During winter and spring break I try to entertain my kids on a budget here in Kona. We have always have friends coming in to spend time here and they want to have fun on a budget, too. So, I am sharing what we have done over the past few years in case you are looking for some free fun things to do around Kona that are memorable, not too hard and don’t require Herculean strength and fortitude to pull off.
Five Free Fun Things To Do Around Kona
1. Climb to the top of Pu’u Ku’ili (Cinder Cone Near Kua Bay)
There is a visible trail from the road to Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach) that you can walk up to the top of Pu’u Ku’ili, also known as “Butt Hill”. Park nearby, hike up the trail, stand at the top and enjoy the panoramic view and watch for whales. My daughter and I have done the hike twice early in the morning. There is slippery loose gravel, so wear shoes and aim for the patches of grass to get a good foothold.
You can even run around up there and you get to see what the top of the Pu’u looks like. This is a great hike in December-March, because it does not get as hot as if you were to do this at other times of the year. One of these days, I would love to hike up here with a bottle of wine and some pupus and watch the sunset.
2. Stargaze on Mauna Kea
We enjoy going to the Visitors Center at Mauna Kea to watch stars and get to wear jackets, scarves, and gloves and get chilly! We will bring up some snacks and we splurge and pay $2 for the instant hot chocolate mix they sell in the Visitors Center. Then we head outside and watch the stars blanket the heavens. There is usually a guide outside who can help you look through a variety of telescopes for free and sometimes does talks about the constellations, too. (Closed after 5 pm until further notice) Depending on the weather (windy and they won’t be out there with you!) and if it snows..well, you don’t want to be there, either! A good time to go is the new moon, when the moon’s light won’t interfere with your ability to see the Milky Way which is absolutely spectacular as it stretches across the entire sky. It is seriously one of the must things to do if you are visiting. One thing about going in winter, is obviously, the sun sets earlier, making the 90 minute journey each way from Kona more doable with tired children in the winter than in the summer. (There’s the mom in me) You CAN take a tour to the very top at 13,000 feet, but I like to skip the frigid cold, the altitude headache and the bumpy road to the top and stay near the Visitors Center.
Extra free bonus: The kids playground at the rest room stop on the way to Mauna Kea. It is THE best park on the island and our kids even requested that we leave early to play before going up to see the stars. Stop by, its really cool!
3. Words and Wine at Kona Stories
Words and Wine is a monthly event at Kona Stories at the Keauhou Shopping Center where the public can come and support local writers. There are 3 or 4 authors present at each event. Each author gives a 15-20 minute presentation or reading about their work. Kona Stories hosts a lovely table of appetizers and wine during this event. Meet and greet before and after the presentations. Check the events calendar for the authors coming each month. This event happens on the 1st Tuesday every month. (The owners of the store are awesome and have events where they also have complimentary Sangria. Buy local, my friends!) You can buy my books there, too!
4. Find a Beach
Yes, you came all this way to dig your toes into the soft white sand and its FREE! Go to La’aloa (Magic Sands) -five miles south of Kona on Ali’i Drive, when there IS sand and Honl’s Beach, right next to downtown Kona. Other beautiful beaches include Kua Bay and Hapuna Beach. You can also discover the tide pools at the Old Airport tide pools. All of these beaches are amazing places to spend the day, explore and enjoy. We created a fun video showing you the top five beaches, too!
5. Go For a Hike
It’s free AND you get to discover so many incredibly beautiful places on Hawaii Island. Our favorite is Pololu Valley and we created this video so you can see that you can bring kids or yourself for a gorgeous day. We recently hiked down to Kealekekua Bay on the Captain Cook Monument trail and let me tell ya…it is hard, but to get to snorkel in one of the most beautiful bays in Hawaii, well, it’s worth the long 1.9 mile hot hike back up! But bring plenty of water and wear closed toe shoes. Here is a video we did so you can see! For a pretty intense hike, walk down into Waipio Valley! It’s a 975 foot drop on a 25% grade road down making it the steepest road in America, but when you get down there, you are in another world. Three miles round trip! You can see what the road looks like and some of the farms in the valley in this video. Other notable hikes include Kiholo Bay, Makalewena Beach, Kalopa State Park and Kilauea Iki in Volcanoes National Park. (You DO need to have a National Park pass to get into that hike).
For more ideas of free things to do on the Big Island, check out this post “Things to Do for Free On Hawaii’s Big Island”