Things to See & Do on the Big Island
Activities, Sights, Tours, & Must-See Places
Marvel at the sky atop Mauna Kea, spot some of the world's rarest birds, explore some of the best hiking trails in Hawaii, or ride in style and watch the lava. No matter what you'd like to do on your Big Island vacation, our selection of articles means preparing for your getaway will both easy and fun.
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Big Island - Top Things to Do
- As we noted in Big Island Things to Know, the island was sculpted from five major volcanoes - Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea; which you can explore up close inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Each is worth exploring during your trip if time permits you to do so. Mauna Loa is the world's most massive mountain, and Mauna Kea is the tallest in the Pacific; plus, it's the tallest in the world from base to summit. Kilauea, as noted, is considered by many to be the world's most active volcano. Each volcano tells a story of the geologic history of the island, and they are all worth exploring as time allows. It's a million-year journey in the making, and the story is ongoing. A few miles offshore is what many believe to be the newest part of the Big Island in another 50,000 years or so - the Lo`ihi seamount. Over time, it may become the sixth peak of the Big Island.
- With over 260 linear miles of coastline, you can't miss some of the 100+ beautiful beaches that make up the Big Island's coastline. Ironically, finding a typical Hawaiian white sand beach might be a challenge here. You're more likely to find one of the common salt and pepper or black sand beaches (like Punaluu Beach) on the Big Island. If you know where to look, you can also discover the remarkable Papakolea Green Sand Beach along the south shore, where sand is made up of olivine crystals from the cinder cone that backs the beach. And hidden along the coastline north of Kailua-Kona, you'll discover the rarer soft white sand beaches like Makalawena Beach.
- The town of Hilo on the east coast is definitely worth a visit, and it has an incredible market that is held here each Saturday and Wednesday from dawn 'til it's gone, year-round. Hilo is the wettest city in the country, averaging over 100 inches annually. Hilo emits a more local and tropical vibe than Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island. Be sure to make time to visit the Liliuokalani Gardens and Wailuku River State Park (including Rainbow Falls and Pe`epe`e Falls) for more incredible scenery.
- Located on the northwest shore, Kohala has the official claim of being the sunniest spot on the island - if not the state. Averaging just a few meager inches of rain a year, the area is filled with luxury resorts. The region also has a rich cultural history, including one of the state's largest heiau at Puukohola. Kohala also has some of the island's best beaches, like Hapuna Beach.
- On the other side of Kohala is the incredible Waipio Valley. For the Hawaiian people, Waipio is more than just a beautiful place; it holds deep spiritual significance. Often called the "Valley of the Kings," Waipio was home to many ali'i (ruling class). King Kamehameha received a statue of his war god, Ku, here and was told he would one day rule the islands (which he went on to do). Because of its fertility, Waipio has become a rich farming area, producing abundant taro and bananas, even to the present day. Along the north Kohala coast is the Pololu Valley, and while not as big as Waipio, it's also worth exploring.
- On the north Hamakua coast, make sure you don't miss delights like Akaka Falls or the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.
- Along the southwest coast, below Kailua-Kona town, you'll want to check out Puuhonua o Honaunau Historical Park, or 'Place of Refuge.' Right next to the park is one of the best snorkeling locations on the island at Two Step.
- For even more tips on which places you absolutely must see, be sure to view our Best Big Island Vacation Activities article.
Explore Big Island Hawaii Attractions
Name your vacation fantasy and it'll likely come true on the Big Island of Hawaii: enjoying the hike of your dreams, admiring a gorgeous waterfall, or relaxing on a stunning sandy white beach. And for the ultimate Big Island activity? Grab your hiking boots, beach towel, and anything else you may need to have the Big Island of Hawaii getaway of your dreams.
Hawaii Island's Most Popular Things to Do
Featured Big Island Ocean Tour
Check out these top-rated Big Island of Hawaii snorkel tours & cruises from Kona. Hop aboard one of Fair Wind's daily Kona snorkel boat tours to the pristine waters of Kealakekua Bay. Looking for more adventure in Hawaii? There are also options for thrill-seekers and those wanting to experience a once-in-a-lifetime Manta ray night encounter in remote south Kona.
Additional Big Island Things to Do
If you can name it, you can likely do it on the Big Island. Lounging on a green sand beach? Check. Visiting ancient Hawaiian sites? Yep. Touring the world's tallest mountain? Of course. And don't forget volcanoes, botanical gardens, and fantastic snorkeling. So what can't you do on Big island? Not enjoy yourself! Check out these fantastic Big Island experiences.