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10 Best Attractions near Big Island Cruise Ports



The cruise ports in both Hilo and Kona are centrally located near many things to see and do in both Hilo and Kona. Being in close proximity to the piers allows visitors arriving by cruise ship for the day to explore beaches and historic sites. Since the ports are close to the airports, visitors can rent a car, or even easier, book a taxi for the short drive into town. A day off the ship can be spent snorkeling, watch surfers, shopping, and relaxing in parks and secluded temples.

If you're looking to take a refreshing dip in the ocean, Coconut Island or Honoli'i is the place for you. Families will have fun relaxing at Coconut Island, while those who'd like to watch surfing will enjoy Honoli'i. For a picturesque beach experience, Hapuna Beach State Park along the Kohala Coast provides white sand and pavilions. 

History buffs and travelers intrigued by culture will love the Mo'okini Heiau. This sacred Hawaiian temple is three stories, and was crafted to worship the god Ku, the most revered by Hawaiian. This a place to take in history and serenity in this secluded place.

Visitors from cruise ships will have plenty of options for things to do, and can see and do a lot in Hilo and Kona in just a few hours off the ship. Just remember to bring a towel, bathing suit, and camera when reaching land.


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Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens


One of the more unique zoos you'll visit, Pana'ewa Reserve allows a glimpse of life in a tropical rainforest, making it the only such facility in the United States. A new playground has been added and coupled with the petting zoo, it's an ideal place for families. More than 80 species of animals call the reserve "home," including Namaste (a rare white Bengal tiger), an Aldabra tortoise named Beauregard, and Arnie the water buffalo. Other residents include giant anteaters, a pygmy hippo, black-handed spider monkeys, and a butterfly house. Tropical flora, a water garden, and peacocks also add a note of exoticism. On the property are about 150 different animals across 75 types of species.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo is a fun and free place to visit to see rare and native animals.

Jade's expert tip: The new playground at the zoo adds to the fun for children and the white tiger is always a thrill.

Read more about Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens →


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Volcano National Park
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt


Encompassing 520 square miles, this national park is one of the most photographed locales in the Hawaiian chain. For more than 70 million years, volcanic heat and pressure from inside the earth have molded the dramatic landscape, which includes Thurston Lava Tube, still-active Halemaumau Crater, and the highly active Pu'u O'o vent, which has been spewing lava since 1983. Visitors are able to drive the park's 66 miles of roadways, which wind in and out of dense tropical rain forest, but are encouraged to stay on guard since volcanic activity is commonplace and conditions change often. There is also the option to explore the more than 155 miles of marked trails on foot. The Kilauea Visitor Center sits just inside the park's main entrance. The park was designated a World Heritage site in 1987.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Offering hikes, a museum and great views of a still smoking crater, the park is a beautiful place to explore.

Jade's expert tip: To make the visit quick, stop by the museum and the crater overlook.

Read more about Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park →




Coconut Island is a lovely beach, park and place to picnic and relax in Hilo. A small island connected to the Big Island by foot bridge, the park is a popular place for swimming, BBQs, gatherings and community events. The center of the island was once home to an ancient temple. The island's name, Moku Ola, translates to "Healing Island." In the days of old Hawaii this island was a place of refuge where those who had defied the laws of kapu (tabu) could flee and seek sanctuary. If a person could outrun the warriors chasing them and swim to the island then they were pardoned for whatever crime they had committed and usually allowed to return to their people. Located on Banyan Drive, the park is close to many hotels and other sights like Liliuokalani Park across the street.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Coconut Island is a lovely park for swimming, picnics, and general relaxing.

Jade's expert tip: Bring a swimsuit and picnic lunch to Coconut Island.

Read more about Coconut Island →


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Liliuokalani Gardens in Hilo is a beautiful and tranquil 34-acre Japanese garden. The ornamental gardens are named for Queen Liliuokalani, a Hawaiian monarch and it is dedicated to the many Japanese immigrants living in Hilo. The garden was created in the early 1900s and is said to be the largest Edo style garden outside of Japan. The garden is planned around the Waihonu Pond with bridges, pagodas, and stone lanterns lining walking paths. Bamboo, trees, flowering bushes and acres of green grass make up the park. In addition to many benches and places to sit, a traditional Japanese tea house stands in the middle of the park. Restrooms are on site, and the park is located across the street from the ocean. Local fish and jog here.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Tranquil and peaceful, the gardens and park are one of the most beautiful places in Hilo to spend time.

Jade's expert tip: Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it at the park.

Read more about Queen Liliuokalani Park and Gardens →


Scenic Banyan Drive, which loops around Hilo Bay's Waiakea Peninsula, is named after more than 50 Banyan Trees that line it. The ground roots of these eerie hardwood trees extend like Gothic snakes across the sand, and long, spindly aerial roots dangle from overhead, giving the banyans a cage-like appearance. The trees were planted by celebrities like Amelia Earhart, F.D.R., and Fannie Hurst, and most of them date to the 1930s. Some of the trees were lost to tsunami waves that devastated the town of Hilo, most notably in the 1940s. The road traces beaches, swimming areas, parks and hotels.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Blending history with beautiful scenery, Banyan Drive is the access to a number of other attractions in Hilo.

Jade's expert tip: Look for the majority of the banyan trees at the eastern end of the loop.

Read more about Banyan Drive →


Mo'okini Heiau


This three-story stone temple, erected more than 1500 years ago, stands as one of the oldest structures in the state. Built to honor Ku (the Hawaiian god of war), it was the setting for countless rituals and observances, including human sacrifices and prayer vigils. As expected, the temple is steeped in legend, and many of them feature Kamehameha I, who was born near this site in the 1750s and who sought spiritual guidance here before setting out on his quest to unite the islands. The road to the temple is rough, so hiking from Highway 270 or riding in a 4X4 is suggested. The temple is now part of the Kohala Historical Sites State Monument.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Mo'okini Heiau provides visitors with a unique perspective into Hawaiian culture and history.

Jade's expert tip: Be careful not to step on the rocks that were used to construct the temple.

Read more about Mo'okini Heiau →


Kahalu'u Beach Park

Easily one of the Big Island's most popular beaches, Kahalu'u offers parking, equipment rental stalls, a covered pavilion, and a snack bar. A reef far offshore prevents the waters from getting too rough, making a terrific snorkeling opportunity. Have care, though: the beach tends to get crowded early since thousands of locals and tourists flock here to take advantage of the calm turquoise waters. The amount of fish you'll see here on any given day is amazing, to be frank. If you use the fish food we suggest you'll most likely have a swarm of fish around you. Kahalu'u is situated between Kailua-Kona and Kealakekua.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Kahalu'u Beach Park offers by far the best snorkeling and isn't far from the Kailua Port.

Jade's expert tip: Buy some fish food at the beach for an epic snorkeling experience that kids will love.

Read more about Kahalu'u Beach Park →


Honoli'i Beach Park
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt


Honoli'i is a true Big Island Beach, meaning that it makes the best out of a lot of rocks and a little big of sand. But, Honoli'i is truly beautiful and provides a great experience. The beach is down a rather long flight of steps that weaves down the cliff. This is mainly a surfing beach, but the river flowing into the ocean, and small beach and picnic areas make it a fun stop for anyone. When the waves are small, the best area to swim is at the river mouth where children have fun playing in the cold water and looking for beach glass. Cold showers, lifeguards and restrooms provide basic amenities. A couple miles north of Hilo, turn off of Highway 19 onto Nahala Street, then left onto Kahoa. After a few seconds you'll see cars parked on the side of the road overlooking the beach.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Honoli'i Beach Park isn't far from the port and offers river swimming, a place for picnics, and watching local surfers.

Jade's expert tip: Swimming is best at the northern end of the beach at the mouth of the river.

Read more about Honoli'i Beach Park →




Hapuna Beach, nestled between Kawaihae and Puako, is known for being one of the cleanest, most family-friendly beaches on the Big Island. Its smooth, white sands extend far out into the surf, so wading in the shallows is easy on your feet. During summer months, the beach is at its widest and stays crowded from sunup to sunset; in contrast, winter months bring unfriendly waters with deadly riptides. (Combined with the fact that lifeguards don't work the beach during this season, swimming is unwise.) Beach facilities include camping areas, picnic tables, men's and women's showers, a snack bar, and a pavilion.

Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: Hapuna Beach Park is a gorgeous white sand beach in the dry and sunny part of Kona.

Jade's expert tip: Spend a full beach day at Hapuna with lunch and ocean toys.

Read more about Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area →


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Meet Jade Eckardt

Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and...  More About Jade

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