The Big Island earned its name for a reason; being the largest of the Hawaiian Islands there is a lot to see and do within a short drive. With 11 of the 13 world’s climate zones, visitors find themselves traveling through distinctive terrains in order to reach their destination.
1. Mauna Kea Summit Star Gazing
Mauna Kea is one of the most renowned astronomical sites on the planet, and it is no surprise that it houses some of the world’s most advanced telescopes atop the summit. There are a variety of stargazing options from stargazing programs at the visitor center to an escorted summit tour. Be aware that 4-wheel drive is recommended to reach the summit and that the oxygen level in the air is low.
2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park is the most visited attraction in Hawaii and home to Kilauea Volcano, an active shield volcano erupting continuously since 1983. Shedding light on the creation of the Hawaiian Islands, the park is home to lava tubes, ancient petroglyphs and hiking trails. The visitor center offers unique opportunities such as ranger-led hikes and nighttime activities including campouts under the stars.
3. Akaka Falls
Located along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, Akaka Falls towers 442 feet above the valley floor. This popular waterfall offers a short hiking loop through tropical vegetation that takes less than an hour. Akaka Falls If you’re feeling extra adventurous you might want to visit the zipline tour just downstream.
4. Waipio Valley
Sacred Waipio Valley was home to King Kamehameha I and an important cultural center in Hawaiian life. Waipio is of the most breathtaking valleys with 2000 foot cliffs, the islands tallest waterfall, and a fertile valley below. The valley can be viewed from the Hamakua Heritage Corridor or by guided hikes and horseback tours
5. Green Sands Beach/South Point
South Point, Hawaii is the southernmost tip of the United States and a popular attraction for visitors and residents alike. As you enter the 10-mile road, you’ll be welcomed by wind turbines and grazing cows. At the end of the road lie coastal cliffs and access to one of two green sand beaches in the world.
6. Dive with Manta Rays
The Big Island is the only Hawaiian Island where you can swim with Manta Rays in their natural environment. The Sheraton Kona offers education on these majestic rays and is located at one of the two diving sites on the Kona Coast. Tour offerings include glass bottom boat tours and snorkeling and diving experiences.
7. Swim with Dolphins
Swimming with dolphins can be a unique and unforgettable experience. The best place to spot wild dolphins is along the Kona and Kohala Coasts. Be sure to be respectful of these wild creatures and obey viewing regulations. If you want to learn about dolphins and view them in a regulated environment, take a trip to Dolphin Quest at Hilton Waikoloa to learn about the importance of dolphin conservation.
8. White Sand Beaches
Hawaii Island features some of the most picturesque beaches. While the Kona Coast is layered with lava rocks, the Kohala Coast offers some of the largest and most inviting white sand beaches. North of the Kona Airport, you will find Makalawena and Kua Bay with their white sand beaches fronting vibrant turquoise waters. Further north are Hapuna Beach and Mauna Kea Beach with large beaches that offer luxury amenities.
9. Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls earned its name rightfully, with morning rainbows found bouncing off the waterfalls. Wailuku River feeds the falls which are 80 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. The parking lot is located at the overlook to the falls, offering accessibility for all travelers.
10. Kalapana Jungle
Kalapana is located in the Puna District and offers spectacular opportunities to see the beauty that Hawaii Island has to offer. From lava viewing to tide pools, the area offers eco tourism experiences for all skill levels. The Kalapana jungle can be viewed with a guided hiking tour or by helicopter.
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