Here is a list of our favorite things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii:
1. Hapuna State Beach Park
We stumbled on this beach by accident and I am so glad we did. Hapuna Beach is known for being one of Hawaii's biggest white sand beaches. The sand here is as soft as flour and the water was crystal clear. They had dangerous shore break signs out, but when we were there, the water was calm with tiny little waves. We played for a couple hours body surfing in the waves and even saw a turtle. This beach was a state park and it was super clean with tons of parking, showers, and shaded picnic areas. It even had a little concession stand near the beach. $5 parking for visitors and free for Hawaii Residents.
Click here for more info.
2. Lava Lava Beach Club
Honestly one of my favorite stops on the trip. This bar and restaurant was so unique because it is actually one of the only beach front bars in Hawaii. The outside seating is literally on the beach (we have nothing like this on Oahu). This cute little restaurant is located right on the beach next to the Waikaloa Resorts. Really yummy food, tropical drinks and a great place to watch sunset. If you're not sold yet, they have a lawn area with an adorable VW van to take photos with and tons of lawn games to keep you entertained while sipping on that Pina Colada.
Happy Hour is from 3PM-5PM.
3. Downtown Kona:
Explore the little sprawling downtown of Kona. This cute little beach town is packed with little boutiques and beachside restaurants and bars. There is a farmers market everyday and its the perfect place to grab dinner and watch the sunset. Beware, the parking is awful and expensive. We were recommended to park at the Coconut Grove Marketplace or the Library.
4. Kua Bay:
This beach is my definition of Paradise.
Kua Bay completely blew us away. Turn off the highway and take a windy road through the lava fields down to this beach. As you get closer and closer, the water radiates every shade of blue imaginable. I have never seen anything like it. The water clarity was incredible as well. In the parking lot there are bathrooms and showers. You follow the showers and then walk across 10ft of lava rock to get to the most white powder soft sand you've ever seen. The water is crystal clear and when the waves get big, you can body surf the shore break. This beach is not huge, so get here early because it can get packed.
5. Manta Ray Night Snorkel:
This is by far one of the coolest water tours you can do. Manta Rays are harmless water animals that can grow with a wing span up to 16ft. They are majestic creatures that soar through the water at night scooping up planketon in the water. We went with Big Island Divers, although all of the Manta Ray tours take you to the same spot. Once you reach the snorkel location they suit you up with a full wetsuit to keep you warm, and you hold on to a surfboard with lights on the bottom. The lights attract the plankton which bring the Manta Rays close. I was worried about jumping in the dark water, but the dive spot is filled with snorkel and scuba tours so the water is pretty lit up and it feels like a party. When we went, there were about 4 Manta Rays cruising around to the different lights. I would recommend going on a weekday or the later tour to get more Manta rays up close. **Pro tip: make sure you take motion sickness medicine before hand and bring a jacket for the ride home. The water can get pretty rough on the ride out and its not uncommon for people to get seasick on the boat or in the water while you're snorkeling.
6. Drink Coffee at a Coffee farm or Restaurant:
Have you heard of Kona Coffee? Kona known worldwide and what better place to try it, then the town its grown. If you take Hwy 11 South of Kona, there are about a million places to stop for coffee. We stopped twice - once at the Menehune Cafe which had yummy breakfast, coffee and smoothies with the amazing customer service. The second stop was at the Coffee Shack. A little house on the side of the road that had an outside porch with panoramic views. Both restaurants were great and I would definitely recommend stopping. There are also lots of actual coffee farms where you can do tours and learn how they make such amazing coffee!
7. Snorkel at 2 Step Beach:
The snorkeling at this location is some of the best snorkeling I have ever seen in Hawaii. The parking is awful so get here early or pay for parking across the street. There are no bathrooms and no sand, but take "two steps" into most clear water filled with the largest amount of live reef I have seen in Hawaii. This spot is filled fish and it is really cool to see the ocean floor drop off into dark blue about 100 yards off shore. The whole area ranges from 2ft to 30ft deep before the drop off. Don't touch the reef, don't leave trash, and make sure you have enough athletic ability to get yourself out of the water before jumping in.
8. Pu'uhonoua O'Honaunau National Historical Park:
9. Visit The Southern Most Point of the USA
South Point is the most southern point of the United States. It is about an hour and a half drive from Kona through jungle and farm lands. When you reach South Point park there is not much except an unpaved dirt parking lot and a cliff jump. There are no bathrooms and no restaurants or shops. The cliff jump is about a 40 foot jump and has a rickety old ladder to help you climb back up. South Point Park on Big Island is a great place to cool off from the hot Hawaiian sun, but don't expect much else here.
10. Sun Bathe at the Green Sand Beach
Off the beaten path... literally.
The trailhead to this beach is right down the road from South Point, but your adventure doesn't stop there. From the parking lot it is about a 2 mile hike (one way) to get to the beach. The hike is flat, but hot and dusty, down the craziest dirt roads you've ever seen. Some of the locals will drive their trucks down to the beach and offer paid trips in their truck beds. I would definitely not recommend trying to drive yourself even with 4WD. Some of the pot holes are several feet deep and two jeep wranglers flipped the day we did it. Once you get to the second parking lot above the beach you have to go down some stairs and a gravel hill to get to the bottom. Bring plenty of sunscreen and water because there is no shade and it does get hot. There are no bathrooms, but the water is clear and you can jump off some rocks on the side. I didn't think the sand looked that green, but it was a fun experience as a whole.
11. Issac Hale Beach Park
The Big Island of Hawaii made international news in 2018 when it started spewing lava and destroying homes. When we were there, there had not been any active lava in months, but it was fascinating to see what the lava had done. Driving along the south east side of the island you flip back and forth between super thick luscious jungle and crazy hardened lava rivers that had bulldozed their way through that jungle to the ocean. Issac Hale Beach park has recently been reopened when we visited, but part of the park had been destroyed by lava. It was a really cool place to see the hardened lava with a beautiful black sand beach. It was truly amazing to see the power of nature up close in person.
12. Downtown Hilo:
Hilo has a cute little downtown filled with palm trees and vintage looking store fronts. Theres a farmers market thats fun to support local vendors on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you plan to go to Hilo, make sure that you schedule it on the sunniest days of your vacation. The Hilo side of the island is the wet side and will rain much more often than the Kona side so the odds that it will be sunny are much lower. We explored Hilo on a sunny day and it was beautiful.
13. Coconut Island:
Five minutes from Hilo's downtown area is this little paradise. From the parking lot you walk over this cute bridge to get to the island. This is the perfect for a little relaxation. Coconut island has little tide pools to wade in, mini white sand beaches, and a 5ft and 10ft jump spot into the clear water. Take sometime to explore the Lili'uokalani Gardens right outside the island with ponds, Japanese style decor and ancient looking banyan trees.
14. Rainbow Falls:
This is the most accessible waterfall in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Only a 5 minute drive from downtown Hilo. Drive right up and park at the viewing point of this 80ft waterfall. Free to park and enter. If the parking lot is full, drive a little further up the road and you can park on the side of the road.
15. Akaka Falls:
Another easy, beautiful waterfall is Akaka Falls. It is a 25 minute drive north from downtown Hilo. This state park features a 1.5 mile paved loop trail in and out of tropical plants, through bamboo and past a viewing area of the impressive 400ft waterfall. Unfortunately, you can't get very close to the waterfall, but the loop trail is beautiful and easy as a whole. This state park has a big parking lot with bathrooms at the trailhead. $5 to park or $2 per person. Hawaii residents get in for free.
16. Mauna Kea Observatory:
Thanks for checking out our Big Island Hawaii Travel guide! We actually picked 16 locations because it was all just so much fun! If you think we missed any spots or adventures make sure to add them in the comments below!