The Best Things to do on the Big Island, Hawaii

The 25 Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island

The Big Island offers a long list of unique places to explore, including some of Hawaii’s most incredible natural wonders. From whale watching excursions to swimming with manta rays, the adventures on this island are endless! 

No other island in Hawaii lets you get up close to a fiery volcano. Other highlights for nature lovers include a collection of beautiful black-sand beaches and larger-than-life waterfalls. It’s an island where you can enjoy a cultural immersion into Hawaii’s heritage and snorkel past schools of tropical fish on the same day. 

You can discover otherworldly landscapes in the famed Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park or explore the spectacularly lush viewpoints in Waipo Valley. Afterward, sample the local cuisine at an authentic luau or go coffee tasting in the renowned Kona District. 

Hawaii’s Big Island has so many epic adventures to choose from you might not know where to begin. So, we’ve compiled a list of the top things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our Big Island bucket list features some of the must-see natural wonders, the best outdoor adventures, and top cultural attractions you should add to your itinerary. If you’re looking for incredible scenery, you’ll find it on the Big Island! 

Don’t forget to check out our web story: The Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island!

25 Cool and Unique Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island

1. See Active Volcanoes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 

Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is often at the top of every traveler’s Big Island bucket list – and there’s a good reason! This fascinating destination is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world and offers the chance to see the wonder of Hawaii’s mesmerizing nature in action. 

Encompassing over 300,000 acres, there is a long list of things to do in this national park. A drive on the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive is considered a must-do activity for visitors of all ages. Along the way, you’ll come across a series of scenic stops along the way where you can marvel at captivating views of the famed caldera. 

Other popular attractions in Volcanoes National Park include the Jaggar Museum with its picture-perfect views of Halemaumau Crater and fascinating displays of equipment used by scientists. You can also add the Thurston Lava Tubes to your itinerary, as well as the four-mile Kilauea Iki loop trail that leads to a former lava lake. 

Most adventure-seekers come to this park wanting to get a glimpse of the volcanic lava flows up close. If this thrilling experience appeals to you, you’ll need to visit the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area that is located about an hour away from the National Park entrance, closer to Hilo. 

Book a Tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

2. Hike to a Unique Lava Tube

Fun Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Lava Tube

One of the highlights of exploring Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a visit to the Thurston Lava Tube. Located along the park’s famous Crater Rim Drive, it’s one of the most accessible lava tubes in Hawaii.  

Thurston offers a wonderful chance for you to learn about Hawaii’s unique geological features while embarking on a memorable hike. After a 20-minute walk through a beautiful fern forest, you’ll reach a large 500-year-old cave that was the result of a lava flow. 

Step inside the lava tube and look up to discover 20-foot-high ceilings and lighting that illuminates the tunnel that reaches 600 feet in length. Take your time to admire the interior, which includes fascinating formations of once-liquid lava that has created a series of unique shapes. 

Another popular lava tube on the Big Island is at Kaumana Caves. Here, you’ll descend the caves on a ladder into the 25-mile-long lava tube, which was formed by an 1881 flow from Mauna Loa. However, only about two miles of the lava tube are accessible to the public. 

3. Check Out Sea Turtles at Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Hawaii’s Big Island Things to do: Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Black sand beaches are popular in Hawaii. Not only do they offer unique landscapes but you’ll have the opportunity to see local wildlife like sea turtles! For the most well-known black sand beach in the world, head to Punaluu Black Sand Beach. 

It’s one of the top things to do on the Big Island for sun-seekers and is home to large honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles) that can be seen basking on the beach. Located between the towns of Pahala and Naalehu in Kau, it’s beloved for its black sand – made of small fragments of lava – and its backdrop of coconut palms and lush tropical vegetation.

You can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and coastal hikes at this remote beach, while a freshwater tide pool is available for cooling off. There are also picnic facilities where you can enjoy lunch with a view of endangered hawksbills and green turtles hanging out.

If visiting black sand beaches is on your Big Island bucket list, you can also add Kaimu Beach Park, Richardson Beach Park, Waipo Valley, and Pololu Valley to your list. Pohoiki Black Sand Beach is another alternative with its beautiful coastline and warm thermal ponds. 

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4. Hike to Papakolea Green Sand Beach

Cool Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Papakolea Green Sand Beach

The Big Island is full of beautiful beaches, but one of its most unique is Papakolea Green Sand Beach. Located on the southwest coast, it’s one of only four beaches in the world with green sand.

The rare sand was created by an eruption 49,000 years ago that resulted in a cinder cone next to the beach. This created billions of green crystals called “olivine” that give this remote beach its name. 

The green crystal sand is mixed with black (lava) and white (coral/shells) sand, giving it a fascinating landscape. Swimming in the bay is possible, although the surf can be rough and there are no lifeguards here. 

It takes a bit of effort to reach this natural wonder, as the hike here is about five miles round trip. You’ll be in full view of the sun the entire way, so make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. 

The best time to visit Papakolea Green Sand Beach is early in the day. If you want the beach to yourself, come on a weekday instead of a weekend. Also, be aware that it is against the law in Hawaii to remove any sand from the beach. 

5. Visit the Southernmost Point of the USA

Hawaii’s Big Island Bucket List: Southernmost Point of the USA

If you want to experience one of the coolest things to do on the Big Island, add Kalae (South Point) to your vacation itinerary. From here, you can gaze out into the endless Pacific Ocean at the southernmost point in the United States. 

History buffs will love learning about the area’s rich history, as it’s said that this is the first place Polynesians came ashore. Many believed they reached the Hawaiian Islands somewhere between 400 and 800 AD. You can still see the canoe mooring holes carved through the rocks in the area that local fishermen still use today!

The entire southern tip is registered as a National Historic Landmark. The area is home to the ruins of heiau (temples), fishing shrines, and other cultural vestiges. While this area is known as an excellent fishing spot, swimming is not advised due to the steep, rocky cliffs and deep waters. 

To reach South Point and its rocky shoreline, you’ll need to follow South Point Road for 12 miles. It’s a scenic drive past open ranch lands that are dotted with white windmills. If you get hungry, make a pit stop at Hana Hou Restaurant or Punalu’u Bake Shop, which is the southernmost bakery in the US!

6. Learn About Island Traditions at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park

Hawaii’s Big Island Things to do: Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park

A popular destination for history lovers, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park is a place of refuge and royal grounds on the Big Island. Once the home for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers, it’s a sacred site in Hawaii and a great place to learn about island traditions. 

The 180-acre national historic park has exhibits that will take you through Hawaii’s rich history. You can learn about kapu (sacred laws), which were important to Hawaiian culture, as well as puuhonua (sacred places of refuge) that Hawaiians once escaped to in order to evade death. Once here, they would be forgiven by an area priest. 

It’s a beautifully restored site where you can follow a self-guided walking tour of the grounds. Make sure to see the Great Wall, which stands 12 feet high, and the kii (wooden images of the gods) that guard the sacred temple that housed the bones of chiefs. 

Other notable sites are at the nearby Royal Grounds, including the Keoneele Cove, which was the royal canoe landing. Get up close to the Keoua Stone, a favorite resting place of the high chief, and walk around a sacred temple that is one of the oldest structures in the park. 

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7. Snorkel or Kayak Kealakekua Bay

Unique Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Kealakekua Bay

If you’re up for a water-based adventure on the Big Island, the shimmering Kealakekua Bay is one of the best places to explore. Featuring crystal clear waters full of coral reefs and vibrant schools of fish, it’s also a hotspot for snorkeling adventures. 

Many say that the remote bay is one of the best places to snorkel in North America. You’ll be able to glimpse beautiful tropical fish and sea turtles in the calm, shallow waters. Some of the most popular tours of Kealakekua Bay are Fair Wind, Sea Paradise, Dolphin Discoveries, and Aloha Kayak Co

Snorkeling tours and kayaks rentals are available depending on what type of outdoor excursion you’re after. If you arrive early in the morning, you might get lucky and spot spinner dolphins frolicking in the waters!

There are a few ways to reach this top snorkeling destination on the Big Island. Hiking is a popular alternative to boat tours. However, be aware that it’s a 3.8-mile round-trip trek with a 1,300 feet elevation gain on your way back and no option for shade. 

This destination is also a historical landmark, as it’s the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on the island of Hawaii. There’s a white obelisk on the shore of Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park memorializing his death. 

8. Go Snorkeling at Kahalu‘u Bay

Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Kahalu‘u Bay
Images courtesy of The Kohala Center

Snorkeling is one of the coolest things to do on the Big Island, as it’s a family-friendly excursion with a chance to see colorful underwater treasures. Kahalu‘u Bay is like a real-life aquarium, located on the Kona coast a few miles south of Kailua-Kona’s town center.

Kahalu‘u Bay offers some of the best and most easily accessible snorkeling on the Big Island. Beneath its brilliant aquamarine waters, you’ll discover an underwater world home to honu (green sea turtles) and brightly colored tropical fish. It’s a popular spot for beginners because there’s a lifeguard on duty and it features shallow, sheltered waters. In addition to tide pools, its coral reef is home to octopus, sea urchins, eels, and a variety of fish such as bullethead parrotfish, orangespine unicornfish, and Hawaiian spotted boxfish. 

Nonprofit organization The Kohala Center, which administers the on-site ReefTeach education program at the bay, encourages visitors to respect Kahalu‘u Bay as a cherished cultural and historic place and understand that its vibrant coral reef ecosystem is extremely fragile. The Center encourages visitors to bring and use mineral-based sunscreens and to avoid any direct contact with coral, rocks, turtles, and marine life so that future visitors will also be able to enjoy the bay.

When you arrive, the south side of the bay is the perfect access point for snorkeling adventures. Wearing water shoes is common here, as you’ll have to navigate yourself over slippery lava rock. Experienced swimmers can head toward the middle of the bay to discover larger coral heads. Again, please remember to stay afloat and avoid standing or stepping on coral reefs and rocks.

If you need some snorkeling gear, Kahalu‘u Surf and Sea offers gear for rent. 

9. Explore the Artist-Friendly Town of Holualoa

Hawaii’s Big Island Things to do: Town of Holualoa
Image courtesy of Hula Daddy

Holualoa is a charming stop on your Big Island route. The quaint city is located on the western coast, just 20 minutes south of Kona International Airport. It’s said to be the center of coffee, art, and farming on the island and is home to the beautiful Magic Sands Beach Park. 

This funky artist-friendly town is beloved for its small-town charm. The two-lane main road is dotted with art galleries and coffee shops. Its colorful plantation-style buildings are picture-perfect and are found along the road that takes you to the Kona coastline. 

What to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Town of Holualoa
Image courtesy of M. Fields Gallery

Only a 10-minute drive from Kailua-Kona, this adorable little village offers the perfect day trip or weekend getaway. You can visit an art gallery such as M. Fields Gallery or Holualoa Gallery. After that, stop for lunch at a local cafe or go shopping at the town’s electric boutiques. 

It’s also a great home base for world-class Kona coffee tastings, with coffee farms found along the slopes of Hualalai Mountain. The plantation tours and tastings are popular at Hula Daddy, a coffee lover’s paradise known for its award-winning gourmet Kona coffee. Alternately, opt for a cup of joe at UCC Hawaii, which overlooks a picturesque coffee farm. 

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10. Snorkel or Dive with Manta Rays at Night

Must do things on Hawaii’s Big Island: Snorkel or Dive with Manta Rays

Groups of large manta rays hunt for plankton to eat just off the coast of Kona. Reaching up to 20 feet in length, these gentle giants can be seen up close on a night diving or snorkeling tour that is considered one of the most memorable activities in Hawaii. 

It’s a top thing to do on the Big Island if you’re an animal lover, designed for the truly adventurous who want to get up close and personal with these immense fish. On these thrilling tours, you can jump in the water at night and watch the manta rays feed. 

Your tour will start with a sunset trip along the Big Island’s gorgeous coastline. When the sun sets, the adventure begins! You’ll be given a light source to see deep down into the ocean floor (often attached to the bottom of your floatation device) and attract millions of microscopic plankton. 

After patiently waiting, the manta rays will arrive and float, swim, and somersault under you, ready to swoop in and feed on the plankton. Don’t worry if you’re a little nervous, as manta rays are unlike their barbed cousins and are completely harmless. 

If you’re ready to sign up for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Jack’s Diving Locker and Fair Wind are two popular tour companies. Both tours include snorkeling equipment and professional guides that will assist you in the water. 

Book a Manta Ray Night Snorkeling Experience

11. Attend an Authentic Luau

Fun Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Authentic Luau

For a fun and exciting way to experience Hawaii’s food and culture, attend an authentic luau. It’s a top thing to do on the Big Island, with the Voyagers of the Pacific in Royal Kona Resort offering one of the best in Hawaii. To begin the luau, you’ll receive a welcome lei as you enter and be greeted with hula lessons!

With an oceanfront setting on Kailua Bay, you can enjoy a night of food, music, and entertainment at this luau. You can feast on the delicious all-you-can-eat dinner filled with tons of traditional island foods while enjoying the spectacular sunset views overlooking the shimmering bay. There’s also a full bar available. 

Roasted pig is unearthed from the imu (underground oven), while other cuisines on the menu include honey soy-braised beef and fresh-catch fish. You’ll also want to try the coconut rolls, Lomi Lomi salmon salad, and decadent pineapple upside-down cake. Wash it all down with a classic Mai Tai. 

The live show is a spectacle of traditional song and dance performances that include fire features. You’ll also have the chance to witness the Samoan fire knife ritual, which is Polynesia’s most dangerous dance. However, the luau is family-friendly and welcomes kids. 

Book a stay at Royal Kona Resort

12. Enjoy Coffee Tasting in Kona

What to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Coffee Tasting in Kona

You can’t leave Hawaii’s Big Island without getting your caffeine fix in Kona. The area’s rich volcanic soil created an ideal environment for harvesting this unique Hawaiian coffee bean. And it’s now one of the world’s most famous coffee towns. 

While there are about 600 coffee farms to choose from in the Kona area, one of the most famous is Greenwell Farms. Dating back to 1850, this coffee farm boasts free guided tours through its coffee fields and processing facilities. 

You’ll get an understanding of how the coffee is produced, from seed to cup. Learn about the history, farming, and processing before sampling some of the 100% Kona coffee. With its rich aroma and flavorful taste, it will be easy to see why the coffee here is so highly valued.

Some of the other popular coffee farms in Kona are Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, Hula Daddy Coffee, and Hilo Coffee Mill. You can find boutique, award-winning farms in Kau, Puna, and Hilo. If you visit the Big Island in November, you can also attend the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival in Historic Kailua Village. 

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13. Stroll the Waterfront at Kailua-Kona

Fun Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Kailua-Kona

Often referred to as Kona by locals, Kailua-Kona is a beautiful seaside town in the heart of the Kona district. Set on the western coast of the Big Island, it’s a sunny spot with white-sand beaches where you can enjoy swimming and snorkeling.

Once a sleepy fishing village, this sun-soaked part of the island is only a few miles south of Kona International Airport. One of the best ways to experience this area and its spectacular island views is by taking a leisurely stroll along the picturesque waterfront.

Cruise the downtown area along the famous Ali’i Drive, ending your walk at the Kailua pier or any of the local restaurants nestled along the seaside. Stop and take a break in order to capture the stunning sunset views, which perfectly pairs with a Mai Tai or some freshly caught ahi (tuna). 

Kailua-Kona is also a great spot to pick up souvenirs, with shops along Ali’i Drive selling everything from locally made artwork to jewelry to T-shirts. If you wake up early, you can also add a sunrise snorkel excursion at the family-friendly King Kam Beach to your itinerary, as it’s located downtown right on Ali’i Drive. 

14. Lounge on the Soft Sands at Hapuna Beach

Translated as the “spring of life” in Hawaiian, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is one of the best beaches on the Big Island. Sun-seekers flock to the gorgeous shoreline on the South Kohala Coast in order to tick a lazy day of basking in the sunshine off their Big Island bucket list. 

Also loved for its brilliant aquamarine waters and photogenic sunsets, this is the largest of the island’s collection of beautiful white-sand beaches. There are excellent facilities here for enjoying a family beach getaway, featuring ample parking, food vendors, picnic areas, restrooms, and lifeguards.  

While sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling are the most popular activities at Hapuna Beach, there are also miles of hiking trails nearby. These scenic trails offer incredible views along the volcanic western coastline of the Kohala Coast. Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is a popular 2.2-mile trail connecting Hapuna Beach to Mauna Kea Beach.

Winter is not the most ideal time for swimming since the tide is usually rough. However, it’s possible to spot migrating whales from the shore during this time. 

15. Paddleboard the Calm Waters at Anaehoomalu Beach

What to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Anaehoomalu Beach

Commonly referred to as “A-Bay,” Anaehoomalu Beach is a popular destination for ocean activities. It’s one of the top things to do on the Big Island for families, as this is one of the most scenic spots on the Kohala Coast. 

The postcard-perfect crescent-shaped beach is backed by swaying palm trees and offers something for everyone in the family. In addition to exciting sea turtle sightings, you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. 

Paddleboards and kayaks offer panoramic views of the beach and surrounding mountains. If you float near some of the shallow parts of the bay, you might even spot some sea life on the reef right below the waters. Pick up beach toy rentals at the A-bay Beach Hut

If you’re up for an adventure or want a different perspective of A-Bay, follow the coastal hiking paths nearby. The short but scenic King’s Trail is a part of the Ala Khaki National Historic Trail and passes small inlets and tide pools. 

The area is also known for its historic fishponds and features several historic points and signs along a walkway. Named Ku’uali’i and Kahapapa, these ancient Hawaiian fishponds were once used by Hawaiian royals. 

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16. Go Whale Watching in Winter

Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Whale Watching in Winter

Considered a must thing to do on the Big Island from December through May, whale watching is a bucket list activity in Hawaii. Without a doubt, seeing one of the 40-ton, 40-foot-long humpback whales breach the waters is truly an unforgettable sight.

Every year, these gentle giants migrate to the warm waters of this island and guided tours offer a chance to get close to the action. You’ll be taken to the best spots to observe them in their natural habitat with a chance to observe them playfully surfacing, slapping their tails, and blowing spouts in the air. 

In addition to whale sightings, you might even spot dolphins, turtles, or whale sharks along the way – so make sure to bring your camera for the adventure. Captain Zodiac, Ali’i Ocean Tours, and Body Glove are popular tour options, with most whale-watching tours on the Big Island available along the Kona coast. 

If you’re not keen on a whale-watching boat tour, it’s also possible to spot them from the shore. If you decide to go this route, find a good place to relax at popular spots like Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Lapakahi State Historical Park, and Kapa’a Beach Park.

Book a Whale Watching Catamaran Cruise

17. Glimpse the Majestic Kaluahine Falls in Waipio Valley 

Unique Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Kaluahine Falls in Waipio Valley

​​Kaluahine Falls is a must-see attraction in Waipo Valley. The only problem is that it’s a hidden treasure only captured in rainy seasons. It’s worth the trek to visit this natural wonder, however, as Waipo Valley is considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Hawaii. 

After exploring this stunning region and its 2,500-foot-tall cliffs, you can reach Kaluahine Falls after a short walk along the coastal boulders on the black sand Waipio Beach. You can hike down to the beach from the parking lot, but it’s advised that you traverse the narrow road with a 4WD car. 

If you’re up for an easier adventure, you can enjoy the dramatic views of the valleys along Kohala Mountain on a road trip adventure through Waipo Valley. The Waipo Valley Lookout is a popular viewpoint for those not looking for a strenuous adventure. It offers gorgeous views over the valley and high sea cliffs that stretch out into the ocean. 

One of the other popular waterfalls in Waipo Valley is Hiilawe Falls, which stands between 1,200 and 1,600 feet tall. Formed by the lava flow from Mauna Kea, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii. 

18. Go Stargazing on Mauna Kea Volcano

Must do things on Hawaii’s Big Island: Mauna Kea Volcano

If you’re fascinated by celestial wonders, Mauna Kea is a popular natural attraction on the Big Island for stargazing. Housing some of the largest telescopes on earth and the best platform for astronomic observation, this is Hawaii’s highest mountain.

Because it boasts low humidity, clear skies, and almost no light pollution, the Mauna Kea Observatory is a popular excursion for astronomy lovers. From its position at over 13,000 feet, you can watch a spectacular sunset followed by a stargazing session with unobstructed views of the night sky through one of the high-powered space telescopes. 

If you’re lucky, you can see all of the northern hemisphere stars and a large portion of the southern hemisphere stars too. Dress warm though, as the cold weather atop this mountain is a sharp contrast to the tropical heat below. 

You can drive to the summit yourself, but it requires a 4WD car and excellent driving skills. 

Most travelers opt for a stargazing tour to get the full experience. Mauna Kea Summit Adventures and Hawaii Forest & Trail are two popular options. 

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19. Admire the Cascading Akaka and Kahuna Waterfalls

Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Akaka and Kahuna Waterfalls

Waterfall lovers should add a visit to Akaka Falls State Park to their adventure itinerary. One of the coolest things to do on the Big Island, it’s here that you’ll discover two of Hawaii’s most beautiful and easily accessible cascades. 

Located along the northeastern Hilo coast, this park is home to Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. Towering at 442 feet, Akaka Falls is the tallest waterfall in Hawaii and is surrounded by a lush landscape of tropical ferns, bamboo, and orchids. Kahuna Falls is smaller at 100 feet tall but just as picturesque. 

You’ll have to follow a trail to reach the two falls. It’s steep but conveniently paved and includes a section of steps. Less than a half-mile in length, the trail leads you past Kahuna Falls to the top of Akaka Falls and offers easy-to-reach viewing spots above the gorge for getting that perfect souvenir photo. 

The pleasant trail is kid-friendly, with most hikers making the loop in around 30 minutes. To view the Akaka Falls only, you can take the path to the left (south) from the first junction, where you’ll discover waterfall views just a short walk down the path. 

20. Tour the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

Unique Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden
Images courtesy of Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

Nestled just off Hamakua Coast Scenic Drive, the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is often acclaimed as the most beautiful attraction in Hawaii. It’s a popular thing to do on the Big Island for nature lovers, as it features over 2,500 species of tropical plants from around the world. 

It’s home to easy-to-navigate nature trails that wind through its tropical rainforest. The trails are dotted with several photogenic waterfalls and viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The 20-acre slice of paradise also features an orchid garden, macaw aviary, and various picnic spots. 

You’ll have plenty of places to take in your surroundings in the garden’s natural habitat. On your self-guided walking tour, stop to see some of the biggest highlights, including the Twin Rocks Vista, Monkeypod Trees, Orchid Garden, Palm Jungle, and Founders Birdhouse. 

Bring snacks and take a break at one of the picnic areas, and make sure to bring your camera to snap a photo of the picturesque Onomea waterfalls. The garden’s round-trip hike is about one mile in length and takes about 1.5-2 hours to complete. 

Other popular botanical gardens on the Big Island include the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Hilo and the Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawaii. Botanical World Adventures is another favorite, offering zip-lining tours.  

21. Follow the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive

Fun Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive

Road trip enthusiasts itching for a short but spectacular drive on Hawaii’s Big Island can follow the (Onomea) Pep’eekeo Scenic Drive. Located off Highway 19 less than 10 miles north of Hilo, it’s known as the “Four Mile Scenic Drive.”  

It’s one of the area’s most beautiful drives that stretches north from the beach and passes by beachside mansions and rows of enchanting tree tunnels. You’ll pass glimpses of the beautiful Onomea Bay along the curvy drive, featuring several rustic one-lane bridges that separate the jungle landscapes and stretch over rushing streams. 

You’ll find several pullouts along the way for taking in the views of the coast framed by green tropical foliage. You can even park your car and follow the one-mile Onomea Bay Trail. To get here, the scenic drive starting point is between mile markers 7 and 8. 

Some other popular scenic routes on the Big Island include the Chain of Craters Road within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Macadamia Road through nut orchards, and Mauna Kea Beach Drive. Along Queen Kaahumanu Highway, you can enjoy ocean views along almost its entire 33-mile stretch.  

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22. Hike to Rainbow Falls

What to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Rainbow Falls

After Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls is the most popular waterfall on Hawaii’s Big Island. Located within Hilo town, it’s considered the most easily accessible waterfall viewing you’ll find on the Big Island. 

Set on the Wailuku River, this waterfall is best seen in the morning when your back is toward the sun. Because the sun rises in the east, during this time it’s possible to capture views of colorful rainbows in the spray of the powerful cascade. 

According to legends, this 80-foot waterfall is home to the ancient Hawaiian goddess Hina, the goddess of the moon. It’s an ideal waterfall destination for beginner hikers, with a chance to see it directly from the parking lot or from the top of the falls after a short hike. 

It’s well worth the effort to reach its summit, as you’ll be surrounded by lush green foliage and towering banyan trees along the way. After just a few minutes, you’ll be treated to picture-perfect views of Rainbow Falls. 

If you want to add more adventure to your day, keep walking 1.5 miles upstream to reach Pe’epe’e Falls. These smaller falls are also on the Wailuku River and feature Boiling Pots (that are not advisable for swimming). 

23. Explore the Funky Town of Pahoa

Cool Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island: Pahoa

Get off the beaten path and explore the small hippie town of Pahoa, which is located on the Hilo side of the Big Island. It has a peaceful and quiet atmosphere and boasts the largest collection of historic buildings in Hawaii. Its streets are filled with a quirky collection of boutiques, restaurants, craft stores, and galleries. 

Stroll the town’s 100-year-old boardwalk and admire the Wild West-style buildings that date back to the 1900s. See the island’s oldest movie theater and the Painted Church, then browse the vendors in The Pahoa Marketplace. 

Start your day with a visit to the beautiful coastline in Isaac Hale Beach Park. The black sand beach was the result of the 2018 volcanic activity of Kilauea. Afterward, you can take a break for a coffee or meal in one of the charming cafes and eateries or dig into a platter of fish and chips at Pahoa Fresh Fish. 

Pele’s Kitchen is a popular breakfast eatery in Pahoa, while the Tin Shack Bakery serves up dessert favorites and island-inspired dishes. For a unique experience, La Hike Ola Kava Bar features the locally grown and non-addictive Polynesian beverage kava, as well as a variety of kombucha flavors and live music. 

24. Soak in the Pohoiki Warm Springs in Isaac Hale Beach Park

Further exploration of Isaac Hale Beach Park in the Puna District offers access to warm spring ponds that are perfect for soaking. Called the Pohoiki Warm Springs, it is actually a collapsed lava tube heated by volcanic energy. 

The process starts when it rains, as the water flows into the earth instead of the ocean and is heated by magma. The water then makes its way back to the surface and is mixed with the incoming tide, making it cool enough for bathers to take advantage of its healing properties. 

Isaac Hale Beach Park features the Pohoiki Warm Spring in addition to four natural ocean thermal ponds. The pools are located just a short walk down from the coastline from the boat ramp, about 80 yards inland. Surrounded by the black sand beach, jungle foliage, and towering palm trees, the waters here generally stay around 75 and 85 degrees and offers a soothing experience for nature lovers. 

After you enjoy a soak, the beach is a great spot for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and boating. Shoreline fishermen can often be seen reeling in a catch, while the picture-perfect scenery is also ideal for an afternoon picnic. 

25. Visit the Hilo Farmers Market

Hawaii’s Big Island Bucket List: Hilo Farmers Market

Visiting a farmers market on the Big Island is a fun way to explore and sample unique Hawaiian dishes. The Hilo Farmers Market is the largest and most popular, featuring over 200 vendors selling everything from fresh produce and tropical flowers to locally made crafts and handmade jewelry. 

Located downtown, the colorful market is the most easily accessible on the island and operates seven days a week. The tables here are sprawling with tasty eats and local fruits, such as fresh papaya, mango, apple banana, and star fruit. 

You can also try other local seasonal delicacies, such as giant butter avocados, beetle nuts, cacao pods, and furry rambutans, or pick up freshly baked goods and island jams and jellies. If you want to try something exotic, be on the lookout for rollinia fruit, strawberry papayas, chocolate sapote, and mangosteen. 

The food selection is just one element that makes Hilo Farmers Market a must-see, as it’s also a great place to pick up souvenirs. Browse the stalls to find treasures such as wind chimes, etched glass, and koa wood pieces, as well as buckets of orchids and anthuriums. 

There you have it! 25 of the best things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island. What’s your favorite thing to do in The Aloha State?

Planning a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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