Oahu, Maui, and Kauai are all stunning, but to my mind, the glowing lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the “Big Island,” is the most captivating sight in the state. Hawaii Island (which is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined) has a distinct character all its own, and its mountains and shores offer sights you won’t find anywhere else in the country, including flowing lava, volcano-edged farms, and black-sand beaches.
You’ve made a good choice by giving this island your time. Here’s how to spend three days on one of the world’s most active volcanic islands (and one of the most beautiful).
Be prepared for varied temps at different destinations and elevations.
If you only have time for one thing, make it Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Today, dive into Hawaiian culture and history with a cruise around Kealakekua Bay. This is where Captain Cook was killed and is just a few miles from King Kamehameha III’s birthplace. You’ll also get great views of the volcanic Kona coast, and some excursions provide snorkeling gear and lunch. In winter, you might even see humpbacks.
The summit of Mauna Kea can get very cold—there may even be snow—so dress accordingly.
Finish your trip with a night adventure: snorkeling with manta rays. A guide can help you get up close with these majestic creatures, and the boat’s neon lights give the moment an ethereal vibe. It’s a heck of a way to top off a Big Island vacation!