Things to do in Big Island, HI

More About Big Island

If you’re planning a vacation to this tropical paradise, make sure you take time to visit the island of Hawaii, or more appropriately, the Big Island. This largest strand of the Hawai’ian islands makes up a whopping 62% of the total land area of the state. It’s also composed from the molten lava of five age-old volcanoes, two of which are still active. The Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes continue to spill hot lava onto the shores of Big Island, constantly expanding its area and providing an unbeatable Hawaii attraction for those who have never witnessed the orange, steamy glow that seeps from these freshly erupted mountains.

If you’re on vacation in Hawaii to get a better sense of its history and culture, Big Island is just the place for you. In the late 18th century, Big Island became the host to Captain Cook and his voyagers when they discovered this unknown tropical paradise and opened it up to an influx of westerners. Shortly after, King Kamehameha united all of the islands and set up his kingdom on Big Island. After Kamehameha’s death in 1819, the cattle and sugarcane industries were introduced, the first European missionaries arrived, and Hawaii began to become modernized. Even throughout these changes, a strong sense of history and culture has endured throughout the years and is apparent in the traditions, the language and the customs of the Big Island natives.

Until the very last plantation closed in 1996, sugarcane was the main economic focus of the Big Island, bringing in the vast majority of money each year. Since the extinction of the sugarcane industry, Hawaii tourism has taken over as the main economic buffer of the region. Each year, thousands of vacationers come to take in the volcanoes, the sandy beaches, the warm weather, and the rainforests of this tropical retreat. Tourism in Hawaii is mainly focused on the western coasts of Big Island, in the North Kona and South Kohala districts where lush greenery and luxurious foliage thrive. If you’re looking for other interesting Hawaii tourist destinations, travel up to the Mauna Kea mountain and do some star searching with the large telescopes that are at its peek. The light pollution and high elevation make it the perfect spot to see your favorite constellations. Also of interest to a number of Hawaii vacationers are the black sand beaches that are made from dried and cracked lava from the active volcanoes. In the past few years, the Orchid Isle has ventured out in its economic business and is now making a large profit off of its diversified agriculture, providing macadamia nuts, papayas, coffee and of course flowers to a number of places around the world.

Although Big Island travel guides can tell you all about these worldly wonders, you have to see them for yourself and because there are so many things to do in Hawaii, vacations in this island heaven are an experience that you will want to have over and over. Make sure you pack your swimsuits, your board shorts, and sunblock and prepare for the time of your life!

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Big Island Neighborhoods

Things to do in Big Island

Big Island is known for...

Nine of Big Island's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Peace and Relaxation:

If there’s one thing that can always be found on the Big Island, it’s peace and relaxation. Thanks to the huge amount of undeveloped land, there’s no shortage of seclusion and tranquility. If you’re looking for a place in which to be truly alone, or in which to retreat from urban chaos and noise with a partner or family, this is it. On this, Hawaii’s youngest island, it’s not hard to find a secluded camping spot, an uncrowded place to swim, or a beckoning road. Hilo and Kona are the most populated towns: you’ll find shopping, a movie theater, great restaurants, and even a little traffic. But this is definitely the island to visit if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.

2. Lava:

The Big Island is the youngest island in the chain, and it’s still not done growing. Currently in a very active growth spurt, the island has a volcano that is constantly erupting and forming new land. The Big Island usually provides a great nighttime show you can’t find anywhere else: red and orange lava fiercely erupting and slowly creeping across the land. What does vary is how close visitors can get, and access usually depends on safety. What’s great about lava is that it’s gorgeous even from far away, and you can see the glow in the night sky from miles away. But if you can get close, it’s quite a unique experience and great photo opportunity. 

3. Snow:

Yes, you read right. The Big Island has snow and – surprise! - it’s found on top of a volcano. Measuring from the sea floor to the peak, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, and it’s because of this extreme height that it reaches into a climate where snow forms, and falls thickly during winter months. During rainy season - from November till about February - there’s a good chance there will be snow on Mauna Kea. Locals love to drive up to snowboard, build snowmen, and have snowball fights.  You do need a four wheel drive to get to the snowy summit, and it’s a great place from which to watch the sunset. Depending on where you’re from, snow may be nothing to get excited about. But what could be more interesting than snow on a Hawaiian volcano?

4. Natural Beauty:

In addition to lava and snow, the Big Island has black lava deserts, vast steep cliffs, two tall mountains, deep and wide lush valleys, naturally heated hot ponds, ice ponds, black sand beaches, a green sand beach, tide pools, waterfalls, hikes, and even a large swimmable green lake in an old volcano crater. Anything else? A national park, rivers, waves, and rolling green hills.  You get the idea. The Big Island may be lacking in large malls and nightlife, but the natural beauty can’t be beat. If you’re the outdoors type, the Big Island is for you.

5. Snorkeling:

The Big Island is surrounded by live reefs that haven't been fished nearly as much as the other islands, and the vibrant under ocean landscape provides some of the best snorkeling in the islands. Whether it's underwater exploration along the rocky Puna coast on the east side, dolphins along the southern coast, or a wild party of fish at Kahalu`u (one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island), you'll be treated to great snorkeling island wide. Dolphins, whales, green sea turtles, and a multitude of colorful fish - both reef and deep sea - will surround you on the Big Island and create unforgettable memories.

6. Secluded Destinations:

All of the islands fit into the Big Island - twice. That said, it's no surprise that Hawaii's youngest island is home to numerous long roads and less traveled trails that lead to gorgeous secluded beaches, coves, valleys, camp sites, views and vistas. On the Big Island it's not hard to find alone time and peace, far - or even slightly - off the beaten path. If you're the type of traveler who enjoys escaping large noisy crowds, and having beaches, waterfalls, and historic sites to yourself, the Big Island is for you. In comparison to its island siblings, the Big Island is the road less traveled.

7. Hiking:

A seemingly endless amount of largely undeveloped land means one thing- there's a heck of a lot of land to explore! A huge number of different sorts of hiking trails weave through the varied terrain of the island. Some lead from the open ocean deep into valleys where waterfalls cascade down vertical cliffs along the Hamakua Coast, and others leads through dry lava ground to natural steam vents. For those who enjoy high elevation, many trails wind through Volcano National Park through lava tubes and around volcano craters. And of course, it's generally Hawaii's exotic beaches that attract visitors, and it turns out some of the island's best beaches are reachable via a hike.

8. Camping:

Camping is by far the best way to get close to nature and experience all an island in the Pacific has to offer. The Big Island is grate because the huge amount of land offers a variety of places to camp. Cool weather in the high interior elevation around Volcano National Park offers a forested atmosphere. Warm sandy beaches along the dry Kona coast provides a place to camp, swim and surf.Then there's the lush valleys on the Big Island that are a haven from the rest of the bustling world, surrounding by waterfalls and deep green jungle foliage. Camp on the Big Island for secluded serenity. 

9. Volcanos:

Lava. Yep, fresh flowing molten lava straight from the earth's core is a lovely sight you'll find on the Big Island. But fear not! Views of the lava are usually from a safe place - if you abide by the lava viewing rules. Five volcanoes came together to form the Big Island, and although most are extinct (and Mauna Loa is is dormant), Kilauea is still spewing bright red and orange lava each day, adding to the ever growing island. For spectacular views and photos make sure to visit the lava after dark, and for an amazing panoramic view drive to the top of Mauna Kea.