Hawaii’s Big Island has so many great hiking trails and parks, but you don’t need to leave Kona to immerse yourself in nature. Here’s my favorite hikes and walks in Kona for all skill levels. There’s some beautiful easier walks in the area, but click here if you want to jump directly to the list of more challenging hikes.
A note on the geography of Kona vs Kailua-Kona
“Kona” and “Kailua-Kona” are often used interchangeably, but Kona actually represents a much larger geographical area. Whereas Kailua-Kona refers to the small town where you’ll find restaurants, grocery stores, and the majority of lodging, Kona is a district that encompasses a large percentage of the west side of Hawaii Island.
All of my hiking and walking recommendations are located within the larger Kona district, but are still within about a half hour drive from Kailua-Kona.
Easy Hikes/ Casual Walks in Kona
Maka’eo Walking Path
I love this ridiculously beautiful Maka’eo Walking Path at the Old Kona Airport State Rec Center! If you can manage to keep walking and not take photos every 10 feet, you might even get some exercise. The loop is an easy 0.7 miles, but go ahead and take another couple laps and you’ll see even more bits of beauty that you missed the first time around. Casual strollers, joggers, and even diehard hikers should visit, if only to soak in some tropical color.
Difficulty: Easy. The walking path is paved, and is the closest of all paths listed here to being handicapped accessible. Do note that the parking area in front of the path is gravel, and may present difficulties for wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There: Navigate to the Maka’eo Walking Path, or the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Center. You’ll see the walking path on the right just past the gates.
Old Kona Airport Beach Walk
Right across from the Maka’eo Walking Path in the Old Kona Airport State Recreation center is a verdant beach path perfect for a sunset stroll. The full trail is 1 mile long, and doesn’t loop.
Difficulty: Easy. Do wear shoes or sandals, as the sand can be coarse (not just here, really on a lot of Big Island beaches), and uncomfortable on bare feet.
How to Get There: Navigate to the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Center. The beach is impossible to miss, and there’s plenty of parking.
Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens
This cute little botanical garden admittedly doesn’t require much walking, but it’s a great serene spot to explore in Kona, stretch your legs, or bring your lunch.
Each terrace of the garden showcases different plants, including native Hawaiian, Austalia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Central America.
There’s no admission fee, though donations are accepted, and you can stop and shop at the adjacent thrift store that supports the garden.
How to Get There: Navigate to the Sadie Seymour Botanical Gardens. It’s easy to get to, and there’s free parking on-site.
This popular beach is one of the best places to see sea turtles in Kona. ‘Alula Beach is an easy five minute walk from parking at the harbor. Once at the beach, you can walk further down the coastline, but won’t need to walk far if you just want to set up your beach chairs.
The beach is rocky and shallow, good for kids and wading out to see the turtles. If you have water shoes, bring them to make wading on the rocks more comfortable.
Difficulty: Easy. However, note that the path to the beach is uneven, with volcanic rock sticking up out of the dirt path.
How to Get There: Navigate to Honokohau Harbor. After you turn into the main harbor entrance (turning from Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway onto Kealakehe Parkway), take the first right, then keep to the right as the road curves around. You’ll see the trailhead on the right side of the road, and can park across from it. Walk left (towards the sound of the ocean!) on the trail.
Moderate to Difficult Hikes in Kona
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Start your hike amidst dramatic volcanic rock, and pass through historic ruins on your way to ‘Alula beach, or take a longer 3 mile loop up the coastline at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park.
Difficulty: Moderate. Aside from the uneven path, the hike isn’t too difficult, but it’s unshaded amidst lots of dark volcanic rock, and can get very hot. Because of all the volcanic rock on the trail, they recommend you wear closed toe shoes.
How to Get There: The visitor center of Kaloko-Honokohau is easy to find on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, and has plenty of parking. The center is staffed by rangers who are happy to give advice on hikes and provide a map.
Makuala O’Oma Trail
The Makuala O’Oma trail in the Honua’ula Forest Reserve serves up rainforest vibes more commonly found on the Hilo side of the island. It’s one of the best hikes you’ll find close to Kailua-Kona. Set on the slopes of Hualalai volcano above Kailua-Kona, the trail is mostly shaded, and cooler thanks to the elevation.
The full loop is 3.4 miles, or you can take the shorter bisecting loop. Watch out for the painted rocks that designate where to turn.
The long edges of the trail seen on the map are paths that extend out to the road, so it is possible to miss your turn and lose the trail. Cell service was spotty, but available, and I used the AllTrails app to check my progress when I wasn’t sure if I was on track.
Supportive hiking shoes or boots are recommended, as you’ll be going up and downhill across rocks and tree roots. You may also want to bring rain gear and mosquito repellent.
How to Get There: Navigate to the Makahi St trailhead. Makahi St dead-ends in to the trailhead, and you can park on the side of the street.
Captain Cook Monument Trail at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
This path down to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument is so stunning! If you can hack the steep and difficult terrain, it’s probably the most beautiful hike in Kona. The Captain Cook Monument trail is an out and back trail that’s about two miles downhill, with sections that are steep and rocky and have gravel/rubble. The hike back up can be brutal, but is well worth the snorkeling at Captain Cook monument, as well as the gorgeous views along the way.
If you’re wary of the hike, but still wanting to snorkel in the bay, there are a number of snorkeling tours that take you into Kealakekua Bay by boat. And honestly, jumping off a boat would have been so much easier than scraping myself up on the rocks and eroded concrete platform at the bay shoreline.
Difficulty: Hard! It’s easy to slip on the steep, gravelly sections (the employee of the snorkeling shop we rented from was warning everyone about a woman who fell and broke her arm on the trail). Hiking shoes or boots are recommended. I managed in my beloved Birkenstocks–and saw others in flip flops–but wouldn’t repeat the trail in sandals.
How to Get There: Google Maps will take you to the trail head off of Napo’opo’o Rd. The trail is unmarked, but easy to find. There’s a small amount of parking available in front the trail head, and you can park on the shoulder across the road as well.
Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park was one of our favorites in the Kona area, and offers a lot to see (look for the wild goats!), as well as easy and more difficult hikes.
Do note that this is the one park on this list that charges admission. Current fees are $20 for a non-commercial vehicle, or $10 a person if you enter on foot. We did see some cars parked outside of the visitor center lot when we visited, so if you’re visiting by yourself, that may be an option to save a little cash (just be sure that parking is allowed along the road). Either way, it’s worth the admission
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. There are multiple trail options here. You can choose to mill around the immediate grounds and still see some really neat sights, or take a longer hike across more challenging rocky terrain on the 1871 Trail to Kiʻilae Village.
How to Get There: Navigate to Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. It’s a major park that’s easy to find, and there’s plenty of on-site parking