Couple watches lava flowing into the sea. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Things To Do on the Big Island

If you are searching for things to do on the Big Island, you won’t be short on options. The island is rich with culture, history, natural beauty, and exciting adventures. There are so many options for fun things to do on the Big Island you might have a hard time choosing!

Depending on where you are staying and what areas you are game to try, this might help you narrow your choices.

On the East side of the island, where the climate is typically wetter, you might want to cover up (to avoid mosquitoes) and explore some of the area’s gorgeous botanical gardens like Nani Mau Gardens or Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The area is also great for budding astronomers. Nearby ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is a fantastic stop for families interested in learning more about the connections between Hawaiian cultural traditions and astronomy, or opt for one of the other area museums. Read more

The east side features some fun free things to do for families as well, including a trip to the colorful Hilo Farmers Market, Mokupapapa Discovery Center in downtown Hilo or the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo. Inside, you can find a variety of rainforest animals and endangered species such as the Hawaiian nene geese (the Hawaiian State bird). It also boasts the most awesome playground in town. For the adults, Queen Liliuokalani Park is a good option for a nice stroll and panoramic views of Hilo Bay. There aren’t many options for white or black sand beaches on this side, but families enjoy Onekahakaha Beach Park, where small children can swim in the shallow, enclosed tide pool. There are also several glorious waterfalls that are easily accessible for viewing, including Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls. If you are a night owl, head up to Mauna Kea and the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at 9,200 feet to participate in nightly free stargazing programs. Or, if you are willing to brave the steep drop into the valley, take a tour by horseback into Waipio Valley, which was once the center of Hawaiian life on this island.

With so much natural beauty, there are lots of cheap things to do as well if you are on a budget. Of course, one of the top things to do on this island is to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where, for $15 per vehicle or $8 per individual, you can spend an entire day or more hiking through Thurston Lava Tube, visiting the overlook at Halema‘uma‘u Crater, learning about volcanoes at the Jagger Museum and visitor center, and even traversing the largest petroglyph field in the Pacific.

Or check on Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) south of Kailua-Kona, an 180-acre national Historic Park that was once a safe haven for women in times of war as well as for kapu (rules/prohibitions) breakers and criminals. Entry fee is a reasonable $3 per person/$5 per vehicle.

If you are looking for what to do on the Big Island, check out these Top 10 things to do. You also can’t go wrong with heading to the beach. Hapuna Beach’s expansive white sand is a favorite for families, but for something truly unique, visit Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach on the southeastern Ka‘u coast, where the glistening onyx shores are a favorite sunbathing spot for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

If ocean adventure is on your list of things to do on the Big Island, you could try stand-up paddle boarding, nighttime snorkeling with manta rays in Keauhou, kayaking with dolphins in Kealakekua Bay, deep-sea fishing in Kona’s fabled waters, or a boat cruise to explore lava tube caves along the Kona Coast. You can even board the 48-foot Atlantis Submarine at Kailua Pier and opt for a dry experience underwater.

Above the trees, Big Island zipline adventure will zoom you through rainforests and past waterfalls. Whether by zipline, ATV, horseback, boat, or on foot, the best things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island are right at your fingertips.

And, if you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground, check out some of the amazing artwork being produced on the island — everything from pottery to paintings, extreme photography to woodturnings.