Easy Going on Hawaii's Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is an unforgettable destination. With less crowds than the more popular islands of Maui and Oahu, the Big Island offers something for every type of traveler— for those seeking total relaxation, the sporty traveler wanting to hike and snorkel some exclusive and hard-to-reach beaches and the foodies and culture-lovers (raises hand). The landscape of the Big Island is incredibly diverse and ranges from black sand beaches to lush rainforests and desolate lava fields. The Big Island is truly a must-visit destination.
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Where to stay in Hawaii
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
Royal, family-friendly Hawaiian hotel nestled along the dramatic Kohala Coast, in the center of five great mountains.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
The Big Island’s standout resort on the quiet Kona-Kohala coast, home to an enormous spa, lauded golf course and raft of family-friendly activities.
When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.
A Hawaii resort and spa located on the Kohala Coast, surrounded by lush tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls and a tranquil white sand beach and lagoon.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
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Things to do in Hawaii
There are hundreds of coffee farms on the Big Island and many offer guided and self-guided tours and tastings. Greenwell Coffee offers free daily tours with no reservations needed. Kona Joe has a number of tours to choose from too, including the “Ultimate Tour” which lasts 2 hours and sends you home with 5 pounds of Kona Coffee and the unique Coffee Picking Experience during the fall harvest season.
Cacao Farm Tours & Chocolate Tastings
Hawaii is definitely known for macadamia nuts, but it’s also a producer of world-class chocolate. The cacao tree only grows 20 degrees north and south of the equator, so Hawaii is the only place in the United States where cacao is grown. There are a number of cacao farms to visit offering farm tours, a look into the bean-to-bar process and guided tastings. For a deeper-dive, visit the Hāmākua Chocolate Farm outside of Hilo (tours & tastings on Wednesdays and Saturdays) which is also home to a botanical garden. Mauna Kea Cacao is just 15 minutes outside of Hilo and makes award-winning chocolate, offering tastings on Thursdays. Finally, visitors wanting to pack in a few more foods native to Hawaii can visit the Puna Chocolate Company. Puna’s farm is packed full of cacao, coffee plants, macadamia nut trees and other tropical plants. There are tours in both Kona and Hilo.
Pohue Bay Beach: This secluded and stunning beach is only accessible via a 40-minute hike. If you see nesting sea turtles in the area, keep your distance. There are also times when the beach is protected by volunteers due to nesting turtles and may not be accessible.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach: Easily accessible, this beach is enclosed by elegant coconut palms and is a great place for sunbathing and green sea turtle spotting.
Kaunaoa Beach (also called Mauna Kea Beach:) This over a quarter mile of soft sand has made many best beaches lists for good reason. The turquoise water is about as perfect as it gets.
Kua Bay Beach: (my favorite) This small and gorgeous white sand beach with a chill local vibe is a gem. Highly recommended for snorkeling, sunbathing and body surfing the gentle waves.
Makalawena Beach: You’ll want to look this one up as it’s only accessible by hiking in via a couple of trailheads, but it’s probably the best beach in Hawaii that’s not accessible by a road. You’ll understand why when you get there.
Southernmost Point in the United States
Accessible by car, this truly is the southernmost point in the United States (Key West is the southernmost in the continental US.) Daring cliff divers are exhilarating to watch, though it’s important to note that the waters are rough and diving is firmly discouraged. Though it doesn’t deter the most extreme thrill seekers.
Take a boat trip out to where molten lava meets the sea. The best viewing time is when it’s still a little dark outside, either early morning or late in the evening. Note that guests need to meet certain physical health requirements. You can also view the Kilauea volcano from above in a once-in-a-lifetime way on a helicopter with Paradise Helicopter Tours. They are available with or without doors and also include incredible views of waterfalls.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Park: This park is a rugged landscape of lava rock and was once an ancient Hawaiian settlement. Visitors stand a good chance of seeing sea turtles.
Volcanoes National Park: Arguably the most popular National Park in Hawaii for good reason. It's thrilling and awe-inspiring to stand on the summit of the active Kilauea volcano, or walk through the impressive 500 year old Thurston Lava Tube. Steam vents from the core of the earth. The visitor center is a great first stop.
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park: Located on the West, Pu’uhonua O Honaunau is a true place of refuge. Historically, breaking certain sacred laws (called kapu), meant you were sentenced to death and the only hope was to make it to the Pu’uhonua. If you made it, you would be protected. This park immerses you in local culture and is full of archeological sites, thatched huts and reconstructed temples. You’ll definitely want to take your time here. (Note: Be sure to check the National Park’s website for current park conditions and opening times.)
Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve: Puako is one of the largest petroglyph sites in the world with more than 3000 lava rock carvings made by ancient Hawaiians depicting
Four Seasons Hualalai
See how sandalwood oil is extracted, revel in a guided forest tour and then experience the ultimate in luxury relaxation with a sound bath, sandalwood oil body wrap that finishes with a massage. You can also check out the Hualalai Golf Course designed by Jack Niklaus that plays host to a PGA Tour every year. Available only to resort guests, it’s a gem for golfers and golf enthusiasts with dramatic ocean views and winding lava rocks.
Places to eat & drink in Hawaii
GJ’s Huli Chicken: A roadside stand serving smoky and sweet coal-roasted chicken. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am - 1 pm. Check out their Facebook page before you go just in case.
Da Poke Shack: A must-visit loved by locals, Andrew Zimmern and the late Anthony Bourdain alike. It really is that good!
Suisan Fish Market in Hilo: If you’re on the Hilo side of the island, you’d be remiss to pass up this take-out poke institution. It’s been around since 1907 and has a unique history.
Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice: This walk-up window in a shopping center has some of the best ice cream on the island.
Basik Açai: The absolute best açai bowl you may ever have! This little shack is located in Kailua-Kona and might have you coming back every day. I make multiple visits when I’m on the island and think about it when I’m not.
Ola Brew Company: With locations in Kona and Hilo, Ola Brew Company is a relative newcomer, making a big name for itself with a great beer garden, cider, beer and good food. Check their website for weekly events like live music and trivia.
Four Seasons Oyster Experience: A truly unique experience. Learn about sustainable growing and harvesting practices, then enjoy an exclusive oyster tasting featuring an array of preparation styles from raw to baked to fried.
Canoe House at Mauna Lani Auberge: Farm fresh and modern dishes showcasing the best food the Big Island has to offer. It’s oceanfront setting just adds to the truly lovely experience.
Merriman’s Waimea: Iconic and award-winning, yet surprisingly welcoming restaurant with breathtaking views and an equally impressive wine list.
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