Welcome to the Big Island Of Hawaii
The Island of Hawaii (Big Island), being both the largest and the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, presents an incredible range of climates and breathtaking landscapes. One can witness the verdant valley of Hilo, the geological wonders at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, the snow-covered peaks of Maunakea Mountain and the awe-inspiring jet black sands of Punaluʻu Beach. To best explore this massive island’s abundant and varied beauty, check out our guide below to the best of the Big Island of Hawaii.
Big Island Of Hawaii Map
1. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
As one of the United States most geologically interesting national parks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two active volcanoes, allowing visitors to see the wonder of nature in action. Keep in mind that parts of the park and surrounding areas, including roads, may be closed during periods of volcanic activity.
The park covers a total of 21 square milesbut continues to grow as active lava flows into the ocean and cools into rock. The park is home to both the Kilauea Volcano and the Halema’uma’u crater, the legendary home of the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele. This active volcano and steaming crater make Crater Rim Road a must drive scenic highway.
Hike the Devastation Trail, which showcases the landscape left behind after a 1959 eruption from the Iki crater. Visit the Thurston Lava Tube, a unique place where lava once flowed, cooled, and left a tunnel nearly 500 feet long and 20 feet high.
Don’t want to tour the park on your own? Check out this Volcanoes National Park Safari.
2. Relax on One of The Insanely Beautiful Beaches
The Island of Hawaii boasts a diverse array of pristine beaches, each with its own unique appeal. If you’re seeking a stunning black sand beach, Pololu Valley Beach is a must-visit destination. While swimming may not be ideal, outdoor enthusiasts will relish the abundance of nearby hiking trails.
For an unforgettable beach experience, make your way to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, where you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty of the green sand set against the rugged cliffs. Although the beach is notoriously windy, it provides ideal conditions for windsurfing. Thrill-seekers can also enjoy cliff jumping at a designated section of the beach.
4. Star Gaze on Mauna Kea
Home to the Mauna Kea Observatory active research facility, Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in Hawaii. A sharp contrast to the tropical paradise below, the temperatures at the summit are cold. Don’t let that stop you from visiting for unparalleled views of the stars above each night.
The summit and the Visitor Information Station each sit at altitudes of 13,800 feet and 9,200 feet and can only be accessed by 4WD vehicles. This is a trip which is prohibited by many of the rental car companies, so make sure to check their policies before making the trip.
If you don’t want to deal with the rental car hassle, consider taking a tour like this Mauna Kea Summit Sunset and Stars Tour that comes complete with photos that you can pick up in Hilo or Kona.
Another great option is this Best Mauna Kea Summit Tour.
5. Akaka Falls State Park and Kahuna Falls
Akaka Falls State Park, near Hilo, is home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island, including Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. As the tallest falls on the island, Akaka’s water free falls over 442 feet. Set in a stunning and lush tropical paradise filled with ferns, orchids, and bamboo, Akaka Falls is a can’t miss destination on the Island of Hawaii.
The trail to the falls is easy and conveniently paved, but it is quite steep and includes sections of steps. This loop trail is less than a half-mile long and leads you past Kahuna falls to the top of Akaka Falls. Keep an eye out for the offshoot of the trail, which leads to a viewing spot perfect for getting photos of Akaka.
If you don’t want to miss any of the stunning beauty while navigating, consider this Big Island Waterfalls Adventure.
6. Explore The Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Chances are you’ve heard of the famous Hawaiian Kona Coffee. The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the nation’s only living history museum dedicated to traditional coffee farming. The farm is operated by the Kona Historical Society and shows visitors what life was like for coffee growers in the 1920s and 30s.
As a living history museum, you will find that costumed interpreters happily converse with you while they go about their daily tasks, from planting and harvesting to cooking. You can explore the grounds yourself by observing the Kona Nightingale (a breed of donkey) and learning about the methods of roasting and grinding the beans. You can also sample and purchase some of their amazing coffee.
To find out a little more about Kona Coffee and the surrounding area, check out this Kona Tour: Coffee Plantation, Kealakekua Bay, Kaloko-Honokohau Park, and Bee Farm.
7. Vist The Waipio Valley Overlook
On the northeastern coast of the Island of Hawaii, about 50 miles north of Hilo, you will discover a modern day “Shangri La.” The Waipio Valley seems to be cut off from the outside world completely. It is a difficult spot to reach because of the steep cliffs on the three landward sides.
The valley floor is covered in bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados, and grapefruit. Colorful orchids, ginger trees and hibiscus decorate the stunningly lush landscape. Where the valley meets the ocean is a long black-sand beach.
Keep in mind this another area that most car rental companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven, particularly down into the valley. However, you can walk the road. While the trek down to the valley floor is easy, remember you do have to trek back up to the top. This gorgeous scenic drive along the Hamakua Coast is the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, which runs from the town of Hilo to the Waipio Valley Overlook is truly an unique experience.
8. Check Out Pauko Petroglyph Park
Along the Kohala Coast, you will find the 223-acre Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve. The park boasts more than 3,000 ancient petroglyphs (kiʻipōhaku). These lava rock carvings are etched into stones that date back to 1200 AD.
Although the true meanings of the petroglyphs remain unknown, it is believed that these carvings are records of significant events in the lives of the people of the island of Hawaii long ago. The captivating petroglyphs of Puakō feature carvings of humans, canoes and turtles, among other things.
This fun family activity is great for kids; they can search for petroglyphs and discover what these ancient symbols mean. Be sure to wear good shoes because the site is unpaved. It also goes through a Kiawe forest with thorns on the ground.
9. Shop at The Hilo Farmers Market
The Hilo Farmers Market has become a local institution, and it operates daily year-round now. Open from 7 am to 3 pm every day, with the busiest market days falling on Wednesday and Saturday. You don’t want to miss this.
Over 200 vendors gather in Hilo’s historic downtown and sell locally grown flowers, produce, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. The Farmers Market also hosts special events, including annual festivals and weekly themes like Hilo Hula Tuesdays and Market Music.
10. Take In A Hawaiian Luau
A luau on the island of Hawaii is the perfect way to experience the community and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. While luaus were hardly traditional in ancient Hawaii, today, they are a quintessential part of any trip to the islands.
Most luaus on the Island of Hawaii occur on the Kona side in Waikoloa, Kailua-Kona or South Kona. The Legends of Hawaii Luau takes place every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday in Waikoloa. It features hula and fire dancers, a Hawaiian feast, live music, and handcrafted treasures.
Another popular luau on the Island of Hawaii is the Island Breeze Luau hosted by the King Kamehameha Beach Resort. This royal Hawaiian festivity is held on the former estate grounds of Hawaii’s once great ruler, King Kamehameha. It features Polynesian dancers, a Samoan Fire-Knife Dance, as well as arts and crafts demonstrations.