We're going to be in Kona (Hawaii) for Christmas and New Years. Suggestions?

My husband is already there (lucky bugger) and I arrive this coming Wednesday. We are spending the holidays there with my parents (who arrived on Thursday), and one of my sisters and her husband. We’re in Kailua-Kona, just off Ahii Drive (on the Ironman route). I’m just looking for suggestions on places to go and things to do for my husband and I. My parents are there about four months of the year and have some stuff for us all to do during the four week stay, but they are not active like my husband and I are, so don’t have any insight in to our type of activities.

We are taking our road bikes and are avid cyclists. I considered doing the Ironman course, but it sounds brutal for a Canadian currently on a trainer inside, and as my husband is still recovering from an ACL replacement this summer, this might not be a good idea. Any other ride suggestions are welcome - we’d be looking at something around 40km - 80km with scenery or nice stops along the way, and are fine with hilly rides (I hear there is a good ride up the volcano?).

I am training for a half marathon, so will be doing a few runs a week. It appears running along Ahii Drive is fine, but is there anywhere else? My longest run while there will be 18km, so interesting running locals are appreciated!

We are both open water divers (I’m just a standard open water diver, my husband is a professional technical dive master - he dives as part of his job - so he can do the more interesting stuff). I know any diving in there area is spectacular, but any specific suggestions? My husband bought a surfboard yesterday, and I plan on taking a few lessons when I get there, but any other water activities that we should try out? Is paddleboarding a regular activity there?

We both enjoy a good cup of coffee or espresso/cappuccino. I really like Kona coffee and would appreciate any suggestions for nice coffee shops we could visit. We are also foodies, but my husband is Celiac, so needs to have options where ever we go.

Finally, my parents are buying a car during this trip. Not new, just something to leave at the house for when we visit (a Corolla or similar). They are Canadian, so I’m not sure if insurance works differently for them or not. Any advice?

Thanks for any input and suggestions! :slight_smile:

Yes, but making them would get me banned. :smiley:

We did a tour up to the observatories on Mauna Kea. It was fascinating, and a real treat for my husband the space buff. While you don’t get to go into any of the observatories, you get to watch them at work. Sunset is spectacular, and the stargazing is amazing.

We also did a night tour where you swim (snorkel) with manta rays. Very cool! As a diver, you may be able to really get in the midst of the swarm.

I’m sad to report that we weren’t able to find great dinners Kona-side. Hilo was better. Do try out Da Poke Shack for some of the best poké in the world. We had a nice, laid back brunch at Holuakoa Cafe.

Coffee is good almost everywhere. Avoid chains and go for the local shops - Starbucks is Starbucks, even in Hawaii.

Enjoy your trip! I’m jealous… :slight_smile:

My wife and I have visited the Big Island three times now. We enjoyed the historical sites a lot.




Beaches are few and far between. One of the best is Hapuna Beach State Park.

You might want to look into a trip up to the observatory. A bit pricey but if the sky is clear, the view should be fantastic.

Excellent, thanks folks! A trip to the observatory is on the list already! Mom and Dad did it earlier this year and INSIST that we go. Dad also said the tour was expensive ($200 or so a person, I think), but well worth it. I’m looking forward to it.

Thank you for all the other suggestions, keep 'em coming! :slight_smile:

Note that you can do this drive yourself, for the cost of the gas. I’ve done this 5 times and have never had an issue.

It’s a looong way up there, but the road is good the whole way - any decent 2WD vehicle can make it. Yet the driver had better know something about how to descend a very long, rather steep grade without cooking the brakes (use low gear). And I don’t think it would be a good idea to do this at night. (Note that your night view of the stars will be good from any remote place on the island - being at a high altitude helps, but doesn’t make a huge difference.)

Also note that the altitude gain is over 13,000’ from where you’ll be staying. Even if you are in good shape (as must be the case if you are ready for a half-marathon) you’ll find that any serious exertion at the summit is an issue. But having time to hike around and explore a bit is nice - and something the expensive tour is unlikely to give you.

As recently as 6 years ago (the last time I was there) car rental companies were still proclaiming the Saddle Road (aka Hilo-Kona road, Route 200 - from which you access the Mauna Kea summit road) to be off limits. This is nonsense - that route is a good paved road without problems (though due to being bordered by black lava, perhaps not the place to be at night).

The road to the summit is definitely off limits to rental cars - but all that means is that if you break down there, you’ll be responsible for the tow (which would certainly be expensive). Because it’s a good road leading to one of the notable spots on planet Earth, you should ignore this negativity and go for it.

We loved a nice little coffee place located smack in the middle of all the coffee plantations, just up the hill from Kona. It’s the Holuakoa Cafe, and they make excellent fresh Kona coffee and espresso. It’s on a road called Hawaii Belt Road, which runs north and south along the fertile coffee slopes. It’s an interesting and verdant drive which will take you through acres and acres of coffee plantations.

Indeed, totally worth it. They even include a sandwich and a borrowed parka! What a deal! (but seriously, totally worth it.)

I assume you’ll go see the Volcanos at some point. It would be silly not to. Absolutely gorgeous. Akaka falls is nice to see, too.

We enjoyed this:
although it might be a bit tourist-trappy for some.

Thanks for bumping with more information. :slight_smile:

We are indeed doing the observatory tour - it’s booked. We are also spending a couple of days in Hilo to check out Volcano.

We are doing the Manta Ray dive shortly after I get there (two more sleeps…yaaayyy!). They guys are heading out fishing on Boxing Day too (VERY expensive!).

Other worthwhile items:

Snorkeling at the Capt. Cook monument (north side of Kealakekua Bay) - Probably the best snorkeling spot on the island, but hard to get to. There’s actually a road that runs there, but it’s really just a walking track (it descends over 1200’ in less than 2 miles and would destroy any normal vehicle 4WD that tried to climb it). You may be able to get a boat ride there from the south side of the bay (which is readily accessible by road).

South Point - Good short walks, waves crashing on rocks, very scenic. Interesting swimming/snorkeling (if you climb down a long ladder), but be careful of strong currents. Humpback whales often in view (starting late Dec).

Waipio Valley (~45 miles N of Hilo) - Ultra-steep road down into this deep valley requires (4WD low range) - but it’s not a brutal walk. Interesting beach and walking opportunities.

Hawaii Tropical Botanic Gardens (~7 miles NE of Hilo) - Drop-dead gorgeous; not to be missed.

Rent a big car. That way, when the tsunami warnings come and you have to leave your beachfront resort and spend the night with your two kids in the car up the hill, you won’t be quite so crowded and miserable - you’ll still be miserable, but you won’t be saying “why didn’t I let my husband rent the SUV?!”

OK, maybe that was a little specific.

Here’s a previous thread that is chock-a-block with Big Island suggestions:

If you do decide to bike on Haleakala, do be careful. There’s not a lot of room for error, and way too many people who drive like they are on vacation. Which they are, but still…

We did the night manta ray snorkel. It was outstanding, even though I got sicker than a dog from my motion sickness.

There’s a zipline on Big Island, too. We did one on Maui, and it was more fun than a human should be allowed to have.


Good burgers at Huggo’s on the Rocks, but what’s even better is that a coffee company rents the same space starting at the crack of WTF until around 10:30 am. They serve Kona coffee, and they’ll make egg dishes with the espresso steamer. Mmmmm.

  1. Get a copy of the Big Island Reveled.
  2. You can rent kayak and paddle across the bay to the Cpt Cook Monument. The Big Island Revealed will recommend places to rent from.
  3. I enjoyed visiting several coffee farms and tasting their wares. I still order from Greenwell Farms.
  4. Stop and get some Mac nut pie damn good, you might want to take one home.
  5. Get the Big Island Reveled and read it.

A thousand times yes!

They have the entire book as an app, too.

That’s Maui.


You are, of course, correct.

Doubled trebled, whatever, this book is awesome. We had the Big Island one, the Kauai one and the Oahu one and never had a unhappy experience with their advice.

Well worth picking it up as the app as the book is, like most guidebooks, a couple pounds.

You already have most of my Big Island favorites booked but if you’re looking for a long day outing a drive over to Volcano National Park with your bikes on a trailer would be a great idea. There are some really interesting lavafields (cold ones) right beside the road as you drive through and I think biking there would be a great way to explore.