Travel like a local.


Kona Coffee, Sea Turtles & Volcanoes National Park in Kona, Hawaii

Best things to do in Kona Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at night

Visit Volcanoes National Park at night to see the stars

I’m really excited to interview Mark Ciociola publisher of the Discovery Map on the Big Island of Hawaii about Kona, Hawaii. Mark’s tips for the best things to do in Kona are awesome because he came to Kona eight years ago to start his business. He loves being able to highlight local businesses while exploring the island’s natural habitat.

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Best things to do in Kona Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - braden-jarvis-prSogOoFmkw-unsplash

Escape city life and enjoy hidden beaches with your loved ones. Photo courtesy of Braden Jarvis on Unsplash.

Kona, Hawaii

Kona is located along the shore of the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is the center of commerce and tourism on the island. There are 8 to 10 different climate zones on The Big Island, which provides quite a variety for visitors. The island is 4,028 square miles, which makes it about 1/3 the size of Rhode Island.

Mark says that the best time to visit Kona is the wintertime. This allows you to escape the cold where you live and because summers can be hot and dry in Kona. Numerous festivals happen throughout the year, such as the Merrie Monarch Festival and the Ironman World Championships.

No visit to Kona would be complete without taking a coffee farm tour (Greenwell Farms, Menehune Coffee Company), hiking to see waterfalls, exploring volcanoes, or visiting its many beaches. Papakeola Beach has unique green sand but requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there. Punalu’u Beach has gorgeous black sand and is a great place to watch sea turtles (just keep away from the turtles, as they are protected by law). Volcanoes National Park features active volcanoes with lava and some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world.

The island is one of the best places to go stargazing because it is the most remote island chain in the world. The National Park is an excellent place for stargazing or you can book a Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience small group tour with a professional guide.

We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Go Hawaii, the official travel site of Hawaii. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests. The Big Island Discovery Map also provides tips and ideas to save money while supporting local businesses during your visit.

If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.

Best things to do in Kona Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience

Book a Mauna Kea Stargazing Experience to see more stars than you’ve ever thought possible!

Getting around Kona

Most flights arrive at Kona International Airport (KOA) and most tourists book hotels here. It is about a twenty-minute drive to downtown.

If you want to be closer to the volcanoes or the National Park, book your flight into Hilo International Airport (ITO).

Mark says public transportation is not an option so it’s a good idea to rent a car. For the best offers, visit Avis, Budget, or Hertz.

Uber and Lyft are excellent ways to get around but can get expensive if you’re traveling around the island frequently during your stay.

When you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.

Best things to do in Hilo Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - Coconut Grove Marketplace

Stop by Coconut Grove Marketplace to grab some tasty treats

Places we talked about on the podcast

Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Mark Ciociola about Kona, Hawaii. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.

  • Red dots = best places to eat in Kona, Hawaii
  • Green dots = best things to do in Kona, Hawaii
  • Yellow dots = best places to stay in Kona, Hawaii

Who is Mark Ciociola?

Mark came to the Big Island 8 years ago to start the Discovery Map of Hawaii’s Big Island. Over the years it has become the trusted resource for visitors coming to the island to help them find where to eat, play and stay. Mark works closely with local businesses all over the island to help them maximize their exposure to arriving visitors.

Best things to do in Kona Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - profile

You can check out some of the articles from his website below:

You can connect with Mark on his website and on social media via Twitter or Instagram.

Big thanks to today’s affiliate partner – AwardWallet

This episode is brought to you, in part, by AwardWallet. Using airline miles and hotel points makes travel affordable, but keeping track of loyalty programs can be a challenge. That’s why I use AwardWallet. It helps me track my miles & points, reservations, and special goodies like free hotel night certifications and airline companion passes.

Having everything in one easy-to-use dashboard helps ensure I don’t let any rewards expire and makes logging into my accounts super easy. Go to to start your free account.

Best things to do in Kona Hawaii - Mark Ciociola - jakob-owens-NIwLcsJb8Q4-unsplash

Explore the island’s many waterfalls and have some fun. Photo courtesy of Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Stay tuned for our next episode

Best things to do in Brighton UK - Sara DarlingListen to the next episode when Sara Darling, a freelance journalist and podcast host, shares the best things to do in Brighton, England. We talk about the Burning of the Clocks parade, windsurfing in Hove Lagoon, and exploring the upside-down house. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.

What’s your favorite part of Kona? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!

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Related episodes

Hawaii is an incredibly popular tourist destination. To learn more about the islands, please listen to our other podcast episodes for the state: