The Big Island offers a huge variety of activities to choose from. To help with your planning, here is a must-see sight from each of the main regions around the Big Island. From Kohala’s beautiful beaches to the molten lava flowing from Kilauea, these are some things not to be missed during your Big Island visit.
Kohala – Enjoy a Day on Hapuna’s White Sand Beach
Take a drive about 30 miles north of Kona along the Kohala Coast to Hapuna Beach State Park to find one of the most spectacular natural beauties on the Big Island. World-famous for its white silica sand that stays cool no matter how hot it may be outside, Hapuna Beach is perfect for water activities like swimming, snorkeling and boogie boarding, or simply sitting back and soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the splendor of a beach that is ranked among the best in the world.
Kona – Watch the Manta Rays at Manta Village
Whether you choose to dive, snorkel, see them from a boat, or simply gaze out over the water from the Sheraton’s balcony, seeing the manta rays come up to feed, illuminated by the spotlights from the shore is an incredible experience. The variety of ways you can choose to see them allows for flexibility in both your time and budget, especially since it’s not guaranteed they’ll return night after night, but when they do, you and your group will never forget it.
Mauna Kea – Go Stargazing
A staggering volcano rising 13,000 feet above sea level, the summit of Mauna Kea is one of the most important and well-respected astronomical locations in the world. More than 11 countries operate 13 telescopes at the summit, making observations crucial to our understanding of the universe, but visitors can take advantage of the unique perspective the volcano provides. While tourists can visit the volcano on their own, guided stargazing tours are available that include dinner and transportation.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – See the Lava Flows Up Close
Lava viewing on the Big Island is a must, but you’ll need to dedicate at least a half-day to make it happen. Located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the drive from Kona is over two hours and requires a substantial hike or bike ride to see the flows up close. Once you’re there, however, seeing the act of creation for yourself will be an experience you’ll never forget.
Hilo – See the Waterfalls
Four impressive waterfalls are located within just minutes of downtown Hilo: Waiale Falls, Kulaniapia Falls, Pe’epe’e Falls, and the breathtaking Rainbow Falls in the Kaumana Springs Wilderness Reserve. A quick and easy way to see the natural beauty of Hawaii while sticking to a schedule, we can’t recommend an hour or two spent waterfall hunting highly enough.
Hamakua – Visit the Waipio Valley
A sacred and expansive place filled with historical and natural importance, Waipio is known as the Valley of the Kings. Cut deep into the valley with nearby cliffs reaching over three thousand feet above, this was the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian rulers. For hikers seeking a quiet, secluded respite, a hike down the valley and the scenic lookouts that accompany it shouldn’t be missed.
Kau – Visit Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Blessed with obsidian-black sand, Punalu’u is a must-stop for beach goers, as the shores here are an incredible sight to behold. Made up of basalt, a side effect of near-constant lava flows on the island, the sands are dark and crystal like, keeping a uniform shape that’s perfect to make a dazzling display in the sun. While swimming can be hit or miss with lava rocks scattered throughout the nearby waters, the view and atmosphere of the beach is well worth a trip along the southern part of the Big Island. Keep your eyes peeled for hawksbill and green sea turtles, as they love to sun themselves on the warm black sand.
Puna – Visit Lava Trees State Park
Created when fast-moving lava encompasses living trees, tree molds (or lava pillars) are formed in the shape of a tree, but are encased with lava rock. Depending on the health of the tree, these formations can be anywhere between a few feet to nearly a dozen feet high. Lava Trees State Park is a beautiful and brief trek around these natural formations and the vegetation that comes only as a result of intense volcanic activity – albeit some time after the flows have cooled.