Wild and Wonderful Guide on the Big Island

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Advisor - Shane Capps
Curated By

Shane Capps

  • USA

  • Big Island

  • Hawai'i

  • Arts & Culture

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Beaches

  • National Park

  • Laidback

  • Outdoors

high island cliffs with green tops into deep blue water with white surf
Curator’s statement

The Big Island has it all! As one of the most remote, inhabited island chains in the world, the Hawaiian Islands are a beautiful retreat to see the best of a tropical paradise. The islands themselves are as beautiful as they are diverse - but the Big Island (called that because its name is the same as the state: Hawai'i) is the most adventurous and enchanting. It's laid back, vast, full of hidden spots and secluded beaches, and has some of the most unique natural landscapes and features found anywhere in the world. Where else in the world can you go and experience 8 of the 13 climate zones on one single island?

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Where to stay in Big Island, Hawaii

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Things to do in Big Island, Hawaii

rocky waterfall into lagoon surrounded by green foliage

By Land

The Big Island has so much to see that is up and away from the beauty of the volcanic coastline. Take time away from the sand and the sea to check out some of the Big Islands best kept secrets!

  • Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park - See the one of the world's most active volcanoes and the devastation that lava flow can cause. Walk through a well-lit lava tube - but hike there, don't park. The spaces are too few to bank on but many trails lead back to this must-see in the park.

  • Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Site is a very well restored look at what living as a Hawaiian King looked like. Bonus tip: after visiting the site change into snorkeling gear to dive in a Two Step beach which is a 2 minute walk from the parking lot. You'll see all sorts of tropical fish and probably sea turtles and dolphins. Get there early, though!

  • Hilo - A town that gets all the rain on the Big Island and the waterfalls to show for it. Stop by Rainbow Falls to see the neat rainbow effects created from the mist.

  • Akaka Falls State Park - Beautifully paved walkways that weave through the rainforest to open up to a very tall waterfall! Parking is hard to come by but they allow you to park on the road.

By Sea

Pack the sunscreen and your bathing suit but don't tie yourself to the resort the whole time you're there!

  • Green Sands Beach - well off the beaten path. Plan to hike around the bend near the southernmost point in the United States to find a cove with otherworldly green sand. This requires hiking and scaling a steep incline!

  • Swim with manta rays! At night mantas are attracted to the light at the surface of the water to eat their prized diet of plankton and you can swim with these enormous creatures up close. Talk about a thrill!

  • Waipi'o Valley Lookout - get a taste of the untouched coastline made famous by the island of Kauai. This lookout offers spectacular views. And if you're brave enough you can walk down the steepest road in the world to the black sand beach at the bottom for a day in the sun. If you're lucky, a 4WD can take you down and back up, but beware that most rental companies do not insure traveling on this road! Pack water!

  • Two Step Beach - Mentioned above but worth singling out! This is like you jumped into an aquarium! Parking is limited so arrive early!

Day Trips

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - choose a couple hikes, see the sulphur vents, walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, and drive the scenic drive to the coast to see the Holei Sea Arch!

Places to eat & drink in Big Island, Hawaii

a fresh mango cut in half with half a lime, a yellow smoothie and side salads on a wood table


  • Who doesn't come to get Kona Coffee?! Waimea Coffee Co is worth the trip. The coffee is delicious and their breakfast sandwiches are the perfect start to a day full of hiking and exploring.

  • Honolulu Coffee Company has the most delicious velvety blends often brewed in local shops. If you find this coffee then get it! If you enjoy lattes or sweetened coffee then you MUST try the macadamia nut syrup. OMG.

  • Poke at KTA Superstore - It's a grocery store, but the poke counter at the back is the best we found. Super customizable, tons of food, and the go-to spot for locals. Don't waste your time anywhere else. GET THESE BOWLS. These are scattered around the island but locals insist that the store in Hilo is THE BEST.

Other Eats

  • Kona Brewery and Pub - Taste all the beers that are only served here and order a pizza to go with them!

  • Lava Lava Beach Club - Worth the wait! Located in Waikoloa, this spot serves up delicious fare in a sandy oceanfront restaurant. You can dine in the sand and you'll probably get local live music and dancing if you go in the spring or summer! If the wait is 2+ hours then don't sweat - grab a drink from their pop-up VW van bar and hang out looking at the ocean!

  • Pineapple's Island Fresh Cuisine - Get the drink in the pineapple...you're on vacation! Try the coconut crusted fresh catch or the seafood pasta with chorizo cream sauce.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jody Holman's guide, Family-friendly Adventures on the "Big Island" in Hawai'i.

Advisor - Shane Capps

Travel Advisor

Shane Capps

Get in touch with Shane

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This is part of our ongoing series on travel to Big Island, and our longer series on travel to Hawai'i.