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Things to do in Big Island of Hawaii

Things to do in  Big Island of Hawaii

Welcome to Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii provides visitors a true escape from daily life, whether you’re hunting for glowing lava, beaches, adventure, or tropical rain forests. Nature lovers find endless places to explore on the lush isle, from the peaks of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the Waipio Valley. Become part of the local culture by dancing to Polynesian rhythms or dining on roasted pig at a Hawaiian luau. The Big Island brims with opportunities to discover new trails, find your own perfect beach for snorkeling, admire waterfalls, and savor Hawaiian sunsets with a fruity cocktail in hand.

Top 15 attractions in Big Island of Hawaii

Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatories gives you the feeling of being on top of the world for good reason: You’re actually pretty close. Standing at 13,796 feet (4,138 meters), the mountain is Hawaii's tallest and the highlight of many visitors' trips to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) feature some of the world's largest telescopes, including equipment from Canada, France, and the University of Hawaii, due to its designation as an unparalleled destination for stargazing.More

Kona (Kailua-Kona)

Kailua-Kona, the largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the epicenter of activities and tours on the Kona Coast—part of the island’s western (leeward) side. The antithesis to the lush, often rainy jungles of Hilo on the island’s eastern (windward) side, dry and sunny Kona’s activities put a huge emphasis on long days in the outdoors. Kailua-Kona is the jumping-off point for the Big Island’s best coffee-farm tours, superb reef snorkeling, all levels of hiking, and experiencing ancient Hawaiian culture, while downtown’s seaside shops and dining come with spectacular sunset views.More

Kealakekua Bay

The marine sanctuary of Kealakekua Bay ranks among Hawaii’s most scenic spots for snorkeling, swimming, and hiking. The beautiful bay, home to spinner dolphins and backed by green mountain slopes, was the site where Captain James Cook landed—and was later killed—on the Big Island in 1779, forever altering the history and culture of the archipelago.More

Kailua Pier

Kailua Pier is the northern bookend to most of Kailua-Kona’s restaurants, shops and bars, a stretch of concrete wide enough to host four-lanes of traffic (if it wasn’t closed off to cars). The historic pier was first built as a downtown fishing dock in 1900 and utilized rocks from deconstructed Hawaiian palace and fort walls, but today few boats moor here. Instead, the pier is mostly used for large events and festivals including the annual Kona Ironman World Championships, which starts and finishes at the pier, and the Kona International Billfish Tournament whose daily catches of sometimes-massive fish species including Pacific blue marlin are weighed from pier-side scales for all to see.On the pier’s northern side, a small beach fronting the King Kamehameha Marriott Hotel has public showers, restroom blocks and hosts community events such as the Kona International Surf Film Festival and the Kona Brewers’ Festival. Aside from the beach, the best vantage forAhu’ena Heiau, a still-revered thatch-roof temple dedicated to Lono and dating to the early 19th century, is from Kailua Pier. Some say the temple is just 1/3 of its original size when built by Island-uniting King Kamehameha I. Because it is believed the monarch also died here, the site and its tiny man-made island remain sacred and off-limits to the public, despite being on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.More

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers visitors a front-row seat to the region’s striking natural beauty. Home to everything from lush rain forest and the Halemaumau Crater to lava tubes and rolling black lava fields—where hot steam still rises from fissures and rifts that dot the rugged landscape—Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must on the Big Island.More


Situated on the northern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, Waimea is the center of Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo country. This historic area is filled with rolling green hills, endless open pastures, and spectacular valleys. With its stunning scenery and great local food, Waimea is one of the Big Island’s top tourist towns.More

Rainbow Falls

One of the most popular waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii, Rainbow Falls is loved for its easy access and the rainbows that frequent the falls on misty mornings. The Wailuku River varies dramatically based on rain, but this 80-foot (24.4-meter) cascade wows viewers whether it is a thundering torrent or delicate trickle.More

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach

Hawaii’s volcanic activity creates a dynamic array of beaches ranging from soft white shores to the black pebbles of the Big Island’s Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach. But, travelers aren’t the only visitors to Punaluʻu; the area is known for the large green sea turtles (honu) that come out to bask along the black sand shoreline.More

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

Located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava Tube is the most accessible lava tube on the Big Island. Discovered in 1913, this 500-year-old tube was created by subterranean lava that once flowed through this young section of earth. Today, the tube is illuminated to create an eerie glow for visitors who venture inside.More

Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea Volcano is the star of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kilauea Volcano remains active, spouting orange lava, venting steam, glowing, and sputtering. When conditions are safe, it’s possible to drive around the volcano's edge on the 11-mile (17-kilometer) Crater Rim Drive.More

Captain Cook Monument

British explorer Captain James Cook met his death at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779, after a skirmish with the king of Hawaii in a local village. Today, a white obelisk in Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park stands sentinel over the lush coast and its crystal clear waters, commemorating his death.More

Liliuokalani Gardens

The largest authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, Liliuokalani Gardens present Japanese culture set on Hawaii’s Hilo Bay. Arched stone bridges, moats, stone lanterns, pagodas, and a tea house make up the gardens, which were named after Hawaii's last reigning monarch and dedicated to the immigrants who worked in the sugar fields.More

Honokohau Harbor

Steep drop-offs beckon just off Kona’s coast, the dominion of pelagic beasts—marlin and billfish some topping 1,000 lbs. Most journeys to catch one begin the 262-slip marina at Honokohau Harbor, just before the entrance to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. Nearly all of Kailua-Kona’s fishermen, independent sportfish tour operators as well as charter boats departing for scuba sites and popular manta and dolphin snorkeling adventures dock and depart from Honokohau Harbor.The full-service marina also sports two noteworthy restaurants: Harbor House, a burger and beer joint with views of vessels from their open-air dining room, and Bite Me Fish Market Bar & Grill serving seafood delivered direct from the ocean to their door. ATMs, two full service restroom blocks with hot showers and a convenience store for snacks and sundries round out the facilities here.Just behind the marina proper, a snaking road ends at a lava rock parking lot with a trail leading to a small beach with decent snorkeling and popular with area dog owners.More

Parker Ranch

Before the cowboys of the American West, there were the Hawaiian cowboys,paniolos, of the Big Island. With over 17,000 head of cattle spread across the rolling country between Kohala and Mauna Kea, Parker Ranch is not only the largest active cattle ranch in Hawaii, but one of the biggest and most historic ranches in the United States.More

Chain of Craters Road

One of the most scenic roads on the Big Island, the Chain of Craters Road stretches for 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the summit of Kilauea Volcano to sea level, a change in elevation of 3,700 feet (1,128 meters). The drive offers stunning vistas across changing landscapes, access to different volcanic features, and other interesting sites.More
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Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

Highly Recommend This Tour!
Sarah_S, Feb 2023
Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History
This tour is a great way to see almost the entire island from beaches to volcanoes to the local cuisine.
Great tour starting in downtown Hilo
Alina_J, Jan 2023
Hilo Shore Excursion: Active Volcano, Lava Tube, Waterfall and Gardens
Great option to visit the volcanos starting from downtown Hilo!
Worth every penny!!
Brett_R, Jan 2023
3 Hour Fat Tire E-Bike Tour - Volcanos National Park
GREAT way to visit Volcano National Park!!
Highlight of our trip to Hawaii
Helen_D, Jan 2023
Big Island, Kona Manta Ray Night Snorkel- Small Group
We were able to see several rays close up and the guides provided helpful insights and education about them.
Great way to see a lot of the island and many of the top features
Jean_M, Dec 2022
Hawaii Big Island Circle Small Group Tour: Waterfalls - Hilo - Volcano - Black Sand Beach
We basically did a tour around the entire island, stopping at many features along the way -- volcanoes, green sea turtles, black sand beach, waterfalls, etc.
Lava Tube
Marylon_H, Dec 2022
Hilo Shore Excursion: Volcanoes National Park, Rainbow Falls and Highlights
Really wanted to see hot lava fields
The best guide!
alan_r, Dec 2022
Big Island Circle Tour and Volcano: Daytime Coffee, Wine, Turtles, and Waterfall
I think we saw everything you need to see on the island of Hawaii.
Must Do!
Helena_O, Dec 2022
Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History
Great to see the island all in one go!
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People Also Ask

What is the Big Island of Hawaii known for?

The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its natural attractions, from white and black sand beaches to emerald cliffs, misty valleys, and steaming lava fields. Most famous is the active Kilauea volcano in the UNESCO-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest (but not highest) mountain.

How many days do you need on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Ideally, you should spend seven days on the Big Island of Hawaii. If that’s not possible, aim for at least five days to see much of what the island has to offer. Try splitting your time between Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island and Hilo on the east.

Is there a lot to do on the Big Island?

Yes. There is much to see and do on the Big Island of Hawaii—even a week-long stay may not be long enough. From the peaks of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the Waipio Valley and from white sand beaches to the lush rainforest, the island is brimming with adventure opportunities.

What should I not miss on the Big Island of Hawaii?

One place that you should not miss on the Big Island of Hawaii is the UNESCO-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the active volcano Kilauea. Other unmissable attractions include the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatory and the Waipio Valley, where tall cliffs plunge to a black sand beach.

Should I stay Kona or Hilo?

If you have a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, split your time between the two: four nights in Hilo and three in Kailua-Kona. If you have less time, opt for Kona as it has more accommodation options, better beaches, and easier access to the island’s main airport.

How long does it take to drive around the Big Island?

It takes up to eight hours to drive all the way around the Big Island of Hawaii. To drive between Kailua-Kona and Hilo, it typically takes just under two hours on the scenic Saddle Road, which offers views of lava fields and the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.


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