Welcome to the Big Island, a place of diverse landscapes and rich cultures. This is a guide to some of the most popular sights and destinations on the Big Island. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide will help you navigate the island’s many attractions and hidden gems.
The Big Island’s large, spacious landmass and low population make for an ideal travel destination. Here are some of the most visited places:
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: One of two national parks in Hawaiʻi, it covers more than 500 square miles of land. The park is centered around the active volcano of Kīlauea, where volcanic activity has been ongoing almost continuously since the mid-80s.
Kailua-Kona waterfront: A bustling area with shops, restaurants, and beautiful ocean views.
Maunakea summit: Offers breathtaking views of the island.
Kealakekua Bay: Known for its clear waters and vibrant marine life.
The Big Island is also home to many family-friendly destinations. Whether it’s exploring the natural beauty of the island or learning about its rich history and culture, there’s something for everyone in the family.
For those who love the great outdoors, the Big Island offers a plethora of activities. From hiking in the national park to swimming in Kealakekua Bay, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures.
The Big Island contains nearly every ecosystem in the world, with lots of natural wonders to explore. In addition to the national parks and other outdoor areas found throughout this article, check out these favorites:
History, Art & Culture
Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history, art, and culture. Visit historical sites, explore local art galleries, or attend cultural events to get a deeper understanding of the island’s heritage.
The Big Island is full of scenic spots that offer breathtaking views. Whether it’s watching the sunset from Maunakea summit or enjoying a picnic by Kealakekua Bay, these spots are sure to leave you in awe.
These are especially “postcard-worthy” areas to check out:
These places aren’t really hidden, but they remain a little off the beaten path.
Kaumana Caves Park
Kaumana Caves Park is the home and gateway to explore parts of a 25-mile long lava tube created by Mauna Loa’s 1881 flow. You can explore the first two miles of it from the park entrance, hiking into the cave and following the tube underground. The ceiling and caverns range from just a few feet to 30 feet in height, with many beautiful rock formations and minerals on the walls.
Good to know: Visiting the Kaumana Caves requires proper preparation and a bit of caution. Close-toed shoes are a must due to sharp lava rock, and be sure to bring a flashlight, as it gets dark in the cave. Watch for low ceilings and slippery, wet rocks.
The Kahuku Unit of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is located in the southeast corner of the Big Island, separate from the main area of the park. It’s small in comparison, but it does have a couple trails to offer, their location giving visitors a nice view to the east and southeast. These trails wind through grassy pastures and old cinder cones, many providing panoramic views.
Good to know: This portion of the Park is for hiking only (no lava), and there are limited services.
Kehena Black Sand Beach
Located in the Puna District of the Big Island, Kehena Black Sand Beach reflects the laid-back, hippie culture that dominates this part of the island. Yoga classes, exercise groups, and drum circles are not uncommon to find on this beach, and it is entirely clothing optional. Whether you’re looking to meet other free spirits or rediscover your own, an afternoon at Kehena Beach is a fun jaunt into an otherwise remote part of the island.
Good to Know: The nearby town of Pāhoa was almost destroyed by an eruption in 2014. Swing through town to see where the lava stopped (behind the school), and poke around downtown to visit the local shops and restaurants.
King’s Trail (The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail)
The King’s Trail refers to a circumnavigational hiking trail that was used in Ancient Hawaiʻi as a main travel route. It went around the entire island and it was, for the sake of argument, the coastal highway of the past. One of the most accessible places to check it out is at Anaehoʻomalu Bay. From Queen’s Marketplace, you hike the King’s Trail in either direction. The trail takes you directly out into the hot, dry lava fields, showcasing how tough and terse traveling this landscape was – and still is. Be sure to bring sun protection and plenty of water when exploring this area. Have a bathing suit handy for a dip in the bay afterwards.
Good to Know: Also nearby is Petroglyph Park, thought to be a resting area for travelers in old times. Here, you can see the drawings they made.
Most of these destinations are accessible by car or public transportation. Some may require a bit of hiking or walking and there are always other ways to see the island. Always check ahead for any accessibility concerns. The islands are committed to ensuring that all visitors, regardless of their physical abilities or needs, can enjoy the beauty and culture of Hawaii.
Accessibility is not just about physical access. It’s about ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate fully in the experiences Hawaii has to offer.
The Big Island is more than just a travel destination; it’s a place where you can immerse yourself in nature, culture, and history. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure on the Big Island!