100+ Things to Do in Hawaii’s Big Island
Active volcanoes, snow capped peaks, and seaside cliffs are just some of the diverse natural attractions on The Big Island of Hawaii.
Explore the 4,000 miles of natural beauty in this guide of 100+ things to do in Hawaii’s Big Island.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Snorkel close to home at this approachable, black sand beach. Kahalu’u Beach Park is a short drive from Kailua-Kona. The water in the bay is shallow and calm making the snorkeling easily accessible.
Dive into this clear, fish-filled bay. Dolphins make their home in Kealakekua Bay and if you’re lucky, you may spot them in the early morning. This is also the site of the Captain Cook monument.
Search for turtles at Two Step, near Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park, this snorkeling spot has clear water and plenty of fish. Be prepared to pay a $5 parking fee, free parking is limited.
Take a bumpy road to paradise at Makalawena Beach. For the more adventurous, this white sand beach is great for snorkeling but you have to cross a very bumpy road across a lava field to reach it. It was a fun drive but not for the faint of heart.
Magic Sands Beach
Spread your towel on this busy, white sand beach near Kailua-Kona. Magic Sands Beach Park is about four miles South of downtown Kona and is good for surfing or sunbathing.
This is an easy bike ride from town and there are bike share docks in Kailua-Kona and right across from Magic Sands Beach.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Experience a black sand beach close to home at Kahalu’u Beach Park. It has a calm bay that’s great for snorkeling and is less than 15 minutes south of Kailua-Kona.
Kekaha Kai State Park
Visit Kekaha Kai State Park for natural coastline, trails and white sand beaches. Visit Mahai’ula Beach for a stretch of perfect white sand and teal blue water or hike Ala Kahakai to Kua Bay.
Watch the sun set over Oneo Bay. Sit on the lava rock walls along Ali’i Drive and join fellow sun worshippers as you watch the sun dip into the sea.
Walk Ali’i Drive from Huggo’s on the Rocks to Paradise Brewing Company. See charming boutiques, some of the best seaside restaurants in Kona, towering banyan trees, and historical sites like Hulile’e Palace and Mokuaikaua Church.
Step into the shoes of Hawaiian royalty at Hulile’e Palace. The palace in historic Kailua-Kona on Ali‘i Drive was once a summer vacation home for royals including King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani.
Visit the first Christian Church in Hawaii, Mokuaikaua Church, across from Hulile’e Palace. It was completed in 1837 and still has an active congregation today.
Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Walk through an ancient place of refuge at Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. This historical site provided asylum for those who broke sacred kapu, or laws. The Hale o Keawe temple here contained the bones of departed kings that infused the area with their mana. Distinctive wooden statues, or Ki’i guard the temple and bay.
Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park
Hike by sacred temples, ruins of Hawaiian homes, fishponds and petroglyphs in this historical park.
Find fresh produce and local crafts at the Kona Farmers Market.
Coffee Farm Tour
Walk through fields of the best coffee in the world. You’ll find several coffee experiences in Kona including the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, tours where you can roast your own beans, cupping experiences (coffee flights), or even free farm tours.
Circle Island Tour
Circle Island Tour
See a lot of the Big Island in a little time on a circle island tour (like this one or this one). You’ll see highlights like waterfalls, coffee farms, and volcanic craters in one loop so you can spend the rest of your time relaxing on Kona’s beautiful beaches.
Circle Island Helicopter Tour
See the island from above with a circle island helicopter tour. Fly over volcanoes and volcanic landscapes, cross roaring waterfalls, and see miles of stunning coastline.
See 25 species of seahorses and enjoy the interactive tide pool at the seahorse farm in Kona.
Manta Ray Night Snorkel
Swim with gargantuan manta rays under the night sky with a guided manta ray night snorkel. Snorkel around a lighted raft and watch the rays move gracefully below you on this unforgettable experience.
Spot whales from the shore on the Kona and Kohala coasts or take a tour from Kona for a closer encounter. Humpback whales visit Hawaii every year from December to April.
Explore the Kona Coast on a kayak or stand up paddle board.
Ride the waves on a rented board or take a surf lesson to live out your Hawaiian pipeline dreams.
Maka’eo Walking Path
Walk through a vibrant botanical garden at Maka’eo Walking Path at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area.
Eats and Drinks
Find killer poke and fresh fish at this casual, local favorite. Don’t miss the poke nachos.
Try the 8th best burgers in all of the US at Island Ono Loa. Ask the friendly staff behind the counter if there’s a special of the day. We were surprised by poke burgers and delish fish tacos.
Huggo’s on the Rocks
Sip creative cocktails and enjoy fine dining with a view at Huggo’s on the Rocks. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of a whale spout nearby.
Don’s Mai Tai Bar
Watch the sunset as you sip mai tais in an open air bar at Don’s Mai Tai Bar.
Sushi Cocoro & Udon Noodle
Find excellent, reasonably priced sushi at Sushi Cocoro. The shop is through a walkway of local vendors and feels like a hidden treasure on Ali’i drive.
Da Poke Shack
Take a roadside excursion to Da Poke Shack after visiting Captain Cook. With a wall full of poke options and new fun foods to try like kalua pig, squid luau, and Ho’io Salad, this roadside spot is a casual culinary experience.
Gecko Girls Shave Ice
Get your shave ice fix at Gecko Girls. The shop in a small shop window but offers a long menu of creative toppings and syrups including macadamia nut ice cream and tiger’s blood syrup. If you’re ready to go big on shave ice, go here.
Kona Coffee Cafe
Get local coffee and donkey balls in downtown Kona at Kona Coffee Cafe inside the open air Kona Inn Shopping Village. They offer free shots of local espresso so you can sample before you buy.
The Coffee Shack
Find stunning views and a peaceful garden terrace at The Coffee Shack, a roadside restaurant on Hawaii Belt Rd.
Sample a flight of liquid aloha at Kona Brewing or stop by their growler station to stock up.
Stroll Hilo’s colorful and eclectic downtown. Park on Kamehameha Ave near the information center and wander through the city blocks. Bright murals, creative boutiques and art galleries await. End your walk at the Hilo Farmers Market or grab a picnic and eat under the banyan trees in Russell Carrol Mo’ohau County Park.
Hilo Farmers Market
After walking through downtown, end your stroll at the Hilo Farmers Market. Pick up your souvenirs, get a quick bite, and don’t miss the biggest avocados you’ve ever seen.
Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
Get up close and personal with endangered Hawaiian and rainforest animals at the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. See nene geese and spider monkeys then check out local orchids and a water garden.
Explore culture and astronomical exhibits at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. Catch a show at the planetarium, learn about early Polynesian navigation, and see scientific developments on Hawaii Island.
Experience the making of chocolate first hand on a tree to chocolate tour. Walk cacao orchards, learn about the chocolate making process, and sample sweet bites at a cacao farm in Hilo. Try Hamakua or Hawaiian Crown.
Spot a rainbow over rushing water at Rainbow Falls.
In Hawaiian lore, Hinu, mother of Maui was said to live in the cave behind this waterfall.
Rainbow falls is an 80 ft cascade over a lava tube. It’s a short mile and a half from downtown Hilo and is easily accessible from the parking lot. If you visit in the AM, you have a good chance of catching a rainbow over the falls.
Dream of swimming in clear pools beneath a waterfall at Boiling Pots.
Just a short mile and a half down the road from Rainbow Falls is Boiling Pots. Distinctive pot-shaped holes formed by lava flow make up this stretch of river. When the river is high, the water in the pools rises and looks like it’s boiling.
Venture through underground lava tubes at Kaumana Caves.
Plants drip from the top of the two entrances to the caves on either side of a steep set of stairs. Make your way through the underground lava tubes. Step over jagged walkways and smooth swaths of lava. Spot streaks of gold and silver in the ceiling. Dip through tight spaces and marvel as the cave opens up once again.
Bring a headlamp and wear sturdy shoes, the rock is uneven and jagged in some places.
Snorkeling near Hilo isn’t as exciting as some of the spots on the Kona coast (above) but worth a visit if you’re staying on the East coast of The Big Island.
Carlsmith Beach Park
Wade through calm, shallow water in a protected pool area at Carlsmith Beach Park then lay on grassy shores after your dip.
Richardson Ocean Park
Lounge on black sand and keep your eyes peeled for turtles at Richardson Ocean Park. If you brought your snorkel gear, this is also a good place to search for fish.
Lay on a small stretch of sandy shore and watch jumpers leap from a short tower into calm waters at Coconut Island.
Hawaiian Sailing Canoe
Sail a Wa’akaulua, traditional Hawaiian canoe, in Hilo Bay. See off-the-beaten-path attractions and learn the history and customs of Hilo.
Hamakua Coast Cruise
Cruise the stunning Hamakua Coast past steep green cliffs, waterfalls and lush tropical forest on the Hamakua Coast Cruise. Learn the history of Hilo as you sail by one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline on The Big Island.
Pepeekeo Scenic Drive
Cruise through tree tunnels, lush tropical forest, and rushing waterfalls as you wind down the Pepeekeo Scenic Drive.
Add Pepeekeo to your itinerary when you’re heading from Hilo to Akaka Falls or Waipi’o Valley.
Onomea Bay Trail
Climb down the mountainside in lush, tropical surroundings at Onomea Bay Trail (Donkey Trail). You’ll walk by Onomea stream and end in the beautiful bay. The trail is right off of Pepeekeo Scenic Drive.
Tropical Botanical Gardens
Experience the best of Hilo’s tropical plant life at the botanical gardens. See over 2,000 species in the 20 acre valley as you walk through winding nature trails and past streams and waterfalls. This is also right off the Pepeekeo Scenic Drive and a perfect addition to your trip up the Eastern coast of The Big Island.
Stroll to Hawaii’s largest waterfall, Akaka Falls. A half-mile loop on a paved trail takes you to the 442 foot falls. You’ll spot the falls from a few points on the trail, ending up in front of the waterfall halfway through the loop.
Tour the skies of the Big Island with a volcano and waterfalls tour from Hilo. See unique aerial views of the park and spot active lava vents. If you’re lucky, you may even see lava flow from the sky.
Eats & Drinks
Choose from heaping bowls of fresh poke, lobster salad and other delectable bites from the sea at Suisan. Pick up freshly caught seafood to cook yourself or order a killer poke bowl and eat in nearby Liliuokalani Park and Gardens.
Two Ladies Kitchen
Try everything at Two Ladies Kitchen. Colorful sweet bites from taro to white chocolate to fresh strawberries are on the menu at this Japanese sweets shop.
If you’re looking for a whole pineapple full of pina colada (and who isn’t?) Pineapples is the place for you.
Hawaiian Style Cafe
Dive into big ‘ol plates of Hawaiian comfort food at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Try kalua pork hash or loco moco.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is one of the most surreal attractions on The Big Island. Walk through craters, learn about the volcanos, and spot signs of an active volcano. Bring your national parks pass or pay a $25 fee per car for entrance.
See an active volcano in Volcanoes National Park. Spotting lava flow is not guaranteed in Hawaii but check out webcams in the park to see which volcanoes, if any, are active and read the live updates here to learn how you can get close to the activity.
Kīlauea Iki Trail
Descend into a volcanic crater and walk across the stark black landscape of Kīlauea Iki Trail.
Crater Rim Trail
Gaze into volcanic craters from above on the Crater Rim Trail. Spot steam vents, walk through lush forest and listen to the sing songs of the birds.
Chain of Craters Scenic Drive
Drive the 18 mile stretch South along Chain of Craters Road. See craters and dried lava flows along this gorgeous drive to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs and Hōlei Sea Arch.
Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs
Walk over a 500 year old lava field and marvel at petroglyphs from the boardwalk at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs.
Hōlei Sea Arch
Marvel at the stark black cliffs of the southern coast while you stop to see the natural sea arch.
Nāhuku/Thurston Lava Tube
Tread where lava once flowed through the earth at the Thurston Lava Tube.
Kula Kai Caverns
Take a guided tour into a lava tube at Kula Kai Caverns. Learn about how the tubes were formed and how ancient Hawaiians used the caves. Tours range from an easy half hour walk to adventurous caving trips through tight spaces and tunnels.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach
Find yourself surrounded by a natural wonder on Papakolea, a green sand beach.
Reaching the beach is a trek over uneven coastline. Be prepared to walk a total of five miles or pay one of the local trucks about $10 to drive you there (over very bumpy road).
Punalu’u bake shop is nearby and a great stop for malasadas before your trek.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Lay on stark black sand and pray for turtles at Punalu’u, a black sand beach.
South Point Cliff Jumping
Take a 40′ leap off the southernmost coast of the US at Kalae.
Pay attention to the ocean conditions if you choose to jump. Make sure the water is calm and the skies are clear.
Lava Tree State Monument
Walk through lava molds of ancient tree trunks at Lava Tree State Monument. Take the short loop to see remnants left by volcanic eruptions.
Eats & Drinks
Punalu’u Bake Shop
Grab lunch while you’re exploring the south of the Big Island and stock up on sweet bread and all the malasadas at the Punalu’u Bake Shop. Try local flavors like lilikoi (passion fruit) and haupia (coconut pudding).
Le Umu Samoa
If you’re driving from Hilo to Volcano, don’t miss Le Umu Samoa. Behind the counter are platefuls of slow roasted meats and side dishes with the most rich, flavorful combinations. Served up like a Hawaiian plate lunch, expect a lot of goodness piled on top of rice with a side of mac salad. To really do it right, ask the person behind the counter to make your plate, the slow roasted mackerel and coconut taro were an unbeatable combo I wouldn’t have tried otherwise.
Be cautious if you plan to visit on your own. Altitude sickness and difficult roads make this a tough trip. Be sure to follow guidelines for a safe visit.
Take a walk between dormant volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, in the Ka’Ohe Game Management Area. Park in the entrance parking lot or drive along the dirt road to get into nature quickly.
Along the route you’ll see sweeping views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. At the summit, clouds roll over the hill and around the trail and you’ll have over-the-clouds views of the dormant volcanoes.
This is also an excellent bird watching trail. Spot high elevation Hawaiian birds like the Hawaii Amakihi or Apapane.
North (Kohala, Waimea, and Waipi’o)
Lay a towel on one of Hawaii’s top rated beaches at Hapuna Beach. This large, white sand beach offers calm water for swimming and snorkeling.
Another stunning stretch of white sand, A bay offers plenty of space for sunbathing and the calm waters of a protected bay, perfect for swimming.
Snorkel in this marine life conservation district to see a diversity of marine life near Hapuna Beach.
See steep green coastline, black sand beach, and a lush Hawaiian valley at the Waipi’o Valley Overlook. The overlook is easy to access but visiting the valley is another story!
Take in panoramic views of stunning green cliffs and jutting coastline at the Polulu Valley Lookout, north of Waipi’o Valley.
Once there, enjoy the black sand beach, experience ancient Hawaiian traditions and rituals, or hike surrounded by jurassic-like mountains.
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Visit one of the best preserved temples in Hawaii at the Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Walk the half-mile trail around the grounds to see ruins of other historical sites and learn about the sacred places of worship in Hawaii.
Lapakahi State Historical Park
Walk the village trail through the remains of a Hawaiian fishing settlement that dates back 600 years at Lapakahi State Historical Park.
Take a tour of a Hawaiian Vanilla Farm or indulge in a lunch inspired by the locally grown vanilla with highlights like vanilla lemonade and crostini with vanilla pineapple chutney.
Cycle the big island with a bike rental or guided bike tour. Ride to the Waipi’o Valley Lookout, take a tour through coffee country, or circle the island on a multi-day tour.
Flumin Kohala Tour
Take a guided tour through thousand-foot tunnels, float underground and pass through powerful streams surrounded by green forest on the Flumin Kohala Tour.
Explore Hawaii’s cowboy country on horseback. See a cattle ranch, coastline, and volcanoes on this paniolo ride. Descend into the Waipi’o Valley on horseback to experience the Valley of Kings first hand.
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