Free Things To Do in Kona, Hawaii
No matter how many times you visit Hawaii, the magic and beauty of this exotic place never fails to hypnotize and inspire. From amazing beaches and incredible landscapes to beautiful marine life and ancient history, the area surrounding Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel is full of free attractions sure to appeal to everyone. Read on to learn more about a few of our favorites:
Free Hula returns in November at the Shops at Mauna Lani Stage
Experience the vibe of 1920s to 1950s Hawaii when you catch our lovely local ladies perform one-of-a-kind hula dances set to the melodies of hapa hoale. Recapturing a time before statehood when the islands first captured the imagination of travelers from around the world, these free 30-minute shows take place every Monday at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve
Take a trip back in time and discover some of Hawaii's ancient history at the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve. Approximately 1,200 petroglyphs-also known as "stone art" images-have been documented in the area where public access is allowed. Explore on your own or enjoy guided tours complete with helpful maps and brochures.
Kona Coffee Tasting Tour
Hawaii is famous for its deliciously strong Kona coffee. Find out how it all happens by taking a self-guided coffee tasting tour today! Covering approximately 20 miles of the scenic mountainside above Kailua-Kona, these 600 specialty coffee farms are the only place in the world where certified Kona coffee is produced. Add a spattering of mills, roasters, retail outlets and museums, and you've got the perfect excuse for a rejuvenating-and literally priceless-tour of one of Hawaii's finest export operations.
Rest your bones on the white sand beaches of the Kona/Kohola coast. Enjoy the mild waters and mountain-protected waves of the western coast. Snorkel at Hilo and Kona-where gradually sloped ocean floors allow underwater tourists a gentle entry into the crystal clear waters. Witness the strikingly beautiful black and green sand beaches of the southern coast. All these beaches are available for your leisurely enjoyment any time of the day or night…at no cost to you.
Drive Saddle Road
Looking for an adventure? While Hawaii lulls its visitors with softly crashing waves, easy breezes, and days of leisure, you can easily up the adrenaline with a drive across Saddle Road. Spanning a high valley between the two great mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, this interior shortcut between East and West Hawaii leads drivers through a thrillingly wide variety of eco, climactic, and geologic zones as you climb up to a stupefying 6,000 feet and wind your way back down again.
See the Sea Turtles
Get a little Hawaiian wildlife-watching under your belt with a visit to Kahalu'u Beach Park, about six miles south of Kailua-Kona on Ali'i Drive. Quiet, secured, and somewhat secluded, this is a perfect place to come face-to-face with the gentle sea turtle. You can also capture a glimpse of these great creatures at Honaunau Bay-conveniently located near the Place of Refuge.
Akaka Falls and Honomu Town
As you make your way to Akaka Falls-a gorgeous waterfall measuring close to 500 feet high-take a stroll through the charming, tiny village of Honomu Town, 11 miles north of Hilo on the Hamakua coast. Once a bustling community catering to the sugar industry, Honomu now welcomes travelers with a delightful row of eateries, antique stores, and craft shops.
Hike to King Kamehameha's Birthplace
West of Hawaii near the ruins of Mo'okini Heiau, King Kamehameha's birthplace is breathtaking to behold. Considered one of Hawaii's most significant historic sites, this enormous sacrificial temple dating from about 480 A.D. spans the length of a football field. The king's birthplace, marked by a plaque, is a few hundred yards away from the heiau. On the third Saturday of each month, you can be a witness to Hawaiian history as Leimomo Mookini Lum, whose ancestors built the temple, clean the site and share family lore about the temple and its beginnings.
Boiling Pots of Wailuku River
Boiling water? The Boiling Pots of Wailuku River are definitely something you have to see to believe…and don't forget to take pictures! Just about two miles upstream from Rainbow Falls, heavy Hawaiian rains churn the river through a succession of "pots." When the water flows beneath a level of old lava, it suddenly bubbles up as if it were boiling. While you can see these "pots" from the parking area, a hike down the trail to the water's edge is infinitely more exciting. We do recommend, however, that you refrain from stepping in.
See the Lava Flows at Kalapana
No visit to Hawaii would be complete without at least a glimpse of molten lava as it pours into the sea. From this perfectly safe vantage point, you'll be able to take photos that you'll treasure long after your Hawaiian adventure has ended. The viewing area is located at the end of Highway 130 in the Puna district and is open from 5pm until 8pm, though no cars are allowed to enter the parking area after 8pm.
Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
One of the few completely free zoos in existence, the Hilo Zoo offers guests a chance to see indigenous species of both flora and fauna. Kids love the petting zoo, which is open on Saturdays from 1:30pm to 2:30pm, and Namasté, the white Bengal tiger gets fed each day at 3:30pm. You'll find the zoo on the outskirts of Hilo at 800 Stainback Highway.
Mokupāpapa: Discovery Center for Hawaii's Remote Coral Reefs
You don't have to be an expert scuba diver to see the wealth of Hawaii's undersea life. The Discovery Center houses a 2,500 gallon saltwater aquarium where you can have a view of the ocean that few really get to see this close. Try your skill operating the same robotic arms that are used by undersea scientists and experience immersive theater to learn about the NWHI Reef. This 4,000 square foot center is open to the public and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm.
Kalōpā State Recreation Area
Escape the bustle of the more crowded tourist areas and experience the natural beauty of this majestic paradise just off Highway 19 at the end of Kalōpā Road, southeast of Honoka'a. This is truly the ideal spot for family day hikes and picnics. Trails pass through an arboretum of the island's native plants as well as a forest reserve before joining a 2-mile horse loop trail. Facilities include restrooms, picnic tables and drinking water.
Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
1.6 miles southwest of 'Upolu Airport, you'll find the birthplace of King Kamehameha as the most famous of the sacrificial temples on the island.
Lapakahi State Historical Park
See the remnants of an ancient coastal settlement as part of a self-guided tour. There is also a visitor kiosk with displays as well as restrooms, but there is no drinking water, so be sure to bring some along. This park is located on Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270), 12.4 miles north of Kawaihae.
Taste the History at Kona Historical Society
Sample traditional Portuguese bread-baking as it's been done since the 1880s—in large wood-fired ovens. Samples are available each Thursday from 11am to 2pm.
Lava Tree State Monument
This is definitely something you don't see everyday—trees made of lava! When a lava flow found its way through this forested area, lava molds of tree trunks were left behind. This state park offers restrooms and picnic tables, but no drinking water. The lava trees can be found off Pahoa-Pohoiki Road (Highway 132), 2.7 miles southeast of Pahoa.
Mauna Kea Observatory
See the stars like few ever do, from a mountaintop observatory! Each evening, volunteer astronomers provide telescopes for stargazers. The visitor information center also offers information about the observatories.