While Ironman Kona is a HUGE deal for the triathletes and they will be quite preoccupied leading up to the race, this means that you, trisupporter, need to find activities to do to occupy your time.  You can easily find the most popular tourist things to do and in fact, you can find them right here on the TriWivesClub.  We have done multiple articles on Kona with things to do, places to eat, and spectating tips. So, we thought you might like something off the beaten path.

what are things to do beyond ironman kona

A simply magnificent Hawaiian sunset. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

We have a good friend who actually lives on the island and has for many years, so is helping us with some local tips. We will be sharing both what we didn’t get to last year and tips from the locals. Take advantage of our insider knowledge and read our series on Beyond Ironman Kona. Here’s Tip 1, in case you missed it…

TIP 2 – KIHOLO BAY AND WAIMEA

KIHOLO BAY

If you’re itching to see turquoise water, abundant wildlife, including sea turtles, less people, and a clear fresh water pool in a lava tube, then Kiholo Bay is your kind of place.  Take Highway 19 (Queen K) north to mile marker 82 and the Scenic Overlook – not too far from Kona.  You can stand there and just gape and have a gorgeous view and be happy or if you crave more, you can hike down the long, and at times arduous path to the ocean and be in for a treat. (Dress accordingly for a hike). Cars are not allowed on the beach anymore.

Or, if you’re not up for the hike, you can drive to the dirt access road (pay attention or you’ll miss it) between mile markers 82 & 83 and head to the beach parking lot and then you have a much shorter walk.  You will need to bring everything with you if you go, such as food, water, and sunscreen as there are no facilities and only a portable toilet.

what are things to do on kona

A picturesque view at Kiholo Bay. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

Kīholo Bay is a protected series of calm, turquoise tidepools inside a picturesque bay.  We think it makes for an awesome beach day, especially if you want to be more off that beaten path. When the surf is calm, you can swim and snorkel.  Conservation efforts have really improved the location over the past few years.  So, please respect the area, pick up any trash, and DON’T disturb the sea turtles;  they are protected under Hawaii State Law!

what are things to do on hawaii beyond ironman kona

Strolling the black rock beach at Kiholo Bay. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

The area is surrounded by private property, so make sure to stay on the public access roads.  In fact, if you walk down the coast from the bay (direction depends on where you entered; south if from the Scenic Outlook and north if from the beach parking lot), you will come upon Bali House, which is quite unique in design, completely self-sustaining, and apparently owned by John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell hair products.

Keep walking about 100-200 yards further down the coast and you’ll come upon Queen’s Bath (Keanalele Waterhole).  This is a lava tube that is filled with water from a spring.  As you can see from the picture, my family recently found it and obviously, found it to their liking…Water shoes might be a good idea for this activity.

what are some off the beaten path things to do on kona

My family on a recent trip to Kiholo Bay and the Queen’s Bath. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

You can either keep walking down the beach or head back and continue your journey.

WAIMEA

Again, you’ll be heading north out of Kona on Highway 19, the Queen K and you take this all the way to Waimea.  This is called upcountry and is located inland, so you’re seeing very different terrain, full of rolling, green pastures.   The town itself has art galleries, boutiques, wonderful cafes, and cowboy (paniolo)-inspired everything.  Look no further if you need a new pair of cowboy boots.  It can be a bit cooler, so maybe throw a jacket in the car.  Several things to do and see:

  • Visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays between 7 am and 12 pm for a taste of the local produce and made to order food.
  • Nearby Waipi’o Valley has some great scenic vistas.  It is one of the most beautiful and secluded places, but a bit difficult to get to.  You could consider a horseback ride in the valley with Kahua Ranch north on Highway 250 or you can drive.  Continue on Highway 19 to Honokaa and then take Highway 240 north about 10 miles to where it dead ends.  Park your car at the Waipio Valley Lookout and hike down to the bottom – it is quite steep.  When you reach the beach, you can go right and see Kuluahine falls or go left and see the 1400 foot high Hi’ilawe.  Either way a winner…
what are things to do in kona from the locals

A view of Hi’ilawe. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

A few notable restaurants that have been tried and tested are:

  • Hawaiian Style Cafe for breakfast – Great for pancakes and what triathlete doesn’t eat pancakes.  This is where the locals go…
  • Original Big Island Shave Ice Company.  From the locals and my in-laws who were recently there, “The most amazing shave ice EVER!!! It’s made from all natural juice, that the owner cooks and makes himself.  The coconut tastes like Haupia!!!  All the natural selections are yummmmo!”  This is not located right in Waimea, but close.  Whether you go on your way to or from Waimea or Havi, it’s located on 270, just about a mile down the road from the 19 junction. It’s literally a food truck in the Blue Dragon restaurant parking lot.  Make sure you check the site for hours and days of operation. I think they are closed on Mondays.

    things to do on hawaii in kona

    Our family enjoying their Original Big Island Shave Ice.

  • Big Island Brewhaus for homemade beers and Mexican food.  Most of the food is grown locally and is organic.  They believe great food deserves great beer which deserves great people who deserve great music (Tues, Thurs, & Fri).
  • If you want to sample Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, why not go to it’s home and try Merriman’s.  This is Chef Peter Merriman’s locally sourced, upcountry restaurant.  Voted Best Big Island Restaurant for at least 15 years, it’s even been reviewed by the New York Times and LA Times.  It’s open for lunch and dinner.  We’d recommend making reservations.

If you haven’t done the trip to Hawi yet, you can take the inland route, Highway 250 north and see some stunning scenery and then after seeing Hawi, return to Kona down Highway 270 and back to Highway 19 along the coast.

what are some things to do from locals on hawaii and kona

A few of the rolling green pastures of Waimea with Mauna Kea in the background. Photo credit Frances Peterson.

So, we hope you are able to take advantage of this tip and get out of Kona for a day or two. There is so much to see and do. Be sure to check back with us for TIP 3.  If you need help with ANYTHING on the island, including reservations, please contact our friend, Kathy Boyd, and she will be more than happy to help you out…Also, you can always check out Go Hawaii for more details or Love Big Island for tons of local information.

WHAT OFF THE BEATEN PATH ACTIVITIES AND FOOD HAVE YOU FOUND ON THE BIG ISLAND?