Regional Sights, Tours, & Information

Things to Do & Visitor Tips for Kailua-Kona Region

If you're heading to the Big Island there's certainly one area you cannot miss... the Kona (West) Coast. This warm and sunny leeward area has become the resort area of the island. 

Big Island of Hawaii Kona Region Map

You'll find a vast array of ocean-side restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and activity huts promoting various water activities in the nearby Kailua Bay. Accommodations in Kailua-Kona are generally less expensive than along the Kohala gold coast (Waikoloa), and many resorts/condos are located along Ali'i Drive.

In total, the Kona Coast stretches some 40 miles along the rugged west coast of the Big Island. Many historical sites, beautiful beaches (some well-hidden), pristine bays, and lava fields (with prominent petroglyphs) criss-cross and line the coast of this area. North Kona has some of the most gorgeous white sand beaches on the island, like Makalawena Beach and Mahai'ula Beach located at Kekaha Kai / Kona Coast State Park. Accessing them is a bit tricky; however, see the individual pages for details.

Inland (mauka) of the coast are the slopes of Hualalai, and upon these hills, the famous Kona coffee plants and macadamia nuts are grown, harvested, and processed.

Each fall, generally around October, Kailua Bay serves as the starting point for the Iron Man Triathlon (the swimming portion).

Heading towards south Kona, you'll find Kealakekua Bay is where Captain Cook was killed. Today the bay offers some of the best islands snorkeling via permitted tours.

Further south you'll discover Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. This ancient Place of Refuge is probably the most visited site on the west side of the island, and it's one of two major national parks on the island, Hawai'i Volcanoes being the other on the eastern coast.

This section of our site contains some sights and beaches that are classified as within our Kohala region. We've decided to additionally include many of these attractions within our Kailua-Kona regional section due to the geographic proximity of these locations to the downtown Kailua-Kona area.

Kona Region Top 6 Things to Do

Best Things to See & Do in the Kona Region

Kailua-Kona Town

#6 Rated in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Nestled at the bottom of the Hualalai Volcano is the western city of Kailua-Kona, the largest town on the west side of the island and one of the premier attractions within the famous Kailua-Kona Region.

The main street, Ali'i Drive, runs along the oceanfront through the heart of the city from Kailua Pier to the Kuamo'o Battlefield. This charming town mixes numerous historical sites with modern tourist attractions.

Restaurants, shops, Kona vacation rentals, Kona condos, and hotels abound. There are plenty of things to do in Kona.

'Two Step' Keone'ele Cove

#5 Rated in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Keone'ele Cove at the center of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (refuge) is one of the best spots to turtle watch and snorkel on the island.

The Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) often heave themselves upon the soft sand for a nap, inspiring plenty of onlookers with cameras.

This area is called "Two Step" because the snorkelers enter the water off a naturally-formed lava step into 10 ft. of water. The next step drops off into 25 ft. of water.

Kona Coast (Kekaha Kai) State Park

#4 Rated in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Kona Coast or Kekaha Kai State Park is 1,600 acres of beautiful sand and pristine blue waters. There are actually several beaches in the park which is accessed via a 1.5-mile road located between the 91 and 90-mile markers on Highway 19 north of Kona.

Once you reach the first parking area you can take the path to your right and north to Mahai'ula Bay a lovely crescent of white sand and clear waters. This is a popular beach with people and honu who choose nice warm spots to sunbathe.

Kua Bay & Manini'owali Beach

#3 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

Kua Bay, also called Manini'owali Beach, is a lovely little pocket of sand that used to be very difficult to access, but since a multi-million dollar road has been paved right through the lava- it's a snap to enjoy this Big Island gem.

Kua Bay beach has full facilities including restrooms and showers, water, barbecues, and picnic tables. It is very popular on the weekends, not to mention parking can be a nightmare, so you might want to aim for the weekdays.

When the water is calm, swimming is great here - some of the best in Kona. However, if the waves are going, stay out because it can be extremely dangerous.

Makalawena Beach

#2 Rated in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Nestled between the regional borders of Kailua-Kona and Kohala, like anything worthwhile, Makalawena, or Mak, Beach makes you work a little bit to enjoy it. It's about a 20-minute walk across the lava to the beach, but don't worry, the path is well worn through the a'a flow.

This secluded white sand beach is a crescent broken up by rocky lumps of lava. Palms and other trees rim the dunes near the northern end where you are greeted with picnic tables and some wild chickens.

It's not likely that you will run into many people here and thus you'll likely be able to enjoy the most scenic beach on the island in solitude.

Puuhonua o Honaunau Historical Park

#1 Rated in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (poo-oo-ho-noo-ah o hoe-now-now), formerly known as Place of Refuge at Honaunau, is an incredibly beautiful and educational experience that no trip to the Big Island should be without.

After paying your vehicle entrance fee and walking past the educational displays, you round a corner and are transplanted into the world of the ancient Hawaiians. On this scorched land of sand and lava rock, the ali'i (ruling class) of Hawaii made their home. 

Visitors can explore how the Hawaiians worked and played underneath the shade of Honaunau's stately palms.

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