Things to do in Big Island of Hawaii

Things to do in  Big Island of Hawaii

In the mood for lava

The Big Island of Hawaii provides visitors a true escape from daily life, whether you’re hunting for glowing lava, beaches, adventure, or tropical rain forests. Nature lovers find endless places to explore on the lush isle, from the peaks of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the Waipio Valley. Become part of the local culture by dancing to Polynesian rhythms or dining on roasted pig at a Hawaiian luau. The Big Island brims with opportunities to discover new trails, find your own perfect beach for snorkeling, admire waterfalls, and savor Hawaiian sunsets with a fruity cocktail in hand.

Top 15 attractions in Big Island of Hawaii

Mauna Kea Summit & Observatory

Visiting the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatories gives you the feeling of being on top of the world for good reason: You’re actually pretty close. Standing at 13,796 feet (4,138 meters), the mountain is Hawaii's tallest and the highlight of many visitors' trips to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) feature some of the world's largest telescopes, including equipment from Canada, France, and the University of Hawaii, due to its designation as an unparalleled destination for stargazing.More

Kona (Kailua-Kona)

Kailua-Kona, the largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the epicenter of activities and tours on the Kona Coast—part of the island’s western (leeward) side. The antithesis to the lush, often rainy jungles of Hilo on the island’s eastern (windward) side, dry and sunny Kona’s activities put a huge emphasis on long days in the outdoors. Kailua-Kona is the jumping-off point for the Big Island’s best coffee-farm tours, superb reef snorkeling, all levels of hiking, and experiencing ancient Hawaiian culture, while downtown’s seaside shops and dining come with spectacular sunset views.More

Kealakekua Bay

The marine sanctuary of Kealakekua Bay ranks among Hawaii’s most scenic spots for snorkeling, swimming, and hiking. The beautiful bay, home to spinner dolphins and backed by green mountain slopes, was the site where Captain James Cook landed—and was later killed—on the Big Island in 1779, forever altering the history and culture of the archipelago.More

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

Located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava Tube is the most accessible lava tube on the Big Island. Discovered in 1913, this 500-year-old tube was created by subterranean lava that once flowed through this young section of earth. Today, the tube is illuminated to create an eerie glow for visitors who venture inside.More

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers visitors a front-row seat to the region’s striking natural beauty. Home to everything from lush rain forest and the Halemaumau Crater to lava tubes and rolling black lava fields—where hot steam still rises from fissures and rifts that dot the rugged landscape—Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must on the Big Island.More


Situated on the northern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, Waimea is the center of Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) country. This historic area is filled with rolling green hills, endless open pastures, and spectacular valleys. With its stunning scenery and great local food, Waimea is one of the Big Island’s top tourist towns.More

Kailua Pier

Kailua Pier is a hub for fishing, snorkeling, and party boats. The pier itself is absolutely massive, an appropriate fit for one of its major claims to fame: before sunset, you’ll find captains here weighing their huge catches of the day (usually giant marlin). You’ll also spot a couple of beaches for wading, snorkeling, and diving, as well as the best views of the Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark.More

Rainbow Falls

One of the most popular waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii, Rainbow Falls is loved for its easy access and the rainbows that frequent the falls on misty mornings. The Wailuku River varies dramatically based on rain, but this 80-foot (24.4-meter) cascade wows viewers whether it is a thundering torrent or delicate trickle.More

Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea Volcano is the star of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kilauea Volcano remains active, spouting orange lava, venting steam, glowing, and sputtering. When conditions are safe, it’s possible to drive around the volcano's edge on the 11-mile (17-kilometer) Crater Rim Drive.More

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach

Hawaii’s volcanic activity creates a dynamic array of beaches ranging from soft white shores to the black pebbles of the Big Island’s Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach. But, travelers aren’t the only visitors to Punaluʻu; the area is known for the large green sea turtles (honu) that come out to bask along the black sand shoreline.More

Captain Cook Monument

British explorer Captain James Cook met his death at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779, after a skirmish with the king of Hawaii in a local village. Today, a white obelisk in Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park stands sentinel over the lush coast and its crystal clear waters, commemorating his death.More

Liliuokalani Gardens

The largest authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, Liliuokalani Gardens present Japanese culture set on Hawaii’s Hilo Bay. Arched stone bridges, moats, stone lanterns, pagodas, and a tea house make up the gardens, which were named after Hawaii's last reigning monarch and dedicated to the immigrants who worked in the sugar fields.More

Keauhou Bay

A picturesque cove on Hawaii’s sunny Kona Coast, Keauhou Bay is known for its rich history and opportunities for swimming with manta rays. The birthplace of the longest reigning monarch in the Kingdom of Hawaii, the bay is now lined with upscale resorts and tour companies but its main appeal remains its cultural significance and marine life.More

Akaka Falls

Located north of Hilo, Akaka Falls is one of the best-known waterfalls on the Big Island. Surrounded by lush, tropical jungle, the 442-foot-high (135-meter-high) Akaka Falls is easily accessible by a short, paved loop trail, making it one of the most popular and scenic attractions on the island.More

Banyan Drive

Set back a block from Hilo’s coastline are scores of towering and sprawling banyan trees with their thick and unique trunks. Similar trees can be found throughout the state, but what makes these fifty specimens unique is their planters. Between 1933 and 1972, many famous celebrities, political figures, authors and Hawaiians personally planted or dedicated these banyan seedlings as a way to commemorate their visit or honor friends. In front of the Hilo Hawaiian hotel, a particularly large road-shading tree has a small sign indicating it was planted by George Herman “Babe” Ruth, and across Banyan Drive are trees planted by the late King George V, Queen Elizabeth, and Richard Nixon. Other famous names visible on placards along the leafy corridor are Franklin Roosevelt, movie star Cecil B. DeMille and his wife Constance, Amelia Earhart, volcanologist Dr. Thomas Jaggar (whose name is given to the Jaggar Museum at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) and musician Louis Armstrong. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that the many of the trees here have persevered through three city-devastating tsunamis. Giant waves swept through Hilo in 1946, 1960 and 1975, and though these trees were not lost, a combined 222 people were.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Big Island of Hawaii

Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

All about Big Island of Hawaii

When to visit

There’s no “bad” time to visit the Big Island of Hawaii, but each season has a draw. In winter, from December–March, you’ll get cooler weather, lower prices (barring holidays), and humpback whales. In April–June, you’ll get spring's warming temps, coffee and chocolate festivals, and shoulder-season crowds. In July–August, you’ll get summer's buzzy beaches and warm, sunny days. And in fall, September–November, you’ll get the smallest crowds and a chance of rain—which can make for great photographs.

Getting around

The Big Island is big. If you want to see it all, you’ll either need your own four wheels or an itinerary full of guided tours. If you’re fine staying in one spot, though—say Hilo, Kona, or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—you could get by with some combination of on-foot travel, rideshares, and buses. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with camping at your hotel and making most of your travel on the water, either.

Traveler tips

Leave a day or two in your itinerary wide-open—the Big Island is the kind of place where you’ll run across hidden viewpoints, roadside food stands with million-dollar ocean views (check out Fresh Off the Grid), and local farms (likely flowers, coffee, or fruit) that you won’t want to miss. If you have four wheels, just hop on one of the island’s two main roads, and let the journey be your destination.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
HST (UTC -10)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is the Big Island of Hawaii known for?

The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its natural attractions, from white and black sand beaches to emerald cliffs, misty valleys, and steaming lava fields. Most famous is the active Kilauea volcano in the UNESCO-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest (but not highest) mountain.

How many days do you need on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Ideally, you should spend seven days on the Big Island of Hawaii. If that’s not possible, aim for at least five days to see much of what the island has to offer. Try splitting your time between Kailua-Kona on the west side of the island and Hilo on the east.

Is there a lot to do on the Big Island?

Yes. There is much to see and do on the Big Island of Hawaii—even a week-long stay may not be long enough. From the peaks of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the Waipio Valley and from white sand beaches to the lush rainforest, the island is brimming with adventure opportunities.

What should I not miss on the Big Island of Hawaii?

One place that you should not miss on the Big Island of Hawaii is the UNESCO-listed Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the active volcano Kilauea. Other unmissable attractions include the Mauna Kea Summit and Observatory and the Waipio Valley, where tall cliffs plunge to a black sand beach.

Should I stay Kona or Hilo?

If you have a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, split your time between the two: four nights in Hilo and three in Kailua-Kona. If you have less time, opt for Kona as it has more accommodation options, better beaches, and easier access to the island’s main airport.

How long does it take to drive around the Big Island?

It takes up to eight hours to drive all the way around the Big Island of Hawaii. To drive between Kailua-Kona and Hilo, it typically takes just under two hours on the scenic Saddle Road, which offers views of lava fields and the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the top things to do in Big Island of Hawaii?
What are the top activities in Big Island of Hawaii?
What are the top things to do near Big Island of Hawaii?
Check out things to do near Big Island of Hawaii:
What do I need to know before visiting Big Island of Hawaii?