Skip to Content

Top 5 things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii’s Big Island is actually called Hawaii – but that’s too confusing because we refer to the island of Oahu as Hawaii don’t we?

So it goes by its nickname, the Big Island. Nice and simple, straight forward – yet deceptively bland.

The Big Island is filled with intrigue and charm! It is one of the only places where you can get up close and personal to the core of the earth. The spewing, lava-flowing, molten rock-heaving Mt Kilauea. The only volcano I have stood closer to was Mt Yasur on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island.

You can drive out to the Mt Kilauea crater, you can hike over solidified lava, dodging the toxic gases, and photograph the brutality of creation, then you can relax with a Kona Coffee.

Lava blocking road on Big Island
Such a bizarre sight to see lava blocking the road on the Big Island

If you have a week to spare on Hawaii you could follow this 7-day Big Island itinerary.

Here’s my list of the things you don’t want to miss on the Big Island:

1. See the latest lava flow on Mt Kilauea

The lava flow changes all the time so check with the volcano website or visit the park ranger’s office. You’ll need sensible shoes, water and a torch if you plan to stay to sunset as it’s dodgy terrain out here!

Photographing lava on Mt Kilauea
Tourists taking photo of flowing lava from Kilauea volcano.
Gutted. The lava got my house.
Gutted. The lava got my house.

2. Grab a freshly brewed coffee

Kona coffee is grown here in Kona on the Big Island. So you can sit amongst the coffee trees at Kona Joe. Owner, the beautiful Deepa Alban, is also a painter. I picked up one of her prints while I was here. Hot tip: order a mochachino – comes with a melting bar of chocolate in it. Mmmm.

3. Fly into Hilo and out of Kona

Hilo kind of reminds me of Dannevirke or Wairoa – Kiwis will know what I mean! Fly in here and rent a car for you vacation.

But stay a night to visit the markets, shop, look around. Then drive over the volcano stopping at the Kilauea Caldera then stay at Kailua-Kona and fly out of that airport.

Park ranger Charles Wilson @ the steaming vent
Park ranger Charles Wilson @ the steaming vent

4. Swim with manta rays

Manta Rays feed on plankton and if you take a night tour they use lighting to attract the rays to the banquet!

There are two places on the Kona coast to swim with them: Manta Village near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou and Manta Heaven offshore from Kona International Airport. Click here for more info or to book with

5. Watch the sunset from Kailua Pier

Wiggle your toes in the sand and count your blessings.


And here’s a bonus: see how many Hawaii 5-0 cop cars like this one you can spot!

It's cool to be a cop in Hawaii
It’s cool to be a cop in Hawaii

There’s plenty more to see and do on Hawaii like hiking to waterfalls and tracing some of the island’s history to Captain Cook and enjoying national parks. See these 7 things to do on the Big Island.

You might also like my post on 5 beaches not to miss on Oahu
Megan in Vietnam
How to write a travel story
← Read Last Post
Peta Mathias
Peta Mathias' culinary tours
Read Next Post →

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

Please share!

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!