Top things to do – Big Island, Hawaii

Big Island is the largest Island of Hawaii. It is a very diverse Island with lot of things to do. Here, you can walk on a lava lake, surf on the ocean, snorkel with beautiful fishes, visit a rainforest , play on snow or stargaze at night – you can do it all !

There are mainly 4 parts of the Island Kailua-Kona;  Waimea;  Hilo and Volcano with each part offering amazing things. Kailua-Kona is known for Coffee tours (the popular Kona Coffee), Night Snorkeling with Manta rays, Whale Watching and more; Waimea with full of green pastures around known for local Cowboy Culture and the Waimea Canyon; Hilo is home of breathtaking green lush rainforest and Volcano as name suggests is where Hawaii Volcano National park is located.

We spent 2 days in the Island and explored as much as possible.

Things to include in Itinerary

Hawaii Volcano National Park

When in Big Island, you should spend at least half a day to visit the Hawaii Volcano National Park and admire the surreal Volcanic Landscape. The park offers hikes over bizarre terrains created from lava, beautiful scenic roads, rugged shoreline.

Unfortunately, the Most Famous lava flow scene after 2018 eruption had changed and currently (as of 2020) there is no more lava flow. Also, many roads within the park were closed when we visited. For latest updates you can visit NPS Website.

The Entrance

Chain of Craters is about 19 Miles one way road ending abruptly at the coastline. When we started the Chain of Craters Road from Kilauea Visitor Center there were lots of green trees around and after few minutes of driving we were surrounded by surreal black terrain created from years of lava flow. The photographs do not do any justice, you have to see it to believe it 

Chain of Crater Road End

Kilauea Iki Trail is famous for surreal view of Kilauea’iki crater. The trail takes you through a lush rain forest to the floor of solidified Kīlauea iki crater lava lake which erupted in 1959. If you are visiting the National park for a day and looking for one hike – we would recommend this one.  

Hiking Tips – .
🌋 its about a 4 mile loop and takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.
🌋 Bring water, food, hat, sunscreen and Rain gear.
🌋 Be prepared for any type of weather conditions.
🌋 The trail starts at the parking lot and you can start the loop from right (via Thurston Lava Tube) or left (via rain forest) 

Kilauea iki trail

At Ha’akulamanu (Sulphur Banks) Trail, volcanic gases seep out of the ground along with groundwater steam. We would recommend to do this trail early in the morning. Unquestionably, one of the best location to view Sunrise with volcanic mist passing by. 

Sunrise at Ha’akulamanu Trail

AKaka falls State Park

Akaka Falls – in midst of Rainforest is an eye catching waterfall in Hilo area. There is a short hike which takes you to the beautiful Journey of lush green forest and has many waterfalls. The most popular one as the name suggests is Akaka Falls. You can spend about an hour to admire the beauty of the state park.

Travel tip – This is Rainforest area so carry an umbrella or a raincoat  || The Entrance fee is $5 for vehicle and $1 for Walk-in

Akaka falls

Don’t miss Waipio Lookout

If you are driving in Waimea area, we recommend you to visit Waipio Valley Lookout. If you are driving 4WD and your rental Car agreement has no issue – go down the valley and enjoy 2-3 hours of beautiful beach time. 

Waipio Lookout

Walk on Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Beach is a gorgeous and easily accessible black sand beach. It is a popular destination where you can find green sea turtle in their natural habitat. As per federal law you need to stay 10 feet away from them. Keep that in mind!

Sea Turtle at Punalu’u Beach

The Rainbow falls

If you are in Hilo, you must visit the gorgeous Rainbow falls. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and it totally takes your breath away. There is a short hike around the falls, if you are interesed.

Rainbow Falls

Visit Kaumana Caves

If you are in Hilo and visiting Rainbow falls this one is a must stop. It is an interesting lava cave and you can go inside on your own. Bring a flashlight, rain gear and hiking shoe .. it is dark and wet inside the cave. 

Kaumana Caves

Try Malasadas at Punalu’u Bake Shop

If you are driving from Volcano towards Kona – take a break at Punalu’u Bake shop and try their Malasadas. Our recommend flavor would be Guava or Mango. Yumm!

Malasadas and Coffee

Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays

Did you know about Manta Rays? How about swimming with them at night?  

When we were researching about Hawaii – Big Island.. we learned about Manta rays and there are tours in Kona which take you to mid of ocean where you can swim with the manta rays as they feed on microscopic plankton at night. As soon as we learn about it, we were very interested to do this extraordinary activity. We loved it! It is a very unique experience and we definitely recommend it more. 

Booking tips – We have booked the tour with My Kona Adventures. Sometime, there are offers available on Groupon you can check that before booking the tour.


Other things to include in Itinerary : There are few more places we would love to visit next time we are on Island.

Stargazing at MaunaKea

In Big Island, on clear day you will be able to see gazillion stars. However, the best view is from top of Mauna Kea.There are tours which takes you to the observatory for Sunset followed by beautiful Stargazing. Mind that the tours are not cheap and there are restrictions to drive rental vehicle to the Top of MaunaKea 

Papakolea beach (aka Green sand Beach)

One of the unique beaches in the World, Green sand beach is located at the southmost tip of the United States. We had this beach in our itinerary, but somehow the timing did not work out as we had no idea that after reaching the marked google point we have to hike for another 2.5 Miles to access the beach (Rookie Mistake!). If you are planning to visit Green sand beach, our recommendation would be to plan for at-least Half day. For detailed Information you refer here.

Humpback Whale Watching

Another best thing to do in Kona, Big island if you are visiting in Winters is to  book for Whale Watching tours. Winters are the best time to see myriad of Humpback Whales playing around. For more details you can check here.

Where to stay:

Hawaii is not a budget friendly destination at any point of the year. Only thing to avoid extra cost would be to book in advance. There are lots of Hotels and Resorts on Kona or Hilo side which you can book directly with Hotels or via online. You definitely need to search for hotels based on your budget and Itinerary. Also, you can look for Vacation Rental on Airbnb or Vrbo, both sites are very helpful. If you sign up Airbnb with our link , you get upto $55 off.

We booked in two places – Day 1 at Kona side booked from Airbnb near airport and Day 2  at Volcano booked with Kilauea Hospitality Group from Expedia

How to reach:

Only way to reach any of Hawaiian Island is via flight. It is not a budget friendly destination, however you can try to save money by being flexible in terms of dates. We went in January end and we got few good deals in terms of flight and hotel stays. We flew in Southwest Airlines for inter-island travel and could save the money on luggage since Southwest provides 2 bags checkin complimentary ! 

In Big Island there are two major airports – Kona International airport and Hilo International Airport. There are many flights which run between Islands of Hawaii, if you are willing to visit Maui, Oahu and Kauai

Getting around:

 The most convenient and the best way to get around Big Island is by Car preferably Jeep. We rented a Jeep via Expedia – very easy way to book (You can always book and cancel/modify later).

Finally, keep some time to wander and see where the roads take you . You cannot do everything when you are traveling, so just relax and enjoy the journey!  

Hope this blog inspired you to plan the holiday in Big Island, Hawaii.  Pin it or Bookmark this post for future reference.

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