Things To Do on the Big Island

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The Big Island is Unique

Black Sand Beach, Big Island

Hawaii is rich in culture and history for those who like to delve into the depths of the past. As the 50th state, Hawaii’s population is composed of 60 ethnic groups, making it the most ethnically diverse state in the union. Polynesian culture prevails throughout ourSunset off of the Seawall, Downtown Kailua-Konastate, but every island has its own flavor. The islands are home to 29 endangered bird species and 19 endangered plant species, which conservationists are working to save. Of the 680 species of fish found in the Hawaiian waters, about 30% are endemic.

Honaunau, Place of RefugeThe Big Island’s tropical climate is nearly ideal. Geographically it’s the most diverse island of the archipelago, with deserts, rainforests, volcanoes and snow-capped mountains; the Big Island is home to 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. The Big Island is home to five volcanoes: Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Hualalai, Kohala and Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa and Kilauea have been the most active in recent times, with Hualalai brooding silently as an eruption possibility. In the winter, both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are cloaked with a mantle of snow.The cultural and geographical diversity of the island offer too much to list here. For more information on the topography and climate of the different regions of the Island, check out our Big Island Geographyarticle. Below we have listed our must see sights of the Big Island of H
awaii. If you prefer a guided tour, check out the Sightseeing Tours on the island of Hawai’i.

Hawaii Eco Tours
Looking for guided Eco adventure tours of the Big Island? Eco tourism is extremely popular in a unique place like the Big Island. Check out our Big Island Eco Tours section with opportunities for bird watching, volcano hiking, waterfalls and botanical walks, star gazing, and back country hiking - all provided by expert, knowledgeable tour guides.
Check out our new Big Island Travel Planner with articles and resources to help you plan your next Hawaiian vacation. If you are using a GPS, check out our Big Island Points of Interest page with coordinates for many hard-to-find attractions. For additional detailed information on secluded secret beaches of Kona, remote hike-to-only snorkeling, hot springs, waterfalls and volcanoes, check out one of our favorites: Big Island Revealed.


Rainbow Falls, Hilo Hawaii

Big Island Attractions

(in alphabetical order)

Akaka Falls - Just north of Hilo, visit twin 400 ft. Hawaiian Waterfalls.  Walk through a vibrant rainforest and experience the dramatic waterfalls.  This lovely nature hike will lead you past two dramatic falls.

Footbridge to Coconut IslandCoconut Island and Queen Liliuokalani Gardens - Coconut Island and Queen Liliuokalani Gardens sit next to each other at the top of Hilo Bay.  Coconut Island is a perfect spot to picnic and swim with a panoramic view of the bay.  Queen Liliuokalani Gardens is a beautiful Japanese garden located right off of the waters of Hilo Bay.

Foraging on The Big Island - The Big Island is rife with opportunity and attractions peering around every corner. So much so that it is easy to miss a lot of the excitement that stares you in the face on your entire visit. Though foraging is more practical the whole world round than most think, it is extremely popular in Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach - Rated one of the best beaches in the world, you cannot miss Hapuna.  Lots of shade, grassy knolls, picnic pavilions, beautiful sand, large parking lot, clean showers and restrooms.

Onomea FallsHawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens - This garden is located seven miles north of Hilo on Route 19.  Enjoy the self-guided tour of the gardens, through tropical rain forest with waterfalls, meandering streams, and rugged ocean coast.  There is also a vast selection of flowers, fruits, plants, and trees. 

Kilauea Volcano EruptionHawaii Volcanoes National Park - One of the most magnificent National Parks in the country, this park boasts the world’s longest continually erupting volcano.  Hikes for all ages and abilities take you through all the climate zones that the Big Island has to offer.  

Heiau at Pu'ukohala Historical SiteHeiau, Hawaiian Temples - Heiau (temples) were places of worship that were central to Hawaiian religious beliefs. From the heiau, the kahuna (priest) communicated with the gods.  There are several well preserved Heiau on the Big Island for you to visit.

Hilo Farmer’s Market - Open in downtown Hilo on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Farmer’s Market offers homegrown and homemade bargains.  Here you can find beautiful flowers, crafts, and fresh produce.  More information and photos for Hilo.

Honaunau, Place of RefugeHonaunau Place of Refuge - Translated, the “place of refuge at Honaunau” is the most complete restoration of an ancient Hawaiian religious sanctuary in Hawaii.  Walk through a restored ancient Hawaiian village.  Enjoy the fantastic snorkeling nearby.

Sunrise from Kailua Kona, HawaiiKailua-Kona - The town of Kailua is situated in the gentle harbor on the leeward side of the island.  In between all the shops, restaurants, and hotels you can still see the perfect sunsets and enjoy the beaches and sea life.

Kiholo BayKi’holo Bay. The unmarked trail across a vast lava field requires a 25-minute hike, so take plenty of water. You’ll spot wild goats along the hike.  The huge, spring-fed Luahinewai Pond anchors the south end of the bay, and the three black-pebble beaches are fine for swimming in calm weather. The ponds are a feeding site for green sea turtles. Hwy. 19, Mile Marker 81.

Kona Sunset - Kona is home to the world’s most spectacular sunsets.  Relaxing at sunset is the best way to end a day in paradise.  Whether viewing from the VolcanoBeach, or Boat, Kona sunsets are truly amazing.

Ancient Hawaiian Hut at LapakahiLapakahi State Historical Park - Lapakahi is the archaeological site of the remains of a traditional Hawaiian fishing community. Re-enactment of the early Hawaiian life of the common people through cultural demonstrations of daily activities, story telling, and self-guided walk through the partially restored remains of this ancient Hawaiian coastal settlement.  Nearby ocean waters comprise a marine preserve with various activities regulated.

Mauna Kea - At 13,700 feet this is the highest peak on the Hawaiian Islands.  Frequently snow capped in the winter, the world’s most important observatories reside here.  Enjoy the spectacular views and splendid star-gazing.  Mauna Kea Summit Adventure.

Petroglyph at Volcanoes National ParkPetroglyphs - Ancient Hawaiian lava rock carvings can be found in several locations on the Big Island.  The largest concentration of these rare pictographs can be found on the Big Island.  Two prolific petroglyph fields are a short hike away at the Mauna Lani Resort, and at the Volcanoes National Park.

Pololu Valley - The nothern tip of the Kohala Coast curves to the dramatic Pololu Valley Lookout.  A short hike takes you to the bottom of the forested valley where the black sand beach meets the crashing ocean waves.

Honaunau, Place of Refuge - CanoesPolynesian Culture - There are several places on the Big Island where you can experience the essence of Hawaiian culture: Hawaiian music, ukulele, hula dancing, and history.  Enjoy the free shows!

Rainbow Falls, Big Island HawaiiRainbow Falls State Park - The best time to view the 80-foot Rainbow Falls is at sunrise when you will see an enormous rainbow stretching across the mist of the lagoon.  See the towering canopy rain forest above as you walk around the park.

Alii Gardens MarketplaceShopping - There are plentiful opportunities to browse unique Island stores offering souvenirs and clothing for everyone.  There are over shops offering hundreds of handmade products, local art & jewelry, Kona coffee, fresh flowers, koa wood, and clothing.  From the outdoor farmer’s market to the fashion boutique, enjoy ourBig Island shopping guide.

Waimea - This is a picturesque, quaint town high in the hills between Hilo and Kailua.  Waimea is a rest and food spot on your drive to the other side of the island.  View the green meadowed Parker Ranch as you drive through Waimea.

Waipio Valley - The rugged Hamakua Coast winds its way up to the steep and secluded Waipio Valley.  From the Waipio Lookout, you can look into the scenic valley and see the black sand beach at the coast.  There is a hiking / 4×4 trail that leads to the bottom of the valley and beyond.

Scenic Drives

View of Kona Coast from 2000 feet elevationRoute 180 to Holualoa, Kona - Route 180, just north of the town of Kailua-Kona is a fascinating drive.  It snakes its way up the side of the Hualalai mountain with breathtaking views of Kailua and the Kona coast below.  Drive north on Palani Road (Route 190) leaving Kailua on the way to Waimea.  As the road gains elevation you will see the sign for Route 180 (to Holualoa) on your right - take this turn and enjoy the drive!  As the road climbs away from sea level, there are several places to pull over on the side of the road and enjoy the sweeping coastal views.  The road winds its way up the mountainside and eventually finds its way into the small town of Holualoa.  If you have the time, park your car and stroll through the many shops and galleries featuring handicrafts from local artisans.  Continue down the road all the way to the small town of Honalo on Route 11.  View online map.

View from Kaloko RoadKaloko Road to the Cloud Forest, Kona - Further north on Route 190 beyond the turn off for Holualoa, is Kaloko Road.  The approximately 7-mile drive up the winding switchback Kaloko Road takes you up to an altitude of about 5,000 feet, with splendid views Kaloko Mountain Roadof the Kona coast below.  Just prior to the dead-end of Kaloko Road, turn left on Huehue Road and continue until the end of this road.  As your drive takes you up the side of Hualalai, you will be consumed by a fern and ‘ohi’a cloud forest.  As quickly as you left the ocean and Kailua-Kona, you are enveloped in the fog and clouds of the mountain.  You may experience mist and even light rain due to the altitude and the proximity to the mountain.  The air is refreshing up here!  This drive is best done in the morning - to offer the clearest views.  View online map.

Hamakua Coast Scenic Drive, Hilo - Approximately seven miles north of Hilo, on Highway 19 along the Hamakua coast, watch for the “Scenic Route 4 Miles Long” sign on the ocean side.  Take the time to take this splendid detour.  The Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive takes you through tropical jungle, winding along the coastal cliffs and waterfalls along its way down the coast.  In between towering trees you will see steep ravines dropping into the crashing waves of the ocean below. You may wish to stop at the Botanical Gardens during the drive to see exotic trees, waterfalls, and unusual tropical plants. View online map

View on Route 250 - scenic driveRoute 250 Scenic Drive, Waimea - Route 250, also known as Kohala Mountain Road, is a perfect sequence of moments, blending lava and sea, shaded mountains and blazing orange sun.  This 27-mile ride along the volcanic ridge climbs to 6,000 ft., with spectacular views of the ocean below.  Route 250 connects the town of Hawi in North Kohala to the town of Waimea, in the mountains.  This road has beautiful views of the hills and pastures of Waimea to the East and dramatic coastal views of Kawaihae and the Kona coast to the west.  Take the time to pull over to enjoy the view and to take photos.  View online map.

Hawaii Guided Tours

Hawaii Circle Island TourHawaii Circle Island Tour: The 260-mile, full circle island tour of the Big Island encompasses scenic areas like Kealakekua Bay and the south coast coffee farms, the rolling hills of Parker Ranch in Waimea and the lush Hamakua Coast. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visit Kilauea Iki Crater, the Volcano House Observatory, Jagger Museum, steam bluffs and Thurston Lava Tube. You’ll also visit an orchid and anthurium nursery in Hilo and the Big Island Candy Factory. *A lunch stop is made at the Volcano House located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (lunch is not included in the price of this tour).

Volcano TourBig Island Volcano Adventure Tour: Enjoy an entire day of exploration, cruising in the comfort of luxury charter coaches to see the best of Hawaii’s Big Island! Visit Volcanoes National Park, witness the wonder and power of world famous Kilauea, and experience enchanting Hilo, the island’s charming bayfront community.  As you make your way, you will enjoy panoramic views from the comfort of spacious, deluxe “big window” Premier Mini Coaches on this highly personalized, scenic tour. Fully narrated by specially trained driver/guides, you will love this comprehensive tour of the Hilo (East) side of the Big Island, with more time spent at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Big Island East Side Sightseeing Tour: Wild Orchid Tours takes you on a private journey like no other! With your own professional and expert guide, embark on this unforgettable, exclusive tour of East Hawaii’s most precious gems!  Step back in time with a visit to Old Hilo town! Stroll its quaint streets as you peruse the merchandise at the local vintage shops, huge farmer’s market, and cute nook and cranny cafes!  Continue up the breathtaking Hamakua Coastline to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where you will witness nature’s grandeur amid Hawaii’s native forest, trails and lava flows! Your day will be filled to the brim with stops at an enchanting orchid farm, Mauna Loa’s well-known Macadamia Nut Farm, volcanically heated pools, a pristine black sand beach, and even a winery for a chance to sample the island’s finest blends!

Big Island Photography

Canon Rebel XTWe are avid photographers, and have taken great pride in the thousands of photos and videos that we have taken for this website.  The scenery on the Big Island is so spectacular that it will make anyone an excellent photographer - us included!  We own a variety of Canon digital cameras and use them for all of our photos on this website. 

Our first camera was the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, 8.2 Megapixel digital SLR camera.  Since then, we’ve added a few new lenses to enhance our photographic range, including the Canon 17-85 IS and Canon 15-86 IS

Canon 7DWe recently added a new DSLR to our inventory, the Canon EOS 7D,  bringing enhanced capabilities — an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 4 processors, ISO range expandable to 12800, continuous shooting at 8 fps and full HD video recording.

Additionally, we use two Canon Digital Elph  cameras paired with an underwater case for our underwater photos and videos.  With an underwater scene mode that filters out the blue light distortion, this camera is very capable.  For our panorama shots and low-light or night-time shots, we use a tripod and Canon’s wireless remote controlto reduce camera vibration.

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