Hawaiʻi's Big Island is a home to the majestic Kīlauea, located in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Whether you're a food enthusiast, nature lover, or beach enthusiast, this guide will help you discover the best local restaurants, major tourist sites, hikes, waterfalls, and beaches to make the most of your visit.
Before we dive into the must-visit places on Big Island, let’s explore the concept of “pono”. Pono is a Hawaiian term that encompasses balance, harmony, and righteousness. It encourages us to live respectfully. As you explore Big Island, keep this principle in mind, and let it guide your interactions, decisions, and experiences. While visiting, the best way to sustain Hawaiʻi is to support local businesses, respect Hawaiʻi's people and land, and always live with Aloha. Supporting local businesses in Hawai’i helps stimulate the local economy, provides opportunities for more local businesses to thrive, and creates and sustains local jobs.
- Huliheʻe Palace
This historical palace turned museum in Kailua-Kona hosts occasional luau events where you can savor traditional Hawaiian cuisine. Don't miss the chance to try dishes like poi, kalua pork, and lomi-lomi salmon.
- Punaluʻu Bake shop
As you drive along the southern coast, stop by the Punaluʻu Bake Shop for their famous sweet bread and malasadas (Portuguese donuts). These treats are perfect for a quick snack or a sweet souvenir.
- Da Poke Shack
For an authentic taste of Hawaiʻi, visit Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona. Choose from a variety of fresh fish and toppings to create your custom poke bowl - a local favorite.
- Village Burger
Located in Waimea, Village Burger offers gourmet burgers made with grass-fed Big Island beef. Their inventive toppings and locally sourced ingredients create a unique dining experience.
Major Tourist Sites
- Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Explore the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes, witness the power of the active volcanoes, explore lava tubes, and take in the unique landscapes created by volcanic activity. Donʻt miss the chance to see the iconic ʻŌhiʻa Lehua trees with their vibrant red blossoms, which are considered sacred in Hawaiian culture. The ʻŌhiʻa Lehua is the first flower to grow after a new lava flow.
- ʻAkaka Falls State Park
Follow the short loop trail through lush vegetation and to view the 442 foot ʻAkaka Falls and the smaller Kahūnā Falls. The scenery is breathtaking and offers excellent photo opportunity.
- Mauna Kea Summit
Drive up to the Mauna Kea Observatory Complex, home to some of the worldʻs most advanced telescopes. Stargazing tours are available, offering incredible views of the night sky.
- Rainbow Falls
Just outside Hilo, Rainbow Falls named for the rainbows that often appear in the mist. A short walk takes you to an overlook with views of the falls and surrounding area.
- Pololū Valley
This hike takes you to its dramatic Pololū Valley overlook and down to its black sand beach. The trail can be steep, but the views of the rugged coastline are well worth it.
- Kīlauea Iki Trail
Experience walking across a volcanic crater on this loop trail in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. You'll pass through lush rainforest and rugged lava formations.
- Waipiʻo Valley
Descending into this lush valley on foot is an adventure. The hike is steep, so be prepared for a challenging climb back up. The reward is a stunning view of the valley floor and beach.
- Hāpuna Beach
With its clear blue waters and powdery white sand, Hāpuna Beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
- Maniniʻowali Beach
Known for its tide pools and clear waters, this beach is great for families to explore marine life and relax on the sandy shore.
- Punaluʻu Beach
The black sand, coconut palms and often-seen sea turtles make this beach a captivating destination. It's a popular spot for a picnic and a leisurely stroll.
- Green Sand Beach (Papakōlea Beach)
A unique adventure awaits as you hike to this rare green sand beach formed by olivine minerals at the very south of the island (also the southern point of the United States). The secluded location and vibrant color make it a must-visit.
Please do your part to be a responsible and respectful guest on the island. Here are a few suggestions:
- Obey signs such as “no trespassing” and “no parking”
- Don’t touch, feed or get too close to turtles, monk seals or other wildlife
- Don’t stop on the road, however good the photo opportunity – always find a safe place to pull over
- Don’t litter or take any sand or rocks with you
- Support local businesses
The Big Island of Hawaiʻi is a treasure trove of experiences, from savoring local flavors to exploring stunning landscapes. Whether youʻre interested in dining, sightseeing, hiking, or beach lounging, this guide has you covered. Embrace the Aloha spirit and create lasting memories as you immerse in the beauty and cultures of the Big Island.