5 Best Things to Do on
The Big Island of Hawaii
Immerse yourself in natural beauty on The Big Island
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The largest of the Hawaiian Islands offers an
unforgettable adventure-filled escape
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Plan your next Big Island adventure today.
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The Big Island is often overlooked by first-time visitors to the Aloha State despite its unspoiled natural beauty. The largest (hence its moniker) and youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s home to lush jungles, cascading waterfalls, gleaming black-sand beaches and dramatic volcanoes, making it the ideal destination for the adventure-seeking traveler. Here are some recommendations to inspire your next trip.
Maunakea is home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory
Image by Michael Orso/Getty Images
A visit to this dormant volcano — whose name means “white mountain” — is an unmissable highlight of any trip to The Big Island. With a total height of 33,476 feet, it’s the world’s tallest mountain — trumping even Mount Everest — when measured from base to peak. While most of this behemoth is underwater, what lies above ground is a special sight to see.
Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and head up to the summit to catch the sunset, which is framed by snowy peaks at certain times of the year, or book a late-night stargazing trip (check the list of permitted tour operators). As the volcano has close to zero light pollution, you’ll be treated to glorious views of the night sky sparkling like a blanket of stars. To alleviate altitude sickness, take a break at the visitor center about halfway up the volcano to allow your body to acclimatize.
Stargazing on Maunakea
Conveniently located within the Hilton Waikoloa Village, Ocean Tower, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club is the ideal base for your Big Island getaway. Each 1-, 2- and 3-Bedroom Suite features spacious living and dining areas, a fully equipped kitchen, and a washer and dryer, so you’ll have all the comforts of home during your stay.
For a Studio, you can expect to spend from 544 Points (Monday–Thursday) to 1,088 Points (Friday–Sunday) per night during Platinum Season, and from 384 Points (Monday–Thursday) to 768 Points (Friday–Sunday) per night during Gold Season.
Where to Stay
Get up close and personal with manta rays in the waters off The Big Island
Image by James Nehomo/Getty Images
The Big Island is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with manta rays, which frequent a few choice spots such as Keauhou Bay, Manta Village and Manta Heaven on the Kona Coast. The Mobula alfredi variety found in Hawaiian waters is the second-largest species of manta ray in the world, with a wingspan measuring up to 18 feet. Many tour operators including Blue Wilderness Dive Adventures offer guided snorkeling and diving expeditions, where you’ll get the chance to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Snorkeling with manta rays
Marvel at the stark landscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Image by Art Wolfe/Getty Images
There are four active volcanoes on The Big Island, two of which — Kilauea and Maunaloa — can be found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Set aside a day or two to explore the park’s 150-odd miles of hiking trails, which traverse volcanic craters, scalded terrain and verdant rainforests. Check out the billowing steam vents at Wahinekapu, drive along the scenic 19-mile Chain of Craters Road and walk through the amazing, centuries-old Thurston Lava Tube, where a river of molten lava once flowed. And don’t leave without stopping by the Kilauea caldera, which is a sight to behold.
Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Enjoy awe-inspiring aerial views of The Big Island on a helicopter tour
Image by Mapart/Getty Images
Overcome any fear of heights you may have for the reward of a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride over The Big Island’s gorgeous landscapes. Tours departing from Hilo soar over the Puu Oo volcanic cone, Maunakea and Maunaloa. You can also opt to depart from Waikoloa for glimpses of the famous Kilauea volcano and the meandering valleys of the Kohala Mountains. For an extra special experience, some Waikoloa tours offer an exclusive landing at Laupahoehoe Nui on the Kohala Coast, where you can snap photos of its majestic waterfall that stands at over 1,200 feet.
Take a helicopter ride
The amenities at Hilton Waikoloa Village include three large outdoor pools
Hilton Waikoloa Village is often called the “Disneyland” of The Big Island, and for good reason. You’ll find a wide array of amenities and activities here, including three large pools (complete with water slides and rope bridges), a man-made beach and lagoon, and even a dolphin sanctuary where you can splash about with the playful creatures. There’s also a roster of daily cultural activities — think lei-making classes, kukui (candlenut) bracelet workshops and ukulele lessons — as well as a luau (traditional Hawaiian feast) that’s held thrice a week.
Linda Rodrigues, HGV’s senior vice president for the Hawaii region, highly recommends taking in the views from Buddha Point. “You can watch the whales breaching this time of the year, and even see as far as Maui on a clear day,” she says. For yet more beautiful vistas, head to upscale restaurant Kamuela Provision Company. “Request outside seating and enjoy a Big Island sunset. The skies will burst with an array of colors,” Linda shares.
Check out the offerings at Hilton Waikoloa Village
Make Ocean Tower, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club your base on The Big Island
“I’ve always loved the openness and expansiveness of The Big Island. The stark contrast of the lavascape against the pristine blue waters, accented by green golf courses and high mountain peaks, is a scene I never get tired of — even after 30 years of living here.
“When I get the chance, I like to take a drive along the North Kohala coastline. The route takes me from the Kohala Coast resort community to the quaint town of North Kohala, then to Hawi and the Pololu Valley Lookout. From there, I head back through what I refer to as the mountain road. It goes from the coast up to 3,000 feet, giving you the most incredible views of the west side of the island.”
– Rob Gunthner, area vice president of Resort Operations for
Hilton Grand Vacations
Spanning over 4,000 square miles, The Big Island is best navigated using a rental car (ideally a four-wheel drive). If driving isn’t an option, rideshare services such as Uber, Lyft and Holoholo are available. There’s also the public Hele-On bus service, although bus times can be infrequent. Alternatively, consider using guided tours to get around — check with the Hilton Waikoloa Village tour desk for options.
When visiting different parts of the island, be sure to read up on the Malama Hawaii initiative to understand how we can all malama (care for) the island and those who call it home.