Itineraries: Hawaii Island Travel Guide

By Karen Rose

Kukio Beach. Photo: member Galen L.

There’s so much to see and do on the beautiful Island of Hawaii. Whether you have one day or an entire week, make the most of your time visiting the state’s largest and most diverse island.

Island of Hawaii – 1 Day Itinerary

Hawaii Island coastline by helicopter. Photo: Alena Nicholas Photography.

There’s a reason the Island of Hawaiʻi is often called the Big Island. With over 4,000 square miles of diverse landscapes, it’s impossible to see it all in one day. However, if one day is all you have, the best way to take in the most of Hawaiʻi Island in one day is an island-wide bus tour or a helicopter ride that takes you soaring over waterfalls and peering down into the molten lava. For a special treat, book a tour on a ‘doors-off’ helicopter ride, and really feel the heat!  Click here for suggestions for one day in Hilo, and click here for suggestions for one day in Kona.

Island of Hawaii – 2 Day Itinerary

Akaka Falls. Photo: member Reese H.

Two full days on the Island of Hawaiʻi gives you the opportunity to visit both sides of the island—locally referred to as the ‘Kona side’ and the ‘Hilo side.’ Book a room in the resort area of Waikoloa, located just north of Kona and about 15 minutes from the entrance to Saddle Road, which takes you straight to Hilo. Spend the first day strolling the historic town of Kailua-Kona and exploring the beautiful west side beaches. Spend the second day visiting the magnificent waterfalls on the Hāmākua Coast, hiking at Volcanoes National Park, or zip lining though the rainforest.

Island of Hawaii – 3 Day Itinerary

Pololu Valley. Photo: David Grant.

If you have three days on the Island of Hawaiʻi, you’ll want to add North Kohala to your list of places to visit. Located in the northern most part of the island, it’s the perfect place to get away for the day. Take in the gorgeous scenery at Pololū Valley Overlook in Hawi and hike down to the black sand beach for a picnic. It’s truly one of the most breathtaking locations in the world. After a day of hiking and exploring, drive over to Waimea and have dinner at one of the town’s renowned restaurants and catch a live performance at the Kahilu Theatre.

Island of Hawaii – 4 Day Itinerary

dolphin at Kealakekua Bay

“This dolphin jumped out of the water, grabbed the leaf and swam past me.” – Kathy D. at Kealakekua Bay. Photo: member Kathy D.

With four days on the Island of Hawaiʻi, add a fun water activity such as snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, an underwater marine sanctuary in South Kona. There are also some great surf instructors that can get you riding a wave in no time. Take a historical sunset dinner cruise and learn about the history of the Kona Coastline.

Island of Hawaii – 5 Day Itinerary

“I went to go see lava and turns out it started to flow down the mountain and it started to devour the jungle right before my eyes. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen. It was a little too hot though.” – Talena S.  Photo: member Talena S.

If you love adventure and have five days to explore the Island of Hawaiʻi, consider driving down to Kalapana and hiking in to see the lava spilling into the ocean. This is best viewed in the evening after the sun goes down. Bring water, a flashlight and good tennis shoes. Spend the night in Volcano Village and wake to the sounds and smells of the rainforest.

Island of Hawaii – 6 Day Itinerary

coffee farm kona

Kona coffee farm. Photo: Christopher Michel.

With six days on the Island of Hawaiʻi, you have time to experience the local flavor by touring some of the island’s agricultural farms. See how coffee is produced on one of the many coffee farms in South Kona, or learn about the exotic and temperamental vanilla bean at the country’s only vanilla farm. In the evening, go on a night snorkel with Manta Rays, also known as the ballerinas of the ocean. These majestic and gentle creatures are breathtaking in beauty and the experience is one you will never forget!

Island of Hawaii 7 Day Itinerary

Peaceful Hilo Bay with a snow-capped Mauna Kea in the background. Photo:  Keoni Dibelka.

If you’re lucky enough to have an entire week on the Island of Hawaiʻi, take time to enjoy all the island’s districts. The island boasts the majority of the world’s climate zones, so each district is unique in it’s own right. Check out the farmer’s markets, ride horses in Waipiʻo Valley or visit the observatory atop Mauna Kea for some serious star-gazing. Don’t limit yourself to just one part of the island. Make the most of your seven days in paradise to really soak up all that the Island of Hawaiʻi has to offer. The most important thing is to do what makes you happy. Whether that’s experiencing as many activities as possible, or just lounging on the beach with tropical drink in your hand, it’s your vacation. Enjoy it as only you can!

For more suggested itineraries and day trip ideas, please visit our travel section:

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