One of the best places to stay in Hawai'i, the Big Island (aka Hawai'i Island) offers an enticing mix of adventure and relaxation. Smoldering volcanoes, dense rainforests and relatively untapped beaches make Hawai'i’s largest island an awesome travel destination. But with such a diverse range of options, you may be wondering where to stay on the Big Island.
Word to the wise: the best way to explore your Big Island vacation options is to connect with a Fora Advisor. Fora’s Hawai'i travel planners have insider intel to help you decide where to stay, plus they can hook you up with sweet hotel perks and VIP upgrades.
Read on for the best areas to stay on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
Where to stay on the Big Island: the 3 best areas
When planning a vacation to Hawai'i, the Big Island isn’t always first on people’s lists. It’s not nearly as developed as Oahu, and, to some, lacks the intimacy of Kauai and Maui (check out our relaxing Maui vacation guide).
Adventure on the Big Island is far from lacking, however. These three areas are the best places you can stay to find it. Here’s where to stay on the Big Island:
1. Kailua-Kona (the eastern coast): where to stay on the Big Island for family-friendly fun
Kailua-Kona is the Big Island’s most popular travel destination, and it’s here where you’ll find the widest range of accommodations. This area tends to be near the top of travelers’ lists, whether they’re looking for more budget-friendly options or a luxurious stay.
Of note, Kailua-Kona welcomes more visitors than our next couple of options, but it still has plenty to offer in terms of adventure and relaxation. While we won’t go so far as to say that Kailua-Kona makes the Big Island the best Hawaiian island for families, it’s definitely the most family-friendly area on the Big Island.
Kailua-Kona’s coffee farms are a top attraction, but there’s also whale watching, boat tours and more, not to mention a nice selection of quiet beaches. Kailua is also the best area for shopping on the island. Although, if you want the best shopping experience in all of Hawai'i, you’ll want to check out Ala Moana in Oahu (and see our beginner’s guide to Oahu while you’re at it).
Want to learn more about Kailua-Kona? Fora Advisors have the inside scoop and can hook you up with epic hotel perks and upgrades.
2. The Kohala Coast (aka the Gold Coast): where to stay on the Big Island for the best resorts
The Kohala Coast, or Gold Coast, is the Big Island’s premier resort area. Many of Hawai'i’s top accommodations are found here even though the area isn’t as scenic as Maui or Kauai.
Hapuna Beach State Park is the island’s largest white-sand beach (most of the Big Island’s beaches feature rocky, black sands). The weather is fairly consistent year-round, and the surf rarely gets rough, so it’s a great place for swimming, snorkeling and body boarding (though it’s not the best area for surfing).
While this is where to stay on the Big Island if you’re hunting for the best resorts, the Kohala Coast is also known for its emphasis on local cuisine. Our foodies’ guide to the Kohala Coast offers more details, but, suffice to say, the food here is the best on the island, but it might be on the pricey side. Also check out our local's guide to the best of Oahu.
And don’t forget: booking with a Fora Advisor means free upgrades and perks – which means you get to splurge elsewhere (like amazing local food).
Side note: for those looking for a view of the Big Island’s volcanoes, the town of Puna offers the best view outside of Volcanoes National Park.
3. The Hamakua Coast: where to stay on the Big Island for adventure
The Hamakua Coast is best-known for two things: surfing and Volcanoes National Park. The area’s minimal development means there are very few accommodation options, but the area is a natural wonder: blue seas clash with a semi-volcanic coast interspersed with lush jungle.
It’s gorgeous. And to the locals, it’s a “surfer’s paradise.” If this is your ideal surfing vacation, a Fora travel advisor can give you the lowdown on the best places to stay and help you book.
Hilo, the portal to Volcanoes National Park
Hilo is the only developed part of the Hamakua Coast. Most of its infrastructure revolves around Volcanoes National Park, which features two active volcanoes and a fiery landscape that seems more fantastical than real. It’s the reason some consider the Big Island the best Hawaiian Island for first-time visitors.
The park is one of the best places to visit in Hawai'i, simply because few people get to see a real volcano in their lifetime, let alone two (did someone say bucket list Hawai'i?).
If the volcanoes don’t interest you though, Downtown Hilo is a charming town to explore. Otherwise, like the Hamakua Coast, there aren’t many resorts or hotels here, and it rains quite a bit.
A Fora Advisor will help you figure out where to stay on the Big Island
Still thinking about where to stay on the Big Island? Your Fora Advisor can steer you towards the best areas. Kailua-Kona tends to be the top spot, but niche travelers may prefer the Hamakua or Kohala coasts.