Joe's tips and top picks for visitors (not ranked, just numbered for organizational purposes)-
1- Use reef safe sunscreen. Please, pretty please. If you are a sun burner, pick up a UV resistant rash guard(shirt) at walmart for $10
2- Pickup some reef shoes. We have a lot of beautiful coral reefs often out a bit that you can't see. Reefs = sea urchins which can easily ruin your trip / the next month of your life
3- Throw up the shaka to cross the street (folks are more likely to let you go). Use the shaka to ask folks to let you into traffic. Let others into traffic. Aloha is contagious once you contract it 🙂
4- Keep your distance from turtles and monk seals. Really, we don't want them to stop coming around and you could get a fine
Things I don't recommend-
1- Visiting the lava. (As of May 08) all roads are needed for emergencies and it's disrespectful to the families that have been impacted.
2- Going to Green Sands. Green sands is "Kapu" and there has been too much land erosion from tourists. There are few places that we would consider not cool to the locals, and this is one of those places(and not an allowed "maintained trail"). In my opinion, just not worth spending a whole day doing. I just personally don't see the effort to reward balance here. If you do feel strongly about going, pay a local when you get there to take you out to the beach
3- Waipio Valley- Let's respect the locals. It's so busy these days that locals can't get to work, home, shopping, etc. Please visit Pololu Valley instead. Just as pretty with black sand beaches and waterfalls and a nice 15-20 short and beautiful hike.
4- Jumping off cliffs, especially with the winter swells
5- Taking the entire soft top off of the Jeep. It's a huge pain to put back together, especially when you hit rain (and you will)
Activities- (please see the "book Activities" link on the page to get locked int)
1-Swim with mantas. Kona is essentially the only place to do this that doesn't require scuba. We like the Splashers Oceans adventures
2- Swim with Dolphins. You have about a 75% chance of swimming with dolphins if you rent a SUP board or kayak from Kona Boys by the King K Marriot. Go early (7am ish) ,paddle out about 50 yards, take a left, and you just may be surrounded by dolphins. Be sure to check with the Kona Boys' employees for safety tips, etc.
2- Mauna Kea - The tallest mountain on earth(from sea level but it's still awesome). This is why you need a 4Wd
3- Pololu Valley - sort of similar to Waipio in that you see waterfalls, black sand beach etc but it's a short hike as opposed to treacherous descent
4- Hapuna beach - this is the largest white sand beach we have and where you want to go body boarding at
5- Snorkeling Captain cook monument. IMO(and feedback from others) best snorkeling in Hawaii. You can hike down (ugh!) or rent a kayak and kayak over. Kayaking is cool as you have a good chance of dolphins playing along side you
7- check out the 5 secret beaches that our friend Julie at 365 Things To Do In Kona, HI put together: http://bit.ly/Top5HawaiiIslandBeaches
In fact, check out her page for all sorts of things. She often has posts about kid friendly events and does a great job informing folks about taking care of the island.
1- Kaaloa's Super Js Authentic Hawaiianloa's Super J's Authentic Hawaiian - legit Hawaiian skip the touristy Luau buffet food and hit this place instead
2- SUSHI ROCK HAWII ROCK HAWI in Hawi. The best sushi on the planet. Most of our visitors seem to agree and talk about how great it was as if it was one of highlights of their trip. Hit this place when you are up north before or after your pololu hike. Check their hours before going. In fact, check every companies' hours before going to far out of your way.
3- On The Rocks - This is to the right of Huggos. Grab a table by the ocean, kick off your slilppahs, and enjoy the sand on your toes as you watch a nightly band or hula lesson
4- Island Lava Javaa Java - kinda famous for their 100% Kona coffee and brekky but they have higher end dinner plates
5- Foster's Kitchen. Also higher end unique dishes. OMG the Lamb! Lots of gluten free options
6- Breakfast at Bongo Ben's Island Cafego Ben's Island Cafe. - They serve until 2PM I think and are known for the best breakfast
7- Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill Konae Rey's Ohana Grill Kona. Probably the fanciest dinner place with food to match. REALLY good stuff. No ocean view so maybe save this spot for a night you are eating after sunset.
8- Island Ono Loa Grill Grill - little burger joint a bit off the alii path. Best burger I've had in years. Try the pablono burger
9- Da Poke Shack not sure if you like poke? They let you sample. Like poke? this is THE place
10- Kona Pub and Brewery - home of the original Kona Brewery. I highly recommend the pizza with the roasted big garlic. Save the garlic for your pizza and slather it on like you'll never kiss a person again. Amazing people, beer, everything.
11- Laverns- this is a sports bar that typically has live music in the evenings. A good mix of locals and chill visitors. Friday and Saturday after 10PM, it turns into a dance club
12- Poi Dog Deli. The BEST sandwiches and a huge beer selection. As a reuben sandwich connoisseur, I was super happy to find this place doing it the right way. They have live music and change their menu up often so check out their FB page - https://www.facebook.com/PoiDogDeli/