Sure, the Hawaii days are great–sunshine, beaches, palm trees, cool breezes…but just because the islands thrive during the day doesn’t mean there isn’t some fun-in-the-not-sun to be had! That’s why I’m here with some of my favorite activities for after hours on the Big Island.
Eat, Dance, Luau
Our current favorite luau in Kona is Island Breeze Lu‘au at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The food is pretty good, and the bartender will happily pour some extra rum in those candy-flavored mai tais. The show is well done and includes on-stage hula lessons for the brave. Check-in for the lu‘au is on the opposite side of the hotel, but this will give you a chance to walk through and appreciate the art and artifacts that decorate the lobby. The “imu ceremony” is just two hotel cooks picking up the pig, but with a smaller crowd you may actually catch a glimpse of the whole thing. Special dietary meal requests must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
“Late Night” Bar
If you want to go stargazing on Mauna Kea, home to the world’s finest and most coveted telescopes, you can drive to the visitor center on Mauna Kea Access Road and look through their telescopes for free and listen to their star talk. If you want more pampering (and don’t want to drive) Hawai‘i Forest & Trail does the best job. They’ll pick you up in Waikoloa or near Honokohau Harbor in Kona. Then they drive you to an old sheep-shearing station at the lower altitudes of Mauna Kea for a pretty good catered dinner, take you to the summit for sunset, then bring you back down to the visitor center for stargazing from their own telescope. While you sip hot chocolate and eat cookies, their knowledgeable guides do a good job pointing out—with lasers—the night sky. It’s 7.5 hours altogether.
Snorkel with Manta Rays
This has become a big attraction on the Big Island. Lots of companies will take you out to snorkel with the mantas. You have three options: You can swim out on your own. (From the back of Keauhou Bay it’s 0.25 miles each way unless you take a shortcut through the Sheraton.)
You can go with a kayak company for the short paddle. Although we’ve recommended Aloha Kayak Co. in the past, they’ve embarrassed us by no-showing multiple customers (and making it tough to get a refund). True, we personally haven’t experienced this, but enough people have reported it that we feel obligated to let you know.
Lastly, you can take a boat out there. If you go on a SCUBA boat, you’ll probably go to the airport manta site. You’ll get a good briefing on mantas and get more freedom of movement, but as a snorkeler you’re a tag-along. You’ll be out there for hours while the divers complete two dives. Big Island Divers and Jack’s Diving Locker both do a good job. You can also take a larger snorkel boat, such as Hula Kai for the 2-minute ride to the Sheraton site. The 1.5-hour experience includes hot drinks, warm soup and a cash bar. Sea Paradise does this in a smaller boat for a similar price.