13 Spectacular Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

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Are you going to the Big Island of Hawaii? If so, you have come to the correct place! Here we share the most spectacular things to do in Hawaii Big Island. It is amazingly diverse with active volcanoes, tropical rainforests, sandy beaches and snow capped peaks. Hawai’i, aka the Big Island is named as such due to the fact that it is bigger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined. Big means lots to do! If you want a typical beach experience, you can get it here, but if that’s all you do, you will miss out on so much more that the island has to offer. Read on for our top 13 things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island that you cannot miss!

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13 Spectacular Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is big and that means there are a ton of amazing things to do from snorkeling, to hiking, to waterfall and even volcano chasing! We love the Big Island and think that every visitor to Hawaii should spend some time visiting this fascinating and beautiful island. 

1. Snorkel, Snorkel, Snorkel | The Top thing to do on the Big Island of Hawaii

one of the top Things to Do in Hawaii Big Island is to snorkelA major draw for visitors to Hawaii is the amazing snorkeling opportunities. On the Big Island, there are an abundance of places to snorkel right off the beaches. Places in Kona like Kahaluu Beach Park allow you to step off the beach into waters teeming with fish and sea turtles.  Two-step near the City of Refuge is another popular (and free) snorkeling spot. There are no sandy beaches here, rather large craggy lava rocks where you step down into deep blue water filled with sea life.

On the other side of the island, snorkeling is just as amazing. Check out Richardson Ocean Park for kid friendly snorkeling right off the beach. 

2. Take a Boat Excursion off the Big Island of Hawaii

Things to Do in Hawaii Big Island - take a boat excursion
Photo via Flickr

For those with time and money, take a family friendly boat trip out to snorkel in the busy, but calm waters of Kealakekua Bay. Go whale watching to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most majestic animals. For nighttime adventurers, try your hand at snorkeling at night with manta rays! There are also opportunities to take a kayak out on the water for some quiet solitude. Getting out on a boat is one of the top things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.

3. Explore Hawaiian Culture on Hawaii’s Big Island

Experience Hawaiian culture as one of the top Things to Do in Hawaii Big IslandAnother top thing to do in Hawaii Big Island is to experience the local culture. Head out to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, better known as the City of Refuge to learn more about traditional Hawaiian culture and pick up a Junior Park Ranger Badge to show off back home.

Take a walk through palm fringed paths surrounded by lava rocks, while looking out for sea turtles resting on the beach. Keep your eyes peeled for outlaws, this is where in the past Hawaiians who broke a law fled to avoid punishment. The park also contains numerous archaeological sites, from temple platforms and royal fishponds to a reconstructed Hawaiian temple.

4. Eat All the Local food on the Big Island of Hawaii

you must try shaved ice at least once a day as one of the top things to do on the Big Island of HawaiiEat where the locals eat. Take time to enjoy breakfast, delicious Kona coffee and the beautiful ocean vistas at the Coffee Shack, a locals and tourists favorite near Captain Cook. Feast on a home cooked Hawaiian meal at Manago Hotel Restaurant. Don’t miss your chance for Hawaiian Shaved Ice located throughout the island. Eat Ono, a favorite meaty fish caught in the Pacific waters off Hawaii. Test your taste buds out on a island specialty, the Loco Moco at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo.

5. For the Adventurous: Take a Dive at South Point on the Big Island

Photo via Flickr

Are you brave enough to jump from the southernmost point of the US? Did we mention it is off a 30-40 foot cliff with a shaky, rusty ladder that is your only means back up? Get your adrenaline pumping and go for it! Or just watch others brave enough to do it. Even living vicariously, your heart will still pump wildly.

6. Soak Up The Sun at Green Sand Beach 

Green Sand Beach, Hawaii's Big IslandOne of the most beautiful parts of the Big Island is the variety of beaches. Visitors must put a beach visit on their top things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. One of our favorites is the beautiful stretch of olive-green sand at Papakōlea Beach. Pay locals for a hair raising ride down or hike the several hot dusty miles down through open crevices made by 4×4’s making their way to this hidden gem. Cool off by splashing around in the this cove with gorgeous waves and beautiful vistas.

Note there are not restrooms or services down at the beach, so plan accordingly.

7. Meet a Sea Turtle on Hawaii’s Big Island

Black Sand Beach, Hawaii's Big IslandHaven’t met a sea turtle yet? Venture to Punaluu Black Sand Beach where there are always turtles resting on the sand or swimming in the waters. The contrast of black sand, blue water and palm trees is a site to behold at one of the island’s several black sand beaches.

8. Look for Lava at Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National ParkHike on miles of trails through smoking craters, lava tubes and rainforest while searching for the elusive flowing lava at the Big Island’s most famous attraction. A visit to Volcanoes National Park will leave you breathless. One of the few places in world where you can get up close and personal with an active volcano. A truly extraordinary experience.

9. Chase Rainbows Throughout the Big Island of Hawaii

Rainbow Falls, Hawaii's Big IslandGo rainbow chasing at Hilo’s many waterfalls. Start your day with a visit to the beautiful Rainbow Falls where you are almost certain to see a rainbow in the mist. Head further upstream to a lesser known falls, Peepee Falls and Waiale Falls.  Don’t forget a visit to the granddaddy of them all, Akaka Falls State Park. This 420 ft waterfall crashing through the rainforest is no less spectacular for its easy access.

10. Put on Parkas for Stargazing at Mauna Kea

Photo via Flickr

Parkas in Hawaii? Yep. Brave the often near freezing temperatures with other breathless visitors for the famous star parties at snow capped Mauna Kea. Up above the clouds, out come the telescopes at the world’s clearest stargazing spot. Take a look at constellations, galaxies, planets and supernova remnants with free high powered telescopes on offer.

11. Explore the Stunning Waipo Valley

Waipo ValleyOhh and aahh over plunging cliffs and gorgeous coastline in the Waipo Valley. Take a drive to the coastal Waipio Valley Overlook for stunning views. Want to experience it more, take a tour or hike down the extremely steep road to explore the hidden wonders within.

12. Swing on a Log

Black Sand BeachAfter driving along the Kohala Coast you will be rewarded with unforgettable views at the Pololu Valley Overlook. Hike down to the valley floor and Pololu Black Sand beach to chill on a log swing or help build a tree fort with fallen tree branches. Watch out for the resident duck who is known to chase people looking for food scraps!

13. Frolic on Beautiful Beaches

Hapuna BeachRelax, put your feet up and enjoy the beautiful Hapuna Beach. Enjoy watching whales crest in the distance, build a sandcastle or play in the mellow waves at one of the few white sand beaches on the Big Island.

If you are looking to extend your time in Hawaii, consider hopping over to Oahu to explore the best things to do there

Where to Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii

During our visit on the island we stayed in a variety of places from locally owned hotels to cabins at the national park and a resort to end our 8 day road trip around the island

Manago Hotel – If you want a local place to stay on the coast outside of Kona, head to Manago Hotel. This is a great first stop on a Big Island of Hawaii itinerary.

– at the  Volcano National Park is a great place to stay within the park to see the red glow of lava after dark.

Did we miss any? Do you have any must do experiences to add?


If you are looking to book a multigenerational trip to Hawaii this planning a trip to Hawaii post is a must read with helpful tips on how to plan a trip to make all ages happy!

Big Island Hawaii Road Trip
Guide to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hiking the Kilauea Trail







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12 thoughts on “13 Spectacular Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii”

  1. I’ve clipped this post to my Evernote account for reference – I’m going to Big Island later this year. I’d love to see the turtles…and the volcano.

  2. Who knew that Hawaii actually looks so fantastic?? I had no idea, actually, that you can snorkel there – somewhere it didn’t cross my mind!

  3. Amen to number 4 ! I’ve always wanted to do number 7. I cannot wait for that day to come true. I really want to get PADI certified so I’m able to do dives around the world 🙂

  4. I definitely have to get over to Hawaii now! Those pictures are far too amazing to pass up, especially the star gazing and the water falls. And the beaches. And the food. See? Too many reasons not to go!

    • Isn’t it such an amazing island? I felt like we did so much that I wouldn’t *need* to return but I do really want to go again!

  5. Cool! I think we’ll save the Big Island for when our little ones are just a bit bigger. We love Hawaii!

  6. My daughter loves to snorkel so I’m sure we’ll be doing that when we finally visit Hawai’i… Taking a dive? Probably not. 🙂

  7. Hi kkowen,

    The big Island certainly seems to have the great spots and sites to visit.
    The active volcano with the lava flows was worth the visit without anything else.

    And a great spot for snorkelers around all of the Islands. A great paradise that many more should visit.

  8. Make yourself some memories and take a painting class! Book a group lesson, private lesson, or painting adventure with Paint in Hawaii. It’s nice to have a sit-down activity after so much running around and baking in the sun, and we paint with dinner and drinks. My favorite part is hearing people say “I didn’t think I could paint but i’m So proud of myself now!”


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