33 Things to Do on Big Island
There are plenty of things to do on the Big Island from outdoor hiking adventures to relaxing escapes. It remains a huge favorite among repeat visitors to Hawaii because of the vast experiences that are available on the island. Here are some of our favorite things to do on the Big Island.
1. Visit Punaluu Black Sand Beach
Punaluu Black Sand Beach
If you’re coming to Hawaii, you’re probably already planning to spend a good amount of time lounging on the beach to work on your tan. But did you know that one of the most popular things to do on the Big Island includes a visit to its famous black sand beach, Punaluu?
The color of this famous beach comes from the black volcanic rock that has rubbed down to sand over the years by the power of the ocean's waves. It's a very unique experience to walk barefoot on a black sand beach and we encourage you to drive out to this gem.
2. Explore Shipman's Beach
Shipman Beach, Photo by Thomas Tunsch, CC BY SA 3.0, via Flickr
One of the most underrated beaches on the Big Island is Shipman Beach. Also known as Haena Beach (and not to be confused with Haena Beach on Kauai), Shipman Beach actually requires a 2.5-mile hike that includes jungle vines and gorgeous coastal views. The hike itself is relatively easy and you'll be rewarded with a secluded beach that never has a crowd.
3. Snorkel At Kealakekua Bay
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
If you love to snorkel, make sure to include Kealakekua Bay on your itinerary for things to do on the Big Island. Not only is sea life abundant here, but the bay is well protected and it's a great spot for both beginners and seasoned snorkelers to explore the Big Island's ocean wildlife.
4. Papakolea (Green Sand Beach)
Papakolea "Green Sand" Beach
One of the coolest things to do on the Big Island is to hike to Papakolea, Big Island's Green Sand Beach. The sand comes from the green olivine crystals, which gives the beach a green hue that's especially noticeable farther away. The waves at Papakolea are usually on the rough side, but the coastal hike has beautiful views.
5. Hike Pololu Valley
Sure, the Pololu Valley overlook is breathtaking, but there’s more to be admired on the hike! Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Located on the Big Island's North Kohala Coast, the valleys in this area have remained largely untouched. Pololu Valley is a gorgeous hike into a lush rainforest where you'll cross a stream that was once used to grow taro. If you aren't interested in hiking, you can still see a great view from the Pololu Valley Lookout.
Ziplining in Hakalau on the Big Island. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
There are quite a few zipline adventures available on the Big Island, but the majority of them are on Hilo where there's plenty of rain to keep the trees and plants fresh and green. Each company offers something a little different such as ziplining over a botanical garden or even a waterfall.
7. Helicopter Tours
Aerial view of the lava path in Puna. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
By far one of the most popular things to do on the Big Island is to see it in its entirety from up above! The Big Island is largely uninhabited with a wide range of environments and climates so the things you can see from one tiny island on a helicopter is pretty amazing. You can also tour adjacent islands, go whale watching, and view lava when conditions permit.
8. Manta Ray Night Dives
Diving with manta rays. Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Seeing a squadron of migrating manta rays might be one of the most surreal experiences of your life. Watching these gentle giants as they glide through the water like air is indescribable. On the Kona-side of the Big Island, there are options for certified scuba or snorkeling excursions that will take you to swim with these special creatures.
RELATED: 5 Manta Dives in Kona
9. Whale Watching
A humpback whale in Hawaii's waters. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) /Joe West
You don’t even have to make the trip undersea to experience Hawaii’s breathtaking marine life. From November to May you can humpback whale watch by land, boat, or even helicopter, but the peak of the season is January through March. There are several businesses that specialize in whale watching or you can just pick a spot on the beach and watch them from ashore.
A couple golfing on the Kohala Coast. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / John Hook
If you’re a golfer, there are plenty of opportunities to hit the links on the Big Island. You’ll have a few options on the Hilo side, and many more near Kona. Several resorts on the Kona Side are also geared towards golfers.
11. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder - Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park could be a vacation all itself, it’s just a bonus that it happens to be surrounded by one of the most beautiful places on earth. The park features two of the world’s most active volcanoes and is often one of the best sites for lava viewing. There’s also camping, hiking, backpacking, and petroglyphs inside the park’s boundaries.
Check our Shaka Guide's Volcanoes National Park Driving Tour! We've done the work for you and will take you to our favorite stops in the park.
12. Laupahoehoe Train Museum
Laupahoehoe Train Museum in North Hilo. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Aeder
A fun side trip for kids, train enthusiasts, and history buffs. There are a lot of old photographs at this museum that explain the Big Island's history during its plantation and railroad days.
A starry night over the Big Island. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Anna Pacheco
One of the most underrated things to do on the Big Island is to go stargazing. The island is so big and the population is so sparse, that it's relatively easy to find someplace that's dark enough where you can fully enjoy the starry night sky with your own eyes.
14. Kulaniapia Falls
Rappelling down Kulaniapia Falls. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
Kulaniapia Falls is Hawaii's largest privately-owned waterfall where you can book rappelling sessions, stand-up paddleboard in the pool, lodge in off-the-grid accommodations, and even enjoy farm-to-table meals prepared by private chefs. Check out The Inn At Kulaniapia Falls for more information.
15. Go On A Cruise
A catamaran cruises along in Kealakekua Bay. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
If you're looking for a relaxing thing to do on the Big Island, a short cruise along the coast may just be for you. Each one offers a different experience but the most popular cruises center around activities such as snorkeling, whale watching, and even sunset and dinner experiences.
16. Mauna Kea
Snow-capped Mauna Kea in the distance. Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Due to the observatories on Mauna Kea, the Big Island has laws and regulations that help prevent the light pollution that makes stargazing so difficult in other regions. You can also head up to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, where they host a stargazing program with their impressive telescopes.
17. Horseback Riding
A group of horseback riders in Waimea. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
There are a few companies that offer horseback riding throughout the island. You can ride along beaches, through jungles, or into the Big Island’s beautiful valleys. For more information, check out a few of the stables and agencies that offer rides.
18. Lili?uokalani Park and Gardens
Japanese gardens at Lili?uokalani Park and Gardens. Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Hawaii is home to several world-renowned botanical gardens. In Hilo, the Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens is 24 acres, open to the public, and features a lovely Japanese garden. Elsewhere, you might check out Hawaii Tropical Gardens north of Hilo, Akatsuka Gardens near the town of Volcano, or Sadie Seamore Botanical Gardens in Kona.
19. Drink Big Island Coffee
Enjoy some fresh coffee from the Big Island. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
While Kona coffee is probably the most famous coffee both on the Big Island and in the State of Hawaii,
20. Visit a Farm
Cutting the cacao pod for farm visitors. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
There are so many coffee farms on the Big Island that it gets hard to keep track of them all. But in addition to coffee, there are also the more common vegetable and fruit farms that you can explore via a guided tour. There are even abalone, winery, and vanilla farms, too.
21. Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve
Petroglyphs at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
We mentioned Hawaii Volcanoes National Park earlier as one of the best things to do on the Big Island, but in addition to hikes and lava tubes, there are also petroglyphs to explore! Make a stop here because there are over 3,000 rock etchings here!
22. Taste Locally-Brewed Beer
A flight of locally-brewed beer. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
If you enjoy trying out different beers, Hawaii might be a good place to sample some local brews. Tropical fruity beers such as pineapple or passion fruit are popular choices and if you don't feel like going to a restaurant or eatery, you can always head to the local grocery to pick up a few bottles.
23. Learn About Kamehameha The Great
Kamehameha statue at the North Kohala Civic Center. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Blake Bronstad
Two of the four commissioned Kamehameha I statues are located on the Big Island, which is the birthplace of this historical figure in Hawaiian history. Kamehameha the Great united all of the islands under one nation and was known as a just and fair leader.
24. Hulihe?e Palace
Entrance to Hulihe?e Palace. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas
If you're a history buff or are interested learning more about the lives of Hawaiian royalty, consider a visit to Hulihe?e Palace. There is a unique collection of Victorian furniture, artwork, and artifacts from the time of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani.
25. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens
Walking to the entrance of Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas
There are a number of great botanical gardens on the Island of Hawaii, but the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is one where you can sit and relax in the loving care of nature. The flowers are plentiful and the variety of plant life is stunning.
26. Hilo Farmers' Market
The Hilo Farmers' Market. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas
Want to do some grocery shopping at a decent price? Curious about the local fruits and vegetables available on the Hilo side of the Big Island. Visit the Hilo Farmers' Market for a look into where many of the local residents shop local.
RELATED: Best Big Island Farmers Markets
27. Cherry Blossoms
The cherry blossom trees in South Kohala are a sight to be seen. Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Usually during the months of January to February, the cherry blossoms in South Kohala on the Big Island come to full bloom and the bright pink blossoms float and flutter like a gentle snowfall in the wind. If you're lucky enough to catch them on the right day, you'll be taking pictures all day left and right!
28. Hapuna Beach
Hapuna Beach. Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB) / Kirk Lee Aeder
As the Big Island's largest white sand beach (and consistently in the international Top Ten Beaches lists), Hapuna Beach is one beach you should put on your itinerary. The beach is not only gorgeous but great for families and kids.
29. Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Located in Akaka Falls State Park, you'll get to see both Akaka Falls and Hapuna Falls via a very short and easy hike on a paved pathway. Nestled along lush greenery and a steep cliff, the water falls 422 feet into a pool of water down below.
30. Pu?uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Pu?uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman
This "City of Refuge" was a place where ancient Hawaiians who broke kapu (the old laws of Hawaii punishable by death) could escape to and receive a second chance of life. It's a unique exploration outdoors where you can walk on the sand and pathways to see the different buildings and learn about this sacred site devoted to Lono, God of Life.
31. Lava Tree State Monument
Lava Tree State Monument. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Enjoy a fun and easy hike through Lava Tree State Monument, where you can see the tree molds the lava created back in a 1790 lava flow. The formations are an interesting look into the destruction of lava, but you'll also see an abundance of plant life in the area, too.
32. Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls. Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder
One of the most popular things to do on the Big Island is a morning visit to Rainbow Falls in Hilo. Come early and when the sun shines through, you'll see a rainbow in the midst of the falls.
33. Shaka Guide Driving Tour
Shaka Guide Driving Tour App
The last activity we will offer you are our audio driving tours. Shaka Guide has five audio driving tours on Big Island that can show you both well-known and off-the-beaten-path attractions. Consider our Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour, if you’re interested in exploring two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Or, take our Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour to get to know some of Kona side’s unique history and beautiful country roads. We also offer three other tours that cover most parts of the island including the jungles to the north, beaches to the south, and the Kona coast.
Other Things To Do On The Big Island
Here are a few more honorable mentions to keep you busy on the Island of Hawaii:
- Hawaii Plantation Museum
- H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
- Pu?ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
- Lapakahi State Historical Park
- Click here for seasonal events
No matter what you choose to do on the Big Island, you're bound to have an amazing vacation. As you can see from this list, there are plenty of activities and attractions to fill your vacation with unforgettable memories.
Need help deciding which Shaka Guide Big Island driving tour is best for your visit? Send us an email or message us on Facebook or Instagram!