Big Island of Hawaii
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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

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

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

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

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

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

Waipio Valley

Forming a deep natural amphitheater that’s washed by the sea and waterfalls, the Waipio Valley, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a natural wonderland marked by rain forests and hiking trails. Cliffs thousands of feet high plunge to the valley floor, where a curved black-sand beach meets the sea.More

Honokohau Harbor

Just beyond Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park and Honokohau Beach rests Honokohau Harbor, a bustling 262-slip marina with restaurants, outfitters, restrooms, and more. Most visitors will come here for scuba and snorkeling adventures—or for their chance to reel in that trophy catch. From here, 1,000-pound marlin and billfish troll the waters, alongside dolphins, whales, and the world’s largest rays.More

Akaka Falls

Located north of Hilo, Akaka Falls is one of the best-known waterfalls on the Big Island. Surrounded by lush, tropical jungle, the 442-foot-high (135-meter-high) Akaka Falls is easily accessible by a short, paved loop trail, making it one of the most popular and scenic attractions on the island.More

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Recent reviews from experiences in Big Island of Hawaii

Had fun seeing the volcanic activity
Tammy_P, Mar. 2023
Hilo Shore Excursion: Volcano Safari Lava Caves, Falls & Highlights Small Group
We got to see where the lava flowed in different times on the island and the new black sand beach.
Hawaii circle tour
MARJORIE_C, Mar. 2023
Big Island Circle Tour and Volcano: Daytime Coffee, Wine, Turtles, and Waterfall
Enjoyed it all, but especially enjoyed Volcano National Park, the vegetation, wildlife and the falls.
Awesome experiencing the culture and history of this wonderful place.
Michael_R, Feb. 2023
Hilo Shore Excursion: Volcanoes National Park, Rainbow Falls and Highlights
Rainbow falls was awesome and Ernie had great stories ,of the history and culture of Hawaii.
A must do on Hawaii
Tamara_P, Feb. 2023
Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History
Hawaiian and English, and we had an incredible experience!
Fabulous Morning
Diane_A, Feb. 2023
Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour
Snorkeling was truly some of the best have seen in Hawaii and we got to see dolphins and whales.
Best way to see geothermic change
Margaret_L, Feb. 2023
Hilo Shore Excursion: Volcano Safari Lava Caves, Falls & Highlights Small Group
Excellent tour to see how Hawaii’s volcanic action is still in play today, changing the island’s coast line.
Perfect outing
georgia_h, Feb. 2023
Glass-bottom Boat Reef Tour
Great way to see underwater reef life for those too young or unable to snorkel!
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.
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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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