There are plenty of unique things to do on the Big Island.

Of the eight main islands, it’s almost a given that you should visit the Big Island, Hawai’i. While most travel to-do lists include cliché tourist traps like luaus (not that we have anything against luaus), they can be lacking in adrenaline and variety. For this reason, we’ve compiled all of the must-try things to do on the Big Island. If you’re in need of fulfilling, exciting things to do on the Big Island – we’ve got you covered. Although not for the faint of heart, you most certainly don’t want to miss out on these top attractions!

Of the eight main islands, it’s almost a given that you should visit the Big Island, which is somewhat confusingly named Hawai’i also. While most travel to-do lists include cliché tourist traps like luaus (not that we have anything against luaus), they can be lacking in adrenaline and variety. For this reason, we’ve compiled all of the must-try activities located on the Big Island. Although not for the faint of heart, you most certainly don’t want to miss out on these top attractions!Hawaii’s Big Island is packed with fun.

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Credit: National Park Service

How cool would it be to say you’ve visited an active volcano? We think it’s quite awesome and one of the best things to do on the Big Island. Thereby, trekkers consider Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a favorite. It’s not difficult to see why! This geologic spot of wonder offers scenic views, challenging hikes, and educational background to give tourists a better understanding of Hawaii’s major land formations.

Easily accessible by car and only five minutes away from the popular Volcano Village lodging, there’s no excuse for missing this park. Despite the Big Island containing five separate volcanos, the National Park only contains two of these — Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Nonetheless, activities abound, including ranger-led hikes, weekly activities such as “After Dark in the Park,” museums, and more.

Do not leave the Big Island without first making a stop here! With its ample photo-ops and active volcanoes, the National Park delights visitors of all ages. Here are a few sights to keep in mind:

Kilauea

KilaueaDo not leave the Big Island without first making a stop here! With its ample photo-ops and active volcanoes, the National Park delights visitors of all ages.Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This is by far the most popular and visited attraction in Hawaii, as well as in the world. Kiilauea holds the title of the most active volcano in the park. Another popular activity is the Crater Rim Drive, on which trekkers can drive along the Kilauea Crater to experience scenic views and ever-changing conditions. At one point, the road even disappears under a fresh sheet of lava.

This is by far the most popular and visited attraction in Hawaii, as well as in the world. Kiilauea holds the title of the most active volcano in the park. Another popular activity is the Crater Rim Drive, on which trekkers can drive along the Kilauea Crater to experience scenic views and ever-changing conditions. At one point, the road even disappears under a fresh sheet of lava.

Kilauea’iki Crater

Kilauea’iki Crater

This short hike is one for the books! Hikers are able to walk across the crater’s floor, which is only about 50 years old. This is one thing to do on the Big Island that is nearly unmatched around the world.

This short hike is one for the books! Hikers are able to walk across the crater’s floor, which is only about 50 years old.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Visitors are met with this incredible sight almost as soon as they exit their cars and cross the parking lot of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. After short hike of about .3 of a mile through a fern forest, an illuminated cave-like lava tube welcomes trekkers.

Visitors are met with this incredible sight almost as soon as they exit their cars and cross the parking lot of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. After short hike of about .3 of a mile through a fern forest, an illuminated cave-like lava tube welcomes trekkers.

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum

Thomas A. Jaggar pioneered the study of volcanology on the Big Island. Open from 10 AM to 8 PM daily, the museum houses geologic displays, maps, and videos.

2. Beaches

Beaches

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, JGKlein

It’s no surprise that Hawaii’s Big Island features numerous beautiful beaches. Don’t lounge on just any beach though! Here are two of our favorite unique beaches:

It’s no surprise that Hawaii’s Big Island features numerous beautiful beaches. Don’t lounge on just any beach though! Here are two of our favorite unique beaches:BeachesThomas A. Jaggar pioneered the study of volcanology on the Big Island. Open from 10 AM to 8 PM daily, the museum houses geologic displays, maps, and videos.Thomas A. Jaggar Muesum

Papakolea — Green Sand Beach

Papakolea — Green Sand Beach

Papakolea is one of two green sand beaches on the Big Island. Despite its difficult-to-reach location (think 1.5+ hour hike), the Green Sand Beach is an unforgettable place to visit and well worth the trip.

Papakolea’s green sand is a result of the 49,000 year old cinder cone of Mauna Loa volcano, which contains green crystals known as olivines. Upon further inspection, travelers notice that these green crystals are mixed with black and white flecks whose sources are lava and coral respectively.

Although a once in a lifetime excursion, be advised that the surf can be rough and the beach lacks lifeguards, bathroom facilities, and places to grab a bite to eat. Nevertheless, stop by to see something new!

Papakolea is one of two green sand beaches on the Big Island. Despite its difficult-to-reach location (think 1.5+ hour hike), the Green Sand Beach is an unforgettable place to visit and well worth the trip. Papakolea’s green sand is a result of the 49,000 year old cinder cone of Mauna Loa volcano, which contains green crystals known as olivines. Upon further inspection, travelers notice that these green crystals are mixed with black and white flecks whose sources are lava and coral respectively. Although a once in a lifetime excursion, be advised that the surf can be rough and the beach lacks lifeguards, bathroom facilities, and places to grab a bite to eat.

Punalu’u County Beach Park – Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u County Beach Park – Black Sand Beach

For those looking for a unique beach that offers a bit more than Papakolea, Punalu’u is the place to go! Located between Kona and Hilo, “Black Sand Beach” is the most famous of its kind on the Big Island.

The sand here is made of small black fragments — a product of lava. Visitors love that this spot gives the opportunity to see endangered Hawksbill and green turtles lounging and frolicking in the sun. For the more adventurous, Ninole Cove is a short hike away and provides a great sheltered bay in which travelers can snorkel. The edge of the beach is lined with coconut palms and serves as refuge from the sand, which due to its color, gets extremely hot.

Moreover, Black Sand Beach is a great place for swimming, hiking, camping (with a permit that is), and picnicking. Be sure to keep an eye on weather conditions though, as changing winds can make for strong currents and no lifeguards are on duty. Even still, Black Sand Beach is unforgettable!

3. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

Tropical Botanical Gardens

Credit: Flicrk, Brew Books

The green thumb in your travel group is sure to love the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Visitors walk or drive through the 40 acre valley. 2000+ species of tropical plants line the way, meeting guests with beautiful sights, photo-ops, and for some plants, smells.

The Botanical Gardens strive to house a collection and display of tropical plants from around the world, in addition to its mission of educating the public about the dangers faced by rainforests. While open daily from 9AM to 5PM, you will want to arrive early to ensure you have ample time to wander and take in the Garden’s beauty. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens is the perfect thing to do on the Big Island for flora aficionados.

4. Uncles ‘Awa Bar and the Kalapana Night Market

Uncles ‘Awa Bar and the Kalapana Night MarketThe green thumb in your travel group is sure to love the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Visitors walk or drive through the 40 acre valley. 2000+ species of tropical plants line the way, meeting guests with beautiful sights, photo-ops, and for some plants, smells. The Botanical Gardens strive to house a collection and display of tropical plants from around the world, in addition to its mission of educating the public about the dangers faced by rainforests. While open daily from 9AM to 5PM, you will want to arrive early to ensure you have ample time to wander and take in the Garden’s beauty.Hawaii Tropical Botanical GardensFor those looking for a unique beach that offers a bit more than Papakolea, Punalu’u is the place to go! Located between Kona and Hilo, “Black Sand Beach” is the most famous of its kind on the Big Island. The sand here is made of small black fragments — a product of lava. Visitors love that this spot gives the opportunity to see endangered Hawksbill and green turtles lounging and frolicking in the sun. For the more adventurous, Ninole Cove is a short hike away and provides a great sheltered bay in which travelers can snorkel. The edge of the beach is lined with coconut palms and serves as refuge from the sand, which due to its color, gets extremely hot. Moreover, Black Sand Beach is a great place for swimming, hiking, camping (with a permit that is), and picnicking. Be sure to keep an eye on weather conditions though, as changing winds can make for strong currents and no lifeguards are on duty.Kalapana Night Market

Credit: Uncle ‘Awa’s Bar

If you’re in search of nightlife or local things to do on the Big Island, Uncles ‘Awa Bar and the Kalapana Night Market are lowkey favorites. Market days are as follows:

  • Wednesdays – From 5 PM to 9 PM visit the Wednesday Night Ho’olaule’a Market.
  • Saturdays – From 8 AM to 12 PM visit Uncles Kaimu Farmers Market.

In addition to the chance to mingle with locals, this spot is tasty too! Uncle’s Kitchen serves up BBQ and local delicacies. Stop by for a quick bite to eat as you wander the markets.

5. Volcano Golf & Country Club

Volcano Golf & Country ClubIf you’re in search of nightlife while on the Big Island, Uncles ‘Awa Bar and the Kalapana Night Market are lowkey favorites. Market days are as follows:

  • Wednesdays – From 5 PM to 9 PM visit the Wednesday Night Ho’olaule’a Market.
  • Saturdays – From 8 AM to 12 PM visit Uncles Kaimu Farmers Market.

In addition to the chance to mingle with locals, this spot is tasty too! Uncle’s Kitchen serves up BBQ and local delicacies. Stop by for a quick bite to eat as you wander the markets.big island, big island activities, things to do on the big island, what to do on the big island, hawaii big island activities, things to do on big island, things to do in big island, big island things to do, things to do in hawaii, things to do in hawaii big island, things to do on the big island hawaii, big island hawaii activities, things to do on the big island of hawaii, best big island activities, activities big island hawaii, best activities on the big island, things to do big island hawaii, big island hawaii things to do, hawaii big island things to do, things to do big island, big island attractions, hawaii jungle, best things to do on the big island, things to do in big island hawaii, fun things to do on the big island, what is there to do on the big island, big island activity, activities on the big island, hawaiian islands activities, rainforest big island, things to do in the big island, things to do on big island hawaii, what to do in kona hawaii, hawaii big island rainforest, rainforest hawaii big island, activities to do on the big island of hawaii, rainforest big island hawaii, what to do on big island, things to do on hawaii big island, what to do in big island, what to do in hawaii big island, big island of hawaii activities, island activities, big island rainforest, what to do in hawaii, top things to do on the big island, big island hawaii, big island blog, the big island hawaii, the big island, what to do on the big island of hawaii, things to do hawaii big island, things to do in kona, kona island, things to do in kona hawaii

Credit: Hawaii Tee Times

The Big Island is the golf capital of Hawaii, and with its unique courses, we aren’t surprised. In particular, the Volcano Golf & Country Club within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-do for golf lovers. This is because the course is carved from lava flow that has since cooled.

For a daily fee, visitors can play 18 holes along the rim of the active Kilauea Volcano. This spot is in the highlands about 4000 feet above see level. Thus, the sweeping landscape of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are visible, allowing golfers to do some sightseeing whilst playing their favorite game.

The Volcano Golf & Country Club is seriously one of the most unique things to do on the Big Island, as well as in the world.

The Big Island is the golf capital of Hawaii, and with its unique courses, we aren’t surprised. In particular, the Volcano Golf & Country Club within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-do for golf lovers. This is because the course is carved from lava flow that has since cooled. For a daily fee, visitors can play 18 holes along the rim of the active Kilauea Volcano. This spot is in the highlands about 4000 feet above see level. Thus, the sweeping landscape of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are visible, allowing golfers to do some sightseeing whilst playing their favorite game.

6. Helicopter Tours

Helicopter TourHelicopter Tours

Credit: Hawaii Discount Activities

An overhead helicopter tour offers trekkers a sure-fire way to view the best sights on the Big Island. These tours generally leave from Hilo airport, Kona airport, or Hapuna airport. Various vendors fly trekkers high above the island to see any of the following:

  • Volcano Tours
  • Waterfall and Cliff Tours
  • Circle Island Tours

If you have a particular preference, your pilot can accommodate your wishes by flying you close to the best views. Sunset lovers cherish setting sun above Kona in the evenings, while nature lovers delight in Kohala’s Coast and Waipi’o Valley’s 2000+ foot cliffs and waterfalls.  Prices vary, as does air time, but helicopter tours are the perfect way to change your perspective while also participating in one of the best things to do on the Big Island. 

An overhead helicopter tour offers trekkers a sure-fire way to view the best sights on the Big Island. These tours generally leave from Hilo airport, Kona airport, or Hapuna airport. Various vendors fly trekkers high above the island to see any of the following:

  • Volcano Tours
  • Waterfall and Cliff Tours
  • Circle Island Tours

If you have a particular preference, your pilot can accommodate your wishes by flying you close to the best views. Sunset lovers cherish setting sun above Kona in the evenings, while nature lovers delight in Kohala’s Coast and Waipi’o Valley’s 2000+ foot cliffs and waterfalls.  Prices vary, as does air time, but helicopter tours are the perfect way to change your perspective.

7. Waipi’o Valley

Waipi'o Valley

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Gabriele Giuseppini

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley includes one of the Big Island’s premier hikes. Travelers are met with a 0.6 mile hike down the access road at 800 vertical feet and a 25% average grade (4WD IS A MUST!). The Valley of Kings awaits below. The rest of the hike follows through lush tropical rainforest, many waterfalls, and even a black sand surf beach. Kuluahine Falls is a local favorite.

Despite its narrow escape from destruction at the hands of a 1946 Tsunami, Waipi’o Valley facilitated the filming of the movie Water World. This incredible hike gets in your exercise while doling out breathtaking views, making it one of our top choices of things to do on the Big Island.

Waipi’o Valley includes one of the Big Island’s premier hikes. Travelers are met with a 0.6 mile hike down the access road at 800 vertical feet and a 25% average grade (4WD IS A MUST!). The Valley of Kings awaits below. The rest of the hike follows through lush tropical rainforest, many waterfalls, and even a black sand surf beach. Kuluahine Falls is a local favorite. Despite its narrow escape from destruction at the hands of a 1946 Tsunami, Waipi’o Valley facilitated the filming of the movie Water World. This incredible hike gets in your exercise while doling out breathtaking views.

8. Horseback Riding

Horseback RidingHorseback Riding

Credit: Max Pixel

Who knew that Hawaii’s Big Island had such an intriguing horseback riding history?!Legend (and history) have it that Spaniards introduced horseback riding to the island in the early 19th Century.

The King of Hawaii hired the vaqueros and tasked them with teaching Hawaiians how to heard and ranch. This proved helpful in wrangling up the many rogue cows given as gifts to the royal family that wandered the island. The mix of Euro-Latin and Hawaiian cultures resulted in Paniolos — the Hawaiian version of vaqueros.

Today, this interesting history has persisted, thereby making horseback riding a go-to thing to do on the Big Island. A few of the best businesses that offer rides are as follows:

  • Paniolo Adventures at Ponoholo Ranch offers five rides from which travelers may choose.
  • Na’alapa Stables at Kahua Ranch offers a tour of the ranch and a 2.5 hour trip into the Waipi’o Valley.
  • Dahana Ranch (once known as Nakoa Ranch) offers rides ranging from 1.5 -2.5 hours. Travelers should reserve their ride ahead of time.

Above all, tese unique experiences are suitable for riders of all experience. Horseback rides feature a new way to see the Big Island.

Who knew that Hawaii’s Big Island had such an intriguing horseback riding history. Legend (and history) have it that Spaniards introduced horseback riding to the island in the early 19th Century. The King of Hawaii hired the vaqueros and tasked them with teaching Hawaiians how to heard and ranch. This proved helpful in wrangling up the many rogue cows given as gifts to the royal family that wandered the island. The mix of Euro-Latin and Hawaiian cultures resulted in Paniolos — the Hawaiian version of vaqueros.This interesting history has persisted, thereby making horseback riding one of the Big Island’s go-to activities. A few of the best businesses that offer rides are as follows:

  • Paniolo Adventures at Ponoholo Ranch offers five rides from which travelers may choose.
  • Na’alapa Stables at Kahua Ranch offers a tour of the ranch and a 2.5 hour trip into the Waipi’o Valley.
  • Dahana Ranch (once known as Nakoa Ranch) offers rides ranging from 1.5 -2.5 hours. Travelers should reserve their ride ahead of time.

These unique experiences are suitable for riders of all experience. Horseback rides feature a new way to see the Big Island.

9. Hot Ponds and Hot Springs

Hot Ponds and Hot SpringsHot Springs

Credit: Flickr, Pua Lehua

The good news about Hawaii’s hot ponds and hot springs is that they are easily accessible to the public and an experience to behold. In fact, approximately 20% of the Big Island’s electricity comes from geothermal energy produced by volcanic heat. When the rain sinks into the ground, it flows through the ground. In the case of hot ponds and hot springs, the water flows through rocks heated by magma, which in turn heat the water.

Taking a dip in one of these hot springs is a once in lifetime adventure. Luckily, the Big Island is home to several options. Here are some of the best:

  • Ahalanui Warm or Hot Pond is found within the Ahalanui Park. A picnic area, showers, and bathroom facilities are available for when you finish.
  • Pohoiki Warm Spring is part of the Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna. This pond is actually a collapsed lava tube!

Be sure to check your skin for cuts and abrasions before entering to avoid infection. Additionally, travelers should wash right after exiting a hot spring. Furthermore, ensure that you are in a “reputable” hot spring, as alternatives such as the Kapoho Tide Pools can be infested with sewage runoff from residential areas.

The good news about Hawaii’s hot ponds and hot springs is that they are easily accessible to the public and an experience to behold. In fact, approximately 20% of the Big Island’s electricity comes from geothermal energy produced by volcanic heat. When the rain sinks into the ground, it flows through the ground. In the case of hot ponds and hot springs, the water flows through rocks heated by magma, which in turn heat the water.Taking a dip in one of these hot springs is a once in lifetime adventure. Luckily, the Big Island is home to several options. Here are some of the best:

  • Ahalanui Warm or Hot Pond is found within the Ahalanui Park. A picnic area, showers, and bathroom facilities are available for when you finish.
  • Pohoiki Warm Spring is part of the Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna. This pond is actually a collapsed lava tube!

Be sure to check your skin for cuts and abrasions before entering to avoid infection. Additionally, travelers should wash right after exiting a hot spring. Furthermore, ensure that you are in a “reputable” hot spring, as alternatives such as the Kapoho Tide Pools can be infested with sewage runoff from residential areas.

10. Manta Ray Night Dive

Manta Ray Night DiveManta Ray Night Dive

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, William Stamps Howard

Ever wondered what it’s like to swim with Manta Rays? Find out with a Manta Ray night dive.

These Manta alfredi are the second largest species in the world, with some having a wingspan of up to 18 feet. However, travelers can expect to see Manta Rays of about 12 feet. These plankton eaters do not migrate, making all times of the year prime viewing time.

Certified scuba divers sit on the ocean floor while manta rays feed above. For those who are not certified, snorkeling with the rays is also an option. In this set-up, experienced divers carry a light and shine it up at the surface, while snorkelers hold onto a float with a light that shines down. As the Manta Rays are drawn to the light, visitors are met with astonishing views of the creatures as they enjoy dinner.

Manta Village (south of Kona), Manta Heaven (north of Kona), and the Kohala Coast near Waikoloa are regarded as some of the best places to spot Manta Rays. Your friends will be so jealous of your underwater vacation pics when you tell them you had the privilege to try one of the best things to do on the Big Island.

Ever wondered what it’s like to swim with Manta Rays? Find out with a Manta Ray night dive. These Manta alfredi are the second largest species in the world, with some having a wingspan of up to 18 feet. However, travelers can expect to see Manta Rays of about 12 feet. These plankton eaters do not migrate, making all times of the year prime viewing time. Certified scuba divers sit on the ocean floor while manta rays feed above. For those who are not certified, snorkeling with the rays is also an option. In this set-up, experienced divers carry a light and shine it up at the surface, while snorkelers hold onto a float with a light that shines down. As the Manta Rays are drawn to the light, visitors are met with astonishing views of the creatures as they enjoy dinner. Manta Village (south of Kona), Manta Heaven (north of Kona), and the Kohala Coast near Waikoloa are regarded as some of the best places to spot Manta Rays. Your friends will be so jealous of your underwater vacation pics!

11. Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP)

Stand-up Paddle Surfing

Credit: Flickr, VSPYCC

Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP)

Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP), or better known as hoe he’e nalu in Hawaiian, offers a fun, family thing to do on the Big Island. There are plenty of places from which travelers can rent a board.

This ancient form of surfing provides the perfect view of incoming waves, as well as ocean life below. The boards range from 9 to 12 feet in length and feature a padded deck and concave hull. Participants stand and paddle wherever their heart desires. Although it takes some adjustment to your balance, SUP is one of many must-try things to do on the Big Island!

Stand-up Paddle Surfing, abbreviated as SUP, or better known as Joe he’e nalu in Hawaiian is a fun, family activity. There are plenty of places from which travelers can rent a board. This ancient form of surfing provides the perfect view of incoming waves, as well as ocean life below. The boards range from 9 to 12 feet in length and feature a padded deck and concave hull. Particpants stand and paddle wherever their heart desires. Although it takes some adjustment to your balance, SUP is a must-try!

12. Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Credit: Flickr, Ben Britten

As with all of Hawaii’s island, the Big Island contains many waterfalls, making them some of the best things to do on the Big Island. This is by no means a complete list, but we’ve included two that you don’t want to miss!

As with all of Hawaii’s island, the Big Island contains many waterfalls. This is by no means a complete list, but we’ve included two that you don’t want to miss!

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

This is the easiest waterfall to visit on the Big Island in Hilo town. Get there early in the morning to see the famous rainbows in the mist and spray.

This is the easiest waterfall to visit on the Big Island in Hilo town. Get there early in the morning to see the famous rainbows in the mist and spray.

‘Akaka Falls

‘Akaka Falls

‘Akaka Falls lies within the ‘Akaka Falls State Park. Travelers reach the 422 foot waterfall after a .4 mile hike that takes about half an hour. For just $5 a car or $1 per pedestrian, ‘Akaka Falls is fun for the whole family.

‘Akaka Falls lies within the ‘Akaka Falls State Park. The 422 foot waterfall is reached after a .4 mile hike that takes about half an hour. For just $5 a car or $1 per pedestrian, ‘Akaka Falls is fun for the whole family.

There are plenty of things to do on the Big Island!

The Big Island has it all!

Yes, all of Hawaii’s islands are amazing, however the Big Island offers travelers much to do. Regardless of if you prefer adrenaline fueled activities or leisurely ones, there is something for everyone.

Of course, all of the Big Island’s hot spots cannot be included on the list (or else, we’d be here for days!). Tell us about your favorite activities and sights on the Big Island!

Yes, all of Hawaii’s islands are amazing, however the Big Island offers travelers much to do. Regardless of if you prefer adrenaline fueled activities or leisurely ones, there is something for everyone. Of course, all of the Big Island’s hot spots cannot be included on the list (or else, we’d be here for days. Tell us about your favorite activities and sights on the Big Island!

Related Article:  ​​Guide to the Hawaiian Islands​​​

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