Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide's South Island Epic Coastal Journey
Did you know Big Island gets its nickname because it’s the largest Hawaiian Island? This tour takes you from coast to coast and covers over 200 miles of this expansive island. Because of this, you might want to plan some of the activities you’d like to do at the start of the day. This will allow you to skip others so that you’ll have enough time to hit the stops you want!
Here are a list of the major activities along the tour route and about how long it takes to complete each:
Kona Coast, 4 hours: This portion of the tour is actually the same as our Kona Big Kahuna Tour so if you’re planning on doing that adventure another day or you’ve done it already you can skip it!
South Point, 1-4 hours: If you’re just stopping by for a quick look, this isn’t a major detour, but if you’d like to do the 40-foot cliff jump, you should budget about an hour for this excursion. Always use caution and avoid jumping in the winter months (November-April) when the waves are rough. If you’d like to hike to the green sand beach from South Point, you should plan to spend about 3-4 hours. The hike is five miles round trip. There are also locals that will offer you a ride to the beach for $20 per person. Visiting the Green Sand Beach will cut into your time a lot. Skip it if you are planning to visit Volcanoes National Park.
Volcanoes National Park, 3-4 hours: You can easily combine our South Island Epic Coastal Adventure and Volcanoes National Park Tour. Once you’re in the park switch over to the volcanoes tour. It takes about 3-4 hours to complete and that’s with minimal hiking.
Mauna Kea Visitor Centre, 1-2 hours (currently closed): Mauna Kea Visitor Center is a great spot to spend the evening after a full day exploring -- it’s known to have some of the best stargazing in the state. Unwind as you search for constellations atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain.
Here are some other things to know to help you plan your day:
- There’s limited cell service on remote parts of the island. Be sure to download the tour in wifi before you go!
- Start the tour in Kona, Waikoloa or Hilo and travel clockwise or counterclockwise.
- The tour is the same regardless of the direction you take. The road to Mauna Kea’s summit has recently been reopened but we don’t recommend you go unless you have 4-wheel drive. No joke!
- You’ll travel through remote parts of the island, however there are several towns where you can get gas and food, such as, Volcano Town, Na’alehu, Kau, and Hilo.
- There’s no lava flowing in Volcanoes National Park.
- Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut visitor center is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
- The Painted Church is open Tuesday-Thursday 9:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
- Visitors must pay to park at Kahalu'u Beach. Learn more here.
- Pack clothes for hiking and swimming, you’ll have the option to do both on this tour.
- The tour does not include Hilo town. For an in-depth tour of Hilo check out the North Island Jungle Adventure tour.
What to Expect!
1. To Get An Early Start
We recommend starting the tour before 9:00 a.m. We know it’s early, but there are a lot of fun activities to get to and you’ll need to start early to make it to them all.
2. To Spend 8-16 Hours
Exploring You’ll need more time if you’re going to beach hop or do multiple hikes! If you wanted to do EVERYTHING on the tour -- the Kona Coast, South Point, Volcanoes, and Mauna Kea -- we recommend you plan to spend about 10 hours on the tour. But don’t worry if you don’t get to it all in one day. The tour never expires! Just come back another day.
3. To Be Active
There are a few optional hikes on this tour. Most are short and in Volcanoes National Park., If you are not up for hiking you’ll still want to get out of your car and explore. Take a walk along a black sand beach, stop for photos at the southernmost tip of the United States and walk through ancient historic sites like Pu'uhonua and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
4. To Beach Hop
This tour stops at quite a few beaches. The beaches you’ll have the option to visit are:
- Kiholo Bay and Queens Bath
- Kua Bay Beach
- Kahaluu Beach (snorkel spot, pack your own gear)
- Kealakekua Bay (snorkel spot, pack your own gear)
- Two Step Beach (snorkel spot, pack your own gear)
- Whittington Beach Park
- Punaluu Black Sand Beach
Most of these beaches sit along the Kona Coast -- keep this in mind if you’re planning on skipping this section of the tour. We recommend choosing two or three beaches to maximize your time.
Pro Tip! The black sand beach is a must see!
5. To Try Local Goodies
There are some awesome foodie stops on this tour. Pick up local honey at Big Island Bees, grab some chocolate bark at Paradise Meadows, sip coffee from Koa Coffee, try a malasada or Hawaiian sweet bread from Punalu'u Bakeshop and sample a variety of flavors of macadamia nuts at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts.
6. To Learn
Big Island might be the youngest Hawaiian Island, but there’s no shortage of history and culture. You’ll visit historic sites, ancient temples, and learn some of Hawaii’s most famous legends.
How much you spend truly depends on what you do along the tour route. Here's a breakdown of some costs:
- $20.00 per person: Lunch and a local snack
- $20.00/adults per person: Big Island Bees guided tour (you can also just visit the shop for a free honey tasting)
- $30.00 per car: Volcanoes National Park entrance (credit preferred)
Here’s our packing list for this tour. It may seem a little long, but remember, what you bring depends on the activities you choose to do for the day.
- Layers and a jacket, temperatures vary drastically across the island (pack especially if you plan to visit Mauna Kea)
- Hiking Clothes
- Water Bottle
- Bug Spray
- Bathing Suit (for Cliff Jumping/ beach hopping)
- Sun Glasses and/or Hat
- Car Charger *Very Important*
- Phone Mount
In Hawaiian, the word malama means “to take care” and the word aina means “land.” When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you practice this and pick up your trash; respect the marine life, plants, and animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources for generations by respecting the aina when you visit.
We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RELATED: 10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii
For more detailed information to help you plan check out our South Island Epic Coastal Journey suggested itinerary.