Big Island Travel Guide
The Big Island is the land of waterfalls, fiery volcanoes, and black lava deserts. Wondering where to start when you’re deciding what to do on the Big Island? Make the most of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The 333,000-acre national park on the southeastern edge of the island features one of the most popular things to do in the Big Island: See Kilauea ooze lava as it has been doing since 1983. It’s even called the drive-in volcano since paved roads let you get close by car. But don’t stop there. The rim of Halema'uma'u is dotted with offerings to Pele, from leis to whole bottles of gin, and if you drive another 45 minutes on Chain of Craters Road, you can see where the lava hardens as it meets the sea. You can walk the loop through Hilo's Akaka Falls State Park in about 30 minutes—just one reason this is one of the most popular things to do on the Big Island. Here, you’ll find two waterfalls—Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls—If you catch the light right, you’ll see fabulous rainbows off the cascades.
With enormous, centuries-old temples and 15-foot walls, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park was built to provide a sanctuary both for war refugees and for those who broke kapu (taboo) laws. It’s still considered sacred to native Hawaiians, and it feels that way: palm trees sway serenely in the ocean breezes. You can check out the above black rock lava edifices, watch local craftspeople working on canoes or watch for spinner dolphins in the neighboring Kealakekua Bay. Bring your swimsuit and snorkel gear, too: one of the best places to snorkel, Two Step, is just north of the park. The Big Island offers plenty of great picnic opportunities. You can put one together nicely at the Hilo Farmers Market—like a nice picnic lunch of four-cheese focaccia, butter avocados, and mangoes.
Lish Jens and her husband opened this funky store, named after the famous island song “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii,” nearly 40 years ago.
This remote retreat on the North Kohala Coast fuses Polynesian healing traditions with a green ethos. Book a lomilomi massage with a practitioner trained at the best school for the technique. Bring home the essential oils custom-blended from tropical plants by Warrent Botanicals.
Kona’s Keauhou Bay is one of the best places on earth to swim up close to huge and harmless manta rays, elegant nocturnal beasts that feed on plankton.
Located in downtown Hilo, Hana Hou offers vintage and modern Hawaiian and Oceania handcrafted art and accessories.
The huge, centuries-old temples and 15-foot walls that lie in ruins at this ancient historical site, sacred to native Hawaiians, were built by the Hawaiians to provide a sanctuary for war refugees and those who broke the kapu (taboo) laws.
This brewpub, located on the Big Island’s western coast, opened in 1998. Constructed largely from locally gleaned materials, it has a bar made from native Ohia wood and a repurposed corrugated metal roof from a former Holualoa distillery.
Resembling a small beach hut with a wood-shake roof, this Kona surf shop is packed full of board shorts, beach bags, sunglasses, and tropical-print bikinis. In addition, the shop also rents boogie boards and a variety of surfboards, all of which are available at affordable prices.
This open-air swap meet has everything from T-shirts dyed with island red dirt to baskets woven from coconut palm fronds. Stop by Captain Danno's stand for Hawaiian-style shaved ice.