Wondering where to spend your vacation? Hawaii is a top vacation destination for most people in the States, and our favorite Hawaiian island that is often overlooked by visitors is the Big Island of Hawaii. From active volcanoes, mighty waterfalls, spectacular beaches to lush tropical forests, The Big Island of Hawaii has everything for visitors who are craving for a perfect getaway, that is also full of variety. Here is a guide to help you understand this stunning Hawaiian island!
Overview of The Big Island of Hawaii
Popularly known as The Big Island, The Big Island of Hawaii is a vast island located in the US’ state of Hawaii. Sitting at the center of the Pacific Ocean and with a landmass of approximately 4050 square miles, The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest Island in the US. Its total landmass is almost the same size as Connecticut State, and it is almost twice the size of all the other islands in Hawaii combined.
It boasts a sheer size that encompasses 14 different climate zones, ranging from Polar Tundra to wet tropical. It is deservingly called The Big Island of Hawaii to distinguish it between the entire state of Hawaii and the island itself. The magnificent island isn’t only beautiful, but it is also a perfect expression of the unrivaled power of nature as well.
This island is alive, and growing everyday thanks to the volcano eruptions that visitors can even witness on the island’s eastern coast. From elegant resorts, awesome golf courses to sacred historical sites, The Big Island has everything for any traveler seeking for a perfect getaway.
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Where to go on the Big Island of Hawaii
From charming towns to breathtaking tourist attractions. High mountains, rainforests, and sandy beaches. There are plenty of places to go on The Big Island for visitors of varying interests. Here are some of the island’s main towns and tourists attractions you should consider visiting whilst spending your vacation to the Big Island.
Big Island Tourist Attractions
- Mauna Kea – This is Hawaii’s tallest mountain, with a summit that stands at 4,205 meters above the sea level. It is a leading tourist attraction especially for skiing enthusiasts, thanks to the fact that there is snow covering the peak during certain months of the year & there is a real ski resort up there. Yes, you can snow ski in Hawaii!
- Waipio Valley Lookout – This incredibly beautiful valley is situated on The Big Island’s northeastern coast. It is one of the island’s irresistible tourist attractions. It boasts an awesomely decorated landscape that offers breathtaking views, and glorious (but strenuous) hikes. Many popular movies have been filmed around here.
- Akaka Falls State Park – It is home to two mighty waterfalls in Hawaii, namely Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls. The latter are biggest on The Big Island. The setting here is absolutely stunning, thanks to the lush surroundings of palms and tropical ferns. It offers a great hiking trail, which includes a variety of elevation changes. For some added adventure, how about a trip soaring by these waterfalls by zipline!
- Kahaluu Beach Park – this is truly The Big Island’s most outstanding underwater scenery. As one of Hawaii’s snorkeling top spots, there’s no wonder it is popularly known as the ‘snorkel beach’. Visitors come here to swim with over 100 different species of fish and explore a vast and colorful underwater treasure!
- Volcanoes National Park – One of the most popular attractions in all of Hawaii, this vast national park sits on the southeast corner of the island. Not only can you learn about the most active volcano in the world (which it is), there are plenty of hiking trails through lush forests, lava tubes, and even on top of hardened lava. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a lava flow or the glowing caldera at night (which is stunning!). For more details, read our entire post about visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!
Main Towns on the Island of Hawaii
Here are some of The Big Island’s main towns where you can spend a few nights (or more), enjoy delicious meals, and hangout during your vacation on the island.
- Captain Cook – the ancient town of The Big Island is named after the legendary circumnavigator, Captain Cook, who set foot here in 1799. The town has several cozy B&Bs and elegant shops, including grocery stores, gas stations and kayak rentals. Main activities here include sightseeing, sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling in the magnificent bay.
- Hawi –this is the biggest town on The Big Island’s north shore. It has several art galleries, classic restaurants and hotels as well as elegant shops. The town is popular for its picturesque charm and for not feeling like a resort-filled tourist attraction.
- Kailua-Kona – Situated along the shoreline of The Big Island’s Kailua Bay, Kailua-Kona enjoys a combination of dry and sunny weather all-year round. The town is popular for a vibrant nightlife, a booming economy and a multicultural community. There are loads of water activities and resorts in this area to choose from, including our favorite, the Sheraton Kona which sits on lava cliffs overlooking the sea and has nightly Manta Ray viewing (or you could go swimming with the manta rays at night, like we did – watch the video here!)
- Hilo – Located on the east “rainy” side of the island (opposite the dry town of Kona), Hilo is less than a touristy town but is nearby many tourist attractions – including closer proximity to Volcanoes National Park, black sandy beaches, and waterfall hikes. There are some beautiful botanical gardens and coastal drives in this area as well, or you can check out the famous Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory just south of town!
Best Things to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii
There are plenty of things to do on this island to make your visit worthwhile. Below are some of the top activities and things to do whilst spending your vacation at The Big Island.
- Watching an active volcano – seeing active volcano can be an experience of a lifetime. That is why you should visit the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and spend the night in the park’s enchanting rainforests as you watch active volcano. You can go it alone, or get a more personalized experience with a Hawaii Volcanoes day tour that includes nearby black sand beaches and more!
- Visit Kealakekua Bay – This bay boasts colorful marine life you may never find in any other place in the world over. From ancient religious temples to historic monuments, there is so much to explore here while having fun at The Big Island.
- Take a guided tour of the Big Island – If you want to discover the best kept secrets of The Big Island, then taking a guided tour of the Island may be your best bet. A guided tour of the entire Big Island by the local expert guides is all you need to experience the island’s spectacular attractions.
- Enjoy swimming and night snorkeling – If you are a swimming or snorkeling enthusiast, then The Big Island is truly the best place to be this summer. Here, you can take a sail to the island’s Manta Ray village and have an intimate snorkeling and swimming experience with professional swimmers. You may also have the chance to snorkel with dolphins too!
- Go for a kayaking adventure – you can have a memorable kayaking adventure along the Island’s beautiful sea cliffs, as you watch an abundance of unique marine life among them sea turtles and spinner dolphins. If you visit the Big Islands between April and December, you might actually get an opportunity to witness the biggest migration of humpback whales than any other place in the world.
- Hiking and waterfall exploring – the entire state of Hawaii is full of amazing hikes, ranging for easy to very difficult. Many of them will take you through lush jungles full of greenery and brightly colored flowers, and often you will get a glimpse of an amazing waterfall somewhere along the trip! Again, you can go it alone or go on a guided hike to get more out of it!
- Visit a coffee plantation – The Kona side of the Big Island is famous for its Kona coffee, and there are a variety of plantations that you can visit to learn more about growing coffee and even sample some of the rich flavors. Personally, we loved our visit to the Hula Daddy Coffee Plantation in Kona!
What Makes The Big Island Interesting and Different from Other Hawaiian Islands?
Of all the islands in Hawaii and the entire US by extension, The Big Island of Hawaii is the most unique and interesting of them all. First, it is the biggest Island in the US, almost double the size of all the other Islands in Hawaii combined. The incredibly stunning island boasts of up to 14 different climatic zones, ranging from snowcapped mountains to the sandy beaches. It is also the only island in the US that has most active volcanoes. Its rainforests are unrivaled as well.
I mean really – what other place can you visit a coffee plantation in the morning, then visit an erupting volcano, go snow skiing in the afternoon, then go snorkeling with manta rays at night?!? The Big Island of Hawaii is just an amazing place to visit, and the whole vibe on this island is totally different from all the other Hawaiian Islands.
Where to Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii
Whether you want to stay for a day, a week or even a month on The Island of Hawaii, you have so many options when it comes to accommodation. Here are some of the best places to stay whilst on the Big Island.
- Four Seasons Hualalai – This fun resort isn’t like any other resort on The Big Island. It is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds, have spacious bungalow-style rooms and state-of-the art facilities. With plenty of public spaces, the resort is a great choice for visitors of the island together with their families. The resort is ideal for a posh getaway, offers high quality dining options that include a variety of delicious meals and beverage, and also offers excellent service to visitors of the island.
- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel – talk of a luxury resort and you are referring to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, situated on the island’s Kohala Coast. It is a top choice for beach enthusiasts, thanks to its beautiful white-sand beach. From fine dining options, modern tennis facilities to world-class golf facilities, everything about this hotel is just awesome. Again, its thoughtfully renovated rooms, relaxed atmosphere and comfortable furnishings make this resort a paradise for all fun-seeking visitors of the island.
- The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii – located on a 32-acre piece of land, this resort delivers exceptional high quality service to the island’s visitors. The luxury resort boasts a beautiful spa, a white-sand beach and beautifully landscaped grounds. With numerous dining options and plenty of fun activities here, this is definitely one of the best places to spend whilst in The Big Island.
- The Sheraton Kona – For a reasonably priced, yet luxurious experience, we loved this hotel. While it does not have it’s own beach, it is perched on top of black lava cliffs — which is quite the scene! Plus, at night the bay is full of giant manta rays – which they illuminate by night so you can watch from your hotel room or in the famous Rays on the Bay restaurant. It’s a beautiful sight to behold! And of course, there is a great spa onsite as well as cultural activities for the whole family – like ukulele, hula and lei-making lessons!
The Big Island Really is Our Favorite of all the Hawaiian Islands!
It’s difficult to put into words just what an awesome place The Big Island of Hawaii is. I’ve visited this Hawaiian Island multiple times, and I’m always blown away with its beauty and unique charm. It lacks the mass touristy crowds of some of the other Hawaiian Islands, and in some towns, even has a quiet charm to it. Yet, the island is loaded with a wide variety of activities and unique natural settings that take your breath away.
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