive and a really nice hotel with good restaurants in it and around it, but no beach access
- Where I’d stay next time: Maunalani Bay (because of the beach access- it is all-inclusive too)
What to do in Kona:
- Wasabi Tour 10 hours (we did this tour. It was great, a good way to see a lot into a short visit)
- Waipio Valley Lookout (gorgeous view- it is the view in the above photo)
- Pololu Valley (take a tour down in the valley- my favorite part of the trip actually! This has a gorgeous black sand beach- you have to take boat to get to it)
- Akaka Falls (gorgeous huge waterfall, national park- so much foliage)
- Hilo, Hawaii- black sand beach
- Kaumana Caves County Park (you can hike 2 miles in.. need head lamps)
- Rainbow Falls (amazing waterfall, we got to see the other side on the Wasabi Tour)
- Hapuna Beach (very pretty, when we went it was soooo windy, no umbrellas could be up)
Reader Recommendations on what to do in Kona:
- Where the Road Ends to Hawi
- Green Sand Hike
- Havi (little town for whale watching)
- Surfing lessons
- Thurston Lava Tube
- Kayak across Kelakekua Bay
- Zip lining Skyline Eco Adventures
- Flumin da ditch (tubing in sugar tubes)
- Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm
- Captain Cook Snorkleing
- Kanaloa Octopus Farm
- Night Diving/Snorkeling
- The place of Refuge
- Coffee Tour
- Volcanoes National Park
- Panalu’u Beach
- Manini’owali beach
What to eat in Kona:
- One Aloha Shaved Ice
- Fairmont Orchid
- The coffee Shack
- Papakolea Green sand beach
- Lava Java Coffee and Volcano Cinnamon Buns
- Broke da mouth and umekes
- Rays on the Bay
- Quinns Almost by the Sea
- Big Island Shave Ice
- Farmers Market
- Holy Donuts
- Shaka Taco Food Truck
- Basik Café (acai bowl)
- Punalu’u bake shop
Snapped the above picture where we stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa. They had paddle boards to rent and kayaks to go around in the lagoon, and spot the sea turtles!
One big highlight of this trip was the Young Living Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood Reforestation Farm. We actually earned this all-expense paid trip from Young Living! (I share about that HERE). Young Living actually took 250 of their top enrollers, PLUS their partner!!! We learned about the way the grow and harvest the crop in a sustainable way, and the extreme care that is always given to never use chemical pesticides or weed-killer. I even got to plant one! Check out how rich that soil was!
I really liked hearing the story of why they call it a Reforestation Farm. It has been almost two hundred years since Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood has been available on the market! It was basically extinct because the Hawaiian people were forced by the king in 1817 to harvest the Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, which was very labor intensive. The trees only grow at a certain elevation. So they people were ordered to go up the mountain to cut sandalwood and carry the harvest to the harbor. The Hawaiian people decided they didn’t want their posterity to endure unjust demands and so much hardship they pulled up the young sandalwood trees. By 1840, the Hawaiian sandalwood trade had come to a halt. And now this Young Living Partner Farm is reforesting the land with Sandalwood. (They only use the oil from the trees that have died naturally, it is sustainable).
We didn’t do a ton of beach time, but what we did see, was great! It was very windy tho…sand was literally everywhere! I don’t know if it was a fluke, but I had never experienced wind like that at the beach. This beach was Hapuna Beach.
Because we were visiting for such a short time, we opted to take a long tour to see as much of the island as we could in one day. I would highly recommend doing this if you are visiting for a week or less! It is the best way to see some of the biggest attractions. We did the Wasabi Tour 10 hours, it was a good way to get a lot into a short visit.
We went into Pololu Valley – to get into the valley you have to go down the steepest road in the world!!! The picture obove was Hi’ilawe Falls in the Waipi’o Valley. Kevin got really thirsty. Actually, our cute tour guide made us take that picture! Going in the Pololu Valley was my favorite part of Kona!! I highly recommend going into the valley with a tour guide- either on horse back or
According to oral history, as many as 10,000 people lived in Waipio Valley before Captain Cook’s landing in 1778. A group of Chinese immigrants settled in the valley in the late 1800 and built churches, restaurants, schools, and even a hotel, post office, and jail. But the devastating tsunami of 1946 destroyed the town, and today, only 50 people call the valley home and only a couple have electricity!
Picture above was down in the valley- you can see the steepest road on the hill in the background.
This was a private waterfall, that our tour guide had a key to a gate to open. They filmed part of Jumanji here. I think Kevin is doing his best “The Rock” impression in the second picture. It was so loud! These waterfalls were truly majestic.
Kaumana Caves County Park (you can hike 2 miles in.. need head lamps). I felt like Kevin couldn’t be the only one pulling faces in pictures, so I decided to join in on the fun.. “This is Brooke, reporting live from the lava cave.”
We did a short walking loop to Akaka Falls, gorgeous National Park. Huge waterfall and AMAZING foliage. I was in awe. Picture above and below was taken there.
Overall it was an amazing experience! Travel is one of our favorite things to do and we hope to do more this year! Head to this blog post for all of our favorite things to do in Maui Hawaii.
Favorite Swimsuits- (click on an image to shop)