Hawaii is the most magical place I’ve ever visited. After our recent visit, I figured it was time to compile a post on the top things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. There is so much the island has to offer, and if you’re idea of a vacation is sitting by the pool sipping cocktails by all means continue. But for others who like to explore, to discover the island life and all it has to offer here are some of my favorite things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
13 things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
If you’re vacationing in Hawaii know that there is plenty to do within the small space of the big Island of Hawaii. We’ve been to the big island of Hawaii three times now and still find plenty of new things to do. Whether you’re going for our first or fifteenth time here are some tips for things to do on the big island of Hawaii. The photos are ours from our trips 2015-2018
If you’re idea of a good time is face down, fins up, looking at all the pretty fish then you’re in luck! Hawaii has some AMAZING places to snorkel. Typically you want to avoid the white sandy beaches as they tend to not have the best snorkeling. Save those beaches for picnics, volleyball and bodyboarding. For snorkeling you want lava rock beaches with lots of coral. I thoroughly recommend Kahalu’u, and Kealakekua Bay.
Swim with Turtles
The very first time we went to the ocean in Hawaii and saw turtles swimming by, I just remember being in awe at such a magical place. Who get’s the swim with turtles on a daily basis? Hawaiians! If you have snorkel gear all the better as at some of the beaches you’ll be swimming with the Honu. We’ve seen them at White Sands, Kahalu’u and 2-step. If swimming isn’t your thing then you can often see the turtles snoozing on the sand. Or eating their breakfast in the shallow waters in the morning. No swimming required. A great place to see turtles on land was Point of Refuge or most sandy beaches.
Water Sports – Surfing, Kayaking, SUP & Sailing
There is a huge surf community in Hawaii. Until Hawaii I’d never surfed, but what better place to learn? The weather is great, the ocean is warm and the atmosphere is chill. We’ve had two lessons from Kona Surf School and loved every minute. Whether you take lessons, or just rent a board and catch waves on your own, it’s a great place to surf.
If surfing seems a little too adventurous why not rent a kayak. Or better yet take a guided tour around Kealakekua Bay, where you can kayak and get some of the best snorkeling on the island. Your guide will show you the best areas and you get to be in a group environment, making friends along the way!
Other sports include stand up paddle boarding, and sailing. There are even whale watching adventures available depending on the season. Water sports for all, regardless of your adventure level.
Explore Volcano & Lava Tubes
On the South East side of the islands you’ll find the Volcano National Park. Currently due to eruptions much of the park is closed but it has great hikes, and lava rock formation. Nothing like hiking on a like volcano! Walking through the Thurston lava tube was kinda cool too. Definitely a bucket list item!
Explore the Petroglyphs
If you think that cave paintings are cool then Hawaii says “hold my beer” and one ups that with Petroglyphs. Not sure what a petroglyph is? Basically a rock carving. Dating back over 10,000 years ago the Hawaii Petroglyphs are a vital piece of the islands history. Which IMO means they need acknowledging and observing. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover or just interested in the island life the petroglyphs are worth a look!
Kona Brewery tour
For those not in the know Bob brews his own beer here at home. So touring breweries is something we do. Hawaii is home to The Kona brewery and they have a really fun brewery tour. I’d say this is one of the lesser known things to on the Big Island of Hawaii, that’s actually pretty fun! Not only do you get to see how beer is made, but you get a taste test at the end. If you’re anywhere near Kona this is a must do for some tasty tasty beer! Over 21’s only! My top tip: Skip the car ride and get the bus so you can enjoy the tasting!
Point of Refuge & Two Step
When it comes to things to do on the big island of Hawaii I’m all for two-fers! That’s two things in one day, this suggestion is a two-fer. The Point of Refuge or Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a great place to visit for some Hawaiian culture. Definitely somewhere to bring your camera for amazing sculptures and scenery. Not to mention the wildlife! Turtles are often sunbathing on the shore here. The best part is right next door is the not to be missed snorkeling and scuba spot that the islanders dub “two-step”. Technically still part of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park this little bay will delight any snorkeller! The entry for the best snorkeling in on the aforementioned two-steps of lava into the ocean. So much to see here it’s a delight for any snorkeller! Tip: Be careful getting in-out on the steps. The bottom step is full of holes that sea urchins live in! DO NOT put your hands down there! Booties, fins and hand covers are recommended.
Waipio Valley Look Out
I love spending money on experiences but sometimes, as the saying goes, the best things in life are free. The place that sums that up for me is the Waipio Valley Look Out! Located on the North side of the island, this place is just stunningly beautiful. Here you overlook the Waipio Valley, a captivating valley with waterfalls and black sand beach. It is postcard perfect. I’m serious, it’s literally ON postcards. For the full effect I highly recommend the 40 minute hike down the STEEP hill to the beach. Tip: wear good walking shoes or sneakers. Throw the flip flops in your bag. And take plenty of water! This easily became one of my top five things to do on the big island of Hawaii because the view and beach are equally breathtaking.
Watch the sunrise/sunset
The fun thing about island life is you can watch the sunrise on the east side, drive across the island and watch the sunset on the west. Failing that may I suggest that you stay on the west side of the island and enjoy the beautiful sunsets. During out visits 90% of the time we ensured we were back on our lanai to watch the sunset. Just amazing views, and no better way to spend an hour of your life than watching the sun set over the ocean.
Botanical Gardens on a Segway
I love plants, and Bob loves technology and both of these come together with a Segway tour of the botanical gardens on the east side of the island. After a brief introductory Segway ‘driving’ lesson we were off on our tour which took us around the gardens, eating fruits off the trees and enjoying the off road and in nature experience. Thoroughly recommend.
Attend a Luau/Hula
Full disclaimer we didn’t attend a traditional luau as we’re vegan and couldn’t find any that catered to vegans (plus I didn’t find sitting near a dead pig appealing) but on the big island there is a traditional dance troop that does biweekly displays at the Mauna Lani shopping center. Honestly, this was amazing and the mall does many events through the week. And yes, it’s free!
Nighttime Manta Ray Snorkel
On my top 5 things to do on the big island of Hawaii is a nighttime manta ray snorkel. These gentle creatures visit two locations on the island to feed. Sign up and watch the manta in action up close and personal, and I really mean up close! Hands down one of the most memorable things about our Hawaii vacations.
One of my favorite things to do in Hawaii is to sit on the lanai and watch the ocean. Or feel the sand beneath my feet. Simply doing less. So turn off your cell phone and pretend the real World no longer exists. Life on the island of Hawaii is slow. It’s not called “Hawaii time” for nothing! Embrace it. Slow down. Chill out. Learn to go with the flow. Relax and restore your soul in the land where palm trees flow. Let the sound of the ocean sooth your restless soul. In Hawaii things get done, eventually!
Have you visited Hawaii?
What would you enjoy most from the list above?
Where is your favorite vacation location?