Welcome to the Big Island of Hawaii, a paradise unlike any other. Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, this majestic island offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and thrilling adventures. From breathtaking landscapes to vibrant marine life, the Big Island has something for everyone.
Measuring over 4,000 square miles, the Big Island is the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is home to diverse ecosystems, including active volcanoes, lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and cascading waterfalls. With such a vast array of attractions and activities, it’s no wonder that the Big Island is a top destination for travelers from all over the world.
Getting to the Big Island is relatively easy, with direct flights available from major cities in the United States and international airports. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by warm aloha spirit and the mesmerizing beauty of the island.
The best time to visit the Big Island depends on your preferences and what you want to experience. The island experiences a mild tropical climate all year round, with temperatures ranging between 70°F and 85°F. However, it’s essential to note that the island has different microclimates, so weather conditions can vary from coast to coast.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural experiences, the Big Island has it all. Explore the vast expanse of Volcanoes National Park, where you can witness the raw power of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Discover stunning snorkeling and diving spots, where you can swim alongside colorful coral reefs and fascinating marine life.
Immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty by visiting the enchanting waterfalls, such as Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls, which are sure to leave you in awe. Lace up your hiking boots and venture along the many scenic trails, offering breathtaking views of the island’s diverse landscapes.
The Big Island is also known for its pristine beaches, each with its own unique charm. Whether you’re looking for a secluded spot to unwind or a beach bustling with activity, you’ll find it here. Experience the rich culture of the island through various cultural activities and immerse yourself in Polynesian traditions.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the incredible wildlife and marine life that call the Big Island home. From sea turtles basking in the sun to dolphins dancing in the waves, each encounter is a true gift from nature.
When it comes to dining and shopping, the Big Island offers a wide range of options. Indulge in delicious local cuisine, from fresh seafood to traditional Hawaiian dishes. Explore local markets and boutiques, where you can find unique souvenirs and locally made crafts.
Accommodation choices on the Big Island are plentiful, ranging from luxury resorts to cozy beachfront cottages. Whatever your budget or style, you’ll find the perfect place to stay and make your island adventure unforgettable.
Getting around the island is easy with various transportation options, including rental cars, public transportation, and guided tours. Follow the safety tips and precautions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, and always respect the natural environment and local customs.
So come and experience the wonders of the Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a cultural immersion, this island paradise has it all. Get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime and fall in love with the magic of the Big Island.
Getting to the Big Island of Hawaii
Getting to the Big Island is a breeze with its well-connected transportation infrastructure. There are two main airports on the island: Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east side and Kona International Airport (KOA) on the west side. Both airports offer direct flights from major cities in the United States, making it convenient for travelers to reach the island.
If you’re coming from outside of the United States, there are also international flights that connect to the Big Island via Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu. From Honolulu, you can catch a short flight to either Hilo or Kona.
Another option for reaching the Big Island is by cruise ship. Several major cruise lines offer Hawaii itineraries that include stops in Hilo or Kona. This is a unique way to experience the beauty of the island while enjoying the amenities and entertainment provided on board.
Once you arrive at one of the airports, there are several transportation options available to get you to your final destination. Rental cars are a popular choice for exploring the island at your own pace. All major car rental companies have offices at both Hilo and Kona airports, so you can easily pick up your rental upon arrival.
If you prefer not to drive, taxi and ride-hailing services are also available at the airports. However, keep in mind that the cost of using these services can add up, especially if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.
Another convenient option is to book a shuttle service or private transfer in advance. These services will pick you up from the airport and take you directly to your accommodation. It’s a hassle-free way to start your vacation without worrying about navigation or parking.
If you’re traveling on a budget or prefer public transportation, buses are a viable option. The Hele-On Bus is the island’s public transportation system, operating routes throughout the Big Island. It’s an affordable way to get around, but keep in mind that the bus schedule may not be as frequent or flexible as other transportation options.
Once you’re on the island, it’s worth considering renting a car for the duration of your stay. The Big Island is vast, and having a car will allow you to explore the island’s many attractions and hidden gems freely. It’s also an opportunity to soak in the stunning views along the scenic coastal roads.
Before you embark on your journey, be sure to check the latest travel advisories and requirements, especially if you’re visiting from outside of the United States. It’s important to stay informed about any COVID-19 protocols or restrictions that may be in place.
Whichever mode of transportation you choose, the journey to the Big Island is just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure. Get ready to immerse yourself in the natural beauty, rich culture, and warm aloha spirit that await you on this captivating island.
Best Time to Visit the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii enjoys a mild tropical climate throughout the year, making it a year-round destination for travelers. However, there are a few factors to consider when determining the best time to visit the island.
The weather on the Big Island can vary depending on the region. The western side, where Kona is located, tends to be drier and sunnier, while the eastern side, where Hilo is situated, is known for its lush rainforests and more frequent rainfall. The central part of the island, which includes Volcanoes National Park, also has its own distinct microclimate.
For those looking to bask in the sunshine and enjoy beach activities, the summer months of June through September offer the warmest and driest weather. During this time, temperatures can range from the mid-70s to low 80s°F (24-28°C), with little to no rainfall. It’s an ideal time for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the stunning beaches.
If you’re interested in exploring the island’s natural wonders, such as waterfalls and rainforests, the winter months of December through February offer the lushest landscapes. While there may be some rainfall, the showers are usually brief and followed by clear skies. The temperatures during winter range from the mid-60s to low 70s°F (18-22°C), making it pleasant for outdoor activities.
One of the highlights of visiting the Big Island is the opportunity to witness its active volcanoes. Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit, and the best time to experience its volcanic activity is during the spring and fall months. The temperatures are generally mild, ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s°F (18-22°C), and there is less rainfall compared to the winter months.
It’s important to note that the Big Island’s weather can be unpredictable, and rain or fog can occur even during the dry season. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before planning your outdoor activities and come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, and a light rain jacket.
In terms of crowds, the island tends to be busiest during the holiday seasons and school vacations, such as Christmas and summer break. If you prefer to avoid the crowds and have a more peaceful experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) or fall (September to November).
Overall, the best time to visit the Big Island depends on your personal preferences and what you want to experience. Whether you’re seeking sunny beach days, lush rainforest adventures, or witnessing volcanic activity, the Big Island offers something for everyone year-round. Pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey into paradise.
Top Attractions on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is a treasure trove of natural wonders and cultural experiences. From dramatic volcanic landscapes to pristine beaches, there is no shortage of attractions to explore. Here are some of the top attractions on the Big Island:
- Volcanoes National Park: Located in the southern part of the island, Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit. Witness the power of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, as you explore the park’s volcanic craters, lava tubes, and steam vents. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the glowing lava during a scenic hike or a helicopter tour.
- Mauna Kea: At over 13,000 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea is the highest peak in Hawaii. It is renowned for its observatories and stargazing opportunities. Join a guided tour to the summit and marvel at the breathtaking sunset and the clarity of the night sky.
- Kohala Coast: The Kohala Coast on the western side of the island is known for its luxurious resorts, pristine beaches, and world-class golf courses. Spend a day lounging on the white sandy beaches or take part in water sports such as snorkeling, surfing, and paddleboarding.
- Hilo Town: Experience the charm of Hilo Town, the largest city on the island’s east side. Explore its historic downtown, visit the farmers’ market, and marvel at the Akaka Falls, a 422-foot waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation.
- Waipio Valley: For a glimpse into Hawaii’s lush and untamed beauty, venture to Waipio Valley. This breathtaking valley is accessible by a steep and winding road, or you can opt for a guided tour or horseback ride. Explore the lush wilderness, hike to cascading waterfalls, and admire the black sand beach.
- Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Delve into Hawaiian history at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians. Learn about the traditional culture and customs of the island’s indigenous people as you explore the reconstructed temples, royal fishponds, and historic sites.
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach: Visit the famous Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, known for its striking black sand created by volcanic activity. It’s a perfect spot to relax, sunbathe, and observe Hawaiian green sea turtles basking in the sun.
- Pololu Valley: Take a scenic hike down to Pololu Valley, located on the north coast of the island. The trail offers stunning views of the cliffs, valleys, and the wild coastline. You can also explore the black sand beach at the valley bottom.
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park: Discover the rich history and traditional Hawaiian fishing villages at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. Explore the ancient fishponds, petroglyphs, and enjoy hiking trails that meander through the park’s diverse landscapes.
- Hawaiian Luaus: Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture by attending a traditional luau. Enjoy a feast of local cuisine, experience hula dancing, and learn about ancient Polynesian traditions. Many resorts and venues offer authentic luaus throughout the island.
These are just a few of the many attractions that await you on the Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you’re drawn to the island’s volcanic wonders, stunning beaches, or cultural experiences, the Big Island guarantees an unforgettable adventure.
Exploring Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is a true wonder of nature on the Big Island of Hawaii. It offers a unique opportunity to witness the raw power and beauty of active volcanoes. Spanning over 300,000 acres, the park is home to two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of your visit to Volcanoes National Park.
Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has been continuously erupting since 1983. Your first stop should be the Kilauea Visitor Center, where you can obtain maps, information on current volcanic activity, and safety guidelines. Take some time to watch the informative videos and exhibits that provide insight into the geology and history of the park.
To truly appreciate the power of Kilauea, hike or drive along Crater Rim Drive. This scenic road takes you around the summit caldera, where you can witness the vast volcanic landscapes and steaming vents. Be sure to make stops at popular viewpoints, such as the Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook, to view the active lava lake and experience the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the volcano.
If you’re up for an adventure, consider taking one of the park’s hiking trails. The Kīlauea Iki Trail leads you through a lush rainforest and across a hardened lava lake, offering a unique and immersive experience. The Devastation Trail takes you through a stark landscape created by past volcanic eruptions, leaving behind a desolate yet intriguing environment.
No visit to Volcanoes National Park is complete without exploring the Thurston Lava Tube. This underground cavern was formed by flowing lava and provides a glimpse into the powerful forces at work. As you walk through the tube, marvel at the unique geological formations and the eerie beauty of the subterranean world.
For an unparalleled experience, consider taking a helicopter tour over the volcanic landscapes. This allows you to witness the glory of Kilauea from the air and get a unique perspective on the vastness of the park’s volcanic activity. The stunning aerial views will leave you in awe of the island’s volcanic wonders.
It’s important to remember that volcanic activity can change rapidly. Before you go, check the park’s website or consult with park rangers for the latest updates and safety information. Volcanoes National Park is a dynamic and ever-changing environment, so it’s crucial to stay informed and follow all safety guidelines.
Additionally, please be respectful of the park and its natural wonders. Stay on designated trails, adhere to any posted warnings, and avoid disturbing the fragile ecosystem. Volcanoes National Park is a place of immense geological and cultural significance, and it’s our responsibility to ensure its preservation for future generations.
Visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is an awe-inspiring experience. The power of the volcanoes, the stunning landscapes, and the unique geological formations make it a must-see destination. Come prepared with sturdy footwear, sunscreen, and plenty of water, and prepare to witness the beauty and wonder of Kilauea and the volcanic landscapes that shape the island.
Snorkeling and Diving Spots
The Big Island of Hawaii boasts some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the world. With crystal clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, these spots offer a captivating underwater experience. Whether you’re a novice snorkeler or an experienced diver, the Big Island has something for everyone.
One of the most popular snorkeling and diving destinations on the island is Kealakekua Bay. Located on the Kona coast, this marine sanctuary is home to an array of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional spinner dolphins. The calm and clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkeling. For divers, the underwater terrain features lava arches, caves, and coral formations, creating an exciting and diverse diving experience.
Another must-visit spot for underwater enthusiasts is Honaunau Bay, also known as Two Step. This picturesque bay offers easy access to a vibrant reef teeming with marine life. Snorkelers can simply wade into the water and explore the incredible coral gardens and the resident Hawaiian green sea turtles. Divers can venture further out to discover fascinating lava formations and encounter a variety of tropical fish.
Kahaluu Beach Park is another popular snorkeling spot, especially for those new to the activity. The protected cove offers calm and shallow waters, allowing for a relaxed snorkeling experience. You’ll have the opportunity to see an abundance of colorful fish, including parrotfish, butterflyfish, and surgeonfish. The beach park also has picnic areas and facilities, making it a great place to spend a day by the shore.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path diving experience, head to manta ray diving sites. The Big Island is one of the few places in the world where you can dive with these graceful creatures. During a manta ray night dive, you’ll have the unforgettable opportunity to observe these gentle giants as they glide and somersault through the water, feeding on plankton. It’s an otherworldly experience that should not be missed.
Puako Marine Reserve, located on the northwest coast of the island, is another hidden gem for snorkelers and divers. The reserve is known for its pristine coral reefs, which are home to a wide variety of marine species. Snorkelers can explore the rich biodiversity of the reefs, while divers can venture deeper to discover fascinating structures and encounter unique species such as octopus and moray eels.
Before embarking on your snorkeling or diving adventure, ensure that you have the appropriate gear. Snorkelers will need a mask, snorkel, and fins, which can be rented from various shops on the island. Divers should have their certification and equipment, or they can join guided dives with reputable dive operators who provide all necessary gear.
Remember, when snorkeling or diving, it’s important to respect the marine environment. Avoid standing or touching the coral reefs, as they are delicate and easily damaged. Be mindful of the marine life and maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing their natural habitat.
Whether you’re exploring colorful coral reefs, swimming alongside sea turtles, or encountering manta rays in the dark, the snorkeling and diving spots on the Big Island of Hawaii offer an unforgettable and mesmerizing underwater experience. Dive into the clear waters and be prepared to be amazed by the vibrant marine world that awaits you.
Stunning Waterfalls to Visit
The Big Island of Hawaii is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, and one of the most mesmerizing features of the island’s landscape is its stunning waterfalls. Surrounded by lush vegetation and dramatic cliffs, these cascading wonders offer a serene and picturesque experience. Here are some of the must-visit waterfalls on the Big Island:
Akaka Falls: Located on the Hamakua Coast, Akaka Falls is one of the most iconic waterfalls on the island. With a towering height of 442 feet, this majestic waterfall plunges into a lush gorge surrounded by tropical foliage. Take a leisurely stroll along the paved pathway that winds through the rainforest, and witness the awe-inspiring view of this natural wonder.
Rainbow Falls: Situated just a few miles from downtown Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a true gem. Named for the beautiful rainbows that appear in the mist, this 80-foot tall waterfall cascades into a natural pool below. During the morning hours, when the sun is at the right angle, you may be lucky enough to witness a vibrant rainbow arching over the falls.
Waiʻānuenue Falls: Also known as Rainbow Falls’ big sister, Waiʻānuenue Falls is located upstream from Hilo. This powerful waterfall stands at approximately 80 feet tall and is framed by a lush gorge. The name “Waiʻānuenue” means “rainbow-hued waters,” and you can often witness beautiful rainbows reflecting in the mist on sunny days.
Hi’ilawe Falls: As one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii, Hi’ilawe Falls is a sight to behold. Located in Waipio Valley, this majestic waterfall drops approximately 1,450 feet into a pool below. While it cannot easily be accessed, you can admire its grandeur from the lookout point at the edge of the valley. The sheer scale and power of Hi’ilawe Falls make it a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Pe’epe’e Falls: Situated near Hilo, Pe’epe’e Falls is often overlooked but is no less spectacular. This charming waterfall drops about 80 feet into a series of tiered pools. Due to its proximity to the main road, it’s easily accessible and offers a tranquil spot for a refreshing dip on a hot day.
‘Akaka Falls: Not to be confused with Akaka Falls, ‘Akaka Falls is another hidden gem worth exploring. Located just a short distance from Honomu town, this waterfall plunges 442 feet into a gorge surrounded by lush tropical foliage. Stroll along the well-maintained pathway and soak in the beauty of this magical sight.
No matter which waterfall you choose to visit, it’s important to respect the natural environment and follow any posted rules or regulations. Swimming under or directly in front of waterfalls is discouraged due to safety concerns, so admire their beauty from a safe distance. Remember to bring your camera to capture the awe-inspiring moments and create lasting memories of these natural wonders.
Waterfalls are at their most impressive after periods of rainfall, so consider visiting during or shortly after a rain shower for the most dramatic views. However, even during drier periods, the beauty of the waterfalls on the Big Island is still a sight to behold.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii, and let their natural beauty leave you in awe. These stunning cascades are a testament to the island’s extraordinary landscapes and will undoubtedly create unforgettable memories.
Hiking Trails on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a multitude of scenic hiking trails that showcase the island’s diverse landscapes and natural beauty. From lush rainforests to rugged coastlines and volcanic craters, there is a trail for every level of hiker. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on an unforgettable adventure with these top hiking trails on the Big Island:
Waipi’o Valley Lookout and Trail: Begin your hiking journey with the Waipi’o Valley Lookout. From the overlook, marvel at the stunning views of the lush valley and towering cliffs. For those seeking a challenging adventure, venture down the steep and strenuous trail into the valley. The trail will lead you to a black sand beach and a majestic waterfall, immersing you in the untamed beauty of this iconic destination.
Pololu Valley Trail: Located on the northernmost part of the island, the Pololu Valley trail offers breathtaking views of the dramatic coastline and the lush valley below. The trail descends through a verdant landscape and leads you to a black sand beach. Be prepared for some steep sections, but the rewarding vistas make it all worthwhile.
Kilauea Iki Trail: Immerse yourself in the volcanic wonderland of Volcanoes National Park with the Kilauea Iki Trail. This moderate 4-mile loop takes you through lush rainforest before descending into the crater of the Kilauea Iki volcano. Walk across the hardened lava lake, marvel at steam vents, and experience the stark contrast between the ancient lava flows and the vibrant plant life that has emerged since the eruption.
Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail: Journey to the remote and rugged Ka’u region to discover the Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, ancient rock carvings etched into lava rocks. The moderate 1.4-mile trail will lead you through a barren landscape to an area with over 23,000 petroglyphs. Take in the cultural significance and be captivated by the stories these symbols tell.
Mauna Kea Summit Trail: For the adventurous and physically fit hikers, conquer the challenge of ascending the world’s tallest mountain from base to summit on the Mauna Kea Summit Trail. This arduous hike spans approximately 6 miles one way, taking you through different climate zones and offering breathtaking views of the island along the way. Reach the summit and be rewarded with panoramic views of the island and the opportunity to witness a stunning sunset or stargazing spectacle.
‘Akaka Falls Loop Trail: Experience a lush rainforest adventure on the ‘Akaka Falls Loop Trail. This easy half-mile loop takes you through a tropical paradise filled with exotic plants, bamboo groves, and trickling streams. The highlight of the trail is the magnificent ‘Akaka Falls, a towering waterfall cascading 442 feet into a pool below.
Before embarking on any hike, it’s essential to come prepared with proper footwear, sunscreen, plenty of water, and a trail map. It’s also advisable to check the weather conditions and be aware of any trail closures or safety advisories. Stay on designated trails, respect the land, and leave no trace to help preserve the beauty of these natural areas.
Whether you’re seeking breathtaking views, cultural experiences, or a chance to connect with nature, the hiking trails on the Big Island offer something for everyone. Discover the true essence of Hawaii as you explore the island’s diverse landscapes and embark on an unforgettable journey.
Beaches to Relax and Unwind
The Big Island of Hawaii is renowned for its stunning and diverse beaches, each offering a unique atmosphere and breathtaking beauty. Whether you’re looking for a secluded spot to unwind or a beach bustling with activity, the Big Island has it all. Here are some of the top beaches where you can relax, soak up the sun, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Hawaii:
Hapuna Beach: Located on the Kohala Coast, Hapuna Beach is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. This expansive white sand beach stretches over half a mile and offers crystal-clear turquoise waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The beach is surrounded by lush greenery, creating a picturesque backdrop for a day of relaxation and sunbathing.
Makalawena Beach: For those seeking a secluded beach experience, Makalawena Beach is a hidden gem. Accessible by a bumpy dirt road or via a rugged hike, this pristine beach offers a serene oasis away from the crowds. With its soft white sand, turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees, Makalawena Beach is the epitome of a tropical paradise.
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay): Located just north of Kailua-Kona, Manini’owali Beach, also known as Kua Bay, is a local favorite. The beach is famous for its clear blue waters and powdery white sand. It’s an ideal spot for swimming, bodyboarding, and enjoying picnics on the shore. Kua Bay tends to get crowded during weekends, so it’s best to arrive early to secure a good spot.
Puako Beach: If you’re looking for a tranquil beach experience, Puako Beach is a perfect choice. With its calm waters and pristine coral reefs, this beach is ideal for snorkeling and spotting colorful marine life. The clear, shallow waters make it a great spot for families with young children to enjoy a day of swimming and exploring tide pools.
Mauna Kea Beach: Located on the Kohala Coast, Mauna Kea Beach is another picturesque stretch of white sand and crystal-clear waters. The palm-fringed beach offers excellent snorkeling opportunities, as well as sunbathing and leisurely walks along the shore. The beach is part of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel property but is open to the public and offers parking facilities.
Kapoho Tide Pools: For a unique beach experience, venture to the Kapoho Tide Pools in the Puna District. These tide pools were formed by ancient lava flows and are now home to an incredible array of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and vibrant corals. Snorkeling in these protected pools is like swimming in a natural aquarium.
No matter which beach you choose to visit, it’s important to practice responsible beach etiquette. Respect the natural environment, dispose of trash properly, and avoid touching or stepping on coral reefs to help preserve their delicate ecosystem. Additionally, be mindful of ocean conditions and any posted warnings or advisories to ensure your safety.
Whether you’re seeking a tranquil escape or an exciting day of water activities, the beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii offer a slice of paradise for every beach lover. So grab your sunscreen and beach towel, and get ready to unwind and embrace the beauty of the island’s stunning coastal treasures.
Cultural Experiences and Tourist Activities
Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the Big Island of Hawaii and discover a wide range of activities that offer a glimpse into the island’s unique traditions and history. From ancient Hawaiian sites to interactive cultural experiences, there are numerous opportunities to delve deeper into the island’s vibrant culture. Here are some of the top cultural experiences and tourist activities on the Big Island:
Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Step back in time and explore the sacred grounds of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau. This National Historical Park provides a glimpse into ancient Hawaiian life and the traditional concept of a place of refuge. Walk among the sacred temples, reconstructed thatched houses, and sacred fishponds. This is a place where spirituality and history intertwine.
Take a Hawaiian Cultural Tour: Experience the traditions and customs of the Hawaiian people through organized cultural tours. Join local guides who will share fascinating stories, demonstrate traditional practices such as hula or poi pounding, and provide insights into the importance of preserving Hawaiian culture. These tours can be found throughout the island and offer a unique opportunity to learn directly from the local community.
Explore Historic Downtown Hilo: Discover the rich history of Hilo by exploring its historic downtown area. Breathe in the atmosphere of this charming town as you wander through the streets lined with historic buildings, art galleries, and quaint shops. Visit the Lyman Museum and Mission House, which offers exhibits on Hawaiian history and natural sciences, providing a deeper understanding of the island’s cultural roots.
A Taste of Hawaii: Attend a Luau: No trip to the Big Island is complete without experiencing a traditional Hawaiian luau. These festive gatherings are a celebration of Hawaiian culture, featuring delicious local food, traditional music, hula dancing, and Polynesian fire knife performances. Indulge in a feast of traditional dishes such as poi, kalua pig, and poke, while immersing yourself in the aloha spirit.
Discover the Petroglyphs at Puako: Take a journey back in time as you visit the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve. This ancient site is home to thousands of petroglyphs carved into the lava rock by early Hawaiian inhabitants. As you explore the preserve, marvel at the intricate rock carvings and learn about their cultural significance from informational signs along the path.
Shop at Local Markets and Boutiques: Get a taste of the island’s vibrant arts and crafts scene by visiting the local markets and boutiques. The Hilo Farmers Market is a must-visit, offering an array of fresh produce, local delicacies, and unique crafts created by local artisans. In Kailua-Kona, the Ali’i Drive area is dotted with shops and galleries where you can find beautiful handmade jewelry, clothing, and artwork.
Attend a Cultural Festival: If you’re fortunate to visit during a cultural festival, such as the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival or the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, be sure to take part in the festivities. These events showcase the island’s cultural traditions, including traditional hula competitions, music performances, art exhibits, and demonstrations of traditional crafts.
The Big Island of Hawaii offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences and activities that provide a deeper connection to the island and its people. From ancient sacred sites to interactive cultural tours, there are countless opportunities to explore and appreciate the island’s vibrant cultural heritage. Soak in the stories, traditions, and aloha spirit that are integral to the identity of the Big Island and create lasting memories of your Hawaiian adventure.
Wildlife and Marine Life Encounters
The Big Island of Hawaii is not only known for its stunning landscapes but also for its rich and diverse wildlife and marine life. From endangered species to fascinating creatures that thrive in the clear waters surrounding the island, there are ample opportunities for unforgettable wildlife encounters. Here are some of the top experiences to have on the Big Island:
Sea Turtle Encounters: One of the most iconic and beloved marine creatures is the Hawaiian green sea turtle, known as honu. These gentle giants can often be spotted basking on the beaches or swimming in the coastal waters. While enjoying the beaches, be sure to give these protected species plenty of space and observe them from a respectful distance.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays: Embark on a thrilling adventure by snorkeling with majestic manta rays. Kona is famous for its nighttime manta ray experiences, where you can observe these graceful creatures feeding on plankton. Guided tours take you out to the dive sites, where you can float in the water while the mantas glide gracefully beneath you.
Whale Watching: Experience the incredible sight of humpback whales, as they migrate from Alaska to Hawaii’s warm waters during the winter months. Embark on a whale watching tour along the coast, where you can witness these magnificent creatures breaching, tail-slapping, and performing other awe-inspiring behaviors.
Wildlife at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: As you explore Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, keep an eye out for the native wildlife that calls this area home. You may catch a glimpse of the Hawaiian spinner dolphins playing in the bay or the native birds like the ‘apapane and ‘i‘iwi flitting through the trees.
Kealakekua Bay Marine Life: Kealakekua Bay, a marine sanctuary, offers some of the best snorkeling opportunities on the island. The crystal-clear waters are teeming with vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life, including colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and occasional pods of spinner dolphins.
Bird Watching at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge: For avid bird enthusiasts, a visit to Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge is a must. This protected rainforest area is home to numerous native bird species, including the ‘akepa, ‘i‘iwi, and Hawai‘i ‘amakihi. Take a guided tour or venture along the designated trails to catch a glimpse of these unique and colorful birds.
Explore Parker Ranch: Explore the expansive Parker Ranch and keep an eye out for the grazing paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) tending to the herds. This working ranch is not only a glimpse into Hawaii’s ranching past but also a chance to spot native and introduced wildlife, such as wild turkeys and axis deer.
While encountering wildlife and marine life can be an incredible experience, it’s vital to remember to observe all creatures from a respectful distance and to never disturb their natural behavior or habitat. Adhere to any guidelines or regulations provided by authorities or tour operators to ensure the safety and well-being of both you and the animals.
These wildlife and marine encounters offer the opportunity to witness the beauty and wonder of the Big Island’s natural inhabitants up close. From gentle sea turtles to magnificent marine mammals, these encounters are sure to leave a lasting impression and create unforgettable memories of your time on the island.
Shopping and Dining Options on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii offers a vibrant culinary scene and diverse shopping opportunities, providing visitors with a range of options to explore and indulge in local flavors and unique souvenirs. Whether you’re looking for traditional Hawaiian cuisine, international delights, or one-of-a-kind keepsakes, the island has something to offer. Here are some of the top shopping and dining experiences on the Big Island:
The Big Island boasts a wealth of dining options that cater to every taste and budget. From casual beachside eateries to fine dining establishments, you can find a wide range of culinary experiences. Indulge in fresh seafood, such as ahi poke or grilled mahi-mahi, and savor traditional Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig or laulau. Visit farm-to-table restaurants that emphasize locally sourced ingredients, allowing you to experience the island’s rich agricultural heritage. Don’t forget to try must-visit Hawaiian staples like loco moco or plate lunches, which offer a delicious mix of flavors and generous portions.
The Big Island offers a variety of shopping experiences, from open-air markets to upscale boutiques. Explore the local farmers’ markets, such as the Hilo Farmers Market or the Keauhou Farmers Market, where you can find an abundance of fresh produce, tropical fruits, and locally made goods. Discover unique handmade jewelry, artwork, and clothing created by local artisans in boutiques and galleries located in towns like Kailua-Kona and Hilo. Don’t forget to pick up a bag of Kona coffee, one of the island’s famous exports, or locally made chocolates and macadamia nuts as delicious souvenirs to take home.
If you prefer a more traditional shopping experience, the Big Island is home to several shopping centers. In Kailua-Kona, the Kona Commons and the Kings’ Shops offer a variety of stores, ranging from clothing and accessories to specialty stores and local boutiques. In Hilo, the Prince Kuhio Plaza is a popular spot, featuring a mix of national retailers and local shops where you can find clothing, electronics, and more. These shopping centers also offer a range of dining options, providing a convenient one-stop destination for both shopping and dining needs.
The Big Island is known for its unique agricultural products and crafts. Don’t miss the chance to taste and purchase locally made products such as honey, jams, and tropical fruit preserves. Visit macadamia nut farms for an opportunity to sample different flavored nuts and purchase a variety of macadamia nut products. Additionally, explore the island’s breweries and distilleries that offer locally brewed beers, spirits, and craft cocktails made with local ingredients, providing a taste of the island’s vibrant beverage scene.
Whether you’re a food lover or a shopping enthusiast, the Big Island of Hawaii is sure to satisfy your cravings. From mouthwatering cuisine influenced by diverse cultures to shopping experiences filled with unique local products, the island offers a delightful blend of flavors and opportunities to find that special something to remember your visit by.
Accommodation Choices on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii offers a wide range of accommodation choices to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget. Whether you’re seeking luxury resorts, cozy beachfront cottages, or budget-friendly options, the island has something for everyone. Here are some of the top accommodation choices on the Big Island:
Luxury Resorts: The Big Island is home to numerous luxury resorts that offer world-class amenities, stunning locations, and impeccable service. Resorts in areas such as Kohala Coast and Waikoloa provide access to pristine beaches, championship golf courses, and renowned spa facilities. Take advantage of fine dining experiences, infinity pools, and secluded beachfront access while indulging in the ultimate luxury.
Beachfront Vacation Rentals: For those seeking a more private and independent experience, beachfront vacation rentals are a popular choice. From charming cottages to luxurious villas, there are numerous properties available for rent along the island’s coastlines. Enjoy the convenience of having your own living space, kitchen facilities, and direct access to the beach, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.
Bed and Breakfasts: Experience personalized hospitality and a unique cultural touch by staying at a bed and breakfast on the Big Island. Bed and breakfast establishments are often hosted by local residents who provide a warm, welcoming environment for guests. Enjoy homemade breakfasts featuring local ingredients, personalized recommendations for exploring the island, and the opportunity to interact with fellow travelers.
Hotels and Inns: The Big Island offers a range of hotels and inns, ranging from budget-friendly options to convenient chain hotels. These establishments provide comfortable accommodations, often with amenities such as swimming pools, on-site dining, and easy access to nearby attractions and activities. Hotels and inns are located in popular areas like Kailua-Kona, Hilo, and Volcano Village, offering convenience and accessibility for travelers.
Eco-Lodges and Retreats: For those looking for a more sustainable and immersive experience, eco-lodges and retreats are a great option. These accommodations focus on eco-friendly practices, often nestled within natural surroundings. Enjoy peace and tranquility while minimizing your ecological footprint, and take part in activities such as yoga, meditation, and nature hikes that promote wellness and environmental consciousness.
When choosing accommodation on the Big Island, consider factors like preferred location, desired amenities, and proximity to attractions and activities. Whether you’re seeking a high-end luxury experience or a cozy retreat in nature, the Big Island provides a range of options to suit every traveler’s needs. Book your accommodation in advance to secure your preferred choice, especially during peak travel seasons, and get ready to enjoy the island’s warm hospitality and breathtaking beauty.
Transportation and Getting Around
Getting around the Big Island of Hawaii is relatively easy thanks to the island’s well-connected transportation infrastructure. Whether you prefer to explore independently or join guided tours, there are several options available to suit your needs. Here’s a breakdown of transportation options on the Big Island:
Rental Cars: Renting a car is a popular choice for exploring the Big Island independently and at your own pace. All major car rental companies have offices at the airports in Hilo and Kona, as well as in major towns. Having a car provides the flexibility to visit remote areas, drive along scenic coastal roads, and easily access attractions and activities. It’s recommended to book your rental car in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
Taxis, Ride-Hailing Services, and Shuttles: Taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft operate on the Big Island, providing convenient transportation options for shorter distances or when you don’t want to drive. Shuttles and private transfer services are also available, particularly for airport transfers and transportation to popular tourist destinations or resorts.
Public Transportation: The Big Island has a public bus system called the Hele-On Bus. While not as extensive as in larger cities, it offers routes connecting major towns and attractions. The bus service is affordable but may have limited schedules and frequency, so it’s important to check the timetables in advance. Consider using the Hele-On Bus for shorter distances or when visiting towns like Hilo or Kona.
Guided Tours: Joining guided tours is an excellent option for those who prefer a hassle-free and informative way to explore the island. Various tour operators offer guided tours, ranging from small-group excursions to private customized itineraries. Choose from options such as volcano tours, waterfall hiking tours, or cultural experiences that provide insights into the island’s history, geology, and traditions.
Biking and Walking: Some areas, such as downtown Hilo and Kailua-Kona, are easily navigable on foot or by bike. Renting a bicycle or grabbing a pair of comfortable walking shoes allows you to explore these areas while enjoying the fresh air and scenery. Keep in mind that biking or walking longer distances or in less populated areas may be challenging due to limited infrastructure or safety concerns.
Air Travel: If you want to maximize your time or visit other islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, air travel is a convenient option. The Big Island has two major airports: Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east side and Kona International Airport (KOA) on the west side. Direct flights connect the Big Island to other Hawaiian islands, as well as to major cities in the United States and international destinations.
When planning your transportation on the Big Island, consider factors such as your itinerary, comfort level, budget, and desired level of independence. Be sure to check the latest travel advisories and road conditions, as well as any COVID-19 regulations or requirements that may be in place. With these options in mind, you can navigate the Big Island with ease and make the most of your Hawaiian adventure.
Safety Tips and Precautions
While visiting the Big Island of Hawaii is a delightful experience, it’s important to prioritize your safety and take necessary precautions to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while exploring the island:
Water Safety: Hawaii’s beautiful beaches and inviting waters can pose potential hazards. Always swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty and pay attention to any posted warnings or advisories. Be cautious of strong currents, especially during periods of higher surf, and avoid areas with rocky or unsupervised coastlines. If participating in water activities like snorkeling or diving, ensure that you are a confident swimmer and familiar with proper techniques and safety guidelines.
Volcanic Activity: The Big Island is home to active volcanoes, and it’s important to stay informed about any volcanic activity or volcanic gas hazards. Before visiting Volcanoes National Park or any volcanic areas, check for any closures or alerts issued by the authorities. Follow all posted signs and guidelines, and never venture into restricted or closed areas.
Weather Conditions: Hawaii’s climate can be unpredictable, and weather conditions can vary from region to region. Check the weather forecast regularly and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Bring adequate sun protection, such as sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses, as well as appropriate rain gear for unexpected showers. If planning to hike, be aware of trails that may be slippery or impassable during heavy rain.
Land and Ocean Safety: Respect the natural environment and wildlife by staying on designated trails and paths whenever possible. Avoid approaching or touching marine animals, such as sea turtles or dolphins, and maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing their natural behavior. Be cautious of sharp rocks and steep cliffs, especially when hiking or exploring rugged areas.
Vehicle Safety: If renting a car, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and regulations. Stay alert while driving, especially on scenic and winding coastal roads. Be mindful of pedestrians and wildlife, and never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Secure all belongings in your vehicle and park in well-lit and secure areas to minimize the risk of theft.
Health and Hygiene: Protect your health by staying hydrated, especially in the warm and tropical climate. Apply sunscreen regularly to avoid sunburn, and use insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, especially in areas with dense vegetation. Be mindful of your physical abilities and limitations, and plan activities and hikes that are suitable for your fitness level.
COVID-19 Safety Measures: Stay informed about the latest COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. Currently, it is crucial to wear masks in indoor public spaces and in outdoor situations where social distancing is not possible. Follow all local guidelines regarding gathering sizes, capacity restrictions, and other safety measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus.
By keeping these safety tips in mind and being aware of your surroundings, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the Big Island of Hawaii. Embrace the spirit of aloha while exploring the island’s wonders, and always prioritize your well-being and that of others during your travels.
The Big Island of Hawaii offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and thrilling adventures. From the dramatic landscapes of Volcanoes National Park to the serene beaches and vibrant marine life, the island is a paradise waiting to be explored. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping experiences like snorkeling with manta rays or peaceful moments of relaxation on pristine beaches, the Big Island has something for everyone.
Remember to plan your trip to make the most of your time on the island. Consider the best time to visit, taking into account weather conditions and the type of activities you want to engage in. Choose from a range of accommodations that suit your style and preferences, whether it’s luxurious resorts, charming bed and breakfast establishments, or beachfront vacation rentals.
While enjoying your adventures, prioritize safety by following water safety guidelines, paying attention to weather conditions, and respecting the natural environment. Stay informed about volcanic activity and any restrictions in place. Take necessary precautions while driving and be aware of local traffic laws.
Immerse yourself in the island’s rich cultural heritage through visits to historic sites, attending traditional luaus, and exploring local markets and boutiques. Indulge in the island’s diverse culinary delights, from traditional Hawaiian dishes to modern farm-to-table experiences.
As you embark on your journey, be open to the warm aloha spirit of the island. Embrace the slower pace of life, connect with the natural surroundings, and appreciate the local customs and traditions. The Big Island of Hawaii offers an unforgettable experience, where you can create lasting memories and immerse yourself in the magic of this enchanting island paradise.