As the name suggests, Big Island is Hawaii’s largest and youngest island, but don’t let the size fool you; Big Island is impressive for many more reasons than just its size. Home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Big Island offers an impressive array of stunning natural resources and a plethora of culture for visitors to explore.
- The Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory
Visitors with a sweet tooth are sure to appreciate a tour of a Hawaii chocolate factory. Located on the plush west end of the island in Kailua-Kona, visitors seeking a behind the scenes look at how chocolate is made can take an exclusive tour. Hawaii is the only state in the US that can grow cacao! Tours include a guided walk through of the orchard and factory and plenty of chocolate sampling – of course!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Big Island without hitting the water and partaking in some of the island’s many water sport activities. The options are endless, with activities ranging from thrilling jet ski rides to serene kayak tours – and everything in between. Activities are also available for the solo traveler or for groups and families. A few of the water activities easily found throughout the island include: banana boat rides, boat and jet ski rentals, kayak and stand up paddle board rentals and tours, parasailing, and more.
- Astronomy Center of Hawaii
Visitors looking to incorporate a little education into their Hawaiian vacation should check out the Imiloa Astronomy Center. Developed in the mid-1990’s, the center was originally constructed to showcase the connection between Hawaiian culture and the groundbreaking astronomical research happening right here in Hawaii. Today, the center is open to the public and offers a wide array of educational tours and events throughout the year that are perfect for families and groups.
- Volcano Winery
What could be better than sampling wine in paradise? This dream could easily become a reality with a quick trip to Volcano Winery. The flavorful concoctions made here incorporate exotic local fruits for truly unique flavors. Popular variations include the “Macadamia Nut Honey Wine”, “Hawaiian Guava-Grape”, and “Volcano Red” – to name a few. Visitors can enjoy their fill of succulent samples, peruse the winery shop, and enjoy live entertainment provided throughout the week.
- Atlantis Submarines
Embrace your inner explorer and take the plunge fathoms below to explore Hawaii’s submerged secrets. Atlantis Adventures provides visitors a truly unique opportunity to board an impressive 48-passenger submarine and investigate a stunning 25-acre coral reef off the Kona coastline. The submarine offers comfortable seating, climate control, and a knowledgeable staff for a safe and fun experience. An underwater submarine tour is the most spectacular way to explore native marine life and take in the submerged scenery.
Fishing neophytes and aficionados alike are sure to enjoy the thrill and adventure of a Hawaiian fishing trip. Charters are available in Kailua-Kona, fishing trips vary in length, location, and price, so be sure to do a bit of research up front to find the perfect trip. Often, trips are available near shore, which usually take just a few hours, or far offshore, which could take an entire day. Guests can expect to catch everything from great table fare, like Mahi and Ahi, to sportfish, like Blue Marlin.
Experience true Hawaiian culture and an evening of fun and adventure at one of Big Island’s many luaus. A true Hawaiian tradition, luaus often include authentic local cuisine and lively displays of music, dancing, and storytelling. Luaus are very family friendly and are a great way to take in the local scenery and culture. If you’re looking for a luau on Big Island, check the Kona area, the Kohala coast area, or with some of the local state and national parks.
- Hilo Farmers Market
Image courtesy of http://hilofarmersmarket.com
Savor Hawaii’s most succulent local offerings with a visit to the famous Hilo Farmers Market. Wednesday and Saturday are the most popular days to visit since more vendors arrive to sell their locally grown and sourced produce and products. Whether you are looking to sample fresh fruit or are looking to stock up on groceries for your stay, a trip to this local gem is a must during your Big Island adventures. Though offerings vary seasonally, visitors can often find avocados, white pineapple, lychee, papaya, mangos, and much more.
Take the plunge and see some of Big Island’s most beautiful native marine life by enjoying a morning or afternoon snorkeling excursion. The island provides several fantastic snorkeling spots that are perfect for beginners and experts alike. Pros are welcome to bring or rent their own gear for private exploration while guided trips are also available. Snorkeling hot spots along Big Island include Kahalu’u Beach Park, Kealakekua Bay, and Honaunau Bay.
- Kahua Ranch
Seeking refuge from the salt and the sand? If so, a trip to Kahua Ranch is just what the doctor ordered. Situated along the western slope of the scenic Kohala Mountains, this working ranch welcomes visitors for a wide array of exciting activities. Guests can enjoy everything from ATV adventures and horseback riding to a BBQ dinner under the stars. The picturesque surroundings and exciting activities make Kahua Ranch a favorite among visitors and locals alike!
- Anna Ranch Heritage Center
Escape the hustle and bustle of the coastline and retreat to Anna Ranch, a hidden Hawaiian gem. This serene ranch is listed on both the National and State Registry of Historic Places and is a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing tour while learning about Hawaii’s first lady in ranching, Anna Perry-Fiske. Visitors are invited to take a tour of the scenic ranch, either on foot or on a bike, and to explore the historic ranch home. The ranch also hosts exciting events throughout the week, which often include yoga, art demonstrations, and live entertainment.
- Aerial Tours
Looking for the absolute best way to take in Big Island’s beauty during your stay? If so, book an aerial tour to take in everything from the pristine coastline to the island’s active volcano scenery. Tours include plane and helicopter tours, which are ideal for guests seeking a luxury experience, or zipline tours, better suited for adventurous visitors. Tours vary greatly in length, location, and price, so do you research in advance to find the perfect Hawaiian excursion.
- Big Island Bees
It’s not hard to “bee happy” at Big Island Bees. See what we did there? Come see what all the buzz is about and take a trip to the Big Island honey farm where you can learn all about beekeeping and honey production. Did you know – bees need to fly 48,000 miles to produce just one pound of honey? The experts at Big Island Bees will fill you in on all of the fascinating science and stats behind the 120 Million bees that they actively manage. Visitors can also stock up on unique Hawaiian souvenirs, like raw organic honey, handmade soap bars, and more.
- Scuba Diving
Get up close and personal with some of Hawaii’s most beautiful and majestic sea creatures by taking a scuba diving trip off Big Island’s crystal shoreline. Dive excursions vary and include options for adventurers of every level, though some initial training is required. Visitors can choose between a traditional daytime dives and explore popular marine life or select a more adventurous night dive, when manta rays and other nocturnal creatures are out to play.
- Dolphin Encounters
Dive in for the adventure of a lifetime and get up close and personal with some of nature’s most beautiful and intelligent creatures with a dolphin swim excursion. Ethical dolphin encounter companies are abundant throughout the island, just be sure to do your research and stick to a company that focuses on the safety of both the swimmers and the dolphins. Trips typically last a few hours and focus on finding dolphin hotspots. Guests can enjoy short swims and snorkels around the gentle creatures, many of which are rather playful and enjoy the company.
- Donkey Mill Art Center
Seeking a hands on, interactive Hawaiian cultural experience? If so, the Donkey Mill Art Center is the place for you! Perfect for when you need a break from the beach or for a rainy afternoon, the art center offers a wide array of enticing programs and events each week. Visitors can take an art class, visit with local artists and peruse local art, or visit the gift shop for a one of a kind Hawaiian souvenir.
- Flumin’ Kohala
“The Ditch” is an impressive engineering feat that was hand built over 100 years ago to provide irrigation to local farms. Today, the hand-carved flume provides a unique and exciting attraction for families and groups. Flumin’ Kohala visitors can enjoy a guided hour-long float through the scenic Hawaiian countryside as they listen to local stories and folklore. The tour includes 10 tunnels, 7 water flumes, and plenty of tropical scenery along the way. You won’t want to miss a ride on Big Island’s most unique water attraction!
- State Parks & Gardens
Big Island is home to a plethora of protected parks and gardens, which are ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Parks include waterfront districts that offer serene natural beaches and marine life and more tropical interior parks, which provide the perfect place for hiking, biking, picnics, waterfall exploration, and more. A few popular parks and gardens on Big Island include: Kalopa State Recreation Park, Kiholo State Park Reserve, ‘Akaka Falls State Park, Wailuku River State Park, and Manuka State Wayside.
- Mauna Kea Summit
Feeling adventurous? Explore Hawaii’s wild side by taking the trek up Mauna Kea. This dormant volcano stands more than 4,000 feet above sea level and is an absolute must for Big Island visitors of all ages. Most guided tours include a car ride up the mountain, though hiking excursions are available. Visitors should be prepared for the elevation change and are encouraged to pack blankets and jackets as the summit can be quite chilly. Visit the summit at dawn for an amazing sunrise experience or visit in the evening for a stunning sunset and stargazing.
- Beach Hopping
As Hawaii’s largest island, Big Island offers plenty of beaches for visitors to explore. Big Island is also the youngest island in the group, creating a unique beach experience. Unlike other islands, where miles upon miles of white sandy beaches are available, Big Island beaches are often made of black sand, crystal green sand, coral, and even newly formed lava rocks. Popular area beaches include Papakolea, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, New Kaimu, and Ho’okena Beach Park.
- Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory
Visitors go nuts for this unique Big Island attraction – pun intended. The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory is one of Hawaii’s largest macadamia nut suppliers and generously opens their farm and factory to the public to share their story. Visitors can enjoy a scenic 3-mile drive through the plush macadamia nut orchards and check out the Visitor’s Center for complimentary samples.
- Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm
Did you know that there are more than 45 different species of seahorses? Learn all about these majestic sea creatures at the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, a popular Big Island attraction among families, groups, and couples. Ocean Rider is one of the first farms to successfully raise seahorses and visitors can get exclusive tours of this state of the art facility and get up close and personal with various seahorse species from across the globe. This is truly a one of a kind experience!
- Kanaloa Octopus Farm
Looking for a truly one of a kind experience? If so, pencil in a trip to the Kanaloa Octopus Farm, the world’s first and only octopus farm! The center strives to produce a sustainable alternative to wild caught octopuses for uses in aquariums and research. Visitors can tour the state-of-the-art facilities and learn all about these lovable cephalopods. Tours are offered twice a day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on a first come, first serve basis.
- Volcano Art Center
Hawaiian history and culture come together at the Volcano Art Center. This nonprofit educational center strives to perpetuate native Hawaiian heritage through art and cultural programs. The art center features galleries from a variety of local artists, hands on classes and workshops, and unique cultural events and performances. A trip here is a great experience for families or is a great way to spend an afternoon away from the beach.
- Thomas A Jaggar Museum
Curious geologists and nature lovers alike will definitely want to check out the breathtaking scenery at the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum. Located deep within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the trip is well worth the effort. The outdoor museum includes the Jaggar Overlook where visitors can view lively shows from one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Guests can also enjoy geological and cultural exhibits and visit the popular gift shop for a very special Hawaii souvenir.
- Dinner & Cocktail Cruise
Looking for the best way to take in a Hawaiian sunset? Consider a scenic dinner or cocktail cruise around the island. Cruises vary in length, offerings, and price, so do your homework to find the perfect fit for your group. Some cruises are great for families while others are more appropriate for adults and couples. Guests can include in cruises that offer cocktails and live entertainment or splurge on a full dinner feast. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy the stunning sunset views and lively
- Hot Springs & Ponds
Though the cool Hawaiian ocean water is refreshing and a huge draw for visitors, Big Island is home to a unique water feature that can’t be found on other islands – hot springs. Located in several spots within the Puna district, the hot springs are a great way to relax and take in the lush scenery, especially when you take time to consider how truly fascinating this natural occurrence really is! If you’re looking for a hot spring on Big Island, check out Ahalanui Pond or Pohoiki Warm Spring.
- Lava Viewing
Lava viewing is an absolute “must” during your trip to Big Island. When else will you be able to explore a live volcano? Big Island is home to four of the five active Hawaiian island volcanoes, providing plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these gentle giants. Popular lava viewing and volcano exploration spots include the Halema’uma’u crater, which is most stunning before dawn and after dusk when the lava can be seen against the backdrop of the stars, and at the base of the Kilauea Volcano where the lava meets the ocean.
Golf lovers flock to the scenic shores of Big Island each year for the privilege of playing at some of the world’s most coveted golf courses. Take your turn on the greens and book a tee time at one of Hawaii’s popular courses, known not only for beautiful scenery but also for unique features, like black-lava lined fairways and palm tree lined greens. Popular Big Island golf courses include Hualalai Golf Club, Sea Mountain Golf Course, Mauna Lani Resort Course, Waikola Village Golf Club, and Naniloa Counry Club.
You should definitely go chasing waterfalls during your trip to Hawaii! A plethora of rain and dramatic altitude changes have created several scenic waterfalls scattered throughout the island. Many of Big Island’s waterfalls are easily accessible via a quick and scenic hike or a car trip. Visitors can take in the lush tropical scenery, enjoy a waterside picnic, and even go swimming and cliff diving. A few of Big Island’s most popular waterfalls include ‘Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, Pe’epe’e Falls, and Umauma Falls.