Big Island Travel Tips: Go Local

Man heading out to surf

The Big Island of Hawai'i is the land of fiery volcanoes, secluded waterfalls, snowcapped mountains, rainforests, volcanic-black sand beaches, and even alpine lakes. This geographically unique and tropical island is a rugged paradise, perfect for those looking for adventure and natural beauty.

Below is a list of things to do and see that will leave you immersed in the local magic of the Big Island. Whether you’re a beach go-er, adventurer, site-seeker, or foodie, we've got you covered.

1. Fuel Your Craving for Adventure

  • Waimea White Road Hiking Area Waterslide: To get to this jungle-wonder, you’ll have to hike through steamy forests, dark tunnels, and alongside narrow cliffs. It is important to note that the hike is off-limits unless you're granted special permission. That said, getting to visit this one-of-a-kind slide is more than worth the trouble.

2. Find Your Beach

  • Honoli'i: A personal favorite, this beach is a short drive from Hilo and a great spot to watch the mesmirizing grace of local surfers and long boarders from a vantage point overlooking the cove. Try to catch it at dawn for a beautiful sunrise.
    Woman walking with a surfboard on her head
  • Makalawena Beach: What some might call the best beach on the island, Makalawena Beach is only accessible via foot. The trek is challenging which is what makes an afternoon on this beach one of seclusion. Plus, the white sand and turquoise water that greets you at the end of the trail makes every step worth while.

3. Focus On Your Inner Tourist

Although we love taking the road less traveled, playing tourist isn’t always bad. The Big Island offers experiences you just can’t miss.
  • Rainbow Falls: Close to downtown Hilo, this accessible and picturesque waterfall is known for the quintessential rainbows that are cast across its mist.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: A sight to behold, the park is home to two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world's most massive subaerial volcano. Fun fact: Waiakea is origintaes atop Mauna Loa!
Woman balancing a surfboard on her head

4. Foster Your Cultural Knowledge

  • Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: Puʻuhonua o Honaunau was once an ancient place of refuge. Now, this 82-acre site remain in tact and is one of the best places on the islands to witness remains of some of Hawaiʻi’s ancient culture. A major aspect of the complex is a reconstructed temple called Hale o Keawe. It is guarded by fierce wood-carved statues called kiʻi. As you leave, you will catch a glimpse of the Great Wall that was built in the 1500's to protect those seeking refuge.
  • Hulihee Palace and the historic Kailua Village: At Hulihee Palace, you will transport yourself back to the days of the Hawaiian monarchy. Once a summer vacation home for Hawaiian royalt built in 1838, Hulihee Palace is now a museum that showcases Victorian artifacts from the Hawaii’s royal past and the era of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. Aside fromt the palace, Kailua Village is rich in historical significance. It is home to Mokuaikaua Church (Hawaii’s earliest Christian Church built in 1820) and Ahuena Heiau (the last royal residence of King Kamehameha I).
A man heading out to surf, close up of surfboard's fin
Person enjoying a snow cone with a bottle of Waiakea

5. Feed Your Inner Foodie

The island is packed with foodie finds that will satiate your tastebuds.
  • Hilo Farmers Market: The perfect place to browse handmade goods while enjoying delicious, casual cuisine.
  • Basik Cafe: Acai bowls galore!
  • Da Poke Shack: If you're lucky you may catch a glimpse of whole tunas in the back before they're cut up and served in the freshest poke bowl you've ever had.
  • Wilson’s By The Bay: A local spot for the best shaved ice in Hilo.
  • Huggo's: Home to the must have mud pie. Don't miss this!