True to its name, the Big Island is big. Really, really, big. All of the Hawaiian Islands could fit into the Big Island - twice. So it's no surprise that a land mass this large has a ton of unique things to see and do, and if it's your first time to the Big Island, it can be tough to sift through the attractions and find the best ones.
But look no further, because here is a collection of the most worthwhile things to see and do on the Big Island for first time visitors. From the bottom of the sea to the top of the world's highest mountain, you'll traverse the island and experience the best of it.
Sunrise on Mauna Kea
What could be a better post-vacation story to tell than having watched the sunrise from a volcano that doubles as the world's tallest mountain? Not much. There's two options here. Reach the Onizuka Visitor Center near the top of the mountain before light and watch the sunrise from there, or if you have a four-wheel drive, head up to the summit for the most spectacular panoramic view of the island.
Sunrise on a volcano — Photo courtesy of brewbooks
With historic buildings and a laidback lifestyle that takes you back in time, Hilo is the largest town on the east side of the Big Island. At first glance it almost looks a little too laidback, but you'll quickly discover the enthralling unique qualities and things to do that this oceanfront town has to offer. On Saturdays drop by the Hilo Farmers Market for a huge selection of local produce, crafts, clothing and jewelry. Grab an amazing lunch or dinner at Miyo's homestyle Japanese food, and check out thundering Rainbow Falls.
Volcano National Park offers a combination of views and activities, and pays homage to the stuff that made the island and currently flows there. Exploring the Thurston Lava Tube is one of the most intriguing activities, and is great for families. The walk through the fern-laden lava tube takes you through the earth, emerging in a lush rainforest.
Yes, lava once flowed through here — Photo courtesy of eliduke
Swim with fish
Kahalu'u Beach in Kailua-Kona is perhaps the absolute best place for snorkeling on the island. Pick up some fish food for a few bucks on the beach, and lure the fish in to swarm around you. It'll be a flood of color and fish, and you'll get great views. It's a wonderful place for children and there are plenty of lifeguards.
End a day in Kona by unwinding at Huggo's on the Rocks. Watch the sunset, enjoy a cocktail and some fresh locally caught fish and relax at one of the best restaurants on this side of the island. Try the Big Bamboocha Mai Tai or the Guava Lava, and make reservations to be safe.
Black sand and sea turtles
The Big Island does have some gorgeous white sand beaches, but there's a good chance you've never frolicked on black sand, so head to the southern side of the island to Punalu'u Beach Park. Black sand, tall coconut palms (don't sit under trees loaded with coconuts please), lifeguards and the usual group of green sea turtles make this beach one of the best to spend the day at.
A sea turtle lazng at Punalu'u — Photo courtesy of stevecadman