Warning: Before embarking on any outdoor activity, make sure to check with lifeguards for current conditions!
Kona and the Big Island have countless natural attractions, and everyone knows about the biggest ones, Kīlauea Volcano and the summit of Mauna Kea. The Kona area has many fascinating natural attractions to explore, so here are five of the top attractions in Kona, Hawai’i for those who want to see the natural side of the Big Island.
Kona Coast Reefs
Kona boasts the best snorkeling on the Big Island. For easy ocean access and a tremendous concentration of marine life, be sure to check out Kahalu‘u Beach Park. Kamakahonu, also called King Kamehameha Beach has family friendly waters and beautiful reefs hosting an abundance of wrasses, yellow tangs, and Moorish idols. The best snorkeling bar none is found 18 miles south of Kona at Kealakekua Bay; however, this is an extremely popular snorkeling spot, so expect crowds.
Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Cinder Cone
Meaning “canoe hill” in Hawaiian, Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a is an ancient volcanic cinder cone on the flanks of Mount Hualālai. The moderately difficult trail up to the top is located within Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Cinder Cone State Park, winds four miles through dryland forest, and finalizes with spectacular views of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualālai, the North Kohala Range, and Maui. Myriad endemic bird and plant species inhabit Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a’s slopes and there is an ancient obsidian mine along the trail.
Kekaha Kai State Park
Beautiful Kekaha Kai State Park runs along the coast just north of Kona and encompasses three stunning white sand beaches, a black sand beach, two bays, two inland ponds, and a cinder cone. The trail is an 8.5-mile loop; however, you can hike as far or near as you want. Be sure to wear rugged shoes and bring water and sunscreen. To get to there, take Highway 19 north. Between mile markers 88 and 89 turn left at the sign for Kekaha Kai State Park.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
No trip to the Big Island is complete without experiencing our active volcanoes—one of the top Kona island attractions. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park encompasses the world’s most active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Pu‘u O‘o Vent, and runs from 4,000 feet in elevation to sea level. Miles of hiking trails criss-cross the park, and numerous dormant volcanic craters can be seen along Chain of Craters Road. Experience volcanic steam vents, endemic rain forest, the massive Thurston Lava Tube, Devastation Trail and many other fascinating volcanic features. The best viewing of Kīlauea is at night from the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory and Jaggar Museum.
Mauna Kea Summit
Home to the Keck Observatory, the otherworldly 13,803-foot summit of Mauna Kea offers spectacular views of the Big Island and the best stargazing on the planet. Mauna Kea is the tallest sea mountain in the world, soaring to 33,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. The seemingly barren terrain is actually home to numerous endemic plant and animal species including the Mauna Kea silversword and yellow-faced bee. Bring warm clothing and sunscreen, and remember that the air is thin at high elevations. Please check with the professionals before heading up to explore this wonder.