Big Island

Big Island


  • Fly into Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the East Coast of Big Island – spend a couple of days visiting the Volcano
  • Rent a car at Hilo airport, return at Kona airport
  • Drive to the West Coast (Kona / Waikoloa) – spend a couple days here
  • Fly out from Kona International Airport (KOA) on the West Coast of the Big Island. No need to make the dead drive from the West Coast of the Big Island to Hilo airport on the East Coast
  • Renting a car from Hilo and returning at Kona is the same price (or actually cheaper) than renting and returning from Hilo airport
  • Take a good flashlight / headlamp. The east side of Big Island is VERY DARK at night with few, if any, street lights. This is a good thing. But when you go to Jaggar museum at night, you will need a flashlight. You could use the puny flash on your iPhone, but that won’t work when you do the surface lava hike. Take a proper flashlight / headlamp – one for every person.

Must See / Do

  • Hike to see the surface Lava in Kalapana
  • Hike Kilauea Iki Trail
  • Drive to the top of Mauna Kea to see the sun set


Day 1: Kilauea Iki Trail

  • Arrive Hilo.
  • Pick up rental car.
  • Hike Kilauea Iki Trail + Thurston Lava Tube (4 mile loop // 400 feet elevation change // moderately challenging // 2.5 hours). Parking lot is at (19.416489, -155.242887). If parking isn’t available go a little further to another parking area at (19.413742, -155.239078). Do the trail counter-clockwise.
  • Visit Jaggar Museum during the night. One of the best views of the Kilauea volcano is from here. You can see the glow of the lava after dark. There are very few street lights on Big Island and it gets REALLY dark after sunset. You can easily see the milky way with your naked eyes from anywhere inside HVNP after sunset
  • [Night in Volcano, HI]

Day 2: Sea Arch, Surface Lava Hike, Jaggar Museum at night

  • Drive to Holei Sea Arch. Parking is at (19.295218, -155.098343). 2 hours round trip
  • Drive to HVNP.
  • Visit the Volcano Winery. Do wine tasting ($5 for 6 or 7 samples)
  • Visit Jaggar Museum during the day
  • Drive to Kalapana. Hike to see the surface Lava Flow.
  • Visit Jaggar Museum at night after dark
  • [Night in Volcano, HI]

Day 3: Drive to Puako: Black Sand Beach, Green Sand Beach, Makalawena Beach

  • Start driving to the West Coast (Puako / Waikoloa / Kona) (6 hours of driving).
  • Visit Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Parking is at (19.133929, -155.505827). If you are lucky, you might see turtles at the black sand beach.
  • Visit Southernmost Point. Parking is at (18.914727, -155.682570).
  • Visit the Green Sand Beach is a 5.5-mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot. This is a dusty, windy, hot hike by the coast with no shade. If you want to see the Green Sand Beach without doing the hike, some enterprising locals offer (illegal) rides (“shuttles”) in the back of pickup trucks. ($20 round trip, rough ride standing in the back of a pickup – the path is VERY uneven with massive potholes). Park at (18.921568, -155.673064) to start the hike or to take the shuttle. The Green Sand Beach is interesting – there are only 4 in the world. The other 3 are Talofofo Beach (Guam), Punta Cormorant (Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands) and Hornindalsvatnet (Norway). The pickup shuttle ride is 2 hours round trip from the parking lot. Hiking will be much more longer. Expect to be very dusty – whether you do the hike or the shuttle.
  • Visit Makalawena Beach. Parking is at (19.779062, -156.040436). Have to hike to get to beach (2 miles round trip – about 1 hour).
  • [Night in Puako, HI]

Day 4: Akaka Falls, Botanical Garden, Helicopter Tour, Mauna Kea

  • Busy Day today – start early.
  • Drive to Waipio Valley Lookout
  • Take a break at Tex Drive In and try the “world famous” malasadas. These are bad rectangular donuts with filling in the middle. I would skip it – but you can try it.
  • Drive to Akaka Falls
  • Visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. Parking is at (19.810717, -155.096152). Walking the whole garden will take approx 1 hour. There is a 100 feet elevation change toward the begging / end of the walk. It is extremely humid inside the garden – you will sweat profusely. Dress appropriately.
  • Drive to Hilo Airport – do Helicopter tour. Approx 2 hours
  • Drive to Onizuka Center for International Astronomy on MaunaKea. You see the BEST Sunsets from MunaKea. Do stargazing at the Visitor Center (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 6:00pm – 10:00pm, weather permitting.)
  • Maybe drive all the way to top of the mountain (If you do go, make sure you spend at least 30 minutes at the Visitor Center to acclimatize to the high altitude. Altitude sickness is a serious threat and should not be taken lightly. If you feel dizzy, DO NOT GO UP THE MOUNTAIN. Slowly and carefully drive down the mountain to sea level.)
  • Hike to Lake Waiau (Elevation 13,000 feet, 1.2 miles, 45 minutes). Parking is at (19.810400, -155.467843). At an elevation of 13,020 ft (3,970 m) above sea level, it is one of the highest lakes in the USA. At this altitude there is 40% less oxygen in the air. Be mindful of how you feel. Don’t hike if you feel sick.
  • [Night in Puako, HI]

Day 5: Kailua-Kona: Coffee and Beer

  • Tour a Coffee Farm – there are many options, I would find a free tour that works in your schedule. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee is a good option.
  • Dine at Kona Brewing Company – the food is good, the beer is great. Informative brewery tours are available at 10:30am and 3:00pm seven days a week.
  • Visit the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
  • Drive to Makalawena Beach. Parking is at (19.779062, -156.040436). Have to hike to get to beach (2 miles round trip – about 1 hour)
  • Drive to Pololu Valley Lookout. Parking is at (20.203542, -155.733876).
  • Ziplining in Kohala. Parking is at (20.236829, -155.830493).
  • [Night in Puako, HI]

Day 6

  • Depart Kona Airport.

To-Dos for next time

  • Mauna Kea Summit sunset – visibility was bad
  • Helicopter tour – cancelled due to weather
  • Visit Makalawena Beach. Parking is at (19.779062, -156.040436). Have to hike to get to beach (2 miles round trip – about 1 hour) – couldn’t go due to schedule
  • Visit Waimea town
  • LiliÊ»uokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo near the Hilo airport. Adjacent to the park is Banyan Dr, Hilo’s mini ‘hotel row,’ best known for the giant banyan trees lining the road. Royalty and celebrities planted the trees in the 1930s and, if you look closely, you’ll find plaques beneath the trees identifying Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart and Cecil B DeMille.
  • Ziplining – many options
  • Drive to Waipio Valley Lookout
  • Snorkelling
  • Jet ski in Kailua Bay

Big Island

Pictures taken with iPhone 6