Hawaii: A Travel Guide for the Big Island
Disclaimer: Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here.
Oh man, this one has taken a long time to write because I miss this place so much. Hawaii is amazing and there is so much to appreciate that I have to share all the best things we have found.
Please note that this guide is based on the Big Island, not Oahu (where Honolulu is). And I try to always do things ‘on a budget’, but as with Las Vegas, there’s not much that is budget-friendly when it comes to Hawaii.
First up, flights tend to be cheaper between October and March. So, search with different airlines and have flexible dates. For our first trip, we booked about six months in advance. For our second trip, only like six weeks in advance (it was sort of spur-of-the-moment). If you’re on the East Coast of the USA, be prepared for a day of traveling. It generally takes about 13 hours with two layovers (the return trip is terrible because not only do you travel for 13 hours, but you lose 5-6 hours due to the time difference AND you’re leaving paradise so it’s all very sad). BUT with all that said, it is totally worth it.
I also recommend staying for more than a week if you can. Our first trip was about 7 days & it flew by in a blink. Our second trip was two weeks long & we were able to literally travel around the entire island, laze about, & generally just have a chill, relaxed time.
If you visit the Big Island of Hawaii, Kailua-Kona is a nice place to center your travels around. Rent a car for cheap & you can take trips over to Hilo, Volcanoes National Park, Waimea, Captain Cook, & other places of interest on the island. ProTip: This island has many different climates, so be prepared if you’re going to travel around!
Kona Town – From bars to beaches to shopping, the town of Kailua-Kona has it all for you.
Volcanoes National Park – Although the Kilauea Caldera is no longer filled with lava (it erupted in 2018) it’s still a sight to see. Stay (or at least visit) the Volcano House which is right beside the caldera and offers an exceptional view. There are also some really cute tiny cabins you can rent nightly in the park.
Waipio Valley – Stunning view from the top and a black sand beach at the bottom. Also, wild horses & waterfalls! This is a must-see. ProTip: You may have to hike down or pay for a ride as only 4WD vehicles are allowed to use the ‘road’ (more like a path) and most car rental companies explicitly forbid you to go here.
Green Sand Beach (Papakolea) – To get to this cool site in an old cinder cone, be prepared for a 2.5 mile hike. It is illegal to drive directly to the beach… but um… yeah, there are definitely rides available. (Please note: By saying that, I do not condone it & you’re also in for an uncomfortably bumpy ride) Anyways… in the winter months you can see whales in the ocean, the water is gorgeous, & the views around are amazing.
Hilo – See Rainbow Falls in the morning, take a relaxing walk in the Japanese-style gardens, visit Hilo Bay, & check out the Tsunami Museum.
Hapuna Beach Park – White sandy beach, need I say more?
Captain Cook – Check out Kealakekua Bay, see the Painted Church, & visit Big Island Bees (their honey is so good).
Paradise Brewing Company – The chillest bar to have a drink in Kona. Featuring some good Mai Tai’s, a decent craft beer selection, pool table, & a beautiful sunset view of Kailua Bay.
Pancho & Lefty’s – Also located in Kona…go to try the Lava Flow (a delicious frozen drink).
The Fish & The Hog – In Waimea, this rustic, feel-at-home restaurant serves good food. From burgers to BBQ to tacos to salads, they’ve got it for you.
Keoki’s Ono Fish & Chips – Located on Hawaii Belt Road in Captain Cook, the fish and chips are SO GOOD. The eclectic outdoor seating & friendly staff help make this restaurant a must.
Lucy’s Taqueria – Tacos, burritos, & more. This restaurant is located in Hilo. As of 4/30/21, Lucy’s has closed.
Big Island Brewhaus – Located in Waimea, the atmosphere and beers are top notch.
Extras: Book a fishing charter – cost is about $500 plus don’t forget a tip for the first mate! Go to a luau – see hula dancing & eat some Kalua pig cooked in an imu!
There’s so much that the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer that this post just can’t cover it all (seriously, I KNOW there is stuff I am forgetting). So to sum it up: go exploring, be respectful, & have fun!
Have you visited the Big Island? What are your favorite things to see and do? Let me know in the comments below!