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Hawaii vacation experiences only possible in Kona


By Theo Panagopoulos, Jun 2020

Gorgeous beach in Kona, Hawaii


The Big Island of Hawaii is a place of astonishing beauty with colossal volcanoes, lush tropical forests, splendid beaches and charming coastal towns. It's hard to stand out here, but it only takes a few hours in Kona to realize that this small beach community is much different from other seaside towns on the Big Island.

Here are a handful of extraordinary experiences you can only have on a Hawaii vacation in Kona.


Go night swimming with manta rays

The waters just off the coast of Kona are home to magnificent coral reefs, Hawaiian sea turtles and an abundance of colorful tropical fish. Snorkeling amid the underwater flora and fauna is a must-do activity for your Hawaii vacation, but Kona's most famous offering is a truly unique spectacle.

Kona's coastline is a favorite feeding spot for a large population of giant manta rays. Join a catamaran tour or book a scuba dive with professional guides, then jump in the water at night, when the gentle giants come out in search of food, to snorkel or paddleboard alongside the animals for a life-changing experience.


Get your coffee fix with a taste of authentic Hawaiian java

The Christian missionaries who planted the first coffee seeds in and around Kona couldn't have predicted that the coastal town would become one of the world's coffee capitals. Thanks to a favorable climate and fertile volcanic soil, which spans around the area known as the Kona Coffee Belt, Kona produces uniquely excellent coffees.

You can get your caffeine fix at one of the numerous cafes in town, but you can also visit a coffee farm to learn how the valuable beans are harvested, processed and packaged. There are hundreds of coffee farms around Kona, and most of them offer daily tours, workshops and tasting sessions. Head over to Greenwell Farms for an inside look at life on a coffee farm, or visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm for a glimpse into Kona's coffee history (and to load up on a few bags of coffee to bring home).


Attend a luau and explore Hawaiian culture

No Hawaii vacation is complete without attending a traditional Hawaiian luau. The luau is one of Hawaii's oldest customs, a celebration of dance, music, gastronomy and Polynesian culture. Luaus customarily take place on the oceanfront at sunset, when pink and purple skies set the stage for a magical ceremony that represents the islands' history, with performers telling the tales of their ancestors and bringing old myths to life.

During a luau, you'll get the chance to marvel at the famous hula dance, indulge in delicious Polynesian dishes (like kalua pork baked in an imu oven and taro vegetable rolls), participate in craft-making and witness the world-renowned fire-breathing dance. You can attend a luau in almost every big resort in Kona, or you could catch a ceremony at one of the numerous local luau venues for a more authentic experience.


Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Big Island, Hawaii

See the imposing guardians of the Hale o Keawe temple at Pu'uhonua o H¿naunau National Historical Park.


Visit a world-class national historical park

Kona is a great place to immerse yourself in local history by exploring a few of the island's hidden gems. Just a short drive south of Kona, you'll find the famous sacred site of Pu'uhonua O H¿naunau National Historical Park. In ancient times, people who violated the kapu (the sacred laws of the ancient Hawaiians) were sentenced to death. There was only one way to escape their doom: reaching the grounds of Pu'uhonua o H¿naunau.

Today, you can visit the place of refuge and marvel at the Hale o Keawe temple and its imposing wooden guardian statues, called ki'i. Alternatively, head to Kaloko-Honok¿hau National Historical Park about 10 minutes north of Kona, where you'll find the famous petroglyphs depicting the traditions of the indigenous Kanaka Maoli people, plus a few remarkable Hawaiian fishponds.


Eat your way through a farmers market

Kona is the best place on the Big Island to experience an authentic Hawaiian farmers market flush with stalls selling unique tropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, jewelry and handicrafts. These bustling, colorful Hawaiian street markets provide numerous photo opportunities and are great places to go souvenir-hunting. There are several markets spread throughout the city, but the most impressive ones are, arguably, the Kona Farmers Market in central Kona and the Pure Kona Green Market just a few minutes south of downtown.

With its unique natural wonders, sites and tastes, Kona is a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian experience. Make one visit to this small beach town on the Big Island and you'll see why it holds a special charm.


Ready to get your Kona adventure started? Browse the best travel packages for your next Hawaii vacation today!

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