There are several fantastic places to visit on the Big Island and one of the most popular places to stay is in Waikoloa. This is a guide listing all the best things to do in Waikoloa (and nearby)!
Waikoloa is a short drive north of Kona and the airport in Kona. I actually stayed at Waikoloa Village on one of my trips to Hawaii and found it an ideal base with plenty to do if you’re looking to relax or just hang out.
There are also many natural sights in the area, including plenty of beaches! Are there any attractions in Waikoloa that we missed? Let us know in the comments. Thanks!
Things to Do in Waikoloa
Waikoloa Anchialine Pond Preservation Area
The Waikoloa Anchialine Pond Reservation Area is located right inside the Waikoloa Beach Resort. This natural attraction can be easily accessed by anyone, and it consists of brackish water lava pools that many tiny sea creatures call home.
In order to access the ocean, you can walk the trail from the roadside parking. The walk is only five minutes long, and you will be able to get great views of the ponds.
The ponds are managed by the University of Hawaii for research and education. You can catch a look at the beautiful ponds while walking along the beach.
Although the ponds might seem like a great place to swim, there is only sharp lava rock, which makes them not very comfortable for doing so.
Lava Light Galleries
The Lava Light Galleries were started by CJ Kale and Nick Selway, featuring stunning photographs made by the two photographers.
Then, Don and Linda Hurzeler also joined the gallery, which prompted them to open another gallery at Queens Market Place in Waikoloa.
Every day, visitors can catch a glimpse of the beautiful photos between 9:30 AM and 9:30 PM at the marketplace.
Some of the most popular photos featured in the gallery are those of Mount Kilauea, as well as other nature photographs from Hawaii and across the world.
Kalahuipua’a Historic Park
Along the paved trails of the Mauna Lani resort in Waikoloa, you can check out some fascinating petroglyphs, lava tube dwellings, and fishponds in the Kalahuipua’a Historic Park.
The fishponds were always full of mullet, and being the largest in the area, they covered over four acres of land. These fishponds were once full of fish for the royals.
For those who wish to visit, it is important to bring the appropriate hiking gear, as well as water and sun protection. Once you get to the Mauna Lani resort, you will be able to find the trailhead parking area, which is right next to the trail to the park.
Anaeho’omalu Beach is one of the most popular spots in Waikoloa to relax on a hot day and a great spot for a Big Island road trip itinerary!
There is a wide variety of activities one can participate in here, including swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, boating, hiking, and sunset watching.
It is also close to the Historic Fishponds and the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve for those interested in a bit of history. There are plenty of amenities nearby, making the beach the perfect place for the family to relax.
The beach is close enough to Kona and is home to many sea creatures that you can see while snorkeling, and it offers plenty of rental opportunities for those looking to take part in all the fun.
Mauna Lani Golf
Love to golf? Now, you can take your favorite sport to new heights if you visit the Mauna Lani Golf Resort in Waikoloa. Meaning “mountain reaching heaven,” you certainly will feel like you’re in paradise when you spend the day at this luxury golf resort.
It features a golf course with 45 holes, including the North and South golf courses. It also has a WikiWiki short course for those who want to take a shorter trip.
You can check out the different packages offered if you plan on staying a long time, or you can just plan a fun day for any golf lover!
Waialea Beach / Beach 69
Another popular beach in the area is Waialea Beach, which is known especially for its white sand. The beach is especially popular in the summer months due to the sun, shade, and snorkeling opportunities.
There is also a 69 utility pole near the parking area, which is why the locals might sometimes refer to it as 69 Beach. There are lots of trees providing shade, making it the perfect spot to relax in the heat.
You can go snorkeling and diving to explore the diverse marine life or check out the moderately difficult Ala Kahakai hiking trail, which will provide views of some of the most stunning shorelines in Hawaii.
Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative
The Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is home to ancient wiliwili trees. Less than 100 remain in the world, but the focus of the initiative is to plant hundreds each year to prevent the species from dying out.
Here, you will be able to learn more about the forest that covered the territory, as well as different ways in which you can help to preserve that forest.
The initiative offers many volunteer opportunities, field trips, and guided hikes for those who want to learn more about conservation efforts. The guided hikes are also offered at 5 PM on the first Friday of every month for those who want to escape the heat.
49 Black Sand Beach
The 49 Black Sand Beach, which features black sand, sea cliffs, and clear waters, is located near the Mauna Lani Resort.
This beach is different from others nearby due to its black sand, which was formed from fine grains of lava. In order to reach the beach, you have to stop at the guard shack at the entrance to request a beach pass.
Keep in mind that there are rarely more than a dozen people at once at the beach, but you should still try and get there in the morning due to the limited availability of beach passes.
You can also check out the sea cliff trail with stunning views of tide pools and sea caves.
The Shops at Mauna Lani
The Shops at Mauna Lani are a great way for visitors to properly explore the area and get a taste of local cuisine and shopping. You’re sure to find something you like with all the restaurants, shops, and diners here.
Some of the most popular options for dining include Knead and Bake, Pele’s Wok Bistro and Bar, Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar, R. Field Wine Company, and Mauna Lani Coffee Co.
You can also check out some of the shops, like Jams World and Hawaiian Island Creations, galleries, and more.
The shopping center often hosts many events, so be sure to check out the website to see what’s coming up during your visit.
Hapuna Beach State Park
Right along the Kohala Coast is the Hapuna Beach State Park, which is one of Hawaii’s largest white-sand beaches. You can visit the beach between 7 AM and 8 PM every day.
People especially enjoy visiting the beach for its swimming, bodyboarding, sunbathing, and snorkeling opportunities. If you visit in the early part of the year, you will also be able to see some of the migrating whales.
There are many spots for parking, as well as food vendors, picnic areas, and facilities to make it the perfect spot for families. If you want to escape the heat, be sure to take a dip in the cool ocean water!
This is one of the most exciting state parks on the Big Island!
It might be hard to find something your kids will enjoy when you go on vacation, but that definitely isn’t the case in Waikoloa.
One of the most popular destinations for kids is Fishpipe Waikoloa, which is the best way for kids to have fun on the island. It is considered to be the first rotating barrel ride in the world, where three riders are zippered inside a ball and the Fishpipe starts spinning.
The kids get to decide how fast they want the ride to go, and it lasts for 90 seconds total. Fifteen gallons of filtered water is used for every new group, so it’s clean, too!
Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club
The Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club is one of the island’s hidden gems.
Featuring fresh local cuisine, you can taste some of the delicious food at this restaurant while enjoying Makaiwa Bay’s stunning landscape and Hawaiian music. The restaurant is open every day for lunch between 11 AM and 4 PM, and for dinner from 5 PM to 8 PM.
The meat comes from the local Kaunamano Farm, which raises organic pigs to make delicious pork.
You can even order meat from this farm no matter where you are in the US. Some delicious meals to try here include the local catch, rib eye, Ahi, and Kaunamano Farms pork loin.
Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve
The Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve features petroglyph fields scattered across the trail, making it one of the best-preserved petroglyph sites in Hawaii and definitely one of the best things to do in Waikoloa.
From Kailua-Kona, the preserve is 25 minutes, and they are located about a quarter-mile north of the Waikoloa Kings Shops.
The petroglyphs provide a unique glimpse into Hawaii’s history, featuring graphics with humans, birds, and canoes, and cryptics with dots and lines. Some of these petroglyphs were made in the 16th century.
Be sure to stay on the designated paths when visiting, and do not touch the petroglyphs.
Kings’ Shops is a must-visit for any shopaholic. It is a premier shopping and dining destination in Waikoloa, featuring everything from local shops to brand name stores like Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co.
There is also a farmer’s market held on Tuesdays between 9 AM and 2:30 PM. Be sure to check out Aesthetic Hawaii by Genesis Gallery, Hulakai, and Kohala Coast Fine Art for a taste of some local culture.
In addition, check out the website to see upcoming events and special offers around the time of your visit.
Kohala Spa is the perfect spot to relax and wind down after the stress of every day. It is open between 9 AM and 6 PM every day, and aside from spa treatments, you can also order some luxurious spa products.
Although services such as sauna, steam room, and whirlpool are not currently available due to the pandemic restrictions, you can check out services such as massages and beauty packages.
Body treatments and scrubs are also among the more popular services offered at the spa.
You can book your appointment online prior to visiting, and check out some of the many services offered, such as Kohala Indulgence, bath rituals, hydrating hand and foot treatments, body firming treatments, and more.
Hawaii Nautical Sailing
Hawaii Nautical Sailing provides visitors with all kinds of different opportunities for ocean activities, while also selling snorkeling gear and anything else needed for a fun day at the beach.
But the most popular service that the company provides is its many tours. If you want to check out the diverse marine life in Hawaii, this is the place to go.
You can check out some of the tours including whale, dolphin, and turtle sightings, the West Oahu Sunset Sail, Afternoon Snorkel, daily sailing tours, reef snorkeling, adventure sailing, sunset cocktails, fireworks dinners, and so much more.
These tours are done to provide guests with all that Hawaii has to offer while making sure to keep marine wildlife safe.
Legends of Hawaii Luau
The Legends of Hawaii Luau is not to be missed during your trip to the island. It is open five nights per week besides Mondays and Wednesdays.
Guests will experience local food, song, and storytelling, as well as the fire knife dance. Doors open at 5 PM, with the dance show being at 7 PM.
There are many different packages to consider, such as a Hawaiian lei exchange, full Hawaiian dinner service, premier seating, and more.
Also, the menu features plenty of mouthwatering entrees, including Schijimi Blackened Seared Island Catch, Huli Huli Roasted Chicken, and Traditional Big Island Ahi Poke.
Where to Stay in Waikoloa
Many people visiting Waikoloa are staying at the resorts in the area rather than just visiting on a day trip from Kona. Here are some popular spots for lodging in Waikoloa:
- Fairmont Orchid (gorgeous resort)
- Kohala Suites (resort)
- Mauna Lani Point by Hyatt Residence (charming villas)
- Mauni Lani Palm Villas (also villas)
Did we miss any of the best things to do in Waikoloa? Let us know your tips for the destination (or on the Big Island!) in the comments! Thanks!
More Big Island Travel Guides
- Best beaches on the Big Island
- Black sand beaches on the Big Island
- Best beaches in Kona
- Things to do in Kona
- Things to do in Hilo
- Big Island waterfalls
- Best things to do on the Big Island
- Big Island itinerary
- Helicopter flights on the Big Island
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