22 Best Things to Do on the Big Island: Top Activities You Can't Miss
The Big Island of Hawaii is a cornucopia of experiences waiting to happen. From beaches to volcanoes, and from ziplining to whale watching, it’s an island of endless possibilities. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or someone who just wants to chill with a Mai Tai in hand, there’s something for everyone. Get ready as we dive into the top must-do activities that make the Big Island a bucket-list destination.
- Volcanic Adventures
- Water Activities Galore
- Coffee Lovers’ Paradise
- Vehicle / Animal Adventures
- Family-Friendly Activities
Alright, adventurers, strap on those hiking boots and grab a water bottle because it’s time to get up close and personal with the real showstoppers of the Big Island—the volcanoes! Honestly, if you come to Hawaii and skip visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Yeah, it’s that monumental.
Hiking Over Lava Fields
Imagine this: you’re trekking across a landscape so otherworldly, it makes the surface of the moon look like a playground. These aren’t just any fields; these are freshly solidified lava fields.
Walking over them? It’s like being a pioneer on a brand new planet. It’s not just a hike; it’s an experience.
Into the Wild: Rain and Fern Forests
Ever wanted to time-travel back to the age of dinosaurs? Step into the park’s rain and fern forests, and you’ll swear you just walked onto the set of Jurassic Park. Massive ferns, towering trees, and the constant hum of life surrounding you—this is Mother Nature at her finest.
Nighttime Lava Glow at Halemaʻumaʻu Crater
Now, let’s talk about the grand finale. As night falls, make your way to Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. When you see the orange glow lighting up the night sky, you’ll know you’re witnessing something extraordinary. It’s not just beautiful; it’s downright spiritual. You can’t help but feel humbled by the earth’s raw power.
If you thought the Big Island was jaw-dropping from the ground, just wait until you see it from the sky! We’re talking helicopter tours that whisk you above hidden waterfalls, freshly minted lava flows, and craters like Halemaʻumaʻu and Puʻu Oʻo in Kilauea volcano that are otherwise impossible to see.
Picture this: you’re soaring above a live volcano, and below you is a lava lake, bubbling and glowing like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Water Activities Galore
The ocean—the Big Island’s colossal playground. Whether you’re a seasoned water warrior or a newbie just dipping your toes in, there’s an aquatic adventure with your name on it. From scuba diving to snorkeling to surfing, it’s time to slather on that sunscreen and make a splash!
Ever wished you could explore a world less traveled? A world so pristine, it’s like stepping into a National Geographic documentary? Strap on a tank, descend beneath the waves, and you’re there. The Big Island’s underwater sanctuaries are a diver’s dream come true. You don’t have to be a pro; there are dive sites for all skill levels. It’s your one-way ticket to Hawaii’s vibrant, buzzing, utterly mesmerizing underwater realm.
Flipper on, mask tightened, and you’re ready for an episode of “Finding Nemo” in real life. Except this is better. Imagine floating above coral gardens, watching schools of rainbow-colored fish darting around like they’re part of some aquatic flash mob.
Snorkeling is your low-tech, high-fun gateway into the Big Island’s underwater Eden. It’s so easy, you could do it every day of your vacation and still be left craving for more.
Manta-Ray Night Snorkel + Dive: Ever swam with manta rays under a moonlit sky? No? Well, brace yourself for an unforgettable adventure. Known as the Kona Manta Ray Night Dive, this is not just another dive or snorkel trip; it’s like attending an underwater ballet where manta rays are the stars! Trust me, this is an experience so magical, it’ll make you question reality.
What’s that? You’ve never ridden a wave? Buddy, you’re in Hawaii—the birthplace of surfing. Whether you’re a total newbie or an experienced wave-rider, the Big Island has the surf spot for you. Plus, local surf schools are more than happy to help you get up on that board for the first time. Once you catch your first wave, consider yourself warned: it’s addictive.
Seeing and/or Swimming with Dolphins
Listen up, folks—this is as dreamy as it sounds. Swimming with dolphins is one of those bucket-list experiences that not only fulfills you but also leaves you craving for more. Whether you’re a water baby or can barely float, this is something that’s perfect for all age groups and swimming abilities.
Now, here’s the kicker. As of October 2021, chasing dolphins is a no-no. So, if you’re looking for an eco-friendly and respectful experience, join a snorkeling cruise that meanders through areas known for healthy dolphin populations. Watch as they tag along, leaping and twirling in the boat’s wake.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)
Remember that childhood dream of walking on water? Well, stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP as it’s commonly known, is about as close as you’re gonna get. This sport has roots deep in Hawaiian culture and has spread its wings—or paddles—worldwide. Whether it’s Kona or Hilo, grab a board, take a lesson, and start gliding. Don’t be surprised if you find it’s your new favorite way to enjoy the ocean.
Whale Watching: A Majestic Affair
Get ready for an eye-popping spectacle because the Big Island serves as the VIP lounge for humpback whales between December and May. Whale watching here isn’t just an activity; it’s a privilege.
With every breach and tail slap, these majestic beasts will make you realize just how awesome nature can be. Timing is key if you want to see these oceanic giants up close. So mark your calendars and pick your spots wisely.
Coffee Lovers’ Paradise
Coffee aficionados, it’s time to ascend to your own personal heaven—the coffee farms of the Big Island. Ever wondered what nirvana tastes like? Spoiler alert: it’s like a freshly brewed cup of Kona coffee. Once you’ve had a cup, you’ll never settle for less. And the best part? You can actually see how it’s made. Farm tours offer a behind-the-scenes look into how your morning cuppa comes to life.
Farm Tours: It’s not all coffee beans and caffeine kicks. Farm tours here let you get up close and personal with a variety of tropical delights. Ever tasted fresh Hawaiian honey? How about biting into a homegrown macadamia nut? It’s like a buffet of natural wonders.
Who needs a five-star hotel when you’ve got a five-billion-star sky overhead, right? If you’re the type to snuggle up in a sleeping bag and listen to the sound of crickets, you’re in for a treat! The Big Island has some of the best camping spots where you can pitch a tent and take in the beauty of nature.
Just remember, popular sites need to be booked in advance, so don’t let procrastination ruin your ideal camping experience. Can you imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing or birds chirping? That’s what camping on the Big Island is all about!
Vehicle / Animal Adventures
Alright, pedal-pushers, this one’s for you! If you’re itching to cover more ground but still want to feel the wind in your hair, biking around the Big Island is just what the vacation doctor ordered.
Grab a rental bike and you’re off! Coast along the ocean, pedal through lush forests, or—if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous—gear up for the volcano challenge. Yep, biking up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is no joke, but the view from the top? Pure magic. Plus, you’ll have bragging rights for, like, forever.
Vroom, vroom! If lying on the beach all day isn’t your cup of Kona coffee, then how about exploring the island’s untamed beauty on an ATV? These four-wheeled adventures take you through the jaw-dropping cliffs and lush forests of areas like Hamakua and Kohala coast.
Imagine cruising through 10+ miles of heaven-on-earth landscapes, with stops for selfies at scenic overlooks, history-filled sites, and even waterfalls! It’s like your personal off-road rollercoaster through paradise.
Howdy, cowboy! Feel like swapping four wheels for four legs? Head to the ranches around Waimea, where you can saddle up for a guided tour through rolling pastures with views that are nothing short of cinematic. Seriously, you’ll half-expect to see a Hollywood film crew capturing the backdrop.
Riding Through Waipiʻo Valley: Feeling a bit more adventurous? Take your horseback riding experience off-ranch and explore the majestic Waipiʻo Valley. This is the Hawaii you won’t see on postcards—it’s more awe-inspiring, more breathtaking, and definitely more unforgettable.
Ready for a road trip that’s more scenic than a Bob Ross painting? Then hop in, because the Big Island offers drives that are nothing short of mesmerizing. These aren’t just roads; they’re your gateway to hidden gems you’d miss if you took the straight path from Point A to Point B.
From jaw-dropping ocean vistas to valleys that look like they’ve been ripped from a fantasy novel, these drives are Big Island’s secret weapon for wowing you when you least expect it.
Calling all plant moms, dads, and everyone in between—prepare to have your botanical minds blown! The Hilo and Hamakua coasts are a dream come true for anyone who loves all things leafy and blooming. You’re walking through a living, breathing postcard complete with waterfalls, rainforests, and oh-so-Instagrammable flowers.
If you’re the kind who can spend hours looking at exotic plants, you’re going to lose your marbles (in a good way) in one of the Big Island’s botanical gardens. You’ll come for the plants, you’ll stay for the unbeatable tranquility these gardens offer.
If the word ‘paradise’ had a visual representation, it would be the beaches of the Big Island. You’re lying on a towel with the warm sun kissing your skin, as the salty sea breeze keeps you cool.
Feels good, right? You’ve got options like Magic Sands Beach for pure relaxation and Hapuna Beach for all the snorkeling and surf action. Oh, and did we mention the black and green sand beaches? Yeah, we’ve got those too!
If you’re a golf aficionado, then welcome to your paradise. Known as Hawaii’s golf capital, the Big Island is basically a golfer’s dream come true, especially around Kona. Picture yourself teeing off with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop, surrounded by lush greenery and volcanoes in the distance.
We’re talking world-class, championship-level courses designed by the crème de la crème of golf architects. This isn’t just a game; it’s an experience you’ll be telling your golf buddies about for years to come.
Who said picnics are just for parks and beaches? Imagine biting into a sandwich with a waterfall as your backdrop, or sipping on a cool drink while overlooking a volcanic crater.
Picnics on the Big Island aren’t just meals; they’re experiences that fit snugly between your morning snorkel and your afternoon hike. It’s like adding an extra layer of awesome to your day, without breaking the bank.
Stargazing and the Mauna Kea Summit
Let’s shift gears for a bit. From the ocean depths to the celestial heights, the Big Island never ceases to amaze. The night sky here is a canvas splashed with twinkling stars, planets, and sometimes even a meteor shower if you’re lucky. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or can’t tell Orion from the Big Dipper, Mauna Kea offers a stargazing experience like no other.
Stargazing Tours: So you’re itching to scale Mauna Kea’s lofty peaks, watch the sun take its final bow, and then gawk at galaxies? But, oh boy, that drive up looks daunting, right? Fear not. The solution: Stargazing Tours. Let experienced guides take you up that winding road, all while dropping knowledge bombs about Hawaiian sky lore.
Ziplining: Nature’s Roller Coaster
Ever thought you could soar over lush jungles and cascading waterfalls? Strap in because ziplining is your ticket to an aerial joyride. This isn’t just a zip from Point A to Point B; this is you, harnessed to a cable, flying over the island’s natural wonders like some sort of eco-friendly superhero.
The thrill of ziplining is sky-high, but so are the safety measures. From top-of-the-line harnesses to expert guides, you’re in good hands—literally. So take that leap of faith and feel the adrenaline pump through your veins.
Mahalo for journeying with us through the unmissable activities that make the Big Island a paradise for every type of traveler. Whether you’re soaring through the skies on a zipline, deep diving into marine life wonders, or simply stargazing atop a dormant volcano, each experience is a postcard moment in the making.