There is nothing like being a kid and finding a new playground to explore. Do you remember discovering a new fort or a new maze for the first time? While Hawaii has so many amazing experiences for kids and families alike, there are some fun playgrounds to enjoy and maybe make some new Hawaiian friends.
One of our favorite playgrounds is the Anuenue Playground located in Waimea. If you find yourself on a drive to Waimea, take a few minutes to let your little Keiki (kids) explore and enjoy this wonderful fort. Waimea can get brief bouts of rain, so the morning is often best.
This large playground, with its colorful fun zones, offers hours of fun and activity for kids of all ages. And, if you feel like planing your day at the park, there is a great picnic area with picnic tables and large benches. Don’t forget to also check out the softball field! For directions to Waimea Park, click here.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! If you are in Kailua-Kona and on your way to Captain Cook or Two-Step beach, your kids would enjoy a visit to the Kamakana Playground located in Harold H. Higashihara Park. With a multi-story castle theme, this playground is perfect for your little knights to climb, explore and run around. This playground was ranked as number 11 of the top 50 playgrounds in the United States!
Open from 7:00am to 8:00pm, this playground not only offers a variety of adventures for the kids, but also a day of fun for the adults. Along with the picnic tables, benches and water fountains, the property also has tennis courts, a baseball field, horseshoes and basketball hoops for you to enjoy! For directions, click here.
A unique spot for your little Keiki (5-12 years old) to burn some energy prior to visiting the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is the Mauna Kea Recreation Area. With a 3,700-square- foot playground, innovative and safe structures (including ropes, rails and ladders) – this one of a kind recreation area is only a few minutes away from the Mauna Kea Telescopes.
It is also a great spot for the family to stretch their legs after a long road trip across the Big Island and admire the majestic surroundings of the Mauna Kea. For directions, click here.
For more information on activities in the Big Island, check out our activities page for families with young kids.
Coffee lovers visiting the Big Island in November should definitely check out the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival!
Starting November 4th, you will be able to experience and celebrate this year’s coffee harvest as farmers and artisans come together at this award-winning coffee festival famous worldwide. With 40 events across 10 days, you will be able to find a variety of activities for the entire family: from art exhibits and quilt shows to coffee tastings and workshops.
Known across the world as one the best gourmet coffees, the Kona Coffee bean “cherry” is cultivated on the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai. There are over 500 farms located in the Kona Coffee Belt, where the ideal climate zone found at elevations from 800 to 2,500 feet produce the highest quality coffee beans.
For more than 200 years, five generations of farmers have carefully cultivated, harvested and hand-picked the Kona cherry to produce the most exquisite coffee. With a combination of a strong and delightfully mellow, balanced flavor, it’s a cup of coffee you don’t want to miss!
Species of coffee arabica, 100% Kona Coffee.
Experience first-hand and learn how Kona coffee is grown and processed. During the week of November 7th, there are two Coffee Farms and Mill Tours from 9:00am-2:00pm, scheduled for Tuesday November 8th and Friday November 11th. For more details click here.
On November 11th, make sure to witness one of the most magical moments of the festival. Starting at 6:00pm, hundreds of people walk together through the Historic Kailua Village for the Lantern Parade – a parade full of beautiful lights, vibrant colors and island rhythms. Followed by a night of dance and music at Hale Halawai.
For information on this and other events happening on the Big Island this month, check out our list of annual festivals and events
Snorkel with the Manta Rays
Imagine seeing a large, mysterious creature gliding like an acrobat through crystal clear ocean waters. Hauntingly beautiful and graceful, what is it you saw? You have seen a manta ray, the largest of the rays, reaching wing spans up to twenty feet and weighing as much as 3,000 pounds.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, you can snorkel with manta rays at night! Manta rays are filter feeders, meaning they feed on plankton and other tiny marine organisms. When people set up bright lights on the shoreline or the front of a boat, the plankton are attracted to the light and the rays follow for the feast!
Unlike stingrays, mantas don’t have barbs on their tails. And, although they are related to sharks, they pretty much only eat plankton. They are also curious creatures, with the largest brains of any fish species!
Watching these gigantic marine creatures glide through the water around you is an unforgettable experience. Just watch our video below to see why!
Want to snorkel with the manta rays? The most popular way to see them is to take a boat to their common feeding sites. Depending on the company, you can take a large snorkel tour boat, fishing boat, or kayak to see the manta rays. Typically the boats will have a bright light to attract the plankton and mantas. The following companies offer boat and kayak tours to snorkel with the rays near Kona:
- Fairwind Hawaii Ocean Cruises – Large boat (Hula Kai) – Keauhou Bay in Kona
- Sea Paradise Snorkel & Sail Cruises – Catamaran – Keauhou Bay in Kona
- Ocean Encounters – Fishing Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
- Kamanu Charters – Zodiac or Catamaran Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
- Aloha Kayak Co. – Kayak to snorkel with mantas in Keauhou Bay
If you are a licensed diver, you should check out the SCUBA tours offered by Jack’s Diving Locker or Big Island Divers. Both of these companies offer spots for snorkelers as well as SCUBA divers – perfect if you have your SCUBA certificate but you’re traveling with non-divers.
If you don’t want to snorkel or scuba, you can also see manta rays from the viewing areas at some local resorts – where the hotels put out bright lights so you can watch them from the shore. At Kona’s Sheraton Keauhou Bay, you can see manta rays from the Manta Ray Learning Center – right next to the Rays on the Bay restaurant. On the Kohala Coast, you can view the rays at the Mauna Kea Beach Resort where they have set up a light to attract them to Manta Ray Point.
Whether you swim with the mantas or just watch from the shore, make sure to get a glimpse of these amazing creatures on your Hawaii vacation!
One evening earlier this month, we went for a shoreline hike at Anaeho’omalu Bay, beside the Waikoloa Beach Resort area. We had heard that sea turtles often hang out on the quiet and less crowded beaches along this trail, and wanted to photograph them in the glow of the evening light. We headed out from the trailhead near the Lava Lava Beach Club about half an hour before sunset, equipped with flashlights for the twilight walk back.
As we headed south along the trail, we found beautiful little white sand beaches nestled into patches of twisted trees and naupaka shrubs. This shoreline hike was mostly on the sand with some sections of lava rock and shrubby trail. The further we went, the sand became nicer and the beaches more inviting.
I almost didn’t see the first turtle we came across until it was right in front of me! It was hidden in the shadows cast by the setting sun. As we continued for a few more minutes, we saw three more sea turtles resting on the beach close to the water. I would have loved to stay and watch them for a long time (giving them some space, of course), but we just took some photos and looked for a few minutes. Even with our flashlights, we didn’t want to head back after it was completely dark.
We went in the evening, but if you don’t mind walking a ways with beach chairs or mats, these beaches would be a great place to get away from the crowds. This is a beautiful area to explore with friends and family, see the sunset, and take photographs.
We only walked the northernmost mile of the trail on Anaeho’omalu Bay, but the trail stretches 6 miles further south to Keawaiki Bay if you want to explore more of this beautiful coastline. If you have good shoes (closed toes or hiking sandals), you can keep going over the lava rock to (name of beach – look up on hikes page/big island hikes). The sandy part of this hike would be great for all ages – essentially walking on the beach with a couple of rocky and shrubby areas.
If you want to know more about this shoreline hike, check out its page on the Big Island Hikes website. We’ve also compiled a list of family-friendly and more adventurous hikes on this page.
Tucked away on the shoreline behind the Kona Airport, you will find a hidden gem of marine education and conservation. Here, you can learn about ocean conservation and the world’s endangered sea horse species. The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is unique – as the world’s first and only sea horse farm, established to breed and raise sea horses for home aquariums and relieve pressure on wild and endangered sea horse populations.
If you choose to visit, you can take an eye-opening tour to see their aquaculture operations, hold a sea horse in your hands, and learn about different types of seahorses and sea dragons. On the seahorse farm tour, a marine biologist leads visitors past adult mating pairs and baby sea horses (called fry). On the tour, the lead biologist shares interesting facts about sea horse biology. Did you know that for seahorses, it’s the males that get pregnant and give birth to hundreds of baby sea horses?
The biologist also talks about how the seahorse farm is helping to combat the threats of overfishing that have endangered sea horses and sea dragons around the world. You and the kids will get to see what sea horses eat and maybe even feed them lunch!
At the end of the tour, you will get the chance to hold a sea horse in your hands! You will be amazed as the biologist helps one of these fragile and sensitive creatures wrap its tail around your fingers. Look into the eyes of a sea horse and see why so many people love these small and unique fish.
Finally, you will go to a mini aquarium to see the 34 species of sea horses and sea dragons that they keep on site as part of the Seahorses of Hawaii Foundation’s conservation program. This program develops captive breeding programs to help improve populations of sea horses around the world. Proceeds from the tours, gift shop, and sales of sea horses for aquariums help to support this conservation work.
If you love aquariums, marine life, and want a unique experience, stop by the Seahorse Farm for a tour. The seahorse farm tour is a great activity to for kids and families to learn about seahorses and conservation first-hand!
The farm is near the Kona Keahole Airport, down the road with the sign for the Natural Energy Labs. Calling ahead of time or reserving your spot online is recommended, especially during busy tourism seasons.
For more information about the seahorse farm and to reserve your spot on a tour, check out the website for Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm Tours.
Three teams close together in the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe RaceEach year on the Labor Day weekend, the Big Island’s Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club hosts the world’s largest long-distance outrigger canoe race. Over the 4-day event, more than 2000 paddlers compete in outrigger canoe and stand-up paddleboard races.
We were thrilled that an outrigger canoe team from Japan stayed in one of our vacation homes while they were in town for the competition! They competed in the long-distance race and in a stand-up paddleboard race.
In the highlight – The Queen’s race – single-hull outrigger canoe teams compete on a course over 18 miles between Honaunau Bay and Kailua Bay right in the heart of downtown Kona. This year, over 200 teams competed in Saturday’s long-distance races!
We went down to Kona to try to get a glimpse of our guests’ team and cheer them on. We captured these photos at Keauhou Bay to watch the kane (mens’) race round the point as they headed into Kona. It was inspiring to watch so many outrigger canoe teams cut through the water on this long distance race.
For information on this and other events happening on the Big Island this month, check out our list of annual festivals and events.