Hawaii’s Big Island – What to Do & See

The Big Island of Hawaii is full of adventures on land and in the water. We’ve spent an extensive amount of time vacationing on the Big Island and you can benefit from our experiences. As you are making your vacation activity plans,  make sure you review all our recommendations on all the  best things to do on the Big Island. You’ll be pleased to know that most of them are very budget-friendly.We’ve created a one-week Big Island vacation itinerary that incorporates all the best things to do on the Big island. It includes the most interesting and scenic attractions – including watching the lava flow, finding waterfalls, learning about ancient Hawaiian culture and seeing sights that will definitely make you say wow! Follow those recommendations and you will have vacation memories to last a lifetime.

In addition to that popular article, you might also want to consider adding in some of these fun and unique Big Island activities and attractions:

Stargaze high up on Mauna Kea. There are few places on earth that are better for stargazing.

Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

– Snorkel, Snuba or Scuba Diving– there are many places to snorkel from the shore or you can board an excursion boat for an organized snorkeling and diving tour. One thing particularly unique to the Big Island is that you can go night diving and snorkeling with manta rays. For a great snorkel excursion, visit Kealakekua Bay. This historic site is also one of the most pristine snorkeling spots in the state of Hawaii.

– Horseback riding – there are two key places for horseback riding on the Big Island – at the Waipio Valley and in the Waimea area.

– Hike – there are miles and miles of hiking trails throughout the Big Island. Where else can you hike through a rain forest and across a dormant volcano (Kilauea Iki trail)? It’s amazing!

– Kayaking can be done along the shores at Hilo Bay and along coves of the Kohala Coast.

– Whale watching can be done from December through April, but the peak months are January through March. You can watch for whales from the shore or take a whale watching tour.

– Take a thrilling ride on a zipline. See our advice for ziplines in Hawaii.

– Tour a farm that produces the world famous Kona Coffee.

– Go fishing on board a charter fishing boat and catch some delicious fish.

– Surf the waves

– Play a round of golf at one of the many world class golf courses on the Big Island

– Enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment

– Golf on one of the many courses with postcard quality scenery.

– Enjoy Polynesian food, music and dancing at a Big Island luau.

– Take a helicopter tour of the island to get a bird’s eye view of the lava flows.

– Take an ATV tour in the Kohala Mountain

– Take a boat tour like a catamaran sunset cruise. One cruise we particularly like is Ocean Sports Sunset Sail.

– Tour one of several botanical gardens. Our favorite is Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.


More resources for your Big Island vacation planning:

>> Go back to the Big Island Vacation Guide


  1. Looking to book trip to pearl harbour and we arrive by cruise ship called dawn princes at 6am is docking time on 10 October depart 11pm. Like to get a tour for 4 people at an 830 time please.
    Thank you

  2. We are planning to visit Oahu in April, but thinking of doing 1 or 2 day Big island visit. We are mostly interested in the volcanic siting, so what would be a short itinerary for 2 days on Hilo side ?

    1. If your interest is the volcano activity, then there’s lots to see and do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. One of our favorite hikes in all of Hawaii is the one across a crater and through a rainforest in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That hike is called Kilauea Iki.

      There’s no way to predict where and what the lava will be doing, but if it’s flowing where you can see it, an evening or early morning view (while it’s dark) of the lava flow is amazing.

  3. Hi,
    We are flying into Honolulu on 06/20 & will be spending 2 days in Pearl Harbour & will be staying in near Waikiki for the remainder of our trip. Because I have no experience with the islands, it took me a bit before realizing that everything I want to do is actually located on the Big Island!

    We’ve pretty much decided to take a flight over and stay the entire day but the more info I read, the more confused I get! Any advice OR resources that you can give/provide? I want to make sure we not only travel to the correct place, but are also able to maximize our time on the Big Island so we can see as much as possible!


  4. I feel so fortunate I stumbled on your excellent site before our family leaves on our first Hawaii vacation. Thank you for all the time, intelligence, and heart you obviously pour into your website.

  5. This site is amazing and really helped me figure out which island to go to and what to do once we get there! THANK YOU! We’re headed to the Big Island in August, do you have a particular ATV tour that you recommend?

    1. Glad to hear that Go Visit Hawaii has been helpful.

      We took one ATV tour on the Big Island a few years ago. I believe that company has since lost their access to the land where their tour went. I recommend searching for ATV tours for the Big Island on TripAdvisor to get reviews and insights for a tour.

  6. Do you have any guidance on what to do/see with a toddler (2 yr old)? Is it safe to take them on a volcano tour? Are there fun places to bring a 2 yr old to?


    1. Read about the hazards of volcanic gases on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website here: https://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/safety.htm

      There’s a sea horse farm just north of Kona that might be fun for a toddler.

      A luau might be captivating for a toddler as the costumes are very colorful and the dancing is interesting. Most luaus also have some interactive games before the dinner.

      The concierge at your hotel may be able to help with more suggestions.

    2. We saw a lot of people take their very young children with them while doing the 4 mile to see the volcano. They also had special seats in the bikes for kids to come along. So in my opinion it is safe. It’s a sight you don’t want to miss.. just depends on if you are ok to walk or bike the 4 miles. This is near Kalapana that I am talking about.

  7. Hi Sheila, We are going to be visiting in a couple of weeks Kona – we were going to take a day trip to visit Hilo – I called the concierge at the Fairmont Orchid and they said that there was no lava flow and no boat rides were operating in Hilo. Is it still worth taking the trip without lava flow ? The Park will be reopened at that point although they say count on heavy traffic and limited parking spaces – just not sure if its worth the drive or seeing the lava tube. Thanks in advance. Corinne

  8. Wow – we will definitely do that – already printed it out – would you recommend a helicopter tour of the volcano – we are also planning on going to Maui and Oahu – if we were going to do a helicopter tour would you recommend that we do the volcano, or Maui or Oahu thanks in advance. All the best, Corinne

    1. A helicopter tour of any of the islands would be fantastic, but would probably lean more towards Maui or the Big Island.

  9. I’m looking for some off-the-beaten-path type of activities on the Big Island that the locals know about. We and our friends have been on the Island many times, so I am looking to discover something different, hidden or unusual. Thanks for any tips!

  10. what is the drive time from Kona to the garden of eden and Hilo? Is there a garden park in Kona equivalent to the garden of Eden?

  11. We are planning our honeymoon in Hawaii and staying for 2 weeks. We know we want to go to Maui and Oahu. Would it be too much and too hectic to go to a third island? I keep reading so much about Kauai and the Big Island that I would love to see one of them too. We want to see and do as much as possible, but also relax a little as well. What is your opinion on doing 2 or 3 islands in 2 weeks. This is our first Hawaiian adventure!

    1. Check out our article on how many islands you should visit based on your available time:https://www.govisithawaii.com/2014/01/14/how-many-islands-should-you-visit-during-your-hawaii-vacation/

      Also, you might find our first time visitors guide to be helpful for your planning: https://www.govisithawaii.com/first-time-visitors-guide-to-hawaii/ Additionally, you can access our island honeymoon guides here: https://www.govisithawaii.com/2013/01/14/new-series-where-to-honeymoon-in-hawaii/

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