The Big Island of Hawai’i is an incredibly unique and special place. By having 10 of the world’s 15 different types of ecosystems, you could explore tropical landscapes, black sand beaches, active volcanoes and desert cowboy country, all within the same day.
I may be a little biased, but after living on the island and exploring nearly every inch over the span of 2 months, I feel that the Big Island may be the best of all the Hawaiian islands. To help you prepare for your upcoming trip, I’ve put together a quick list of what to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. However, if you are wanting a complete list of all my top recommendations, check out my Big Island Travel Guide.
Best places to eat on the big island
An Instagram worthy acai bowl that tastes even better than it looks! Located in a small shop above Snorkel Bob’s, this hidden gem serves up some of the best acai bowls around.
This family owned and operated restaurant serves up the best Thai food on the island (it may also be the best I’ve ever had, period). In 2018, it was also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and it’s easy to see why.
If you’re craving street tacos, Shaka Tacoz has some of the best on the island! They offer free guac with every meal, but what makes their tacos truly unique is their shaka sauce. Be sure to snag a seat on their back lanai for a great view of the ocean.
If you’re wanting an authentic Hawaiian mean, look no further than Super J’s. This hidden gem serves up some some of the best lau lau in Kona! Other favorites include their Kalua pig and mac salad.
Tex Drive In in Honoka’a is the most famous spot on the island for malasadas! Their malasadas are second to none and the dough itself is also unique compared to other bake shops, as they make it square instead of round.
If you’re driving through or staying at a resort on the Kohala coast, Lava Lava Beach Club is a must visit! While the menu may be limited and the prices on the higher end, what you’re truly paying for is the experience. Located right on the beach, Lava Lava offers some of the best sunset views.
Best things to do on the island
Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Located at Honaunau Bay, this 18-acre national historical park once housed ancient lawbreakers who were trying to find refuge. Take a self-guided tour and follow the map through the Great Wall and sacred temples.
Captain Cook Monument Trail
Leading adventurers to the monument that commemorates the fallen British soldier who was killed in 1779, this trail is only accessible by boat, kayak or hike. The steep hike back up can be challenging, but before you turn around, enjoy some of the best snorkeling the island has to offer.
Big Island Bees
Since 1972, this family operated location has been working to gather honey the ethical way. Not only will they show you how they harvest honey, you’ll get a chance to view their honey body care products and take a walk through their shop to buy gift sets for family and friends back home.
Akaka Falls State Park is a lush rainforest located 20 minutes north from downtown Hilo. It contains a paved path for you to follow and after an easy and accessible one hour hike, you get to reach the gorgeous 442 foot famous waterfall.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Reaching 13,677 feet above sea level, this national park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. This site was also named a World Biosphere Site by UNESCO in 1987. Make sure to bring a jacket as the weather can be cold as you climb in elevation.
Located on the northern coast, this area holds cultural and historical significance. The valley is surrounded by cliffs that are thousands feet high and is now home to less than 100 residents who live among the waterfalls. Be prepared to hike down to the beach, as only 4×4 vehicles are allowed down the steep narrow road.
Above sea level which is the highest point on the island of Hawaii. It’s been around for over a million years and has passed the active stage making it the perfect location to see the best views of the ocean, catch a perfect sunset, and watch the stars from below.
If you want a complete list of all my top recommendations, including 80+ of my favorite beaches, snorkel spots, experiences, restaurants, shops and stays on the island, check out my official Big Island Travel Guide!
The best big island beaches
Getting to this island paradise isn’t the easiest, as you’ll have to traverse a 20-30 minute hike through lava rock and sand, but I promise it’s one of the best beaches on the island! This spot is backed by sand dunes and offers crystal clear water with some of the finest white sand around.
Ho’okena Beach Park
My favorite spot for snorkeling on the island! Be sure to get there early because the small parking lot does fill up fast. Tip: enter the water from the left most side to avoid getting crashed into by rocks and coral.
Sitting as one of the best family-friendly beaches on the Big Island, this half-mile white sand beach is perfect to let the little ones run wild. They have an on duty lifeguard, and have activities like snorkeling and hiking.
This is another popular black sand beach that is also a resting ground for endangered Hawksbill turtles. There are fresh water springs you can visit as well as trails and camping sites you can set up at for the night.