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The Big Island Of Hawaii, officially known as the Island of Hawaii, is not to be missed! The Big Island is so different from the other islands of Hawaii with its varying climate, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. This majestic island is often overlooked, but between the black sand beaches, and hardened lava landscape, it’s stunningly gorgeous! The most recent eruption on the island was in 2018 when the Kileauea volcano caused immense earthquakes. But don’t let that scare you off, use this guide to the Big Island of Hawaii to fully experience the diverse beauty of this massive island.
Getting To The Big Island
There are 2 international airports on the Big Island, Kona International Airport (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO). Chances are that you will fly into Kona, and this unique airport will leave an impression. It’s a small, mostly outdoor airport! Another way to get to the Big Island is by flying into Ohau first then taking a quick 30-40 minute flight to the Big Island.
Best Time To Visit The Big Island
The best time of year to visit the Big Island of Hawaii is between September and November. You’ll find the best room rates and fewer crowds during this time of the year. The temperatures remain consistently perfect in the low 70s or low 80s year-round.
Regions On The Big Island
- Kailua – Kona Region – Kona Town, Honaunau, Kealakekua
- Kahala Region – Waikoloa, Hawi
- North Hamakua Region – Waipio, Honomu, Honoka’a
- Puna Region – Kea’au, Pahoa
- Volcano Region – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- South Kua Region – Pahal, Punaluu
- Saddle Road Region – Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa
Where To Go On The Big Island
Kailua – Kona Region
The one place you don’t want to miss on the Big Island of Hawaii is the Kona Coast (west). This has become the luxury resort hotspot on the island. It’s easy to see why with its 40 miles of beautifully rugged coastline. In this region you’ll find many gorgeous beaches, historical sites, and lava fields. Of course, you have to try the famous Kona Coffee!
You’ll find the Big Island’s Golden Coast on the far northwest tip of the island. This is one of the most diverse areas on the Big Island. Northwest Kohala is incredibly green and lush, while the southwest is more barren. The Kohala Coast was actually, at one point in time, known for its sugar cane plantations. Now the dominating presence of the Gold Coast is the famous Parker Ranch. One of the most beautiful beaches on the entire island, Hapuna Beach is found in the Kohala Region.
North Hamakua Region
The Hamakua coast is known as one of the most stunning stretches on the entire Big Island. The region is known for lush jungles, snow capped Mauna Kea, and beautiful waterfalls. Akaka Falls and the surrounding state park offer great outdoor activities in the area. Highway 19 also runs through the region and offers breathtaking coastal views.
Hilo is the largest city, as well as being crowned the wettest in the United States. The area gets around 70+ inches of rain per year. Thanks to all that precipitation, Hilo is incredibly lush and has several awe inspiring orchid gardens. There are many beautiful state parks in the region including Rainbow Falls State Park and Wailuku River State Park.
This diverse region features lava fields, rain forests, and gorgeous rugged coastline. For some fun visit the funky and charming small town of Pahoa. In the Puna Region you’ll also find Lava Tree State Park, an incredibly unique place to visit. In 1790 a lava flow went through a forest of Ohia trees and molded to the trees. You can go see these tree molds today! It’s a can’t miss while in the Puna Region.
As you can imagine this is a hot spot for visitors on the Big Island of Hawaii. The most famous attraction in the area is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You may be wondering if you will get to see lava on your visit, well that just depends. The majority of the lava produced by Kilaeau travels to the ocean via completely underground lava tubes. However, occasionally surface flows do happen.
South Kua Region
If you’re looking for peace and quiet, head to the South Kua Region. You won’t find the typical tropical amenities such as golf courses and luxury resorts, instead this coast is wild. There are several unique beaches in this region of the Big Island, including Papakolea Beach (green sand), Punaluu Beach (black sand), and South Point.
Saddle Road Region
In order to visit the major region of the island you’ll need to drive through the Saddle Road Region. The Saddle Road connects the east and west sides of the Big Island.
Things To Do
Visit the Epic Beaches Of The Big Island
In North Kona you’ll discover the beautiful ivory sands of Makalawena Beach. There is a short hike to the beach and you can easily carry your beach essentials with you. The short trek is worth it as the contrast of lava rocks and white sands makes this beach uniquely stunning.
This is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Between the crystalline waters and clear skies this beach is perfect for families.
Kua Bay Beach
This beautiful sugary white sand beach along the Kona Coast is another great option for families. This beach does tend to get crowded, so mornings and week days are the best time to visit.
Kohala + Hamakua Regions
Pololu Valley Beach
This beach has amazingly beautiful black sands, but it’s not great for swimming. If you’re looking for a gorgeous beach then Pololu Valley Beach is for you. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking trails nearby.
Hilo + Puna + Volcanoes Region
In the Keaau area you’ll find Shipwreck Beach. This is a hike to a stunning secluded beach. You’ll hike through lush green jungle before getting to this hidden gem.
If you find yourself near Kalapana and you’re looking for something unique to do, check out Kehena Beach. After taking a short but steep trail of lava rocks you’ll reach this secluded beach. What makes this beach truly unique? It’s clothing optional! Even if you’re not into baring it all, the scenery is beautiful where lush jungles meet lava rocks and sparkling sapphire water.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach
This beach is one of a kind! You’ll be amazed at the beauty of the green sand thanks to the backdrop of rugged cliffs. Be aware that this beach is very windy, making it perfect for windsurfing! If you’re an adrenaline junkie there is also a cliff jumping section of the beach.
This stunningly beautiful spot is known for one thing: cliff jumping! Not for the faint of heart, the jumps here are anywhere from 20 to 75 foot jumps directly into the clear turquoise waters below.
Punaluu Beach Park
Known for its unique black sand, Punaluu Beach is a can’t miss while visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. You can see how lava rocks transform into beautiful black sand. Make sure to keep an eye out for sea turtles.
Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
$30 for entrance pass that’s good for 7 consecutive days
Kilauea is an active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii and in December of 2020 scientists detected a fresh lava flow. Currently there is no evidence that the lava flow is a threat to any of the neighboring communities. Whether you get to see the lava flow during your visit or not, the park is incredible and has plenty to see and do. Take the Chain of Craters Road, an 18.8 mile one-way road that showcases the best scenery on the Big Island. Another great activity is checking out the Puuloa Ancient Hawaiians Petroglyphs. Of course, one of the most popular activities in the park is hiking. Some of the most popular trail in the park include:
Kilauea Iki Trail and Crater Rim Trail
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 741 ft
This beautiful trail takes you around the Kilauea summit caldera. This fantastic day hike will allow you to explore a solid lava lake, a once in a lifetime experience. The crater itself is a mile wide and to finish you’ll descend into a beautiful tropical jungle.
- Distance: 1.7 miles
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 429 ft
This trail features beautiful wildflowers as you primarily hike through the jungle. At the end of the trail you’ll reach the crater and be able to walk on a lava field.
- Distance: 2.1 miles
- Rating: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 190 ft
This trail was a former paved road that was damaged during the earthquakes of the 2018 eruptions. There are views of several craters from this trail, but please use caution during this hike.
Popular Overlooks at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Kilauea Overlook
- Pu’u Pua’i Overlook
- Kilauea Iki Overlook
- Kealakomo Overlook
Hiking The Big Island Of Hawaii
The Big Island has so many great hiking options for both families and those looking for a challenge. Whether you are looking for a day hike or a simple stroll, this island has something for you.
Ka’Awaloa – Captain Cook Monument (in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park)
- Distance: 4 miles
- Rating: Difficult
- Elevation Gain: 1,256 ft
Captain Cook monument was built in 1874 commemorating the fallen British explorer who was killed in 1779.
Kohala + Hamakua Regions
Waipi’o Valley Hike
- Distance: 4.7 miles
- Rating: Difficult
- Elevation Gain: 1,417 ft
This dog-friendly hike follows a steep road that eventually turns into the Waipio Trail. There are some picturesque bodies of water along the way! Keep an eye out for wild horses on this trail as well.
Hilo + Puna + Kua Regions
Akaka Falls Trail
- Distance: .5 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 121 ft
This easy hike to a beautiful waterfall is a great option for families! This loop trail takes you to not only 1, but 2 waterfalls in the lush rainforest of Hilo.
Rainbow Falls Overlook
- Distance: .1 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 3 ft
This spectacular 80 ft waterfall is easily accessible from a .1 mile walking trail.
The Big Island has so many great options for snorkeling. There are several companies that offer tours including Sea Quest Hawaii and Fair Wind. The most popular spots on the island for snorkeling tend to be around Kona. However, if you are in the Hilo area and want to snorkel you can try Richardson’s Beach. In the Kona Region you’ll find some epic snorkeling in Kahalu’u Beach Park, Honaunau Bay, and Kealakekua Bay.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping
Surfing, Snorkeling, Swimming With Manta Rays
Of course, the Big Island has some epic surf spots! Here are some of the most popular surf beaches on the island, Honolii Beach, Banyan Surf Spot, and Pine Tree Surfing Beach.
This Big Island also has some great areas for cliff jumping. The most famous being South Point in the Kua Region.
If you are really looking for adventure, consider diving with manta rays at night off the coast of Kona. This really is a once in a lifetime experience that you won’t soon forget. For more information check out Manta Ray Dives Hawaii.
Food On The Big Island
Food is incredibly expensive on the Hawaiian Islands. However, the Big Island tends to be the most budget friendly island. Some dishes to try on the BIg Island Include poke, acai bowls, Kona Coffee, and malasada. Here are a few restaurants you shouldn’t miss!
Where To Stay
Kailua – Kona Region
Hamakua + Hile Regions
Budget: Pahala Plantation Cottages
Your time on the Big Island of Hawaii will be like a dream come true! Between swimming in crystal clear waters, learning to surf, and getting to hike an active volcano, what are you waiting for?
Loving Life — The Reboot!