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Top 13 Experiences on Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii's Big IslandHawaii’s Big Island 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 experiences on Hawaii’s Big Island that you must do!

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1. Snorkel, Snorkel, Snorkel

Snorkel on Hawaii's Big IslandA 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 teaming 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. Or head down to Kapoho Tide Pools for a unique and fantastic experience, with what many call the best snorkeling on the island.

2. 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.

3. Explore Hawaiian Culture

Hawaiian Culture, Big IslandHead out to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, better known as the City of Refuge to explore 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 Locally

Hawaiian Shaved Ice, Big IslandEat 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 tastebuds out on a island specialty, the Loco Moco at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo.

5. Take a Dive at South Point


Photo via Flickr

Are you brave enough to jump from the southern most 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. Hitch or Hike to the Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach, Hawaii's Big IslandPay locals for a hair raising ride down to Papakōlea Beach, a beautiful stretch of olive-green sand beach. 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.

7. Meet a Sea Turtle

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

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 grandaddy of them all, Akaka Falls State Park. This 420ft 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. 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. Soak up the Sun

Hapuna BeachRelax, put your feet up and enjoy Hapuna’s beautiful beaches. 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.

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

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Top 13 Experiences on Hawaii's Big

This Post Has 12 Comments
  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!

    1. The Big Island is definitely passed up more often than it should. It’s a beautiful island with so much to do!

    1. 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. 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.

  6. 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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