Aquamarine coastlines and emerald forests await: Our Big Island travel guide

Published

22 December, 2022

Edited

22 December, 2022

The largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Big Island is home to a diverse landscape that will enchant even the most discerning of travellers. Those planning a week of peace and tranquillity can find solace upon its world-renowned beaches, famed for their golden sands and aquamarine shores. If it’s adventure you’re seeking, the island’s rainforests offer the perfect playground for a week of hiking and exploration.

Bask in the endless beauty of Big Island

Foodies will find plenty to whet their appetite, too. Famed for its fresh fish and seafood, the island’s restaurants provide lots of opportunities to sample the local cuisine of Hawaii - it’s rare that you’ll find a menu without a dish featuring sautéed mahi-mahi or seared ono. For the very best things to do on the Big Island, look no further than our insider guide.

Blissful black sand beaches

You’re going to want to spend plenty of time exploring Big Island’s stunning coastline. While you’ll find many pristine white bays that look like they’ve been cut straight out of a holiday brochure, a lot of the island’s beaches are actually lined with exotic black sands - created by the lava flows meeting the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Punaluu Beach

A spectacular black sand beach on Big Island’s southeastern shores, Punaluu Beach is a sight to behold. It’s also home to a number of resident hawksbill and green turtles, who often come ashore to rest and bask in the sunshine. Given their endangered status, visitors have to keep at least 20 metres away from them, but it’s still worth the visit to see them thriving upon the basalt shores.

Hapuna State Beach

One of Big Island’s most popular beaches, Hapuna State Beach stretches over half a mile along the stunning northwestern shores of the island. With its fine golden sands and calm waters, it’s a lovely spot for families to spend the day - whether that’s making sandcastles together, splashing about in the warm water, or watching as the bodyboarders and snorkellers take to the waves.

Keiki Beach Queen's Bath

If you’re the type who prefers total seclusion, then Keiki Beach Queen's Bath is the place for you. A short stroll from the town of Kailua-Kona, on Big Island’s west coast, this low-key beach is perfect for sitting and listening to the waves rolling in with very few - if any - distractions around you.

A Hawaiian island steeped in natural beauty

While you might be eager to get your toes into the soft sands of Big Island’s beaches (we definitely don't blame you), it’s also worth heading slightly inland and exploring the southeast side of the island for a glimpse of the region’s breathtaking natural beauty.

Discover the dramatic landscape of the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Resting 13,677 feet above sea level, the unique landscape of the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park attracts visitors from across the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to two of the island’s mighty volcanoes - Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. It’s here you’ll also find the Halema'uma'u crater, a steaming crater rumoured to be the dwelling of the Hawaiian goddess of fire.

Take on the challenge of Mauna Kea

Experienced hikers won’t want to miss the chance to climb to the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that soars above the clouds. Its otherworldly landscape offers a challenge for even the most seasoned of adventurers, so be sure to plan your route well in advance. If you’d prefer an easier trip, less strenuous hiking routes can be enjoyed in the Akaka Falls State Park - a lush tropical park with an impressive 442-foot waterfall waiting to be discovered.

Explore the wild charms of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

For those who would prefer to stay at sea level, the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park offers a unique insight into the islander’s traditions and culture. Set along the turquoise shores of the scenic Kona Coast sits a restored temple site, where Big Island visitors can discover koa wood carvings, royal fishponds, and model houses.

Explore the island’s charming towns

While adventuring, it’s well worth making a pit stop in the charming towns and villages dotted across the island.

Pick up some local treats in Hilo

In Hilo, you can live like a local and pick up some delicious produce in the twice-weekly Hilo Farmers Market - a vibrant display where local farmers sell their homegrown fruits, vegetables and produce. Some stall owners serve up ready-to-go food, such as shaved ice and the regional favourite, poke.

Discover the boutiques and galleries of Hawi

An hour’s drive from Kailua-Kona, Hawi is another pretty town set on the verdant northern tip of the island. Home to a lovely selection of art galleries, boutiques, and eateries, it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours discovering the local haunts. If you love immersing yourself in local culture, then be sure to add this quaint town to your list.

Sample award-winning coffee in Captain Cook

Curious to find out more about the delicious coffee grown on the island? Located in the small town of Captain Cook, the award-winning Kona Coffee Living History Farm allows you to stroll among the coffee plants as you learn about the rich history of the island’s booming coffee trade. You’ll find tours taking place throughout the day, so you can usually just turn up without having to plan too much in advance.

Unforgettable experiences await

Swimming with manta rays and touring the island by helicopter is all in a day’s work here on the Big Island. While you can enjoy all the classic adventures - kayaking, sailing, and snorkelling (to name a few) - we’d highly recommend taking a look at some of the more unusual experiences too. From ziplines to submarine tours, you’ll never run out of things to do on Big Island, Hawaii.

Enjoy a submarine or helicopter tour of Kona’s coastline

How about a submarine tour of Kona’s coast? Discover a completely different world as you descend the vibrant reef teeming with marine life, without even having to get your swimsuit on. Alternatively, you could always opt for a Big Island helicopter tour and see Hawaii’s largest island from a completely different perspective; soaring over 10,000 feet in the air.

Enjoy the natural tide pools at the Wawaloli Beach Park

Prepare to be amazed by the works of mother nature at the Wawaloli Beach Park. Protected from high surf by a huge lava shelf, this tranquil stretch of coast is home to a number of sand-lined tide pools that children will simply love exploring - their shallow waters are warmed to a lovely temperature by the sun and the big rocks surrounding them.

Get your adrenaline pumping on the Hilo Zipline

Thrill-seekers will want to take on the Hilo Zipline, which gives visitors an exhilarating opportunity to sail across the 250-foot KoleKole Falls. Once you’ve got your tickets, you’ll just need to muster up the courage to take the plunge. Your bravery will be rewarded, though. If you can keep your eyes open, you’ll experience some of the most awe-inspiring sights of the island’s wild and wonderful eastern coast.

A paradise for foodies

It wouldn’t be a Big island guide without a mention of the region’s delicious delicacies. You’ll find a whole host of excellent restaurants on the island, most of which serve up all the local delicacies - from fresh fish to Kalua pig.

Brown's Beach House

For great food and views, the nearby Brown's Beach House is an open-air beach restaurant serving a delicious array of seafood dishes accompanied by homegrown produce. This AAA Four Diamond eatery features live Hawaiian music every night, giving you a real taste of island life by the shores of Pauoa Bay.

Meridia

For sunset cocktails and a unique seasonal menu that combines the best of Mediterranean and Hawaiian cuisine, head to Meridia. Seafood features prominently on the evening menu, but you’ll also find an excellent choice of meat and plant-based dishes. Once you’ve finished dining, you can head into the cosy lounge and enjoy a well-earned cocktail - the perfect spot for a date night.

Merriman's

Merriman's in Waimea features a wonderful blend of Hawaiian and American cuisine, carefully curated by award-winning Chef Peter Merriman. Big believers in the ‘farm to table’ ethos, 90% of the menu is locally sourced - it’s a superb pitstop on your Big Island tour.

La Bourgogne French Restaurant

If you're craving the hearty flavours of traditional French cuisine, La Bourgogne is sure to hit the spot. Nestled in the town of Kailua-Kona, this elegant eatery captures the charm of a classic country restaurant perfectly, and with an excellent menu to match. While some might prefer to skip the escargot and frogs legs appetizers - as authentic as they are - the fresh seared scallops and duck cassoulet entrées are sure to please.

The onefinestay experience

At onefinestay, we believe that a holiday should be more than just an escape from the daily bustle. That’s why we offer a range of exclusive concierge services that can be tailored to your individual wants and needs. Whether it’s arranging your daily excursions and restaurant reservations or planning in-house spa services, we’re here to ensure that you enjoy an unforgettable experience. From the moment you book your stay, our Travel Advisors are on hand to take you through the many additional options. We’ll ensure that everything is prepared before your arrival, so you can make the most of every minute.

Bewitched by Big Island?

SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR TRAVEL ADVISORS TO BEGIN PLANNING YOUR GETAWAY TO BIG ISLAND TODAY. WE’LL FIND THE PERFECT VILLA FOR YOU AND CRAFT THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME.