Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

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Discover a world of endless possibilities on the enchanting Big Island of Hawaii. Delve into a harmonious blend of adventure and relaxation, where nature’s wonders await at every turn. Uncover hidden gems, indulge in tantalizing cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of this tropical paradise. From breathtaking snorkeling spots to pristine black sand beaches. The Big Island offers a plethora of experiences that will ignite your sense of exploration.

Hawaii had always been a dream bucket list destination for us. It felt like a dream come true when we finally made it there for my birthday. As well as our 28th wedding anniversary! October turned out to be the perfect time for our visit. The weather was nothing short of amazing, and the islands weren’t overly crowded. This allowed us to truly savor the beauty and tranquility. During our stay on the Big Island, we discovered an array of incredible activities and experiences that made our trip unforgettable. From exploring the volcanic wonders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. To indulging in water adventures along the pristine coast. There were so many exciting things to do on Big Island, Hawaii. It was a celebration of love, nature, and adventure all in one incredible journey.

lava lava

Getting Around on the Island

One of the best ways to truly experience the island’s beauty is by renting a car. We highly recommend going for a jeep or a vehicle with higher ground clearance. The reason is that some of the roads leading to local vacation homes and parks can be quite rugged. We managed to snag a fantastic deal through Dollar rental car via the Hopper app. While the check-in line moved swiftly, the wait for our car’s delivery was a bit frustrating, lasting nearly an hour. Their non-first-come-first-serve system could use some improvement. Nevertheless, despite this hiccup, I would still choose Dollar for our future rentals. As Hopper consistently provided some of the best deals around.

Hawaiʻi County goes the extra mile in making travel accessible. They do this by offering free mass transit through the Hele On (Let’s Go) Bus service. With stops scattered across the entire island of Hawaiʻi, this service provides a valuable transportation link between Kona and Hilo. It’s a great way for both locals and visitors to explore the island. At the same time reducing their environmental footprint, all at no cost.

MONEY SAVING TIP: Download the Hopper App and use the code: ConsumerQueen for $25 off your first night stay!

Where to Stay on the Big Island

When planning a trip to Big Island, Hawaii, one of the key decisions to make is where to stay. We recommend stay 5 days in Kona and 5 days in Hilo. The Kona side, located on the western coast of the island, is known for its dry and sunny climate. It enjoys more consistent sunshine and warmth, making it a popular destination for beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts.

In contrast, the Hilo side on the eastern coast is known for its abundant rainfall, which results in a lush and green landscape. It’s like a lush rainforest and it’s a beautiful place to visit. The climate is generally more humid and wet, contributing to the region’s vibrant tropical rainforests. There are several options to consider, such as Guardwell Farms, AirBNB, and hotels such as the Volcano House. Each option offers its own set of advantages and considerations, making it important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Guard Well Farms Tiny Home-1

Guardwell Farms

Visitors to Big Island Hawaii can enhance their experience by staying at Guardwell Farms, known for its sustainable practices and organic farming. Situated near the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, guests can explore the mesmerizing lava tubes and witness the awe-inspiring power of nature. Kealakekua Bay, with its crystal-clear waters, offers a perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming, while the Captain Cook Monument provides a glimpse into the island’s rich history.

Guard Well Farms Tiny Home-11

For coffee enthusiasts, a visit to the Kona Coffee farm is a must, where they can learn about the meticulous process of cultivating and roasting the world-famous Kona coffee beans. Nature lovers can indulge in the vibrant beauty of the Botanical Gardens, while adventure seekers can take a trip to the green sand beaches and marvel at their unique allure. Guardwell Farms offers an innovative and immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect with nature and explore the wonders of Big Island Hawaii. See more photos of the property here.

Guard Well Farms Tiny Home-2

AirBNB Vs.Hotel

When deciding between renting an Airbnb on the Big Island of Hawaii or staying in a hotel, there are important considerations to weigh. Hotels, typically located near shops, beaches, and restaurants, offer convenience but can be noisy and crowded. On the other hand, Airbnb accommodations often provide a quieter, more serene experience with breathtaking views, although they might be farther from popular activities and require a rental car for exploration. A significant advantage with Airbnb is that some hosts offer beach essentials, such as chairs, umbrellas, and towels, which can enhance your beach outings. It’s crucial to read the property descriptions thoroughly to check for these amenities. If they aren’t listed, don’t hesitate to send a private message to the host, as they may have omitted such details.

Additionally, inquiring about potential cohabitation with other guests on the property is wise to avoid surprises upon arrival. Finding the right accommodation ultimately depends on your preferences for location, tranquility, and added perks.

Gecko girlz shaved ice

Don’t forget to indulge in a refreshing treat from Gecko Girlz shaved ice after a day of adventures. Ultimately, the choice between AirBNB and hotel accommodations depends on the individual’s preferences and desired level of innovation.

Best Place to Get Groceries on the Big Island of Hawaii

When it comes to getting groceries on the Big Island of Hawaii, Costco stands out as the go-to choice for both tourists and locals. Their competitive prices make it a favorite, and a special mention goes to the soft-sided cooler option for just $10, which comes in handy for packing day lunches or doubling as a versatile beach bag. For those looking for specialty items and fresh produce, the KTA superstore is highly recommended, as it’s a local favorite. Additionally, you’ll find familiar options like Walmart and Target, offering convenience and variety. And don’t forget to explore the vibrant farmers’ markets, where you can discover the island’s freshest and most unique offerings.

Is the Big island of Hawaii Expensive

Yes, the Big Island of Hawaii can be relatively expensive, primarily due to the necessity of importing a significant portion of goods by sea. This economic phenomenon is influenced by the Jones Act, a federal law that requires all goods transported between U.S. ports to be carried on U.S.-flagged ships with American crews. This restriction often leads to increased shipping costs, making everyday items, including groceries and various consumer goods, more costly for residents and visitors alike.

To manage expenses, some savvy travelers opt to pack non-perishable items and snacks in their luggage. By doing so, they can save money on essentials and allocate those savings towards enriching experiences on the island or generous tipping, contributing positively to the local economy. In this way, visitors can balance their budgets while still relishing the unique beauty and activities the Big Island has to offer.

 Best Places to Eat on the Big Island:

When it comes to dining options in Big Island Hawaii, there are a few standout restaurants that should not be missed. Papa Konas offers a unique farm-to-table experience with fresh ingredients and stunning ocean views. Lava Lava is known for its beachfront location and delicious seafood dishes. Lastly, Pololu Bakery is a hidden gem where visitors can indulge in freshly baked goods and local Hawaiian favorites.

Papa Kona

 Papa Kona

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Papa Kona’s is a popular place for locals and tourists alike. With its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and lush palm trees, it offers a unique dining experience that combines the flavors of traditional Hawaiian cuisine with innovative culinary techniques. Visitors can take a scenic drive along the coast, enjoying the white sand beaches and soaking in the Hawaiian culture. In addition to its renowned restaurants, Papa Kona’s is located on Waterfront Row which is home to a vibrant farmers market, where visitors can sample fresh local produce and artisanal goods. Live music can be heard throughout the town, creating a lively and inviting atmosphere that perfectly complements the exceptional dining options in Papa Kona.

Lava Lava Pineapple Chicken

 Lava Lava

Daniel and I had a romantic dinner on the beach at @Lava Lava Beach Club where watched the sunset! It was absolutely gorgeous!

I had the chicken pineapple rice served in a pineapple and Daniel got the NY Strip. The food was really good and our waitress ( can’t remember her name) was wonderful!

lava lava sunset

Lava Lava, known for its delectable seafood dishes and breathtaking oceanfront views, is one of the best restaurants on the Big Island. Situated on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, it offers a unique dining experience that combines innovative cuisine with the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. As you indulge in the mouthwatering dishes, you can gaze out at the stunning lava flows and the majestic Mauna Loa volcano. Whether you are seeking a romantic dinner for two or a memorable dining experience with friends and family, Lava Lava is the perfect choice.

Travel Tip: You’ll want to get there just before at 5pm to beat the huge crowd that comes to line up for tables!  If you can’t get in or you aren’t hungry you can watch the sunset from the beach!  See more photos.

Volcano House

Volcano House

At Volcano House, nestled within the stunning Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, the dining experience is as memorable as the natural wonders that surround it. The breakfast buffet offers a delicious start to your day, providing an array of fresh and hearty options to fuel your adventure, from tropical fruits to hot made-to-order dishes. It’s the perfect prelude to a day of hiking and exploration. As the sun sets over the volcanic landscape, the early dinner menu offers a delightful culinary journey. Featuring a blend of local flavors and international cuisine, the dinner options cater to a variety of tastes, ensuring a satisfying and memorable end to your day in the heart of this unique natural wonder.

Volcano House

For lunch or dinner we recommend trying their pizza. They have a nice selection of pizzas to choose from. Dining at Volcano House adds a special touch to your national park experience, combining exceptional food with the enchanting beauty of the park’s surroundings.

Punalu'u Bakery

Punalu’u Bakery

Punalu’u Bakery, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a delightful culinary gem that captures the essence of the island’s unique flavors. Renowned for its delectable Hawaiian sweetbreads, the bakery offers an array of mouthwatering treats, from taro rolls to coconut bread. What sets Punalu’u Bakery apart is its dedication to incorporating local ingredients, such as taro and sweet potato, into their baked goods, providing a true taste of the Hawaiian culture. Situated near the famous Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, this charming bakery is a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of authentic Hawaiian cuisine amidst the island’s breathtaking natural beauty.

Punalu'u Bakery

Their sweetbreads are so good we had to take some to go. had we had the time to head back that direction, we would have stopped again. Click here for more photos.

dole whip

Dole Whip on the Big Island

Bubba and Finn’s Dole Whip stand on the enchanting Big Island of Hawaii is a tropical paradise for both locals and tourists alike. Nestled near the vibrant shoreline, this quaint spot is renowned for its delectable Dole Whip treats, offering a refreshing burst of pineapple goodness in every creamy spoonful. Visitors flock to this seaside haven, drawn by the tantalizing aroma of freshly blended pineapples and the promise of a delightful escape from the island’s warmth. As the sun casts its golden hues over the horizon, patrons relish their frozen delights, savoring the combination of sweetness and tanginess that defines Bubba and Finn’s signature Dole Whip. With each luscious bite, one can’t help but feel transported to a serene paradise amid the splendor of Hawaii’s majestic beauty. See more photos.

Things to Do on the Big Island

When visiting Big Island Hawaii, there are plenty of exciting big island activities to engage in. From swimming with the majestic Manta Rays with SeaQuest, to exploring the awe-inspiring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Additionally, nature lovers can marvel at the beauty of Akaka Falls State Park and Rainbow Falls State Park, while stargazing enthusiasts can embark on unforgettable tours to witness the celestial wonders of the night sky. The Kona side features stunning lava fields and rocky landscapes, as well as iconic white sandy beaches. The Kona coast is home to many upscale resorts and offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and exploring volcanic formations.

The Hilo side, on the other hand, is characterized by its dramatic waterfalls, dense forests, and fertile farmlands. It’s also closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can witness volcanic activity and lava flows. We added some our favorite places below. 

 Swim with the Manta Rays with SeaQuest

SeaQuest offers visitors the opportunity to swim with up to 10 majestic manta rays in the crystal-clear waters of Big Island Hawaii. This innovative experience allows guests to witness the grace and beauty of these gentle giants up close. Located on the Kona Coast, SeaQuest is a leading provider of immersive marine experiences that promote conservation and education. By swimming with manta rays, visitors can develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of preserving the delicate coral reefs that serve as their habitat. Native Hawaiians have long revered manta rays, considering them sacred creatures. SeaQuest’s guided excursions ensure a safe and respectful interaction with these magnificent creatures, while also providing valuable insights into their behavior and conservation efforts. A swim with manta rays is an unforgettable experience that combines adventure, education, and a deep connection with the natural world.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park-1

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Visitors can explore the diverse landscapes and witness the raw power of nature at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, whether they choose to hike through volcanic craters or marvel at the lava flows from a safe distance. Located on the Big Island, this national park is home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes, including Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park offers a unique experience for adventure seekers, with opportunities to explore attractions such as the Thurston Lava Tube and the Jaggar Museum and Visitors Center. Tour operators in the area provide guided tours that cater to different interests and fitness levels, ensuring that visitors can make the most of their time in the park. It is important to note that due to the park’s high altitude, visitors may experience symptoms of altitude sickness, so it is recommended to take necessary precautions.

For those seeking a different kind of adventure, nearby Mauna Kea Beach offers stunning views and tranquil waters, making it a popular destination for relaxation and water activities. Check out our Hawaii Volcanoes National Park post to see how you can score a free guided tour at the visitor’s center. Read our full blog post on Hawaii Volcanoes National park. See more photos.

Island Breeze Luau

Attend a Luau

Attending a luau at Island Breeze on the Big Island of Hawaii was an unforgettable experience. It has a beautiful background setting. The entertainment was nothing short of spectacular. They had traditional hula dancers, mesmerizing fire performers, and live music that transported us to a different world. The food was equally impressive, offering a delectable taste of Hawaiian cuisine that left our taste buds delighted. One magical moment that added to the enchantment was witnessing a vibrant rainbow arcing over the ocean, a breathtaking backdrop to an already memorable evening.

For those who want to save on premium seating, arriving early is a fantastic tip – it allows you to secure a good seat with excellent views. Honestly, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, except for perhaps the very back corner. Regardless of where you sit, Island Breeze’s luau promises an extraordinary and authentic Hawaiian experience that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

Akaka Falls-1

 Akaka Falls State Park

Located just a short drive from Hilo, visitors can immerse themselves in the lush beauty of Akaka Falls State Park and marvel at the breathtaking 442-foot waterfall. This park is a must-visit destination for those seeking unique and innovative experiences on the Big Island of Hawaii. The park offers a variety of activities, including hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints of the falls and the surrounding tropical landscape. We loved seeing all the beautiful plants and flowers hear. It’s like we were in the middle of a rain forest.

For those looking to explore more beautiful waterfalls, nearby attractions such as Rainbow Falls and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden are easily accessible. Additionally, the park is situated near the Kona side of the island, allowing easy access to other popular attractions like the tallest mountain in Hawaii, Mauna Kea. With its stunning natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities, Akaka Falls State Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the best Hawaiian island.

Rainbow Falls

 Rainbow Falls State Park

One can explore the majestic beauty of Rainbow Falls State Park by taking a leisurely hike through its lush trails and admiring the vibrant colors of the cascading waterfall. Located on the stunning Hawaii Island, Rainbow Falls State Park is a great place for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. This picturesque park is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Hawaii. From hiking to picnicking, there are many ways to enjoy this beautiful park. One of the best things to do at Rainbow Falls State Park is to visit the famous Rainbow Falls themselves. There is no hiking involved and you can literally pull up to the parking lot, park and get out and see the falls.

If you can do stairs, we suggest taking the stairs to the left of the falls, that will take you to a section of the park where you can see some beautiful twisted trees. The sight of the cascading water and the rainbow that often appears creates a truly magical experience. Whether it’s exploring the trails, taking in the beauty of the waterfall, or simply enjoying a picnic, Rainbow Falls State Park is a must-do activity and one of the favorite things to do on Hawaii Island.

Kalopa State Recreational Area-17

Kalopa State Recreation Area

we had the incredible opportunity to hike the enchanting trails at Kalopa State Recreation Area, and we couldn’t wait to share this wonderful experience with all of you. If you’re looking for a family-friendly outdoor adventure that’s shaded and packed with natural beauty, this is the place to be!  Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kalopa State Recreation Area is a hidden gem offering lush greenery, cool temperatures, and a wide variety of hiking trails. The park is home to diverse flora and fauna, including the magnificent native ‘Ōhi’a trees and an array of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for unique Hawaiian wildlife!

Kalopa State Recreation Area boasts several trails suitable for all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie, there’s something for everyone.

Kalopa State Recreational Area-5

With its natural canopy of trees, you’ll find plenty of shade along the trails. It’s the perfect escape from the Hawaiian sun!

Don’t forget to pack essentials like water and bug spray to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable hike. The park is so breathtaking that you could easily spend an entire day exploring and soaking in the natural beauty.  See more photos.

Stargazing Tours

To fully appreciate the celestial wonders of the night sky, participants can join stargazing tours and witness the enchanting beauty of the cosmos. Big Island, Hawaii, with its clear skies and minimal light pollution, offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. The island’s diverse landscapes and unique geographical features make it a favorite destination for stargazers of all levels. The best time to go stargazing in Big Island is during the summer months when the skies are clearest. Some of the best spots for stargazing include Mauna Kea, where visitors can enjoy guided tours and use telescopes to observe distant galaxies, and the beaches along the Kona coast, which provide a fun way to stargaze while enjoying the clear water and sandy beaches. Don’t miss out on combining your stargazing adventure with a visit to the island’s best snorkeling spots for a truly unforgettable experience.

Hawaii Biosvere Gardens-1

 Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore a diverse collection of tropical plants and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the island. Located on the stunning Hamakua Coast, this botanical garden showcases over 2,000 plant species, including rare and endangered ones. As you wander through the garden’s pathways on a self-guided tour, you’ll encounter breathtaking waterfalls, vibrant flowers, and lush greenery. This experience is perfect for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a peaceful retreat. It was a little cloudy when we got there as you can see in the above photo but it brightened up fast as you can see in the below photo. Make sure you bring bug spray with you as the mosquitos can be pretty bad here due to the tropical climate.

Hawaii Biosvere Gardens-7 - Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

After exploring the garden, you can continue your adventure by visiting other iconic attractions. Such as the Waipio Valley, where you can witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the valley and cascading waterfalls. Don’t miss the opportunity to go whale watching along the Kohala Coast, where you can spot humpback whales during the winter months. For beach lovers, the Big Island offers some of the best beaches in Hawaii, including Hapuna Beach and Punalu’u Beach, known for its black sand and frequent sightings of Hawaiian green sea turtles. Lastly, history buffs can explore the Honaunau National Historical Park, a sacred site with ancient Hawaiian temples and a place of cultural significance. Check out our fcabeook post with a ton of beautiful photos from the gardens.

waipio valley lookout - Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

Waipiʻo Valley Lookout

The Waipiʻo Valley Lookout on the Big Island of Hawaii is a breathtaking vantage point that provides a panoramic view of one of the island’s most enchanting and remote destinations. Perched on the edge of the valley’s cliffs, this lookout offers visitors a sweeping vista of the lush, verdant valley below, with its towering waterfalls, taro fields, and black sand beach. The dramatic beauty and isolation of Waipiʻo Valley have earned it the nickname “The Valley of the Kings.” Access to the valley itself is challenging, with a steep, winding road leading down, but the lookout provides an awe-inspiring preview of this natural wonder, inviting travelers to appreciate the island’s rugged and untamed beauty.

Please note that the road leading down to the waterfall is closed to locals only but the view at the top is spectacular. We also treated ourselves to a delicious lunch at Cafe IL Mondo. The Hilo Hawaiian pizza was an absolute delight! You can also visit the Pololu valley on your way there. See more photos.

 Whale Watching

Whale watching offers a unique and thrilling experience for nature enthusiasts and tourists visiting Big Island Hawaii. With its pristine waters and diverse marine life, the island’s west coast is a good place to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. From the comfort of an outrigger canoe, visitors can venture out into the ocean and witness the beauty of these gentle giants up close. The entire island of Big Island Hawaii is known for its rich marine ecosystem, making it an ideal destination for whale watching. Whether it’s the humpback whales migrating from Alaska or the resident spinner dolphins, there is always something fascinating happening on the ocean floor.

For those who don’t have much time, a trip to South Point, the southernmost point of the United States, offers a great chance to spot whales without venturing too far from the shore. So, if you’re looking for an innovative and unforgettable experience, consider adding whale watching to your list of things to do in Big Island Hawaii.

Other Notable Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

Visitors can explore the beautiful beaches and lush rainforests of Big Island Hawaii, yet there are numerous other notable things to do that offer a unique and diverse experience. In addition to the natural wonders, Big Island boasts a rich cultural heritage that visitors can immerse themselves in. One such activity is attending a traditional Hawaiian luau, where guests can indulge in delicious local cuisine, witness captivating hula performances, and learn about the island’s history and traditions.

For those seeking adventure, Big Island offers thrilling opportunities such as hiking to the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the world’s tallest mountains, and witnessing the breathtaking views of the night sky from its observatories. Furthermore, visitors can explore the island’s volcanic landscapes by taking a helicopter tour or hiking through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. These unique experiences make Big Island Hawaii a must-visit destination for those seeking innovation and a diverse range of activities.

Sea Quest Snorkel Tour-5 - Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

Best Snorkeling Spots and Best Beaches

When it comes to exploring the underwater world, Big Island Hawaii offers some of the best snorkeling spots and beaches. With crystal clear waters and vibrant marine life, snorkelers can enjoy an unforgettable experience. From the famous Honaunau Bay to the stunning Kealakekua Bay, there are plenty of options for those looking to discover the beauty beneath the surface. One of my biggest pet peeves was when I googled to try and look up some of the best beaches on the big island. Honestly most of posts were written by people who have never visited and you could tell they were all the same. Because alot of the beaches people mentioned were not what we would ever spend the day at. We left many of the recommendations we saw online and asked some of the locals where they like to go.

Sea Quest Snorkel Tour - Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

Premium Snorkel Tour with SeaQuest

Indulge in the unforgettable experience of a Premium Snorkeling Tour with SeaQuest. This tour offers a unique and immersive adventure. Allowing visitors to discover the underwater wonders of the island in a way like never before. With state-of-the-art equipment and expert guides, SeaQuest ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants. The tour takes guests to pristine reefs teeming with colorful marine life. Where they can swim alongside tropical fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins. In addition to snorkeling, SeaQuest provides educational insights about the local ecosystem, promoting conservation and sustainability. This premium snorkel tour is a must-do for those seeking a blend of adventure, relaxation, and innovation during their visit to Big Island Hawaii. See more photos.

Sea Quest Snorkel Tour - Things to Do on Big Island Hawaii

Puʻuhonua O Honaunau (Two Steps)

Embarking on the premium snorkel tour with SeaQuest at Puʻuhonua O Honaunau (The Place of Refuge) offers an unparalleled immersion into the mesmerizing underwater world of Hawaii. As the tour sets sail, anticipation builds for the adventure that lies ahead. Upon arriving at Puʻuhonua O Honaunau, the crystalline waters beckon with their clarity, unveiling a kaleidoscope of vibrant marine life dancing beneath the surface. SeaQuest’s expert guides lead participants into the pristine waters, where schools of tropical fish gracefully meander around the coral gardens. Snorkelers are mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colors, encountering sea turtles gliding effortlessly and marveling at the intricate beauty of the coral formations. The tour not only offers a glimpse into the diverse aquatic ecosystem but also provides a profound connection to the cultural and historical significance of this sacred Hawaiian site, creating memories that linger long after the snorkels are set aside.

Sea Quest Snorkel Tour - KEALAKEKUA BAY - Captain Cook

Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cooks Monument)

Embarking on SeaQuest’s premium snorkel tour at Kealakekua Bay, home to Captain Cook’s Monument, was an immersive journey through both the rich marine wonderland and the historical tapestry of Hawaii. The tour offered a glimpse into the profound history of this site, where Native Hawaiians and western explorers first encountered one another, shaping the cultural landscape for centuries. Amidst the mesmerizing underwater world, a pod of spinner dolphins graced us with an unforgettable display of acrobatics, adding an extra layer of magic to our experience. Schools of brilliantly hued fish darted around us, while a majestic eel glided effortlessly through the coral.

Sea Quest Snorkel Tour - KEALAKEKUA BAY - Captain Cook

Kealakekua Bay stands as a significant historical site, marked by Captain James Cook’s inaugural landing on Hawaii’s island shores. The tranquility that blankets these waters today belies a tumultuous past: it was here, on February 14, 1779, during Cook’s third visit, that the explorer met his tragic end in a conflict that might have been averted with deeper cultural understanding. The profound events of that day are eloquently chronicled in an article titled “The Demise of Captain Cook” on the Coffeetimes website. Despite the historical complexities, Cook’s legacy endures through the imposing 27-foot Captain Cook monument, an iconic landmark perched along the south Kona coast within the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park’s western expanse. Accessible solely by hiking or watercraft, such as kayaks or snorkeling tours, this area offers an array of activities including snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, boat tours, and scuba diving. However, reaching the monument demands a challenging 1.9-mile hike with a substantial 1300-foot descent, followed by an ascent, all under the relentless sun. Proper preparation, including adequate water, sunscreen, a hat, sturdy footwear, and snorkeling gear, is essential for this endeavor. Despite the arduous trek, the allure of exploring Kealakekua Bay’s pristine waters and the revered Captain Cook monument remains an unforgettable experience.

kahaluu beach

Kahaluu Beach

What a fantastic day we had at Kahaluu Beach, even with the slightly rough waters!  We were lucky enough to spot a sea turtle gracefully gliding beneath the waves.  The marine life here is simply breathtaking – vibrant and diverse, making it a must-visit for all ocean lovers. 

Pro tip: Always remember to pack your fins for those choppier days at the beach.  You’ll thank us later! 

Our stay at AirBNB Guardwell Farms was made extra special with their thoughtful provisions. They provided beach chairs, an umbrella, boogie boards, and pool noodles!  No need to worry about extra rental costs, just pure fun and relaxation.

Kahaluu Beach also has a fantastic team of volunteers who diligently watch over the beach. They are trying to enhance your experience while educating at the same time. One lovely lady even had a spray bottle with defogger for everyone’s goggles – such a thoughtful touch! 

If you’re wondering about facilities, don’t fret! There are restrooms available, and parking costs $12 for a 4-hour stay. Worth every penny for the day we had!

Remember to enjoy the beauty of nature responsibly and sustainably. Leave no trace, and let’s keep our beaches pristine for all to enjoy.  See more photos.

Black Sands beach sea turtle

Black Sands Beach

We had an incredible day at Black Sands Beach on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, and I can’t wait to share the magic with you all! It’s just a short hike from the parking lot.

Black Sands beach Big Island Hawaii-3

Ever wondered why the sand here is jet black? It’s all thanks to the volcanic activity on this amazing island. The sand is made up of tiny, fragments of lava rock. These are created when molten lava meets the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. The result? A stunning, unique shoreline that you have to see to believe. Walking along the beach is like nature’s own exfoliation treatment. You’ll leave the beach feeling as clean as ever.  

Black Sands beach Big Island Hawaii -2

Our day was made even more special by a couple of sea turtle sightings. These gentle giants love to sunbathe on the shore. Remember to respect their space and admire these magnificent creatures from a distance. With the dramatic backdrop of crashing waves, we couldn’t resist taking a ton of pictures. The ocean’s power and beauty were mesmerizing. Black Sands Beach has a rich history. It’s believed that ancient Hawaiians revered this place as a sacred spot, and it’s easy to see why. The stark contrast of the black sand against the lush greenery and deep blue ocean makes it an unforgettable destination. Check out our Facebook post for more even more photos of Black Sands Beach.

 Building Your Big Island Itinerary

While planning your trip to Big Island, it is important to carefully consider and prioritize the things and attractions you want to include in your itinerary. With its stunning natural beauty and diverse range of activities. Big Island offers a plethora of options for travelers seeking innovative and unique experiences.

One must-visit attraction on the island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, visitors can witness the awe-inspiring power of nature as they explore the active Kilauea volcano and its surrounding lava fields. The park also offers hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views of volcanic craters and steam vents.

For those seeking adventure, a visit to Mauna Kea is a must. This dormant volcano not only offers panoramic views of the island, but it is also home to some of the world’s most advanced telescopes. Visitors can participate in stargazing tours and gain a deeper understanding of our universe.

To experience the island’s rich cultural heritage, a trip to the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is recommended. This sacred site was once a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians. It now offers a glimpse into the island’s history and traditions.

Things to do on Big Island Hawaii

5 Day Itinerary Ideas

2 days in Kona and 3 days in Hilo

  • Day1: Check into your hotel/AirBNB Have Dinner at Papa Kona. 
  • Day 2: Premium Snorkel Tour with SeaQuest and Night Manata Ray Snorkel with SeaQuest.
  • Day3: Move to Hilo and Head to Punalu’u Bakery for treats/lunch. Head to Black Sands Beach to look for Sea Turtles
  • Day3: Do Akaka State Park, Rainbow Falls and Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden.
  • Day 4: Volcanoes National Park
  • Day 5:  Eat at Pineapples in Hilo and Carlsmith beach park and Richardson ocean park (beach and snorkeling)

10 Day Itinerary Ideas

Spend 5 Days in Kona and 5 Days in Hilo :

  • Day 1: Check into your hotel/AirBNB and hit a grocery store like Costco.
  • Day 2: Premium Seaquest Snorkel 9:00am – 1:30pm (arrive at 8:45am) They will feed you lunch. Have Dinner at Lava Lava.
  • Day 3: Beach day at Magic Sands for boogie boarding. Grab Gecko Girlz Shave Ice. Lunch/ dinner at Papa Konas. Night Manta Experience with Sea Quest  8:15pm – 9:30pm be there at 7:30!
  • Day 4:  Drive to Waikoloa Village. Look around and have Original Big Island Shave Ice Co and Luau.
  • Day 5: Drive to Pololū Valley Lookout. Then Drive to Waipiʻo Valley Lookout.
  • Day 6: Move to hotel/airBNB in Hilo. .
  • Day 7: Volcano National Park (yes take the whole day)
  • Day 8: Rainbow Falls, See the Boiling Pots then visit Panaewa Rainforest Zoo 
  • Day 9:  Eat at Pineapples in Hilo and Carlsmith beach park and Richardson ocean park (beach and snorkeling)
  • Day 10: See Akaka Falls State Park and Hawai‘i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden.

In conclusion, the Big Island of Hawaii offers a diverse range of activities for visitors to enjoy. From exploring the stunning beaches and snorkeling spots to indulging in delicious cuisine and finding the perfect accommodation. There is something for everyone to experience on the Big Island.

Additionally, an interesting statistic reveals that the Big Island is home to the world’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea measures over 33,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. This fascinating fact adds to the allure of this beautiful destination for travelers.

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  1. I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii but have been overwhelmed by all the options and planning! Thanks for this post — it’s definitely making planning a trip easier, and now I know I need to visit those Botanical Gardens! So gorgeous

  2. It sounds like you packed in a lot during your trip to the Big Island. Did you look into visiting any of the other islands? If so, how much more time would you recommend we plan to stay in Hawaii if we wanted to go to Kauai or Oahu? I don’t want to miss a thing. Thanks.


    1. So sorry for some reason it was sensing comments to my spam. We did not get to visit Kauai or Oahu but thats on our list to do. I also recommend Maui.But there is so much to do on the Big island that you could be there for a week and still not do everything.

  3. Heading to the Big Island soon, and your tips on Costco and Guardwell Farms are on my list! Also eyeing Papa Konas for a farm-to-table experience. Thinking about exploring Kealakekua Bay too. Any snorkeling gear rental recommendations you’d suggest?

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