Traveling to a new destination is one thing, but have you ever felt so relaxed that you forget all of your worries? Hawaii and Big Island have that effect on people.
Big Island is filled with good food, beautiful beaches, amazing weather 90% of the time, and the best vibes.
While all Hawaiian islands have a place in my heart, in my opinion, Big Island offers the most diverse adventures, and spending a few days or a week there is guaranteed to give you a higher appreciation for nature.
In this post, I’ll be sharing the 10 best things to do on Big Island. This list covers the majority of activities you’ll want to do while there, and if you don’t already have plans to visit, hopefully, this list will convince you otherwise!
1) Snorkel With Manta Rays At Night
If you only do one thing on this list, go night snorkeling with manta rays. This is one of the most popular attractions on the Hawaiian island, which makes sense because it’s totally magical!
Since this is one of the top activities to do on Big Island, there are several tours you can choose from.
Manta Ray Snorkeling With Sea Quest Hawaii
We went with Sea Quest Hawaii and had a great trip. The tour started about an hour after sunset. We went out onto the ocean in a small boat, and while we were slowly approaching the area where we’d be snorkeling, the tour guide gave us a brief history of manta rays and how the snorkeling was going to work.
After arriving at the snorkeling location, the tour guides placed a floating board on the water, and we each grabbed onto one part of it. The board emanated blue light, which attracted planktons. The plankton, in turn, attracted the manta rays.
The manta rays were HUGE! In fact, the biggest manta rays can have a wingspan of up to 15 feet. Despite their size, these manta rays are some of the most gentle fish (yes, they are in fact fish not mammals!). One of them even brushed against my arm, and I think we formed a special bond.
2) Visit Volcanoes National Park
While there are volcanoes on a few different Hawaiian islands, Big Island is the only one with an active volcano, called Kilauea. You can see this active volcano by visiting the Volcanoes National Park, and there are many different activities in the park. It’s completely possible to see the majority of the park in a day.
A popular way to visit the national park is by starting at the Kilauea visitor center, wrapping around the Kilauea volcano via the Crater Rim Drive, then going towards the ocean via the Chain of Craters Road.
Experience standing on the rim of an active volcano crater and witness the traces of hardened lava left by previous eruptions as you drive toward the ocean.
The journey ends at Holei Sea Arch, where you can look back to see the marks left by lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean during previous eruptions. It’s not hard to imagine what the lava flow must’ve looked like during the last eruption that ended in the early 2000s. It’s such a cool experience.
3) Stargaze On Hawaii’s Highest Peak: Mauna Kea
The third item on my list is to go stargazing on Mauna Kea. There are two designated areas for stargazing – the visitor center and the summit – and you can either go by yourself or go with a guide. We went by ourselves and made our stop at the visitor center. I don’t think I’d seen more stars in my life.
Tips For Visiting Mauna Kea
- Check the weather before you go. You’ll want to go on a day that’s not overcast which will give you good visibility of the stars.
- Hawaii weather may be good year-round, but that’s if you don’t go all the way to the highest peak on the island. Bring a thick jacket and maybe a cup of hot cocoa to make your experience more enjoyable!
- If you decide to go to the summit, rent a four-wheel drive. Not only is it required, but the road is also windy and narrow. You’ll want to be driving a car that’s up for the challenge.
4) Snorkeling At Two-Step: Possible Dolphin Sighting!
Having also been to Maui and Oahu, I noticed when visiting Big Island was how many sea animals you can spot. We already covered the manta rays, but did you know there are also dolphins and lots of other marine life?
According to locals, Two-Step is the best place to snorkel on Big Island, with the possibility of seeing dolphins! So grab a snorkel set, some fins, and get out there to see these beautiful sea animals.
If you want a guaranteed sighting, you can also book one of the many boat tours offered by local companies. Some of them will even offer your money back if you don’t see any dolphins on your trip.
5) Watch The Sunset On Magic Sands Beach
I typically try to avoid crowds when I travel, but Magic Sands Beach is so beautiful it’s a must-see on my list of things to do on the Big Island.
At first, I thought the beach got its name because of how thin and pristine the sand feels against your feet. After more research, I realized it’s because the high tides in the winter can sometimes cover the beach entirely until it disappears!
Magic Sands Beach is a beautiful place to hang out, body surf, and watch the sunset. It’s also located close to many restaurants and bars which make for a good stop to grab dinner in the area.
6) Enjoy An Acai Bowl By The Ocean
I think it’s universally agreed that acai bowls are one of the best things ever to exist. The superfood smoothie topped with fruits and granola makes for the perfect afternoon snack on a hot day.
You’ll likely find multiple places that sell acai bowls, but Basik is my favorite. The acai place is centrally located in Kona, and their seating offers a view of the ocean. Their bowls range from fruity to protein-heavy.
There’s an option for every taste, and you can even swap out some of the ingredients to make the bowl fully customized to you.
7) Eat At Broke Da Mouth Grindz And Earl’s
While we’re on the topic of food, I also want to recommend visiting a few famous restaurants on the Big Island.
Broke Da Mouth Grindz serves Filipino, Hawaiian, and Korean fusion food. Their Garlic Furikake Chicken is to die for, and their Garlic Shrimp will leave you wanting more. If you’re an ube lover like me, you’ll also want to try their Ube Pie – it’s topped with ice cream!
If you happen to be in the Waimea area, you have to stop by Earl’s. The lunch spot takes inspiration from Korean cuisine and is known for its Korean bento rolls. Please make sure you go early because they sell out FAST!
8) Visit A Kona Coffee Farm
I love coffee, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out you could visit Kona coffee farms on the Big Island. There are 650 coffee farms on Big Island, and many of them offer tours.
We visited Heavenly Hawaiian Kona Coffee Farm because their tours are free, and they offered complimentary tastings of their Kona coffee. When we arrived, we also discovered that they had an unparalleled view of the Kona coast.
During the tour, I learned about the coffee growing, harvesting, and roasting process. I also successfully got the caffeine kick I needed for the day from their never-ending samples.
9) Go Chasing Waterfalls At Akaka Falls State Park
At first glance, Big Island may seem arid. However, there are pockets of oasis that are just waiting to be found. And many of these patches of greenery lie on the Hilo, or eastern, side of the island.
For number nine on my top 10 things to do on Big Island, visit Akaka State Falls Park and watch a 442 feet waterfall plunge.
The trail that gets you to the waterfall is an easy 0.4-mile loop, and parts of the trail are covered by the shade. When visiting the waterfall, you may also see a beautiful rainbow accompanying it.
On the way back from the hike, I recommend making a stop at Hilo Sharks Coffee. The coffee shop is located in a cute town called Honomu, and they have this tasty taro smoothie that you must try.
10) Experience The Magic Of Waipi’o Valley
Driving down to Waipi’o Valley in our Jeep was by far my favorite thing to do on Big Island! The valley is located on the northern tip of the island. The drive takes you to a waterfall, a black sand beach, and a magical river that flows into the ocean.
If stargazing at Mauna Kea didn’t convince you to rent a four-wheel drive, I hope Waipi’o Valley will. You do have the option to walk down the steep road to the beach and waterfall, but what’s the fun in that?
Half of the fun of going to Waipi’o Valley is driving through the bumpy, unpaved road, seeing wild horses from your rearview mirror, and you even get to experience driving across a river. It’s the ultimate adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii.
I’m a massive city lover, but Big Island has made me realize how much I haven’t explored nature. I’ll always remember the diverse landscape, endless adventures, and lovely sea animals on the biggest Hawaiian island.
While trying to hit all 10 things to do on Big Island, don’t forget to also throw in a chill afternoon bumming on the beach, and be sure always to channel your Aloha spirit.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Big Island, Hawaii. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share, please leave these in the comments below.
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