16 Things To See + Do in Hawaii; The Big Island
We have traveled to Hawaii twice in the past two years to visit family on the Big Island in Kona. The island is only so big, so I feel pretty confident in recommending the best activities and beaches to check out. Of course, there is plenty more to do than listed below! Each point is numbered to correlate with the map!
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#2: Snorkeling: There's two places I'd recommend for snorkeling. One is Two Step, which gets it’s name from two lava rocks that make it easy to get in the ocean. I wouldn’t suggest it if you’re not as able-bodied as others, as it can be quite slippery getting out there (note me clenching Ross' hand while getting in the water). Parking isn’t the best, but it's doable, and make sure you go on a clear sunny day. It will help you see all the fish! The other option is Honaunau Bay. There's tons of Rainbow Fish here and we were even 5 feet away from a sea turtle! It can be tricky to get far enough into the water, and if it's a lower tide you'll feel super close to the coral and everything attached to the sea floor. Between the two, I prefer Two Step!
#3: Breakfast at Lava Java: Open breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Lava Java is one of the best restaurants on the island and has a wonderful view. If you have to wait for your table I’d recommend walking across the street to take a closer look at the ocean. Crabs crawl all over the rocks below, and the tang fish usually hang out here too! If you’re a chai latte lover, you must get one here! Delish!
#4: Kona Brewing Company: This brewery and restaurant has great pizza, and of course, great beer. Make sure you book a brewery tour where you'll get to try five different samples of their beer. As of December '16, they are soon to be breaking ground on the lot next door to build a brand new brewery!
#5: Honokohau Small Boat Harbor: You're guaranteed to see at least a dozen turtles while you’re here. Some will be on the shore sleeping, while others will pop their heads up from the water. Most of the turtles you’ll see here will be younger because the harbor tends to keep them safe. Be careful around these precious animals though. Rule of thumb is to keep at least 10 feet distance between you and the turtle for their safety. We also found a lot of cool shells here! If you're lucky, you'll get to see a fisherman hanging his fish at the dock! The one we saw was at least 10 feet long!
#6: Lava Tube: So this isn’t necessarily a must do, but it is pretty cool. Especially if you haven’t seen anything like it before. You can walk inside of the tube about 50 feet deep. It's right on Queen Ka'ahumanu, but I'm not sure of the mile marker. There's also Thurston Lava Tube, which seems way more awesome than this one, but I haven't checked it out!
#11: Tex Drive-In for Malasadas: About an hour North of Kona you’ll find a little restaurant called Tex Drive-In. They’ve got a full menu, but I’d suggest stopping here specifically for a malasada. It’s basically a sugar-covered doughnut with your choice of filling. Bavarian Creme and Chocolate are the two best flavors, but they have several other options as well! Even better, malasadas are super cheap, and incredibly delicious! Yum yum!!
#12: Rainbow Falls: About a mile outside of 'downtown' Hilo you’ll find yourself at Rainbow Falls. First, check out the waterfalls from the bridge view. Next, head up the stairs on your left which bring you to a cool little forest with a huge Bayman Tree. Amazing photo op, you won't want to miss this! I've never seen such a cool tree before.
#13: Ahalanui Hot Springs: There’s two ways to get here: the highway, or the scenic route. The scenic route will take much longer, but makes for an incredible drive. Just make sure you fill up on gas before you go! It’s a man-made structure, but is naturally filled by the ocean water. It naturally heats up from the black rock and the sun, so it's always warm!
#14: Volcano: There's a lot you can do at this National Park if you go on a good day. We got started at the restaurant overlooking the crater, and then drove through the park. Check out the steam holes along the side of the road on your way up, and stop by the Jagger Museum. It has some really cool facts and a seismograph which normally measures the movement of the Earth, but you can jump on it. Outside of the museum the park rangers will have lava rock for you to look at, because unless you’re a native, you won’t be allowed to hike down into it. They do have a few telescopes for you to get a closer look though.
MUST-HAVE HAWAIIAN ITEMS
#1: Magic Sands: The sand is soft and the view is great during sunset, however it’s pretty small so get there early!
#7: Kua Bay: In my opinion, this is the prettiest beach on the big island and the sand is very clean.
#8: 69’s: Not the best for swimming, but there’s lots of exploring for you to do along the shore. We found two sea urchin and a starfish! This is the only beach I’ve seen that has rope swings hanging off the trees!
#9: Hapuna: Quite a big beach and has lifeguards on duty. On the left side of the beach you can find a cool little cove where you can walk into during low tide. Usually a great spot for boogie boarding, but can sometimes be a little too dangerous for the amateurs.
#10: Mauna Kea Hotel Beach: Only 30 cars at a time can park here, so go early or you won’t get a spot and they’ll turn you away! It's a beautiful beach with a lot of shade, but it's a bit of a hike to get down there (if you get a parking spot!)
#15: Black Sand Beach: Although uncommon on the mainland, it’s pretty common in Hawaii to see a black sand beach. The best one I’d recommend is Punalu'u.
#16: Green Sands Beach in South Point: This is one of four beaches in the world that are green. I don’t want to set your expectations too high though, the sand seems a bit more gold than green to me. I’d recommend this being a full day trip. Green Sands Beach is located in South Point, at the bottom of the big island. The journey makes you feel like you’re in Europe as the roads are small and the land is expansive. It’s quite a drive and very secluded. Once you arrive you’ll have the option to either drive yourself out there (wouldn’t recommend unless you have a Jeep or truck), get a ride for $15/person from the Hawaiians, which takes about 30 minutes and is incredibly bumpy, or hike the 3 miles out there. The view is pretty incredible, but there's not much to see once you actually find the beach.
If you're interested in also checking out Oahu, check out Wayfaring Kiwi's suggestions here!