There is plenty to do and see at the Hilton Resort, in the Waikoloa Village the surrounding areas and across the island. The Big Island of Hawaiʻi has a vast array of historical sites, farms, waterfalls, volcanoes, parks, beaches, snorkeling, diving, hiking, golfing, helicopter tours, boat rides, dining and shopping. There’s enough to fill a day, a week or a month of activities. Or, you can find a quiet place and just relax and enjoy island time.
At the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort
Visit http://www.hiltonwaikoloavillage.com/resort-experiences for more details on the following activities within the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. Also on the Hilton site is an interactive map. Or for a more adventurous time, take a walk around the resort and enjoy the views. You may just find that special place that makes all your cares fade away.
Experience an unforgettable, up-close encounter with a new dolphin friend at Dolphin Quest, where your participation supports vital marine mammal conservation, education and scientific study. Guided by marine mammal specialists, you’ll be truly amazed at the dolphin’s grace, beauty and abilities. Please refer to the website above for detailed information on times and ages for the various dolphin programs.
Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village (Courtesy HWV)
Situated on a rugged stretch of Big Island lava coastline, Hilton Waikoloa Village features a unique, ocean-fed lagoon with its own white sand beach. Rent hydro-bike, kayaks, paddleboats, or water bikes and see colorful reef fish and green sea turtles (or honu in Hawaiian). Explore an undercover world while snorkeling, or simply laze around in a hammock and enjoy exotic cocktails and snacks from The Lagoon Grill.
The Saltwater Lagoon at the Hilton Waikoloa Village (Courtesy HWV)
Featuring PlexiCushion hard courts and a 432-seat Stadium Court that hosted USTA Challenger events in the past (drawing then up-and-comers like Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Mardy Fish), the tennis resort at Waikoloa on Hawaiʻi Island is beloved by players of all skill levels.
Kona Pool –the largest pool, featuring a 175-foot waterslide, whirlpools, waterfall, Kona Pool Bar and Orchid Marketplace
Kohala River Pool – perfect for families with four interconnected pools with junior waterslides and a Pool Bar serving refreshments
Ocean Tower Pool – an adults-only pool offering a peaceful, secluded retreat for swimming and relaxation
Stretch out with some yoga, get your heart pumping in their cardiovascular room, or take a wellness class. The modern and fully-equipped Kohala Spa has it all.
Art and Wildlife
Discover the resorts art collection, which consists of works from Asian, Western, and Oceanic cultures – with more than 1800 unique pieces. Celebrate the cultural heritage and hope that through an appreciation of its art, we all can gain a greater understanding and insight into life in Hawaiʻi.
Around the resort, you will find a variety of exotic wildlife. The resorts family of birds includes Chilean Flamingos, cockatoos, black-necked swans, African crowned cranes, Macaws and, official Hawaiʻi state bird, the nēnē (Hawaiian goose). Other inhabitants include six red-footed tortoises and several rare green sea turtles, which live in the salt-water lagoon. The waterways are teeming with tropical fish, from yellow tangs and unicorn fish to our resident four-foot barracuda!
Turtles out for a morning swim in the saltwater lagoon (Courtesy HWV)
Trams & Canal Boats
Explore the 62-acre oceanfront resort by Swiss-made air conditioned trams. The trams take you from Lagoon Tower to Ocean Tower with stops at the Main Lobby, Convention Center and Palace Tower along the way.
Each of the trams bears a traditional Hawaiian name in Hilton honor of Hawaiʻi’s rich heritage and culture, which is alive in the island’s storytelling and fascinating cultural events. “Kaiona” is “Goddess of the Guiding Birds” in Hawaiian. “Hopoe” translates to “Dancing Stone” in Hawaiian. “Paoa,” means “the Magic Fire Stick” in Hawaiian. Scheduled from 6AM – 2AM Daily
Take a romantic starlit ride, or check out the Island’s fascinating wildlife with a tour on their complimentary Canal Boatway cruises. Meander through the resort along tranquil waterways on mahogany canal boats - the perfect way to see exotic plants, animals and birds. The picturesque boatway and ocean-fed lagoon is teeming with tropical saltwater fish of all varieties, from yellow tangs and sergeant major or mamo to unicorn fish and spotted damsels. Scheduled from 2PM – 10PM Daily.
Discover an eclectic array of shops, boutiques, and galleries throughout the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Browse the available wares and purchase the perfect souvenir to take home or find unique gifts to surprise your family and friends.
There are several places to eat around the Hilton property. Please refer to the dining guide on the Hilton website or the information in your room.
For breakfast you have two options. The first is the Waikoloa Coffee which has coffee, smoothies, pastries, etc. There is one located in the Ocean Tower (5:30AM to 5PM) and one in the Lagoon Tower (5:30AM to 6PM). The other is the Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge. This is at the same tram stop as the conference area. It is open from 7AM to 10:30AM and children under 5 eat free with a paid adult entrée (see note below).
Only open for lunch is the Orchid Marketplace near the Kona pool area (11AM – 4PM) which offers a variety of snacks, sandwiches and drinks. This is a good place to get snacks to take back to the room if you don’t get out to a store in the village area.
Lunch/dinner options: The first is the Boat Landing Cantina located in the Ocean Tower (11:30AM – 9PM) serving Mexican/Hawaiian items. They also have a kids menu and the bar stays open until 10PM. You can get to this via foot, tram or boat. The Lagoon Grill (11AM – 8PM) overlooking the lagoon and dolphin area serves burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, etc. and has a full bar for cocktails. This is the other location where kids 5 and under can get a meal (grilled cheese or hot dog) with a paid adult (see note below).
The Kamuela Provision Company (KPC) sits at the far south end of the property overlooking the ocean. Only open for dinner (5PM – 9PM) this is dining on the higher end of the scale (entrées start at $36) with locally sourced ingredients. The views are incredible and the sunsets are amazing. They also have a lounge area with a tapas menu. Even if you don’t eat here, take a walk to the area for the view.
For some lighter fare you can visit the Kona Tap Room (11AM – Midnight) located off the hotel lobby area. The menu for food is limited to smaller items suited for consumption with your favorite beverage.
Note: Kids Eat Free for breakfast & lunch, ages 5 & under, when you order from the “Kids Eat Free” sections of the Keiki Menus and purchase an adult entrée at the same time. Available at Big Island Breakfast at Water’s Edge for breakfast or Lagoon Grill for lunch. The kids menus provide select items that are FREE, as well as other value priced items, if preferred.
Activities Within the Waikoloa Village
These activities are available via a short to moderate walk or the trolley (for a small fee). If you’re in need of some groceries you can stop at Whalers General Store in the King’s Shops or Island Gourmet Markets at the Queens’ Marketplace. Otherwise the closest full grocery store is in the town of Waikoloa which is a 15-20 minute drive.
About a 15 minute walk from the Hilton lobby, Kings’ Shops is Hawaiʻi Island’s premier shopping and dining destination. Located in the heart of the Kohala Coast, the center offers a great collection of brand name stores such as Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co. and Tori Richard along with island favorites, fine art galleries, casual eateries and fine dining. Open from 9:30AM to 9:30PM daily. There is also a trolley that will take you to this shopping area for a small fee.
A little further down the road, probably a 20-30 minute walk or via the trolley, is the Queens’ Marketplace. A fun family life style resort destination shopping experience with something for everyone, visitors and residents alike, Queens’ MarketPlace presents an exciting collection of boutiques, galleries, shops and services, plus a delightfully diverse Ono Food Court, upscale restaurants and a full schedule of free Hawaiian cultural activities and entertainment.
Meet at the Clock, marvel at the meandering water features and fountains, and learn about Hawaiʻi’s Queens from bronze plaques in the rotunda. Then, explore stores like SoHa Living, Blue Ginger Family, Reyn’s, Local Motion, Persimmon and Sunglass Hut, or take a break at Starbucks. Plus a food and wine emporium with everything to suit your tastes, from gourmet to local-style “grinds.”
Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve
Between the Kings’ Shops and the Queens’ Marketplace you will find the Kings Highway Foot Trail (the adjacent street is called Pohakulana Place, where the Shell station is). Just north of the gas station you will find the entrance to the Waikoloa Petroglyph Reserve. This is a small area where you can see petroglyphs (kiʻi pōhaku or rock carvings) and cave shelters. This trail is rugged, not particularly well marked and unfortunately vandals have left their own mark which interferes with seeing the true petroglyphs. Once at the trail head, it’s about a 1 hour walk. If you don’t have a chance to visit the Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve (http://www.puako.org/culture.html) or the Pu’u Loa petroglyph field in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/historyculture/puuloa.htm), this is a nice glimpse into the history of Hawaiʻi.
If you’re up for a longer hike you can take the Kings Highway Foot Trail further north or even south for several miles. Please make sure to wear close-toed shoes, sunscreen and bring along some water.
The championship golf courses at the Waikoloa Beach Resort were designed by well-known course architects, and with an oceanfront setting, the beautiful property provides the ideal destination for an unforgettable Big Island golf vacation. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find the challenge exhilarating – and the scenery breathtaking. You can call the courses directly for tee times or talk with the concierge. A free shuttle is available from the hotel to take you to and from the golf courses.
No. 7 green on the Beach Course (Courtesy of Hilton Waikoloa Village)
About a mile south of the hotel is Anaehoʻomalu Beach which features a long white-sand beach, several tide pools, fishponds and a large grove of coconut palms. This is a public beach with restrooms and outdoor showers at the south end of the beach. At the north end of the beach there are rentals for snorkeling gear, kayaks, boogie boards. Parking is available a short walk from the beach.
The island is large and diverse and the activities are endless. Listed below are some suggestions. For further information or more details please visit the websites indicated or one or more of the following for general information and ideas for things to do on the island.
There are four National Parks on the Big Island. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is located on the southeast side of the island and as its name suggests is home to the active volcano, Kīlauea. Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is just south of Kailua-Kona, still considered a sacred site of refuge. Between Kailua-Kona and the Kona International airport, Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park shows how the coastal people lived and survived the harsh lava landscape. North of hotel along the coastline, Puʻukohala Heiau National Historic Park is home to the great temple of Kamehameha the Great where you can walk in the footsteps of a king. You can visit the National Park Service site (www.nps.gov) for more detailed information on these parks.
There are nearly 20 state parks, waysides and recreation areas around the island. Visit the Hawaiʻi State Parks site https://hawaiistateparks.org/parks/ for a listing of all the places to visit.
Along Aliʻi Drive in Kailua-Kona you can find Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church built in Hawaiʻi, Huliheʻe Palace, the vacation residence of Hawaiian royalty, and Kuamoʻo Battlefield and Graveyard where Kamehameha II and Queen Kaʻahumanu fought over religion.
Just south of Kailua-Kona, Captain Cook Monument on Kealakekua Bay (Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park) is the site of Captain James Cook’s first encounter with Hawaiians and where he was later killed. The monument, a white obelisk, is on land that is officially the territory of the United Kingdom.
To the far north of the island you will find the small village of Kapaʻau, believed to be the boyhood home of Kamehameha the Great. In the center of town you find a statue of the king.
Near Waimea is the Parker Ranch Museum (http://parkerranch.com/) home to one of the largest privately owned ranches in the United States and a distinct part of Hawaiian history. Near the entrance to the Ranch Historic Homes is a WWII Memorial to the Marines who trained in the area in preparation for the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. While in the area, check out some of the other things to do in Waimea, like the Keck Observatory Headquarters, and explore its unique cowboy culture.
The Waipiʻo (curved water) Valley is the largest of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains and is also known as the Valley of the Kings. Once home to many early Hawaiian rulers, many buried in caves in the valley walls, after several tsunamis and floods it is now mostly Taro fields. Waipiʻo is a spectacular site with 2000 ft. high walls, waterfalls and river that empties into the ocean via a black sand beach. Visiting the floor of the valley takes time and energy but is well worth the trek. This is still an amazing place even if you only get to the overlook area and rich in Hawaiian history.
Visit the Lauphoehoe Train Museum (http://www.thetrainmuseum.com/) which preserves the history of the Hawaiʻi Consolidated Railway. Started in the late 1800’s, the railway was used to move sugar, lumber and people along that side of the island. The tsunami of 1946 destroyed much of the track, trestles and bridges bringing an end to the railway.
In Hilo you can find the Lyman Museum and Mission House (https://lymanmuseum.org/). The Lyman Mission House is the oldest standing wood structure on the island. The house is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
W. M. Keck Observatory and Maunakea Visitor Center
The W.M. Keck Observatory headquarters is located in Waimea. The facility is open from 10AM until 2PM, Monday through Friday. Here you can get information from volunteers about the Keck Observatory and the other Maunakea observatories, see models of the telescopes and learn about the latest discoveries and outreach programs. (http://www.keckobservatory.org/) Waimea is about 1 ½ hours from the Hilton.
In addition, you can venture up Maunakea to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (VIS) (elevation is 9,200 ft.). The VIS is open from 12PM to 10PM every day of the year and is easily accessible via normal 2 wheel drive cars. There are telescopes available during the day and after sunset for stargazing and Maunakea Rangers to answer questions. Please be aware of the elevation and the possibility of altitude sickness. http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/
If you are feeling adventurous, and have a 4 wheel drive vehicle (check your rental agreement carefully), you can continue to the summit after a recommended stop at the VIS to acclimate. If you’re even more adventurous you can hike to the summit. If you choose this option, please plan accordingly.
Please visit the website and read the cautions and suggestions carefully. The VIS is 9,200 ft. and the summit is 14,000 ft. above sea level. From the VIS it is several miles on the road or via the hiking path to the summit.
It wouldn’t be Hawaiʻi without spectacular waterfalls. You will find them on the east side of the island from the Kohala Mountains down the Hamakua Coast and into the Hilo area. Not all of the Hawaiʻi waterfalls are reachable on foot, some are only accessible by helicopter, but there are enough to keep you busy and amazed. You can always just book a waterfall tour and be bused or flown around.
There are several falls in the Waipiʻo Valley. Depending on the time of year and rainfall amounts, the flow of water will vary from spectacular to not so much. The two most famous are Hiʻilawe Falls and Waiulili Falls.
Akaka Falls State Park is home to two waterfalls in one short (about ½ mile) hike on a paved path. The first stop is the 100 ft. Kahuna Falls followed by the 442 ft. Akaka Falls.
Umauma Falls, a three-tiered waterfall, is accessible as part of the Umauma Falls and Garden Tour. This self-guided tour comes with a fee. You can also make it part of a zipline experience, for a bigger fee.
Rainbow Falls is part of the Wailuku River State Park which is easily accessible and usually full of visitors. If you continue up the Wailuku River you will find the Boiling Pots area and then the Peʻepeʻe Falls and even further is Waiʻale Falls.
Want to visit a Macadamia nut factory? There are two main locations for Macadamia nuts, Hamakua (https://hawnnut.com/) and Mauna Loa (https://www.maunaloa.com/). The nearer of the two, Hamakua, is north of Waikoloa in the small town of Kawaihae, it’s a nice 20-30 minute drive. The facility sits up on the hill above the town. There are also some shops and dining in the town.
If you are over near Hilo on the east side of the island you can stop by the Mauna Loa factory and visitor center. It is just off Highway 11 on Macadamia Road about 5 miles south of Hilo. This is a great stop if you’re on an “around the island” drive.
There are other smaller macadamia nut farms around the island but it’s not clear if they have on-site sales or visitor facilities. Of course you can always get Macadamia nut products across the island at virtually any place that sells food or snacks.
For those who have nut allergies, these are tree nuts. Please take appropriate precautions.
The flower of a Kona coffee plant (Avery)
If you thought Starbuck’s was great coffee, think again. The Kona area is known for its distinctive coffee due to the unique growing area and conditions. While you can get bags of coffee to take home, or enjoy in the hotel, visiting one of the farms is an enlightening experience. There are other areas of the island that grow coffee, Kaʻu, Puna and Hamakua which each have their own unique flavor. You may want to find those as well if you travel around the island or visit some of the local farmers markets.
There are many local farms and most have tours of some sort, including the ones on the Hilo side of the island. Check the farms website to see if reservations are required or a fee is charged for the tour. The farm tours are interesting and educational. Visit them all if you want to truly sample all the Kona coffees. If you buy coffee to bring home or use while you are here, be aware that only labels that say 100% Kona Coffee are the true Kona coffee. Some may say blend (typically 10% Kona coffee) or Kona Roast or Kona Style (probably no Kona coffee beans), so please read the labels carefully.
A few of the farms in the Kailua-Kona area are: Kona Living History Farm, Greenwell Farms, Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee, Hula Daddy Kona Coffee, Sunshower Coffee, Buddha’s Cup, Kona Joe Coffee, Rooster Farms, etc.
If part of your Hawaiian adventure includes a round or two or more of golf, you’re in luck. There are several nice courses, two within the Waikoloa Village property, on which you can play. As you might expect, the resort courses can be on the pricier end of the scale, but in general the prices are what you might expect in Hawaiʻi. If you find one with a low (<$50) green fee, it is likely not well maintained. Within 30 minutes or so of the hotel there is a large selection to choose from. You may want to visit golfadvisor.com for more reviews.
The Beach and Kings’ Courses are located in the Waikoloa resort area. To the north are: the Mauna Lani Resort North and South Courses (Mauna Lani also has a junior or WikiWiki course); the Mauna Kea Golf Course; the Hāpuna Golf Course; the Waikoloa Village Golf Course in the actual town of Waikoloa. To the south are: Hualālai Golf Club (two courses, Nicklaus design and Weiskopf design) at the Fairmont resort; Kukiʻo Golf and Beach Club; Big Island Country Club (a fun course up on the hillside, beware of goats and nēnē); Nanea Golf Club, and Makalei Hawaiʻi Country Club
Nēnē on the course at the Big Island Country Club (Avery)
In the Kailua-Kona area the Kona Country Club is the only non-private course. If you’re headed to the Hilo side of the island there are a few courses that way as well. Hilo Municipal Golf Course and Naniloa Golf Club are in Hilo, the Volcano Golf and Country Club (you can say you played golf on an active volcano) over near the volcano, and Sea Mountain Golf Course down towards the south end of the island.
There are several helicopter tour operators on the Big Island. Prices and packages vary among each of the operators. Blue Hawaiian has a heliport located just outside the Waikoloa Village at the Waikoloa Heliport, so it’s the closest. Others operate from the Kona International Airport (Paradise Helicopters), the Hilo International Airport (Paradise Helicopters, Safari Helicopters & Blue Hawaiian Helicopters) or Hapuna Heliport (Sunshine Helicopters). These are the biggest and most popular helicopter operators on the island. You may find others with some savvy searching.
Note that there may be age, weight, health or clothing restrictions on tours.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
If you enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving, you’ve come to the right place. The Big Island has several good locations for both, either on your own or with on an organized trip. If you’ve never snorkeled, you might try the lagoon area at the hotel or one of the snorkeling tours. For those with some experience there are several beach areas along the coast. For diving, you’ll want to find one of the dive shops or tours. Below is a partial list of snorkeling areas. There are lots of tour operators on the island so look closely and find the one that fits the type of adventure you’re seeking. Because the west side of the island is more protected from the wind, most of the snorkeling areas are along the west side of the island.
Kealakekua Bay (also known as Captain Cook) is a favorite spot that is best viewed on a tour. There isn’t any direct access. You may also get to see some dolphins and hear a little history while on the tour.
Kahaluʻu Beach Park is located just off Aliʻi Drive in Kailua-Kona. Also a good place for less experienced snorkelers, you will find lots of sea turtles and at low tide, many tide pools. It’s a popular spot so getting there early is advised.
Further south is Honaunau Bay (also called City of Refuge). Entrance to the snorkeling area is called Paeʻa or two step. There isn’t a parking area so you will have to park along the road. There aren’t any facilities either, so bring your own food and water.
Near the hotel is Anaehoʻomalu Beach. While just OK for snorkeling, it’s a great spot for hanging out at the beach and watching the sun set. And it’s close to the hotel and the Lava Lava Beach Club for food or the Marriott.
To the north are Mauna Lani (Makaiwa Bay), a small beach at the south end of the Mauna Lani resort. Pauʻoa Bay at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel is good if there is low surf so you can get outside the rocks. Waialea Beach (Beach 69) is a favorite of the locals. The name comes from the utility pole number that marks the parking lot. Hāpuna Beach is a nice white sand beach where the snorkeling is good if the water is calm. Kaunaʻoa Beach (also known as the Mauna Kea Beach) is a public beach but is part of the Mauna Kea hotel. You will need to get a pass from security, which are limited, so early is better. A unique thing about Mauna Kea is that they shine a light into the water at night and have a viewing area. Manta Rays are likely but not a given.
Three Manta Rays feed on plankton at night on the shore of the Mauna Kea hotel. (Avery)
Speaking of Manta Rays at night, something unique to try is a night trip to see the Manta Rays. A couple good sites to visit for tours or night viewing are:
You can also walk around Kailua-Kona and see the many options for snorkeling and scuba tours.
Besides what you can find in the hotel or Waikoloa Village area, which is pretty good, the biggest area is Kailua-Kona. Here you can stroll down Aliʻi Drive and find everything from “touristy” items to local handmade items. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 7AM to 4PM is the Kona Farmers’ Market which has a selection of produce, flowers, arts and crafts, coffee, etc.
Along Aliʻi Drive you will also find plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat, visit a historical landmark or just relax and look out over the bay.
If you take a drive around the island, there are many small local shops along the way. Take some time to stop and browse around. You never know what hidden treasures you might find. Again, you can find everything from the typical tourist items to the special handmade crafts and art of the locals.