Hawaii Beach during sunset - Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Tyler Schmitt

Hawaii Beach during sunset - Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Tyler Schmitt

The Ultimate Hawaii Big Island Travel Guide

Spencer Lowe

How To Use The Ultimate Big Island Travel Guide

This Big Island travel guide has been divided into 10 sections to make it easier to navigate. Start by choosing one of the categories below to explore the best of the Big Island and useful travel tips to help you make your trip an enjoyable and memorable vacation.

About Big Island (Hawaii Island)

Don’t get confused between Hawaii, Hawaii Island, the Island of Hawaii, the Hawaiian Islands, and how they’re related to the Big Island.

Many visitors don’t realize that the names can mean different things. Here’s what each one means:

  • Hawaii: All of the Hawaiian islands OR the Big Island (in context).
  • Hawaii Island: The Big Island. Often called the Big Island to avoid confusion.
  • Island of Hawaii: Also the Big Island.
  • Hawaiian Islands: The same thing as Hawaii (all of the islands).

If you’re looking to get away from the tourist experience, the Big Island is an excellent option for visiting Hawaii.

In addition to its 186,000 residents, the island receives about 1.7 million tourists every year.

However, despite the size of “Big” Island, the island is actually much less crowded in comparison.

The Big Island is also one of the few places in the US where you can see an active volcano and lava flow.

Sometimes, the lava even flows right into the ocean for some amazing guided experiences!

If you’re looking for a unique adventure without the crowds, the Big Island of Hawaii is the perfect vacation destination.

Even better, it’s the most affordable of the Hawaiian Islands!

RELATED: How To See Lava In Hawaii

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Regions of the Big Island

regions of big island

The Big Island can be broken down into six distinct regions:

  1. Kohala
  2. Kona
  3. South (Kau)
  4. Puna 
  5. Hilo
  6. Hamakua Coast

For the most part, people will refer to the Big Island regions Kona (Kailua-Kona, west side) and Hilo (east side) as these are the two largest towns with easily accessible restaurants, accommodation, activities, and things to do.

For this guide, we’re breaking the island down into 4 areas. 


aerial view of kailua-kona's coastKailua-Kona coast; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

Kona, located on the island’s western coast, has a more touristy feel with plenty of sunshine and fantastic weather.

Here you’ll find the major resort area of Waikoloa, some white sand beaches, and a little-known national park.

You can explore this side of the island on Shaka Guide’s Kona Big Kahuna Loop! 

RELATED: Shaka Guide’s Kona Big Kahuna Loop Itinerary 

Hilo + Puna

city of hilo, punaHilo, Hawaii; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / AJ Feducia

Hilo, on the other hand, you’ll find that many of the residents will call Hilo home and although prone to rain, everything is very fresh and green.

Here you’ll find cute restaurants and a farmer’s market, a quaint park, nearby waterfalls, and interesting history. 

Puna has more recently put itself on the map due to the lower Puna eruptions in 2018 where local residents had to evacuate their homes due to the ongoing lava flow.

You can see more evidence here of how lava affects the daily lives of local residents.

Old beaches and roads are destroyed while new ones take their place over time.

RELATED: Living With Pele: Dealing With A Volcano In Your Backyard

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Hamakua Coast and Kohala

The Kohala Coast is filled with Hawaiian history, from the legends and legacy of King Kamehameha to an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.

The Hamakua Coast features lush rainforests with jungle hikes and epic valleys with amazing views. 

RELATED: Shaka Guide’s Kohala Coast Backcountry Itinerary


coast of kau in aerial viewIsland of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder

Welcome to the southernmost region of the United States. Stand at Ka Lae point to claim those bragging rights, drink the famous Kaʻū coffee, and visit the colorful black and green sand beaches.

You can also visit South Point - the southernmost point in the US. We’ll guide you here on our South Island Epic Coastal Journey.

RELATED: Kaʻū Coffee: How A Struggling Town Was Saved By Coffee


The easiest areas to find suitable accommodations on the Big Island are in Kailua-Kona and Hilo.

There are a handful of short-term rentals available, but Hawaii in general seems to be moving away from rentals and funneling visitors into hotels.

Keep this in mind as you plan your vacation and stay updated on the short-term rental situations on the islands as your trip draws near.

Hotels and Resorts

aerial view of village in big islandHilton Waikoloa Village; Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Dustin Lefevre

Besides Kona and Hilo, Waikoloa is a good place to start if you’re looking for luxury.

Hotels generally dot the coast while cheaper options such as inns and B&Bs can be found inland.

Popular hotels and resorts:

  • Kona Islander Inn & Hotel
  • Holualoa Inn
  • Grand Naniloa Hotel
  • Reed’s Bay Resort Hotel
  • Hilo Seaside Hotel
  • Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
  • The Volcano House
  • Kings’ Land by Hilton Grand Vacations
  • Fairmont Orchid
  • Hilton Waikoloa Village

We have 4 tours that start in Waikoloa! Take our:

..just steps from where you’re staying. 

north island jungle download

Short-term Vacation Rentals

Compared to the other Hawaiian Islands, booking short-term vacation rentals are a little bit easier on the Big Island.

Keep an eye out for inns, B&Bs, cottages, and cabins to get more of that homey feeling during your stay.

While you can be sure to find more than a few in Kona and Hilo (about $100 a night), finding a short-term vacation rental in Ka?? and Puna is also possible. 

If you are looking for something a bit more pricey, check out the town of Kukio just north of Kona.

You’ll also find a few nice and affordable rentals a little further north in the Hilo area where there are plenty of options for shopping, watersports, adventure, and relaxation.

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If you’re looking to stick to your budget to save money, check out some of the hostels on the Big Island.

Again, hostels can mostly be found in the Kona and Hilo sides of the Big Island, but you’ll also come across a few in the south.

You might want to consider Puna if you truly need to limit your spending on accommodation as you can find extremely budget-friendly prices.

But you’ll need to consider that the air quality can go down significantly when the winds blow the volcanic fumes over Puna.

It often affects breathing problems, allergies, sinuses, and even migraines.

Traffic is another factor as local residents going in and out of Puna can easily add another hour to your ride in each direction.

Unique Things to do on The Big Island, Hawaii

There is no shortage of things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you’re an adventure junkie or looking to relax, the options are endless!

Lounge on a beach, go for a hike, shop and dine downtown, cliff jump - the choice is yours.


Perhaps we’re biased, but here at Shaka Guide, we think that tours are an outstanding way to get to know an area.

Shaka Guide offers several tours of the big island, including the:

Popular hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii

hikes in big island

Hiking is one of the best things to do on the Big Island.

The variety of hikes ranges from coastal to desert to mountain terrain - each with its own unique beauty and experience.

We highly suggest you go out on at least a hike or two during your stay.

Papakolea (Green Sand Beach)

papakolea beach with white sand

A 5-mile round trip hike that doesn’t change much in elevation, but can become extremely hot due to the lack of shade and sunny weather that prevails in this region.

Onomea Trail

Located on the island’s northern coast, you’ll walk through lush jungle along coastal cliffs. This easy, 0.5-mile hike is perfect for families.

RELATED: Must-See Scenic Spots On The Big Island

Pololu Valley Hike

hikes walking in the forestMeandering through Pololu Valley; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

Devastatingly gorgeous, Pololu is one of several valleys along the Big Island’s northern coast.

Take a short 20-minute hike into the valley and beach below, then climb up the steep collection of switchbacks along the valley wall where there is a lovely seating area with spectacular views of the valley and ocean.

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Waimanu Valley

Backpacking your way to the most remote campsite on the island is a must for those up for adventure.

It’s an intense 9 miles in, but the hike itself is an absolute treasure.

The initial ascent is definitely the hardest part of the hike, but after a quick break, the rest of the hike will be a breeze.

Makalawena Beach Hike

white sand beachMakalawena Beach; Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Aeder

More sandy trail than a hike, this short 2.7-mile walk takes you to one of the quieter beaches inaccessible by vehicle.

If you’re looking for a secluded beach, this might be it.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

couples watching the seaHistoric site at Kaloko-Honokohau; Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Emily Dickey

Take a 45-minute walk to the beach while experiencing Hawaiian culture along the way.

The trail features an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, a traditional thatched building, petroglyphs, and a heiau (Hawaiian temple).

Shipman Beach Hike

sea coast in shipman beach hikeTravis.Thurston / Wikimedia Commons; CC-BY-SA-3.0

Beginning in the neighborhood of Hawaiian Paradise Park, the hike soon delves into a dense jungle packed with banyan trees and vines.

The trail opens up into a gorgeous lava rock cliff that runs along the shore until you reach the beautiful Shipman Beach.

Looking for more outdoor adventures? Check out the North Island Jungle Adventure Loop and Kohala Coast and Backcountry Tours.

Popular beaches on the Big Island

The unique thing about Big Island beaches is that many of them are not accessible to the general population.

Some require a 4WD vehicle, while others may require a hike.

So if you’re looking for a quieter beach on the Big Island, you won’t have anything to worry about as there are plenty of options.

However, don’t worry if you won’t have access to a 4WD vehicle or are not in the mood to hike.

Beaches are plentiful on the largest Hawaiian Island and you won’t be in want of anything.

Papakolea (Green Sand Beach)

The green sand and jagged cliffs give this cove a truly surreal feel that will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

The only downside? The wind. Unless you research the wind speeds in advance, be prepared to take some sand to the face. Requires a hike along the coast.

Pololu Valley Beach

coast of plulu valley beach

As long as you aren’t looking for perfect swimming conditions, Pololu Valley has an awesome black sand beach to spend the day at.

Most people choose the valley beach for its beauty and adjacent hikes since this area's ocean life and rough waters make it a dangerous place to swim.

Punaluu Beach Park

sea turtles in the black sand beachTurtles basking at Punaluu Beach Park

This black sand beach is a spectacular spot to see the colorful sands of the Big Island.

Here, you'll see how lava rock has transformed into sand, making this beach a sight to behold. 

RELATED: Discover the Colorful Sands of Big Island with Shaka Guide

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Makalawena Beach

Your options for white sand beaches on the Big Island may seem limited at first, but if you know where to look you can find some outstanding ones!

For instance, check out Makalawena Beach (north of Kona) for an outstanding white sand beach that’s never too crowded.

Requires a short hike so you’ll have to carry any beach bum equipment with you, but it’s well worth the effort.

The lava rock against the white sand gives the beach a very unique look. Be on the lookout for sea turtles! 

Hapuna Beach

kid on a surfboardHapuna Beach; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

One of the longest white sand beaches on the island. The clear water and consistently clear skies make this a popular beach for visitors.

The waters are usually excellent for swimming and sometimes even bodyboarding.

Kiholo Bay

sea view of kiholo bayKiholo Bay; Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / Flickr; CC-BY-SA-2.0

A remote beach on the Big Island’s west coast. A small hike to the beach offers big rewards - turquoise waters surrounded by lava rock.

Kua Bay Beach

white sand beach of kua bay in big island, hawaiiVisit the white sands of Kua Bay in Kona | Photo by dronepicr

This white sand beach along the Kona Coast is perfect for the whole family.

The unique geology of dark lava rocks on the beach makes this an interesting stop.

This beach tends to get crowded so weekdays and mornings are the best time to visit.

RELATED: Best Beaches on the Kona Coast of Big Island

Kealakekua Bay

aerial view of kealakekua bay in big island, hawaii

A marine life conservation district which makes it a popular spot for snorkeling.

Visit by yourself or go on a snorkeling tour if you’re a beginner.

Shipman Beach

An awesome beach-hike combination in the Keaau area that never disappoints.

The hike through the jungle and along the shore is breathtaking, while the secluded beach is perfect for relaxing after an adventure.

Most Popular Surf Beach in Hawaii

surfing in big island, hawaiiHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aeder

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some amazing surf spots on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The pastime was created on these islands, after all! You can check out any of the following beaches for some great surf spots.

Keep in mind that many of the surf spots on the Big Island aren’t great for beginners, but we’ll let you know which ones are!

Isaac Hale State Park aka Pohoiki Beach (experienced surfers)

This beach is actually a new black sand beach resulting from the 2019 Kilauea eruption.

While the waves on this beach are sometimes tame, there are still some rocks and jagged edges to navigate, so we are only recommending this location to experienced surfers.

If you are an experienced surfer, you should definitely check out this popular surf spot if you’re in the Puna area.

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Honoli'i Beach

One of the best places to learn to surf is on the Big Island. Closer to the shore, the waves are on the small side, but still rideable.

The real break is further out, where the waves are usually still perfect for learning if you’re just getting your bearings.

Plenty of people have caught their first wave at Honoli’i Beach. If you’re staying in Hilo, this is one of the best places to surf, period.

Pine Trees Surfing Beach

This is a very popular surf beach on the Kona side. If you are an experienced surfer, you’ll probably feel at home riding the waves on this beach.

Everyone else should probably steer clear. The beach also has some BBQ sites and tidepools with a few fish to see.

Banyan Surf Spot

Another great spot to catch some waves on the Kona side. It’s also a bit more of an experienced location, but check the break forecasts to see if it might be a good day for the inexperienced surfer.

Looking for more beauty on the beautiful Kona coast? Check out our Kona Big Kahuna Tour.

Snorkel Spots on Big Island Hawaii

divers snorkeling in big island, hawaiiSnorkelers in Kealakekua Bay, Kona; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

The opportunities to snorkel on the Big Island are limitless. Whether you’re a beginner needing some help, or seeking some next-grade adventure, the Big Island has it.

Richardson Beach

This is probably the best spot to snorkel if you’re bound to the Hilo side of the island.

There’s not quite as much marine life to see as on the Kona side, but your chances to see turtles and several species of tropical fish are high.

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Extremely popular snorkeling spot as you’re certain to see all the sea life you could ever hope for.

Kealakekua Bay

Very similar snorkeling experience to Kahalu'u Beach Park, but does require a short hike to access. Many private snorkeling tours will take you here.

Honaunau Bay

Excellent snorkeling at a convenient location for those staying in Kona. There’s even a snorkeling access point along Honaunau Beach Road, which makes this spot even more convenient.

Snorkeling with manta rays at night

A Big Island highlight for those on the Kona side. You’ll need to sign up for a manta ray snorkeling (or diving) tour, but the experience is incredibly thrilling and rewarding with these gentle giants.

Looking for a snorkeling tour? Try Sea Quest Hawaii.

RELATED: The Best Snorkel Spots on the Big Island

kona big kahuna download


Camping is by far the best option if you’re looking to backpack or explore the wilderness of the Big Island.

You’ll find very little access to facilities or running water, so do your research and be sure this is how you want to spend your vacation in Hawaii.

If you didn’t bring any gear with you, don’t worry, there are local businesses that can get you set up with rental equipment.

Kona Sports Center can hook you up with excellent gear rentals.

If you reserve a spot through Volcano House, they’ll set up your entire campsite with a:

  • tent
  • cooler
  • chairs
  • lantern, and
  • blow-up mattress

If you’re looking for something a little different, Huaka’i Campers can rent you a four-wheel drive camping automobile with a rooftop tent.

Also, remember that most campsites on the Big Island require a permit or reservation. So book a couple of weeks in advance at minimum.

There’s nothing worse than setting up only to be kicked off when the site’s rightful tenant shows up.

Keep in mind that several of these campsites are privately owned, so you’ll need to book them on commercial websites rather than the government ones.

We’ll let you know where to reserve your permit for each campground. Some private locations are first come, first serve.

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Waimanu Campground

valley with green grasslands in betweenWaimanu Valley; tsiggs902 / Flickr; Public Domain

Backpacking into Waimanu Valley is one hike you will never forget.

Be prepared for a great trek, but it will be worth it when you arrive at one of the most beautiful and remote areas in all of Hawaii complete with a mango forest and a huge waterfall (enjoy at your own risk).

RELATED: Big Island Waterfalls Guide

There are nine campsites available in the Waimanu Valley campground. All of them are oceanfront locations with plenty of shade from coconut trees.

Plus, you’ll feel like you’re on your own private island. Depending on the time of year, you might have the entire black sand beach to yourself.

There is no running water in the valley unless you count the river, so you’ll need to carry in all the water you need, a filtration system, or iodine tablets.

There is one vault-style (no flush) outhouse between the nine sites.

You can reserve a campsite in the Waimanu Valley here.

Namakanipaio Campground

Namakanipaio campgrounds at nghtNamakanipaio cabins; @ericfrankephoto

Namakanipaio isn’t operated by the state or local government, but the locations are very well-kept and have some services and options available you might not be used to at typical sites.

The campsites cost $15 and are first come, first serve so you’ll want to get there early.

If there aren’t any spots, this site also has overflow camping, but the rates are subject to change with demand so they might get expensive.

If you don’t want to risk it, there are also mini-cabins available for rental and reservation.

You can reserve them online, but it can be hard to find an opening, so give the number at the top of this page a call if you’re interested.

Namakanipaio is located just outside of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Kulanaokuaiki Campground

If you’re looking to camp inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kulanaokuaiki Campground is a gorgeous option.

You can’t reserve a spot, but the sites rarely fill up completely. Still, you might want to arrive early and have a backup plan just in case.

The campsites are walk-in and located just off Hilina-Pali Road on the Maunaiki Trail.

Punaluu Beach Park Campground

black sand beach with sea turtles coming out from the seaPunaluu Beach Park; Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aede

On the southern segment of the island, you can camp at Punaluu Beach Park.

The park doesn’t have designated campsites, but you’ll still need to book a permit.

If you choose to stay here, you’ll be camping right on the beach.

You might even see some green or hawksbill sea turtles lounging on the black sand!

Visit Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea, the world’s largest volcano, is a spectacular place to visit.

It has some of the best stargazing conditions in the world, a unique environment with native Hawaiian species, and it even receives snow during Hawaii’s colder months!

Make sure to read up on safety information regarding acclimating to the changing altitude before you head out.

RELATED: Get Ready to Have Your Breath Taken Away on Big Island's Mauna Kea

Visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

couples walking tropical botanical gardensHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas

The Island of Hawaii’s western shore is home to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden - a wild cluster of unique plants and animals.

There are a number of awesome hikes packed into this botanical garden (over 15 separate trails!), which include national treasures such as the:

  • Palm Vista
  • Palm Jungle
  • Onomea Falls
  • Banyan Canyon
  • Lily Lake, and
  • Trail to the Ocean Trails

Each offers something unique and spectacular. The garden also has a bird exhibit called the Founder’s Birdhouse, which houses several different varieties of Macaws, as well as over 40 different species of plants.

Admission is $30 for adults, $22 for children 6-12, and free for children under 6.

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Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

drid lava with flowers sproutingHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kuni Nakai

In addition to camping at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can also:

  • hike trails
  • backpack
  • drive scenic routes
  • explore lava tubes
  • birdwatch
  • study geology, and
  • discover petroglyphs

Most people try to fit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park into one day.

However, if you love the outdoors, consider spending several days at this unique park.

One day is only enough for a couple of hikes and maybe a drive along the scenic route.

RELATED: Things to Do in Volcanoes National Park

To visit the Big Island’s east coast, check out our Volcanoes National Park Tour and North Island Jungle Adventure Loop, which visits Hilo (this is the only Shaka Guide tour that visits Hilo).

hawaii volcanoes national park download


There are amazing markets all over the Big Island. If you’re staying in Hilo or the Puna-Kalapana area, you’re especially well-positioned to hit the highlights.

Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar and Farmers’ Market is a particularly fun event with delicious food, drinks, music, and locally made products and crafts.

There’s also the Hilo Market on Saturdays and the Pahoa Market on Sundays.

RELATED: Best Big Island Farmers Markets

Cliff Jumping 

cliff in big island, hawaii

If you are looking for a thrill, the Big Island has a major cliff-jumping opportunity to get your adrenaline going (at your own risk).

Head to South Point, also known as Ka Lae, to jump off the southernmost tip of the United States.

Depending on conditions it might be anywhere from a 20-foot to 75-foot jump straight into the ocean below.

Please pay attention to the ocean, tide, and weather conditions.

Want to learn more about this unique corner of the island? Check out our South Island Epic Coastal Journey.

south island epic journey download


Skydiving is extremely popular in the Hawaiian Islands. You can check out Big Island Gravity LLC.


ziplining in big island, hawaiiHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

If you want to stay a little closer to the ground but still get that rush, ziplining might be the perfect experience for you.

There are several great options on the island. You might try:



The first lu'au was in 1819 when the son of Kamehameha the Great brought an end to centuries of social and class divisions.

It was a celebration of change symbolizing Hawaiian values and, coincidentally, a really awesome time.

The luaus on the Big Island are pretty good about adhering to Hawaiian culture.

There are several companies that can plan and set up a lu'au if you’ve got enough friends.

These usually run from about $50 to $200 per person.

If you’re traveling with a small party, check with your hotel or online just before you arrive to see if any are already scheduled.

hawaiian foodRyanhnl / Wikimedia Commons; CC-BY-SA-4.0

In Hawaiian, lu'au means feast, so a good, traditional lu'au will put a lot of importance on culturally accurate Hawaiian dishes such as poi and kalua pork.

Traditional hula used to be hard to come by, but a resurgence has led to some fantastic entertainment.

It’s many times more fascinating than the more common Westernized spin, so be sure to ask about it before signing up!

RELATED: Hula Dancing: How The Traditional Art Nearly Died

Hearing tales from Hawaiian religion and legends is also common at the best luaus, so keep an ear out for some intriguing storytelling and culture.

Looking for a great lu'au? Check out this list here.

Bars And Restaurants

You’ll find most of the eateries on the Big Island are near the two main towns: Kailua-Kona and Hilo.

With the Kona side being more touristy, you’ll find a handful of classy restaurants thrown in with trendy and casual locations.

Hilo caters to the local population that lives on the Big Island, so it’s a great place to taste some local eats and mom-and-pop shops.

Popular places to eat and drink:

  • Big Island Grill
  • Merriman’s
  • Huggo’s on the Rocks
  • Da Poke Shack
  • Cafe 100
  • Island Fish and Chips
  • Kona Brewing Company
  • Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill
  • Hawaiian Style Cafe
  • Island Lava Java

RELATED: Best Places To Eat in Waikoloa & North Kohala; Best Places To Eat In Waimea & Hamakua

Best Time to Visit The Big Island, Hawaii

April, May, September, and October are probably the best months to visit the Big Island.

There are comparably few travelers to the Big Island during these months and, usually, excellent weather.

The decrease in demand means that travel and hotel fares will be at their lowest points during these months.

big island annual calendar

However, many people love to visit Hawaii during its whale-watching season.

If you’re certain that whale watching is an activity you want to try, the best time to visit is January through March.

Whales can most easily be seen from boat tours and even from ashore during this period.


Hawaii really only has two seasons: a wet winter and a dry summer.

The wet months are November through March, while the average monthly high sits around the eighties the entire year.

The lows drop to the mid-sixties during the winter and stay around 70 during the summer.

However, the weather does vary across the island. Generally, the Kona coast sees a bit more sunshine than the eastern shores (Hilo side) of the island.

Keep in mind that you’ll come across varying degrees of weather and environment.

This happens as you travel from the coast up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Additionally, this extends up to Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa, where it snows on the top during winter.

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How To Get To Big Island, Hawaii

If you’re headed to the Big Island, you’ll most likely be flying into the Kailua-Kona Airport or the Hilo Airport.

Make sure you plan accordingly as these airports are on opposite sides of the island and require a 2-hour drive between the two.

RELATED: Hawaii Airports Guide: Everything You Need To Know


road in big island, hawaiiIsland of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Anna Pacheco

On most parts of the Big Island, you’ll be limited to rental cars and buses for getting around.

Hilo and Kona do have rideshare options available in certain areas, but you’ll find it difficult to rely solely on rideshares outside of these towns.

Rental Cars

In the Hilo airport, you have several options for finding a rental car.

Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo, Dollar Rent a Car, Avis, and Budget all have stations at the airport.

If you’re flying into Kailua-Kona, you can choose between Enterprise, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty and Payless.

The Bus

The Bus system on the Big Island can get you to most places, especially within towns. Y

ou can’t always count on it to show up on time, but it is a great option if you are flexible and are trying to save some money.

Ride Shares

Uber and Lyft both began operating on the Big Island in 2017, so you’ll have those at your disposal in the more developed areas like Hilo and Kona.

They can certainly get you to and from the airport and around the cities.

However, you might have a difficult time getting picked up from many of the beaches, hikes, and other outdoor attractions.

RELATED: Hawaii Uber and Lyft Guide

kohala coast download

How Much Does A Trip To Hawaii Cost?

couples walking the farmers marketHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas

No one likes to spend more money than they have to, and one of the best ways to make sure that doesn’t happen is to plan a budget.

Here are some costs you should be aware of and budget tips to help you make this a worry-free vacation.

Food Costs

breakfast meal in hawaii big islandHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Blake Bronstad

Food is extremely expensive on the Hawaiian islands. And while the Big Island is one of the more cost-efficient islands, food here can still be pricey.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $4-$7 dollars for milk and about $5 for a dozen large eggs.

Restaurants are a little bit more in line with mainland prices on the Big Island.

In comparison to the other islands, you’ll still be better off cooking for yourself if you want to save money.

If you eat out, set aside about $15 per person for a casual restaurant.

Lodging Costs

If you are thrifty, you’ll be surprised at how much you can save on the Big Island in lodging.

Many very livable Airbnb guest rooms can run as low as $30 a night. That’s an absolute steal.

Even hotels aren’t quite as expensive as you might expect. Depending on the location, you can often find a hotel room for under $100 a night.

Hotels on the Kona side usually run a bit more than those on the Hilo side, but there are still some rooms available for around that price.

If you’re looking to stay at a resort, you can find rooms of varying luxury from about $150 all the way up to almost $900 per night.

A standard resort experience will probably run you about $250 a night.

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Ticketing and Airfare

As with any destination, your ticket price is going to depend a lot on where you’re traveling from, when you’re going, and how early you get your ticket.

Round-trip flights from Portland International Airport might cost anywhere between $350 to $750 for an economy seat, for instance.

From Dallas, you can expect to spend $600 to $1000 for a similar seat. From New York, prices run from about $600 to $1,500.

Other Transportation Costs

Transportation costs will vary depending on how you plan on getting to your adventures.

If you take the bus you can get to and from each adventure for $4 per person or spend $60 per person for a month of unlimited long rides.

If you’d prefer to have your own transportation always available, you can rent a vehicle for about $60 to $70 a day.

Keep in mind that you might find yourself in need of a 4WD vehicle on the Big Island, which will cost about $20 more per day.

4WD vehicles are not required to have a fantastic trip to the Big Island. In fact, most people don’t opt for 4WD.

Entertainment Expenses

couples in polulu valleyPololu Valley; Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

One of the best things about Hawaii is that once you arrive, your entertainment expenses can be negligible depending on your plans.

There is no limit to the number of beaches or hikes you can hit, all for free.

Of course, everyone has something special they might be willing to spend a little extra on, as well.

The best way to nail down an entertainment budget is to make a list of must-dos, hunt down prices on each item, and then prioritize.

Here are some approximate rates to help get you started.

big island hawaii approximate entertainment rates

RELATED: Family-Friendly Activities on Big Island

Tips to Save Money in Hawaii

4 people sitting in the black sand beachHawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

If you are looking to save everywhere you can, we’ve got a few more tips you might consider. Mix and match as you see fit!

Plan with a friend or group 

Traveling with a group can bring down your cost quite a bit. You can split your accommodation expenses, car rentals, and rideshares.

Some activities will even have a discount or added bonus for groups.

Alternatively, travel alone

If you are a minimalist traveler and enjoy seeing the sights rather than booking tours, then traveling alone might be a better option for you to save money.

Eating out, standby tickets and waiting lists are also much easier to navigate alone.

Package deals

Figure out what you want to do in advance and search for a package deal online or with a local travel agency.

You might be able to save big by booking several or all of your adventures through a single company.

Military, senior, resident, children discounts

There are several different types of discounts you might be eligible to receive depending on your situation.

Almost every activity will have military, senior, and discounts for children.

If you happen to be traveling from another island, there’s also the kama'aina discount for residents of Hawaii.

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The Big Island’s COVID-19 Requirements

Currently, there are no pre-entry requirements if you are visiting Hawaii.

However, if you've been to the Big Island before, please note that many of your beloved restaurants may have closed and many attractions may still be closed or have modified hours.

Make reservations in advance if there's something you'd really like to do or a restaurant you'd love to try.

Also, please remember to practice aloha on your trip. Understand that the Big Island is an isolated island with limited medical resources.

Respect the local residents by adhering to local mask mandates, social distancing, and following all state protocols.

For more on the latest Covid-19 travel updates for Hawaii, click here. 

RELATED: 12 Ways to Be a Respectful Traveler to Hawaii

Travel Responsibly

two men sitting in the coast of big island, hawaii

Planning a trip to the Big Island is going to take some time, but hopefully, this guide will help make things easier for you.

Keep in mind that although it is great to have a plan, plans don’t always pan out. 

If you wake up to rain or bad conditions one day, don’t sweat it - there are a ton of other great activities and adventures to find.

Some of your best days on the Big Island might be when you went where the island took you.

During your stay on the Big Island, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land, and wildlife.

Please pick up your trash, never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals, and avoid spots that are unsafe.

Hawaii’s natural resources are precious and it’s up to all of us to help preserve them.

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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 aloha@shakaguide.com.


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