Sightseeing on the Big Island

Some of the most extraordinary natural and historic wonders can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii. From the world’s most active volcano to the world’s tallest sea mountain, from a stark black sand beach to a lush rainforest dripping with secret waterfalls, from the birthplace of a Hawaiian king to ancient Hawaiian fishponds — sightseeing on this island offers a glimpse into the power of the land and the history of its people.

The island is perhaps most known for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the active Kilauea Volcano. The vent within Halema‘uma‘u crater is easily viewed from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum. The park itself is exciting to explore. From steaming bluffs to a walk through a lava tube and a hike to the largest petroglyph field in the Pacific, you will want more than a day here. Read more

If you seek high-altitude adventure, Mauna Kea, the island’s 13,796-foot volcano is unparalleled. Unobstructed, and with little light pollution, the sky comes alive with brilliant stars. Some can’t make it to the top of the mountain due to the altitude, but you can always stop at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy for information, hot cocoa and dehydrated astronaut food.If you are interested in the history of Hawaii’s people, visit South Kona’s Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. This 180-acre National Park was once known as a refuge for lawbreakers. You can take a self-guided tour that takes you past wooden images of gods who guard a sacred heiau (temple) that protected the bones of 23 ali‘i (chiefs). Other interesting sites here include the canoe landing, thatched work house, and Hawaiian fishponds.

The Keauhou area, also the birthplace of Kamehameha III, is home to several historical sites as well including three restored heiau (temples), battle and burial grounds.

Waipio Valley, also known as “The Valley of the Kings,” is approximately one mile wide and five miles deep, surround by cliffs almost 2,000 feet high. It is rich with powerful waterfalls, taro fields and winding rivers. The trek down into the valley is steep and a little frightening, but well worth it to take a guided tour or horseback ride. Or, you can simply stop and view the beauty from the overlook.

Big Island beaches are at the top of the list of things to see as well. Far from your average sandy spot, this island’s beaches are a study in diversity — Hapuna Beach’s expansive and delicate white sand stretches as far as the eye can see. However, it is truly unique to curl your toes into the coarse black or even green sand beaches such as that on the Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach on the southeastern Ka‘u coast.

Botanical Gardens also abound here on the island with Nani Mau Gardens and Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens on the East side, and the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden on the West side. There are also several easily accessible waterfalls including Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls on the East side.

Photo: Anish Patel.

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