Located on the western side of Hawaii where the beautiful Hualalai volcano meets the Pacific, Kailua-Kona—usually referred to as Kona or Kona Coast—is a popular vacation and second home destination. From coastlines dotted with luxury residential communities and resorts to lush forests and breathtaking snorkeling spots, there is no shortage of places to visit and explore.
“Kona is a great place to buy a home because it is one of the most diverse places in the entire world that enjoys eight different climate zones. From hiking through a tropical cloud forest, snorkeling clear blue waters, or wimming with giant manta rays at night, the Big Island of Hawaii has it all,” says Carrie Nicholson, Director of Hawai’i Life.
While in Kona, here are five must-do activities recommended by the team at Hawai’i Life.
1. Float above manta rays at night.
The night manta swim experience should be added to the bucket list of anyone with a love of nature and adventure! While it might seem counterintuitive to snorkel at night, the tour companies organizing these provide a safe environment to get up close and personal with majestic manta rays. After taking a quick boat ride, you’ll enter the water and float as a small group on an apparatus outfitted with a bright light, which draws plankton (manta rays’ food of choice). As the manta rays approach the light, they flip over to feed, exposing their mouths and sleek, light-colored bellies. They are so close you may even have one brush against you. Book your experience through Hawaiian Coastline Adventures or Sea Quest Hawaii. Note: if water conditions are rough, tours will be cancelled and rescheduled for safety (and visibility) reasons. If this happens, do your best to reschedule—you won’t regret it!
2. Embark on a coastal daytime snorkeling adventure.
Cruising along the coast of Kona—depending on the time of year—you’ll spot sea lions, dolphin, sea turtles, and even whales as you make your way to multiple snorkeling spots. Tour companies such as Sea Quest Hawaii offer half- and full-day private and group excursions plus everything you need for a perfect day viewing wildlife in and out of the water. A popular spot for snorkeling that features calm water and an abundance of marine life is Kealakekua Bay, home to the monument to Captain James Cook. Many tours include up-close views of lava tubes and coastal caves. Don’t forget your camera, sunblock, and towel!
3. Take a tour of a coffee farm.
Kona is synonymous worldwide with decadent coffee! No visit to Kona is complete without a coffee farm tour (and tasting). According to Love Big Island, there are more than 650 coffee farms of all sizes clustered along the 20 miles on the Hualalai and Mauna Loa slope. One of these, Greenwell Farms, offers complimentary 45-minute guided tours of its coffee fields and processing facilities daily. From seed to cup, guests are given an inside look at the history, farming, and processing of coffee before sampling its 100% Kona Coffee.
4. Explore the only cloud forest in the U.S.
In the heart of an area known as Kaloko-Mauka, just a quick drive from the Kona Coast, is the only cloud forest in the United States. During a guided walking tour of this private sanctuary, property owner Kelly Dunn delivers three-hour educational and interactive experience. You’ll learn about the distinctive plants, flowers, and trees that thrive at 3,000 feet on the slopes of Mauna Loa—some of which you’ll only find on the Big Island. Read more about the tour here or call 808-640-3888 to book your tour.
5. Spend time with sea turtles at Kahalu’u Beach Park.
Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, Kahalu’u Bay is teaming with sea turtles and dozens of fish species including Yellow Tang, Bullethead Parrotfish, and Hawaiian Spotted Boxfish. The cove is almost completely surrounded by a partially submerged rock wall that keeps the larger waves out. It is regularly listed as one of the top spots in Hawaii for snorkeling, especially for beginners. Experiencing so many sea turtles in a small space is awe-inspiring. Just remember to give the turtles and other marine life space. Outside the water: Tiny St. Peter’s Catholic Church still stands on the shoreline of Kahaluʻu Bay—it’s a popular photo opportunity and historical landmark.
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