Honoring the Big Island by Exploring Off-the-Beaten-Path

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Advisor - Lizz Callaway
Curated By

Lizz Callaway

  • Hawai'i

  • Big Island

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Tropical Vacations

  • Hiking

  • Island Life

  • Wildlife

Private swimming hole surrounded by jungle with waterfall in Hilo, Hawaii.
Curator’s statement

Let's move beyond the luaus and aloha shirts. It's time to honor the land, the people, the culture and everything that is Hawaii. The Big Island is nearly twice as big as the other islands and also encompasses 12 separate climates from rainforest to desert.

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Where to stay

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Things to do

Cove with lush greenery and black sands in Keawaiki Bay, Hawaii.

Shop at Hilo Famers' Market: It's an amazing chance to support and meet local farmers while snacking on local fruits, veggies, and treats. (Pro tip: want to eat your produce immediately? Ask the vendor to give it a quick wash for you.)

Hike Onomea Bay Trail: It's a wonderful opportunity to enjoy beautiful views with an easier trek. There is a paved path that is very accessible if the dirt trail is not your cup of tea. 

Get lost in the Kaumana Caves: This lava tube cave was formed by Mauna Kea in 1881, and it's DARK! It is pretty overgrown and unsteady, but navigable even for inexperienced hikers and children. It comes out in the trees at the parking lot.

Find wildlife at Kiholo Bay: This bay is protected as it is a haven for green sea turtles and other marine life. Pebbles covers this out of the way beach with few signs and even fewer people. (Note: it is illegal to touch sea turtles so be kind and respectful.)

Relax at Makalawena Beach: South of Kona, this white sand beach has lava rock and calm waters. When we say remote, we mean it – you will need to park off the highway and hike 2 miles in and out to this beach, but it's well worth it. Grab some water-friendly hiking sandals for your Big Island getaway. 

Picnic at Spencer Beach: A calm beach about an hour north of Kona with picnic tables, facilities and amazing snorkeling for young kids. 

See Sea Turtles at Punalu'u Beach: Scenic black sand beach with sea turtles! 

Discover rare sand at Papakolea Green Sand Beach: Green sand is one of the rarest, so if you are up to the hike, take the time to visit. The almost 3-mile hike should take around 90 minutes, but if you aren't willing to trek back, some locals do offer rides for $15-$20 per person. 

Try local Kona coffee at Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation: Up the in the hills above Kona, this working coffee plantation offers tours, tastings, and education on the world-famous Kona coffee. 

Stargaze at Mauna Kea: The mountain top observatory is the world's largest astronomical observatory. A must-visit, but even if your beautiful beach-front hotel is offering warm weather and refreshing trade winds, Mauna Kea will be MUCH colder. If you do not have the required Four-Wheel-Drive (4WD) or do not want to drive yourself, there are a number of tours that can provide tours on Maunakea. Wouldn't want to miss star gazing closer than you'll ever get to the sky.

Places to eat & drink

Poke bowl with salmon, rice, chives and pineapple.

Umeke's: My first stop off of the plane to get some of the best poke bowls. Also doesn't hurt that they have a full bar. 

Da Poke Shack: Tiny walk-up window with varying opening hours with the freshest poke to takeaway and enjoy on the beach. 

Hawaii Style Cafe: This cozy cafe full of Hawaiian aunties offers comfort dishes of enormous portions! Come hungry but know that all of the dishes are HUGE, even by Hawaiian standards.

The Fish and The Hog: Local fare specializing in slow-cooked barbecue with a Hawaiian twist.

Ola Brew: Creative beers with local flavors. Grab a flat bread and a flight of their delicious brews

Nephi's Smokehouse: Lovely mom and pop with the sweetest staff and delicious food. Be patient as there is only one person cooking but they will make you feel like family. 

Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice: adorable walk-up window in a small shopping center on your way up the Kohala coast. Soft ice, luxurious flavors, and delicious ice cream! Pro tip: get the volcano ice cream. It is banana with Oreo! 

Kawaihae Marketplace: a locally run market with ready to eat breakfast of musubi, plate lunch, sandwiches, as well as poke from Hale I'a Da Fish House across the road. Grab a lilikoi (passionfruit) and head out to the beach.

Advisor - Lizz Callaway

Travel Advisor

Lizz Callaway

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