Heading to the Big Island? I’m so jealous! The Big Island is the Hawaiian Island that seems to overwhelm most travelers (who may instead opt for Oahu or Maui) but there are sooooo many unique and truly spectacular things to experience here that it’s definitely worth a visit! So, yes, it’s big and overwhelming but don’t freak out! Here are 15 really awesome things to do on the Big Island:
1.Visit the Seahorse Farm in Kona. It’s not everyday that you get to hold a seahorse! The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kona breeds seahorses and is making great strides in their conservation efforts. The fee you pay to tour their facilities goes towards research and conservation and not only do you get to see lots of species of seahorses, but at the end of the tour you submerge your hands into a tank and let one of the seahorses wrap around your finger. This seriously was one of the highlights on my trip to the Big Island.
2. Hike to the green sand beach. The trip isn’t easy but the journey to get to the famous green sand beach is well worth the adventure! Located near the southern most point, the spectacular green sand beach (it gets its color from peridot deposits) is only accessible by a two-hour hike. If you get lucky, there may be locals hanging out in the parking lot offering to shuttle tourists across the rocky terrain in their ATVs and trucks (for a small fee of course). Take them up on their offer-it’s well worth the cost!
3. Take a helicopter tour over an active volcano. This is one of the only places in the world where you can see an active volcano up close and it’s a sight not to miss! The lava can be seen by boat and occasionally on foot but it’s by far most impressive from the air. It’s expensive, but you can’t come to the Big Island without taking a helicopter over Volcano National Park.
4. Star gaze atop Mauna Kea. At 14,000 ft., Mauna Kea is has one of the best observatories in the world. Plan a trip up for sunset and be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes!
5. Visit Punalu’u black sand beach. Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach is a sight that you shouldn’t miss. This rare phenomenon is created when molten lava meets the cool ocean water. The lava shatters on impact creating the black sand. Sea turtles can often be found here.
6. Take a guided hike to see lava flow. Nothing beats standing feet away from a live lava flow. Tour companies will lead guided hikes as close to the lava flow as it’s safe to be. These tours are dependent on a variety of conditions though so it’s not always possible to hike to the lava flow. It’s also possible to take a boat tour to see where the lava flow meets the ocean.
7. Tour a coffee plantation in Kona. Kona coffee is famous so of course touring a coffee plantation is on our list. There’s plenty to choose from on the Kona side of the island and the best ones will have tasting rooms where you can purchase coffee to take back as souvenirs.
If you’re more of a visual person and want to see all of this in map form, click the picture below to get your FREE Google Map that includes all of these places. It’s the perfect thing to download and take on your vacation with you.
8. Hike through a fern valley and lava tube at Volcano National Park. There’s plenty to see at Volcano National Park besides lava. Take a hike through a fern valley to the lava tube and you’ll feel like you’re in Jurassic Park.
9. Explore Hilo town. Hilo is one of Hawaii’s prettiest towns and if it weren’t for all the rain it gets it might have rivaled Honolulu for the state’s capital. This sizeable town is perfect for exploring with plenty of shops and restaurants to easily occupy a day.
10. Snorkel at Kealakekua. One of the Big Island’s best snorkel spots also happens to be where Captain Cook first landed when he came to Hawaii in the 1700s. Many companies lead snorkeling and kayaking excursions around the bay but there are also plenty of companies that will rent you gear so you can go out exploring on your own.
11. Visit Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, or the City of Refuge. A sight with a lot of historical significance for Hawaiians, the City of Refuge has a beautiful setting with some great beaches. The walled city itself is one of the only place left where you’ll find authentic tiki statues.
12. Spend the day at Hapuna beach. Hapuna is one of the best overall beaches on the Big Island and it’s the perfect place to spend a day lounging on the white sand, swimming in the crystal clear water, boogie boarding in the waves, or beach combing for treasures.
13. Night dive with manta rays. Diving with manta rays is an experience that’s unique to the Big Island (none of the other Hawaiian Islands offer this) and there are several companies that lead excursions out nightly.
14. Hike to Akaka falls. Akaka is Hawaii’s most famous waterfall and it’s located right outside of Hilo town. A hike through a lush tropical rainforest with ferns, orchids, and bamboo will lead you to the 400 foot Akaka falls.
15. Explore Waipi’o Valley. Waipi’o Valley is one of the most beautiful places on the Big Island but to experience it you’ll probably need to take a guided tour (steep four wheel drive roads keep most tourists from visiting). The tallest waterfall on the island can be found here and the lush and tropical setting will keep you oohing and aahing.
And don’t forget to download your FREE Google Map that includes all 15 of these places. Just click the image below!
If you’re looking for the ultimate Big Island resource, I highly recommend the Big Island Revealed guidebook. Things aren’t always well marked in Hawaii and this book has the BEST directions to find hidden beaches, waterfalls, and trail heads that maybe aren’t too out in the open. This is my go to resource when I’m “on the ground” in Hawaii. (Psst…this is an affiliate link which means that your purchase helps both of us out : )