Big Island Hawaii: 7 awesome things to do

Big Island Hawaii: 7 awesome things to do

Big Island is the largest island in the state of Hawaii and it feels like the most authentic island. In this article, you’ll read about 7 awesome things to do and I’ll give you some practical tips.

Big Island of Hawaii?

The Big Island is not the official name of the largest island in the state of Hawaii, it’s actually Hawaii. This, of course, can be very confusing, so most people just call the island The Big Island.

7 awesome things to do on Big Island

What are the most beautiful sights on Big Island? I’ll share 7 of my favorite places:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Steam vents in Volcanoes National Park.
Steam vents in Volcanoes National Park.

Big Island exists thanks to a volcano, and you’ll see that almost everywhere you look. A must-see on the island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can learn everything about Big Island and all the volcanic eruptions.

There are several nice hiking trails to be found in the park. Also, it’s fun to drive to the coast on the Chain of Craters Road. Here you’ll find several viewpoints and the coastline with the black lava is an impressive sight.

You can also see some cool petroglyphs, drawings that were made on lava rock a long time ago.

Petroglyphs in Volcanoes National Park.
Petroglyphs in Volcanoes National Park.

Discover the black sand beaches

Black sand beach on Hawaii
Kehena Black Sand Beach: a hidden gem!

Because there’s so much lava flow on Big Island, there are also many black sand beaches. Exploring the great black lava beaches is something you should definitely add to your Big Island itinerary. Especially on the east side of the island, you’ll find some beautiful beaches. One of my favorites was Kehena Black Sand Beach (which is a little bit hidden), this beach is also known as Dolphin Beach. Sometimes you can see spinner dolphins jumping out of the water.

Another great black sand beach to visit is Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Here you will some green sea turtles relaxing on the beach.

Check out the lava flows

Lava flow from the eruption in 2018 - Hawaii
Lava flow from the eruption in 2018.

Petrified lava is a surreal but gorgeous sight. You can exactly follow the stream. In the northeast part of the island, you can see many lava flows from the eruption in 2018. You can see exactly how it destroyed the landscape. I took the picture above this paragraph in Kaimū Beach Park. This used to be a green park with palm trees, now the only thing you see is petrified lava.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park - Hawaii
Picture perfect! The Akaka Falls.

There are several State Parks to be found on Big Island, and Akaka Falls State Park is probably the most well-known. In this park, you’ll walk in a jungle and see a couple of waterfalls. The Akaka Falls is definitely the highlight of the park. It has a length of 135 meters (442 feet)! It’s a small park, so a visit will only cost you 1 or 2 hours.

Tip Don’t park your car in the State Park, because parking is pretty expensive. You can park for free right outside the gate. You’ll only have to walk to the entrance for a minute or two.

Captain James Cook Monument

Captain James Cook Monument Hawaii
The Captain James Cook Monument is a great place for snorkeling

One of the most difficult to reach must-sees of Big Island Hawaii is the Captain James Cook Monument. James Cook was an explorer and explored several places along the east coast of Australia and Hawaii in the 18th century. At first, he was well received in Hawaii, but at some point, the locals turned against him and he was killed in Kealakekua Bay.

This is the bay where the Captain James Cook Monument was erected. You can only visit the monument by hiking a very steep 2-mile trail (bring water and sunscreen) or by boat. Don’t forget to take your snorkel gear, because right in front of the monument is a beautiful coral reef.

The historic center of Kailua

Hulihee Palace in Kailua - Hawaii
The historical Hulihe‘e Palace in Kailua.

Kailua used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii a long time ago. You can still see some of that in the historical city center of Kailua. There are some large wooden historic buildings and beautiful parks. You can visit Huliheʻe Palace, which used to be the summer residence of the Hawaiian royals.

Kailua is probably the place where you’ll see many other tourists since it has multiple really cute stores (this is the place to get your souvenirs) and restaurants with delicious food. There are also a couple of really nice beaches if you’d like to chill for an hour or two.

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Hawaii
Go hiking in Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

Close to Kailua, you’ll find Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. This is the place to visit if you’d like to know more about Hawaiian history. There’s a small visitor center where you can get some information about the area, and there’s a couple of short trails you can hike. Along with one of the trails, you can see some petroglyphs and there’s a historic fish pond. Here you might see some green sea turtles swimming! There’s a great beach right next to the fish pond, so it’s a perfect place to chill and have lunch.

Map with the 7 awesome things to do on Big Island

Practical tips for your trip to Big Island

How to get to Big Island?

You need to get on an airplane to get to Big Island since there are no ferries. The island has two international airports: Kona International Airport (on the Westcoast, close to Kailua) en Hilo International Airport (in the northeast). Both airports are easily accessible from the US West Coast and there are also many flights per day from the neighboring islands, like Maui and Oahu. To find the best deals for a ticket, it’s always good to check Skyscanner.

How to get around on Big Island

Public transport

You can travel around the island by bus, this is called the Hele-On Bus. This is your cheapest option for traveling on The Big Island, a ticket only costs $2 (one way). Check this website for all routes and departure times. Taking the bus is a good option if you’re on a tight budget and have lots of time to explore the island. Buses don’t go too often and it will take you a lot of time to get from one place to another.

Rental car

The best way to travel around Big Island (especially when you’re only there for a couple of days) is a rental car. When you’re from Europe, you might want to reserve a car before you arrive through a European website. This is usually way cheaper and all the insurances you need are included. I usually rent my cars through AutoEurope or Alamo.

where to stay on the big island

Airbnb in Pahoa - Hawaii
I stayed in this cute cabin.


If you bring a tent (or buy one at Walmart), you can go camping on Big Island. This is your cheapest option for accommodation, so perfect for budget travelers. However, since there aren’t that many campgrounds, you might need to reserve a campsite in advance.


Staying in a hostel is a great option if you’re traveling solo and don’t mind sharing a bathroom. Because Big Island is quite large, there are multiple hostels where you can stay. You can reserve a bed in a dorm easily through During my trip to Big Island, I stayed in My Hawaii Hostel in Kailua and that was an awesome place to stay.


Do you prefer to stay in a hotel? Of course, that’s also a great option! There are many hotels to be found on Big Island. You can compare prices and book a room through via


Finally, you can also find some great accommodations on Airbnb. I stayed in this cute Hawaiian house in a small town called Pahoa. It was a great experience, I felt like a local for a couple of days. Have you never booked anything through Airbnb before? Use this link to get a great discount on your first booking.

How much time do you need for your first trip to Big Island?

Do you want to have enough time to see all the amazing sights of Big Island? I recommend staying at least five or six days on the island. Especially when you want to drive all around the island, it’s bigger than you might expect.

Would you like to read more about Hawaii?

Get one of these amazing travel guides:

Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook

Fodor’s Big Island of Hawaii

Check out one of these articles:
Perfect itinerary for Hawaii: exploring Oahu, Maui & Big Island
How much does a trip to Hawaii cost?
First time in Maui | 5 things to do


As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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