Big Island Hawaii is home to two of the world’s greatest mountains, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones, Hawaii’s greatest king, and the wettest city in the United States, the Big Island of Hawaii is an island like no other. It is an island of such proportions that all of the other islands in the main Hawaiian chain could fit inside it twice. It is often called the “Big Island” (or “Big I”) to help distinguish it from the 1,500-mile-long archipelago with which it shares its name (Hawaii). Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Big Island is approximately 4,050 square miles, and is still growing daily thanks to Kilauea Volcano on the eastern coast of the island.
Visitors here will marvel at the dramatically different temperatures and scenic beauty that span across each distinct area, ranging from the warmth found amid balmy coastal jungles in Puna to the snow-capped peaks dotting the slopes of Mauna Kea. Beach goers get their fill of sunshine and sand at any of the five star resorts located along the Big Island’s Kona coast and within the resort area of Waikoloa, while those seeking a more quiet, casual experience will adore Hilo, a sleepy little bayside town. The must-do on Hawaii Island is a visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Big Island Hawaii Weather (When to Visit)
The best time to visit Hawaii’s Big Island is between September and November. That’s when the island’s generally reasonable room rates take the most significant plunge. Temperatures remain constant throughout the year – generally in the high 70s or low 80s – so you might want to avoid the priciest season, from December to March, unless you like to surf. From December to March the Big Island’s rates are lower than some of the other popular Hawaiian islands, so you might find a room for less than $200 a night. Keep in mind that this can be a rainier season on the island. And although surfing isn’t as popular as on Kauai or Maui, you will still find the best waves in this peak season. Plus, prime whale-watching season runs from January to early April. From April thru May you’ll almost definitely find a reasonable room rate in this tiny pocket of time. Just be sure to avoid a Memorial Day trip – some people like to plan extended time off around built-in holidays in their work calendar, so there could be more crowds. There’s a bit of a jump in airfare June thru August and hotel rates as families begin to arrive on the Big Island. There’s also a slight (but most likely, unnoticeable) rise in temperatures in summer; highs can reach the low 80s.
Best Big Island Hawaii Beaches
Kaunaoa Beach is one of Big Island’s most beautiful white sand beaches. So, most travelers recommend coming early (around 8:30 a.m.) to Kaunaoa to snag one of the too-few parking spots, and spending most of the day there. This eggshell-colored sand beach on the central, Kohala coast has plenty to do. Snorkeling is popular, especially at either end of the beach, but you can also try body boarding, or a pickup volleyball game.
One of the Kohala Coast’s premier beaches, Anaehoomalu Beach is a favorite for frequent Big Island visitors. You won’t find too many locals on this massive stretch of salt and pepper sand, but you will have lots of opportunities to try some water sports, such as stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling, in the calm and clear water. There are limited beach chairs, so you might want to bring your own chairs and umbrellas. You can also visit at about any time of day you want as there are no set hours of operation and there’s ample parking in a public parking lot.
Papakolea Beach is one of the most unique beaches with a half-circle bay surrounded by Pu’u Mahana. The volcano’s olivine crystals are responsible for providing the sand with its olive-ish hue (which you can see better if you pick up a handful). The water can be rough with a serious undercurrent, so swimming is only recommended for strong swimmers or when the tide is low and you’ll be staying close to shore.
Kahaluu Beach Park
Kahaluu Beach Park may not be the palm-lined, white-sandy beach, but this waterfront park is excellent for swimming and snorkeling with calm conditions most of the time, an offshore reef, and shallow water that’s often crowded with schools of tame, colorful fish who are unfazed by human visitors. Look for sea turtles hanging out, too.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
This black sand beach is the island’s most famous. It has postcard-esque coconut palms that line the dark lava-fragmented sand and resident green sea turtles swimming in the sea or basking along the rocky shore. The beach is a lava rock’s throw from the road, making it easily accessible and worthy of a stop even if you only have time for a quick visit.
Best Big Island Hawaii Tours & Activities by Viator
Circle of Fire and Waterfalls Helicopter Tour from Hilo
Fly over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on a scenic helicopter flight from Hilo. Enjoy an aerial perspective of the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes and stunning views of the most geologically active environment on earth. Ride in comfort and safety in your choice of either an ECO-Star or A-Star helicopter. You’ll hear informative commentary from your pilot as you spot the Halemaumau Crater and other sights in the national park, and pass over waterfalls and the Hamakua Coast. Learn more about the Circle of Fire & Waterfalls Helicopter Tour.
Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History
The Big Island of Hawaii has a diverse ecosystem unlike anywhere else on the planet, and on this day-long nature tour, experience the beauty of its black-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you’re lucky, find Hawaiian green sea turtles basking on the coast. Since the tour only requires a moderate amount of walking, it’s an educational adventure for travelers of all ages, with snacks and refreshments included. Learn more about the Big Island in a Day Tour.
Night Manta Ray Adventure -Guaranteed!
Have a unique Big Island experience snorkeling with manta rays on this tour. Led by a local guide, you’ll take a short cruise out to the manta site, where you’ll watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunset before dipping into the water to watch the manta rays up close. All necessary equipment will be provided for your excursion, as well as light refreshments and snacks to enjoy on board. Your tour will conclude at its original departure point. If you don’t see manta rays on this excursion, book again for another night–no charge. Learn more about the Night Manta Ray Adventure.
Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
Experience big skies and incredible nighttime views on this Mauna Kea stargazing trip with a small group. Join no more than 28 guests for a pre-trip picnic at a historic Hawaiian ranch, proceeded by a ride in a 4×4 luxury van to the summit of the Big Island’s tallest peak. After admiring a sunset view, continue down to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. The trip also includes a guide and a hooded parka to keep you warm. Learn more about the Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Tour.
Doors Off Lava and Rainforests Adventure
Soar through the air with nothing between you and the radiating heat of an active volcano on a doors-off helicopter tour from Hilo. A must-do for adrenaline junkies, this aerial adventure takes you over the island’s volcanic landscape, so you can peer into craters and spot lava. Plus enjoy views of waterfalls and other natural features of the Big Island while aboard. Learn more about the Doors Off Lava & Rainforests Adventure.
Best Big Island Hawaii Restaurants
Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill
A place that is extremely popular, Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill is set a little way out from the main strip, perfect for visitors seeking a little time away from the seafront. The food here is fantastic; the fish is cooked perfectly and is paired with chargrilled vegetables and sweet purple potatoes, and the wasabi crusted calamari is out of this world. A laid back shack that gets extremely busy at the weekends, this is a top spot to enjoy some seafood in a convivial atmosphere. Telephone: 1 808-327-0209 Web: Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill.
Kailua Kona, Kenichi Pacific is a venue with cozy couches, friendly staff and super fresh, authentic sushi, sourced all the way from Japan itself. A great place in which to satisfy a sweet craving, don’t miss the top dessert choices of the banana foster and the dreamy molten lava cake. There’s a daily happy hour held here offering customers an array of flavorsome sushi options for half the price; don’t miss it. Telephone: 1 808-322-6400 Web: Kenichi Pacific.
Merriman’s is a fun spot emanating a simple and refined atmosphere. The expertise of the staff here is unbeatable, with friendly waiters and waitresses always on hand to give knowledge about how the food here is prepared and where it is sourced from. Take a stroll through the herb garden before entering, and choose from an array of dishes such as flame-grilled crab and the signature coconut crème brulee. A great place for a top tipple too, colorful cocktails abound here, with the margaritas made using tropical lemonade and ultra-fine grain salt and making for a fantastic choice. Telephone: 1 808-885-6852 Web: Merriman’s.
Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill
Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill is an establishment offering a combination of cuisines deriving from both Asia and the Pacific Rim. Must-try dishes include the char-grilled fish specials, the edamame appetizer and the chocolate mousse soufflé. The outdoor tables here overlook the pond at the Kings Shops, offering customers an idyllic view to enjoy whilst tucking into some hearty fare. Telephone: 1 808-886-4321 Web: Roy’s Wailoloa Bar & Grill.
Da Poke Shack
Da Poke Shack is a laid back local favorite for high quality takeouts. Must try dishes here include a Hawaiian dish of raw cubed seafood, most often tuna, dressed with soy and other seasonings, as well as the garlic sesame edamame beans. A top spot for authentic cuisine on the Kona coast, the house made spicy mayo and Korean sauce provide the perfect accompaniments to any meal here. Telephone: 808-329-7653 Web: Da Poke Shack.
Best Big Island Hawaii Bars
Hugo’s On The Rocks
The younger, wilder sibling of the famous seafood eatery next door called Huggo’s, this spirited joint is a terrific place to wind down the day and usher in the evening. Indeed, Huggo’s on the Rocks is a popular outdoor bar and dance club under a thatched roof whose specialty drinks and beautiful clientele always ensure a great time. A light bar menu features fajitas, salads, sandwiches, and tasty appetizers and offers a cure for the late night munchies. Watch the sunset, and whales jump in season. Located in the heart of Kailua, you can easily walk to other bars and clubs and explore the town. Telephone: 1 808-329-1493 Web: Hugo’s On The Rocks.
Humpy’s Big Island Ale House
“For beer lovers, by beer lovers” is the slogan at Humpy’s Alehouse where a huge array of beers on tap and really good bar food make for happy days and fun filled nightlife. Humpy’s is the new spot in Kailua Kona for live music and nighttime entertainment. Located on Kailua’s main and front street along the ocean, the pub is centrally located to be enjoyed while shopping, at the beach, or eating elsewhere along the strip. It’s a popular hangout with both locals and visitors alike so you’ll get the best of both worlds. Any night of the week you can stroll in and find a crowd. Telephone: 1 808-324-2337 Web: Humpy’s Big Island Ale House.
Tropical drinks, beautiful scenery, and a short walk to the water – if the world were a fair place, every town would have a joint like this. At the exotic little cabana bar, you can sip your favorite mixed drink (mai tais and margaritas are always the biggest hits), get a bit of sun, and feel the sand between your toes. Since this bar is on the west side of the island, guests will be treated to the best seat on the island for the spectacular sunsets. Dress up or go casual here, either way it’s all about the sunsets and the exotic drinks. Telephone: 1 808-325-8000 Web: Beach Tree.
Blue Dragon Restaurant & Musquarium
Blue Dragon Coastal Cuisine & Musiquarium is known for giving guests a really good time. Always crowded with locals and visitors alike dancing away the evening and taking breaks for bites of delicious food. The menu is locally based and presents local fish, meats and produce. The menu also notes which items are vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten free. The live music is a big draw here, and often times the place turns into a club like atmosphere. Children are welcome and there’s a keiki menu, but it’s best to bring them earlier on in the night before the party scene gets going. F Telephone: 1 808-882-7771 Web: Blue Dragon Restaurant & Musquarium.
Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar
Any west side morning should start with the breakfast buffet at Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar. This is the place for long, leisurely breakfasts and chit chat over made-to-order waffles and omelets, fresh tropical fruits and juices, healthy whole grain cereals and various delicacies from the pastry kitchen with a cup of Big Island coffee. This is the Mauna Kea’s breakfast buffet, with its ocean-overlook and birdsong symphony, and this is what your family will remember. Later on in the day venture to the exquisite crescent shaped white sand beach out front. You won’t have to venture any further for great food or beach time. Telephone: 808-977-4589 Web: Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar.
Best Big Island Hawaii Hotels
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Set on the North Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai boasts a dramatic mix of white-sand beaches, dazzling oceanfront and black-lava landscapes. Book now to enjoy championship golf, island-fresh dining, and a genuine aloha spirit during your unforgettable stay.
The Fairmont Orchid
The Fairmont Orchid is a luxury Hawaii Island resort and spa beautifully located on the majestic Kohala Coast. Immerse yourself in an authentic Big Island vacation experience, surrounded by 32 oceanfront acres of lush tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls and a tranquil white sand beach and lagoon. Resort amenities feature our award-winning Spa Without Walls, a 10,000 square foot oceanfront pool, Hui Holokai Beach Club offering ocean and cultural activities, six restaurants, year-round children’s program, golf, fitness center and tennis pavilion.
Kings’ Land by Hilton Grand Vacations Club
Kings’ Land by Hilton Grand Vacations is set in the heart of Waikoloa, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Set amidst waterfalls and lava rocks, our beautiful recreation area boasts plunge pools, whirlpools and loungers. Relax in the sand-bottomed pool, or zip along on a water slide as it cascades between rock formations. Try a spot of volleyball in the sports pool, or energize in our fitness center. The open-air Kings Land Bistro & Lounge serves dishes inspired by the flavors of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Sip cocktails at Kings Land Pool Bar, which features a stunning hand-carved bar and 60-inch plasma TVs.
Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations
Superbly positioned on the sunny Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, Kohala Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations Club provides a relaxing haven in the heart of magnificent Waikoloa. Tastefully appointed suites blend a casually elegant tropical style with distinctive amenities and furnishings. The extraordinary Big Island gives visitors the opportunity to witness the sight of an active volcano, visit a working coffee plantation, golf at championship courses or just enjoy relaxing poolside days in paradise.
Mauna Lani Point – Luxury Villas
This luxury villa – available as a one or two bedroom rental – is located in the esteemed Mauna Lani Resort, on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Guests are afforded breathtaking views of the resort’s pristine green fairways and the sapphire-blue ocean waves. This villa can comfortably accommodate up to six guests with ample living spaces, sleeping quarters and plenty of amenities to ensure that this trip will be one to remember.