What to do on Big Island
Next stop on our island hop was the big island otherwise known as the Island of Hawaiʻi. This is the largest Hawaiian island and also the youngest, with the Kilauea volcano still producing lava making it larger as we speak! The island itself is beautiful and said to have 8 of the worlds 12 microclimates in the world, which is pretty impressive!
There are two main places that people stay, Kona and Hilo. Hilo is home to most of the population of the island and has a lot of local people, whereas Kona is much more aimed towards tourists. We decided to base our stay in Kona as it tends to have better weather. The volcano is in Hilo and can cause the area to be very cloudy most of the time. We stayed at My Hawaiʻi hostel, which was located on Ali’I drive; it was the perfect location for us. It is only a short $2 shuttle bus away from the main area of Kona and its beautiful sandy beach.
If you jump off the shuttle bus at Coconut Grove you will find more shops that you could ever imagine, as well as beautiful art galleries and really unique wonderful markets. One great tip we can give you if you are cooking your own food is to buy your fruit and veggies from the market; it’s SO much cheaper and the produce is much more fresh.
This is where all the action is in Kona, you will find heaps of cafes, restaurants and shops. The main beach just past the pier is wonderful and great place to top up that tan. The beach is well maintained and has really calm waters that are great for snorkelling! We went for a swim and couldn’t believe how clear the water was. There were so many different colourful species of fish, it was breath-taking. If you swim out towards the buoy the water get so much clearer and warmer.
Turtles & sunset at Ali’I drive
One of our main missions on Big Island was to see turtles at the beach. We achieved our mission at the beach near the Kona Bali Kai apartments. This is a great place to spot the little guys swimming in the rock pools and sunbathing on the beach. Apparently they frequently come to the beach to relax during the day time or when there are big storms at sea. The best time to visit is just as the sun is about to set, that way you will see turtles and an amazing sunset!
Waipio Valley lookout
This place was breathtakingly beautiful with views over Waipio valley. The valley is a really important part of Hawaiian history and is a very sacred site with 50 native Hawaiians currently still living in the area growing Tarow. If you have a 4×4 you can drive down towards the beach although it is a very steep descent! If you love to go for hikes then there is a really popular 3 mile hike down towards the beach.
Akaka Falls is a spectacular waterfall which stands a huge 422 feet tall! The beautiful landscape really makes this waterfall stand out. You have to pay $1 to walk down to the waterfall as it’s a state park, but it’s worth it! The walk down to the lookout is really enjoyable and takes you through a lush rainforest.
This is an amazing 80 foot waterfall located in Wailuku River State Park. At certain times of day and depending on the angle you are stood at, it is possible to see a beautiful rainbow at the base of the falls!
Near Hilo there is a wonderful place you can go and swim with sea turtles. The pool itself is protected by coral and old lava flow which make the water almost like a swimming pool! It’s so beautifully clear and hard to resist jumping straight in.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
The national park is home to one of the worlds most active volcanoes, also known as Kilauea volcano! The volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983 and is the youngest of the five active volcanoes in Hawaiʻi. We just had to see the famous lava flow – there is no way of knowing when the volcano will stop erupting so we had to go while we still had chance!
To get to the flow you can either hire a bike for $15-20 or hike in. We chose to hike as we prefer to save money when we can and love walking, you take in so much more of the environment! The walk took us about an hour on the way in an just over an hour on the way back (in the dark). If you do decide to walk in, then make sure you have good footwear as the path is very uneven and rocky, and also a torch/light for when it gets dark.
You can go and see the lava up close and personal which was the most amazing experience of my life. We were watching the landscape being shaped in front of our very own eyes! Once the sun started to set we headed over to the lookout to watch in awe as the lava flowed spectacularly into the ocean. We 100% recommend coming to big island even if it’s just to see the lava!
Papakōlea beach (Green sand beach)
Papakōlea beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. As soon as you say anything like that to Dom and I, you just know we are going to go! Once again you can either hike to the beach or catch a ride in the back of a local’s 4×4 for $20, which is a good option if you’re pinched for time. We chose to hike (2.5 miles each way) to the beach and now I’m really glad we did. It was great to see the changing landscape and to be able to take in the beauty of the area. The green sand is caused by the ocean eroding Olivine stones and crushes them into the find sand on the beach. The olivine stones are from volcanic eruptions in the area many years ago. Once you get to the beach you can cool down with a dip in the beautiful blue waters, what a great reward!
Stargazing at Mauna kea
If you drive up Mauna kea at sunset you will see the most amazing colours in the sky as well as jaw dropping views of the beautiful landscape. If you stay up at the top once the sun has set then you will be able to see the stars! Although you are not allowed up to the summit at night time (if you go in the day then you can, as long as you have a 4×4), you can stay at the visitor information centre. There are volunteer astronomers who stand with high quality telescopes where you can try your hand at star gazing. If you do go at night then be sure to take some warm clothes, it can drop below freezing up there at some parts of the year!
Snorkelling at Two Steps
This is a super popular snorkelling spot in Kona. It is famous for the two completely natural steps which make for really easy access into the ocean. There is an abundance of sea life and beautiful coral to see and it’s also common to see a green sea turtle or two, as well as dolphins! There are boat trips which take you out in search of dolphins and other sea life further from the shore. We didn’t manage to see any turtles or dolphins but saw some of the best and most diverse reef we have ever seen!
We absolutely fell with Big Island and its vast landscape. From snorkelling to hiking, surfing to stargazing, it really has it all!
Follow us on our journey to our next location, Maui!
Kay and Dom
*All views and opinions are our own. We are not sponsored by any company(s), we just want to create great travel guides for people who want to know more about locations around the world.