30 Best Things to Do on the Big Island | 2024 (with Photos)

Nataša Obradovic

Nataša Obradovic - Travel Writer

Published: June 29, 2023

Hey! How's it going? I'm Natasha, an avid traveler and adventure enthusiast with a passion for discovering the best experiences around the world. Join me as I share my top recommendations for the incredible sights, activities, and hidden gems you shouldn't miss on the Big Island in 2024!

Best Unique Things to Do on the Big Island, Hawaii

Big Island, also known as the Island of Hawaii, is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is located in the central Pacific Ocean.

It is home to two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, as well as a number of other natural wonders such as beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and rainforests.

The island is also known for its coffee plantations, which produce some of the world's most sought-after coffee beans.

The people of the Big Island are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming spirit. Now, let's see some interesting things to do on the Big Island.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Top Choice Hotel

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Our Top Choice Restaurant


Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Kona Brewing Company

Best Time to Visit

Peak season for visiting Big Island, Hawaii, USA.

Average Temperature

Hot and tropical year-round, perfect for beach lovers.

Transportation Options

Car rental, bus service, taxi, rideshare, bicycle rental

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Explore the charm and beauty of Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island of Hawaii. Immerse yourself in the local culture by strolling through the historic Downtown Hilo, where you can enjoy local cuisine and browse unique shops featuring handcrafted items. Don't miss the opportunity to witness the breathtaking Rainbow Falls, where the cascading water creates a mesmerizing sight, or take a leisurely walk along the stunning Banyan Drive, lined with majestic banyan trees, offering shade and a peaceful atmosphere.

Indulge in the captivating allure of Kailua-Kona, a vibrant coastal town on the western side of the Big Island. Experience the lively atmosphere of Ali'i Drive, a bustling waterfront strip packed with restaurants, art galleries, and specialty shops, where one can find an array of vibrant souvenirs. Make sure to embark on a memorable snorkeling adventure in the crystal-clear waters of Kealakekua Bay, home to a thriving coral reef and an abundance of tropical marine life, providing an unforgettable glimpse into the wonders beneath the surface.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses
  2. Comfortable walking shoes
  3. Swimsuit and beach towel
  4. Lightweight and breathable clothes
  5. Snorkeling gear
  6. Insect repellent
  7. Reusable water bottle
  8. Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
  9. Essential toiletries and medications
  10. Travel adapters for electronic devices

The Big Island of Hawaii, located in the United States of America, is known for its stunning beaches, volcanic landscapes, and diverse wildlife. To fully enjoy your trip, it is important to pack the right essentials. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the strong Hawaiian sun. Comfortable walking shoes will come in handy for exploring the island's many hiking trails and natural wonders.

Since Hawaii is famous for its beautiful beaches, remember to pack your swimsuit and a beach towel. Lightweight and breathable clothes are essential, as the island's tropical climate can get quite warm and humid. If you plan on snorkeling or diving, bring your own gear for a more personalized experience.

Insect repellent is also recommended to keep pesky bugs away, especially if you plan on spending time outdoors. Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste. Don't forget to bring a camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking landscapes and memorable moments of your trip. Lastly, be sure to pack any necessary toiletries and medications, as well as travel adapters for your electronic devices.

What Not to Miss

  1. Volcanoes National Park
  2. Mauna Kea
  3. Waipi'o Valley
  4. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
  5. Akaka Falls State Park
  6. Kailua-Kona
  7. Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
  8. Rainbow Falls
  9. Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
  10. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid overcrowded tourist spots.
  2. Avoid traveling without proper sun protection.
  3. Avoid leaving valuables unattended.
  4. Avoid disrespecting local customs and traditions.
  5. Avoid swimming in unsafe or unmonitored areas.
  6. Avoid littering or damaging the natural environment.
  7. Avoid relying on public transportation for long-distance travel.
  8. Avoid hiking or exploring without a guide or appropriate knowledge.
  9. Avoid eating at run-down or unhygienic food establishments.
  10. Avoid engaging in any illegal activities.

1. Snorkel Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument

Snorkel Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful and historic bay located on the west coast of Big Island, Hawaii. Kealakekua Bay is known for its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, making it a popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Kealakekua Bay is also home to the Captain Cook Monument, which commemorates the death of Captain James Cook, an English explorer, and navigator who was the first European to visit Hawaii. The Captain Cook monument is located on the northern side of the bay, and can only be accessed by boat or by hiking along a steep trail.

It marks the spot where Cook was killed by Hawaiian natives in 1779, during his third voyage to the Pacific. The monument was erected in 1874 and is maintained by the State of Hawaii as a historic landmark.

2. Stop by Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is a beautiful natural park located on the northeastern side of the Big Island, Hawaii. The park is home to two stunning waterfalls, including the 442-foot-tall Akaka Falls, as well as lush rainforests, streams, and scenic hiking trails.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a leisurely walk along the paved footpath that leads to the waterfalls, or they can take a longer hike through the surrounding rainforest to see the park's many other natural wonders.

3. Hike to the Green Sand Beaches at South Point (Papakōlea Green Sand Beach)

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach, also known as Papakōlea Beach, is a unique and stunning natural attraction located on the southern coast of the Big Island, Hawaii. The beach is named for its distinctive green sand, which is created by the erosion of a nearby cinder cone that contains the mineral olivine.

This rare and beautiful phenomenon makes Green Sand Beach one of only four green sand beaches in the world. Visitors can access the beach by hiking along a scenic trail, or by taking a shuttle service.

4. South Point Cliff Jump and Snorkeling

After a day of lounging on the Hawaiian beaches, you can do something a bit more challenging. For example, snorkeling, hiking, or even cliff jumping.

The South Point Cliff Jump is a popular outdoor attraction located on the southernmost point of the Big Island, Hawaii.

Visitors to this site can enjoy a thrilling 40-foot cliff jump into the crystal-clear waters below, or they can snorkel among the vibrant coral reefs and abundant marine life found in the area.

5. Stroll Through the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

 Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens is a beautiful and serene botanical garden located on the northeastern coast of Big Island, Hawaii. The garden features over 2,000 species of plants, including exotic flowers, towering trees, and lush vegetation.

Visitors to the gardens can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the well-maintained paths that wind through the garden, or they can take a guided tour to learn more about the diverse plant life found in the area.

6. Catch a Glimpse of a Rainbow at Rainbow Falls

Glimpse of a Rainbow at Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is a stunning waterfall located in Hilo, on the eastern side of Big Island, Hawaii. The waterfall is known for its impressive height, which drops 80 feet into a pool below, and for the rainbows that are often visible in the mist that rises from the falls.

Visitors to Rainbow Falls can enjoy a short hike to the falls, and can also explore the surrounding park and gardens. Don't forget to take pictures.

7. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a unique and awe-inspiring national park located on the southeastern side of Big Island, Hawaii.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two active Hawaii volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, and offers visitors the opportunity to witness the power and beauty of active volcanoes and volcanic activity up close.

Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can explore the park's many hiking trails, visit the volcanic craters and steam vents, and learn about the island's geological history and native culture at the park's visitor center.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also offers ranger-led tours, cultural demonstrations, and other educational programs.

8. Enjoy a Small Group Manta Ray Tour and Manta-Ray Night Snorkel

Manta Ray Tour and Manta-Ray Night Snorkel

Manta Ray Tours are a popular night attraction on Hawaii, providing visitors with the opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures up close. The tours typically take place in the evening, when manta rays come to feed on plankton in the waters off the island's western coast.

One of the most popular spots for manta ray tours is Manta Village, a site located just offshore from the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

During a manta ray tour, visitors can watch from a boat or join a guided snorkeling tour to see the manta rays as they glide gracefully through the water.

The tours are led by experienced guides who provide information about the manta rays and their behavior, and take visitors to the best viewing spots.

9. Hike to the Black Sand Beach in Pololu Valley

The Black Sand Beach in Pololu Valley is a beautiful and secluded beach located on the northeastern coast of Big Island, Hawaii. The beach is known for its striking black sand, created by the erosion of the volcanic rocks that line the shoreline.

It is one of the few black sand beaches on the island, with Punalu'u Black Sand Beach being another popular destination. Visitors to the Black Sand Beach in Pololu Valley can enjoy a hike down to the beach through the lush vegetation.

10. Waipi'o Valley Lookout

 Waipi'o Valley Lookout

Waipi'o Valley Lookout is a stunning viewpoint located on the northeastern coast of Big Island, Hawaii. The lookout offers panoramic views of Waipi'o Valley, a lush and verdant valley that is steeped in Hawaiian history and culture.

Visitors to Waipi'o Valley Lookout can take a short hike to the lookout point and enjoy the breathtaking scenery, which includes towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

11. Go to Kailua Kona for a Kona Coffee Tour

Kona Joe Coffee

Kailua Kona Coast is a charming and historic town located on the western coast of the Big Island, Hawaii, and is often referred to simply as "Kona".

The Kona Coast is famous for its Kona coffee plantations, producing some of the world's finest coffee. Visitors to Kona can take a coffee tour to learn about the Kona coffee-making process and sample the delicious brews at various plantations.

Some of the popular Kona coffee plantations include Greenwell Farms, Kona Joe Coffee, and Mountain Thunder Coffee. A visit to a Kona Coffee plantation is a quintessential Hawaiian experience.

Visitors can also explore the town of Kailua Kona, which features many historic sites, shops, and restaurants, as well as Kona Brewing, a popular brewery that offers tours and tastings of their locally brewed beers.

12. South Kona and Wailuku River State Park

Wailuku River State Park

South Kona is a beautiful and scenic region located on the western coast of Big Island, Hawaii. The area is known for its stunning coastline, picturesque coffee farms, and rich history and culture.

One of the must-visit destinations in South Kona is the Wailuku River State Park, which is located on the eastern side of the island.

The park is home to the Wailuku River, which flows through the lush and verdant rainforest and features several waterfalls and pools, including the popular Boiling Pots.

13. Learn how to Surf on the Big Island of Hawaii

 Surf on the Big Island of Hawaii

Surfing is a popular activity on the Big Island of Hawaii, with several beaches and surf spots offering ideal conditions for both beginners and experienced surfers.

To start surfing on the Big Island, it is recommended to take a lesson with a certified surf instructor who can teach the proper techniques and safety guidelines.

Some of the popular surf spots on the Big Island include Honoli'i Beach Park, Kahaluu Beach Park, and Banyans Surf Break. These locations offer a range of waves suitable for all levels of experience. It is important to always check the surf conditions.

14. Try Some Famous Hawaiian Poke on the Big Island

Famous Hawaiian Poke on the Big Island

Hawaiian poke is a traditional dish that originated in Hawaii and is a popular cuisine on the Big Island. Poke typically consists of diced raw fish, such as tuna or salmon, marinated in a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing, with additional ingredients such as onions, seaweed, and spices.

Poke is often served as a snack or appetizer, and can also be enjoyed as a main course. There are many poke shops and restaurants on the Big Island that offer a variety of poke dishes, from traditional to modern twists with unique flavors and toppings.

Some of the popular poke spots on the Big Island include Da Poke Shack, Umeke's, and Poké Market.

15. Go Ziplining at Umauma Falls

Ziplining at Umauma Falls

Ziplining at Umauma Falls is a thrilling and unique adventure activity on the Big Island of Hawaii. The zipline course features nine ziplines that soar over the lush Umauma River and cascading waterfalls, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty.

The course is suitable for all levels of experience, with professional guides providing safety instructions and assistance throughout the experience.

16. Go on a Boat Tour - Humpback Whales Watching in Winter

Humpback Whales Watching

Winter is the prime season for humpback whale watching on the Big Island, as thousands of humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii from their feeding grounds in Alaska.

From December through April, visitors can witness the magnificent humpback whales breaching, tail slapping, and singing in their natural habitat.

There are many whale-watching tours available on the Big Island that provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with these gentle giants. Some popular spots for whale watching include the waters off the Kona Coast, Hilo Bay, and the Kohala Coast.

17. Drive the Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road

Driving the Chain of Craters Road is a scenic and unique experience on the Big Island. The road stretches for 20 miles from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the coast, offering stunning views of lava fields, sea cliffs, and the active Kilauea volcano.

Along the way, visitors can stop at various lookout points and trails to explore the dramatic volcanic landscape and witness the raw power of nature. The road also passes by ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs, historic lava flows, and the famous Holei Sea Arch.

18. Discover Big Island Farmers' Markets

Big Island Farmers' Markets

Big Island Farmers' Markets offer a unique opportunity to experience the local culture and flavors of the island. Visitors can find an abundance of fresh, locally grown produce, as well as handmade crafts, baked goods, and other artisanal products.

Some of the most popular farmers' markets on the Big Island include the Hilo Farmers Market, which is open daily, and the Keauhou Farmers Market, which is held on Saturdays.

19. Stargazing at Mauna Kea Summit and Mauna Loa

Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are two iconic volcanic mountains on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii, reaching an elevation of 13,803 feet, while Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world by volume.

Both mountains offer a unique and breathtaking experience for visitors, with the opportunity to hike or drive to their summits and witness panoramic views of the island and the surrounding ocean.

The park also features an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

20. Witness Sea Turtles on the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

 Sea Turtles on the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach is one of the most popular destinations on the Big Island of Hawaii for viewing Hawaiian green sea turtles in their natural habitat.

These beautiful and endangered creatures can often be found basking in the sun or swimming in crystal-clear waters just off the beach.

Visitors should always respect the turtles' space and avoid touching or disturbing them in any way. It's also important to follow all beach rules and regulations to protect the fragile ecosystem and ensure the turtles' continued safety and survival.

21. Learn About the History at Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a sacred and historic site on the Big Island of Hawaii. This park was once a place of refuge for those who broke ancient Hawaiian laws, offering them a chance to seek forgiveness and avoid punishment.

Visitors to the park can explore the beautifully restored buildings and structures, including the Great Wall that surrounds the complex, the Royal Grounds, and the sacred Heiau temple.

The park also offers stunning views of the ocean and surrounding landscape, with plenty of opportunities for hiking and outdoor recreation.

22. Spend a Day in the Town of Hilo

Town of Hilo

Hilo is the largest town on the Big Island of Hawaii and offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy.

A day in Hilo can include a stroll through the lush and colorful gardens of Liliuokalani Park, a visit to the famous Rainbow Falls, or a trip to the historic Hilo Farmers Market to sample local foods and crafts.

Visitors can also explore the town's unique boutiques, galleries, and restaurants to get a taste of Hilo's vibrant arts and Hawaiian culture scene.

23. See Petrified Trees at the Lava Trees State Park in Puna

Petrified Trees at the Lava Trees State Park in Puna

Lava Trees State Park is a unique destination on the Big Island of Hawaii that offers visitors the chance to explore a forest of lava trees, formed when a lava flow swept through the area in the 1700s.

Lava Lake features a network of hiking trails that wind through the forest, offering stunning views of the lava tubes and towering lava formations, and the surrounding landscape. Wear good shoes for your lava tube exploration.

Visitors can also explore the park's lava tubes, which are formed when molten lava flows through a solidified lava flow, leaving behind a hollow tube. These fascinating formations offer a glimpse into the powerful forces of nature that shape the Hawaiian landscape.

24. Have Some of the Island's Best Ice Cream

 Island's Best Ice Cream

If you're looking for a sweet treat on the Big Island of Hawaii, be sure to stop by Gypsea Gelato or One Aloha Shave Ice Co in Kailua Kona. Some ice creams are decorated with tropical flowers so make sure to take pictures with your amazing ice cream.

Explore a blend of tropical and classic favorites like chocolate and vanilla, coconut, macadamia nut, and lilikoi (passion fruit).

25. Explore One of the Big Island's Main Attractions: Hamakua Coast

Hamakua Coast

Hamakua Coast is a stunningly beautiful region on the northeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. This scenic area is characterized by lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic sea cliffs, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors to Hamakua Coast can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, swimming, and sightseeing.

Highlights of the area include the breathtaking Akaka Falls, the charming town of Honokaa, and the Waipio Valley Lookout, which offers stunning views of the valley and the Pacific beyond.

26. Go Swimming on Coconut Island in Hilo

Coconut Island in Hilo

Coconut Island, located in Hilo Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a small, picturesque island that is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

The island is connected to the mainland by a short footbridge, making it easily accessible for those looking to enjoy its many amenities.

Coconut Island features a beautiful park with picnic areas, walking trails, and a playground for children. The island's calm waters are also a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling, and visitors can often see colorful fish and other marine life in the crystal-clear waters.

27. Stay at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel or Sheraton Resort

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Mauna Kea Hotel and Sheraton Resort are two popular resorts on the Big Island.

Mauna Kea Hotel is situated on the beautiful Kauna'oa Bay and features stunning ocean views, a championship golf course, a world-class spa, and several restaurants and bars.

Sheraton Resort, on the other hand, is located at Kona and features a variety of amenities for both families and couples, including multiple swimming pools, water sports, a spa, and several dining options.

28. Visit Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is one of the most popular and picturesque beaches on the Big Island. Located on the Kohala Coast, this white sand beach stretches over half a mile and offers crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and the best snorkeling in Hawaii, Big Island.

Hapuna Beach also features facilities such as picnic tables, showers, and restrooms, making it a great spot for a day trip or a family outing.

29. Day Trip to Kohala Coast

Kohala Coast

Kohala Coast is a beautiful and exclusive region located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Known for its stunning beaches, luxury resorts, and world-class golf courses, Kohala Coast offers a unique blend of natural beauty and modern amenities.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including snorkeling, surfing, and whale watching, or simply relax and soak up the sun on one of the many pristine beaches.

30. Visit the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

The Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm is a unique and sustainable aquaculture farm located on the Kona of the Big Island. It is the only seahorse farm in the world that is open to the public, and visitors can take guided tours to learn about seahorse conservation, biology, and behavior.

The farm is committed to protecting seahorses and their habitats and has developed innovative breeding techniques that have helped to replenish wild populations.

FAQs About Things to Do on the Big Island, Hawaii

Let's look at the most frequently asked questions relating to things to do on the Big Island.

What is the #1 thing to do in Big Island Hawaii?

Many visitors would say that the #1 thing to do on the Big Island is to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can witness the power of active volcanoes and explore unique landscapes formed by lava flows.

Is there anything to do on the Big Island for seniors?

Seniors on Big Island can try Kona coffee, enjoy some delicious Hawaiian cuisine, or go to Manta Village to see the manta rays. There are a lot of ways to explore Hawaiian culture without doing intense exercise. Take in a traditional dance show, try Hawaiian shave ice, and wander around Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden at your own pace.

What is the nicest part of the Big Island?

The Island has many beautiful areas, each with its own unique charm. However, many visitors consider the Kohala Coast to be the nicest part of the island. This area is known for its luxurious resorts, pristine beaches, and stunning sunsets.

How can I spend a day on the Big Island?

In one day on the Hawaiian Island, you can take a rental car and explore the island's many scenic drives, or visit white sand beaches like Hapuna Beach or the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach to spot tropical fish and relax on sandy beach shores. You can also take a boat tour to see the coastline and other Hawaiian Islands and perhaps even spot some whales or dolphins.

Summing Up: Things to Do on the Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island offers an abundance of natural beauty, adventure, and cultural experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

From the volcanoes and black sand beaches to the lush rainforests and crystal-clear waters teeming with tropical fish, the Island has something for everyone.

So, why not plan a visit to this paradise and experience the magic for yourself? With so much to explore and enjoy, the Island is truly a destination that should not be missed.