The Big Island of Hawaii is the youngest and largest island of all the four Hawaiian islands. It’s almost twice as big as all the other Hawaiian Islands combined, hence it is names as ‘Big Island’. It showcases some unique features of nature like world’s largest volcano to the snow-capped mountains of Mauna Kea, lush valleys of Hilo to the black sand of Waikiki, the island of Hawaii is a powerful expression of nature. If you ask us, Hawaii attractions by island to island visit is very stunning and there are numerous beautiful places to visit in Big Island Hawaii.
For those who are new to Bruised Baggages, we are Indian Travel Couple, currently living in United States and exploring it together one at a time. Say hi to us on our Instagram and be a part of our 10K Instagram family.
We visited Big Island of Hawaii to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and vacation was so much fun! Check out the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii.
MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON THE BIG ISLAND OF HAWAII:
- Waipio Valley Lookout
- Polulu Valley Lookout
- Anaeho’omalu Bay
- Kamakahonu Bay
- Kiholo Bay
- Hapuna White Sand Beach
- Pu’honua O Honaunau
- Akaka Falls
- Volcanoes National Park: Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes
- Rainbow Falls
- Kaumana Caves
- Hilo Bayfront Beach Park
- Papakolea Green Sand Beach
Waipio Valley Overlook
Waipio Valley is one of the nature’s most beautiful carnation, it’s so massive and looks like a scenery. Waipio Valley is the most beautiful places on the Big Island Hawaii. If you ask us, what should I not miss on the Big Island, this is it! The valley is filled with deep green mountain cliffs and beautiful black sand beach below it. There is an overlook point at the top which is stunning and it is ranked as the best place to visit in Big Island Hawaii by visitors.
You can either choose to enjoy from the overlook or you can hike down to the Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach. Enjoying a leisure day at Waipio Black Sand Beach is one the best things to do in Big Island Hawaii. The hike level is difficult, the entire walk is on a paved road and it’s pretty steep. We saw people driving to down, but the rangers at the top of the valley only allowed cars to pass that can handle that grade; it’s a 1000-foot elevation loss in about a mile. There are different tour providers as well who will take you down the black sand beach if you don’t want to hike.
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: Free
Time required: half day to 1 day
When you get down, you will find stunning scenery around you. Remember, there are no shops around, so remember to carry food, water, swimsuit and other accessories to make your stay comfortable for a few hours.
Pro Tip: Choose to hike down and carry some cash. On your way up you can pay the tour service providers for their empty seats. They will offer discount as they generally have plenty of empty seats left!
Best Stop near Waipio Valley
If you are looking the best place to visit in Big Island Hawaii near Waipio Valley to enjoy the taste of unique Hawaiian fruits, look no more! Stop at Waipio Fruit Shack after your day at Waipio valley to enjoy delicious fruits and sip cold coconut sitting out in the open around a beautiful scenery. We loved the pineapples. The shop looked really really cute!
POLOLU VALLEY LOOKOUT
Pololu Valley is another nature’s most beautiful carnation and another popular Hawaii Big Islands attractions.. It looks like a painting. The valley is filled with deep green mountain cliffs and beautiful black sand beach below it. There is an overlook point which is stunning!
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: No fee
Time required: 1.5 hours to half day
Polulu Black Sand Beach is one of the best places to visit in Big Island Hawaii. Around Pololu Black Sand beach, you will find no shops, so remember to carry food, water, swimsuit and other accessories to make your stay comfortable for a few hours. Mostly, people choose to hike down if they are visiting only one island of Hawaii and have much time.
Pro Tip: Choose to hike down till the end of 1st switchback. The views are stunning from that location and is a beautiful backdrop for your pictures! It just takes 30 minutes.
Anaeho’omalu Bay is a crescent shaped salt and pepper sand beach surrounded by swaying palm trees and a lake at it’s side. It’s commonly known as A-Bay. Anaeho’omalu Bay Beach is a great location for families to swim and play in the water. The beach is located in front of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, once you reach closer, there is a large public parking lot and beach entrance just South of the resort.
Watching sea turtles sun bathing on the sea side and snorkeling in A’Bay is one the most popular things to do in Big Island Hawaii. Coral reels are present at front. We spotted three turtles during our snorkeling just a few steps inside the water. The ponds next to the bay are an interesting part of history and are a provides a great sunset view. During sunset, the ponds reflect the colorful sunset skies and greens of palm trees. This one of the most photographed beaches on the Island of Hawaii.
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: No fee
Time required: 2 hours to full day
Is there shower at A’Bay? Are there restrooms in A’Bay?
Showers, restrooms, changing area, activities shack with beach rentals, Nearby restaurant and a large parking area near the beach.
Is beach rentals available at A’Bay?
Hawaii Ocean Sports runs an equipment shop on the beach and it provides for rents a great variety of beach toys and larger equipment like paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and hydro bikes to beachgoers. No matter what you choose to do, A’Bay is one of the most beautiful place on the Big island of Hawaii.
How to reach A’Bay?
It is difficult to find this beach on the map, so follow the directions. Before reaching the Marriott Hotel, turn left at the intersection opposite the Kings Shops, onto Ku’ualil Place and you will be a large parking. Park your car there and do some walking to the beach.
Pro Tip: Visit this place on the second half of your day to spend time by the pond during the sunset. Telling you by personal experience, the sunset here is stunning! Don’t forget to carry your camera and/ or selfie stick.
Kamakahonu is also known as ‘King Kam’ Beach. It is not big like other beaches, it’s small and lies in the heart of Kailua Kona. It is a popular Big Island places to visit for sun bathing, snorkeling, scuba diving and canoeing. There is a Kona Boys beach shack which rents out snorkeling gear, kayaks, chairs and umbrellas at reasonable prices.
Other side of Kamakahonu Bay
The other side of Kamakahonu Bay has ‘Ahu’ena Heiau’ which is a sacred Hawaiian temple. In this very temple, King Kamehameha I spent his last seven years in power. It was reconstructed in the 1970s and can be viewed only from the outside. If you are interested in the temple artifacts and learning about Hawaiin culture, Kamakahonu Bay is one of the best places to see in Big Island Hawaii. Take a walk around the hotel lobby to see some of the artifacts from the temple on display.
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: No fee
Time required: 1 – 2 hours
Pro Tip: Visit this place towards the end of your trip. It’s nearby Farmer’s market and shopping areas, so you can do your shopping, eat around and later rent beach chair and umbrella from Kona Boys beach shack and relax there. It’s a safe place for kid’s snorkeling as well.
Kiholo Bay is one of the most beautiful places on the Big island of Hawaii for hidden gems lovers. It’s a great place to spend a relaxing beach day, especially if you want to be at a less crowded and off-beaten place. Kiholo Bay is a perfect place to snorkel with sea turtles. This is also one of the best places to see in big island if you want to spot green sea turtles coming out of the sea to take sun bath.
Kiholo Bay is a black sand beach and has a fresh water pool to swim as well. This beach required a little bit of walking, like around 15-20 minutes to the black sand beach. This place has a black sand beach, a flooded lava tube, and an incredible tidepool which was once an ancient fishpond. Camping is available on the weekends with a reservation and permit. Kiholo Bay is the best place to visit in Big Island Hawaii if you are looking for a fun mix of activities and is the favorite big island instagram spots.
How to reach Kiholo Bay?
Take Highway 19 North from Kona and turn left on the public access road between mile markers 82 and 83. It will be a a narrow gravel road; drive to the end of it. There is a parking area at the end of this road and portable washrooms beside it.
Hours: 7am – 6pm
Entry Fee: Free
Time required: 3 hours to 1 day.
We went to Kiholo Bay to watch sunrise and carried packed lunch with us to enjoy it with a view. We stayed there for half day only.
Pro Tip: Kiholo Bay beach is less sand and mostly gravel. Make sure to wear water shoes if you decide to go inside water for swimming or snorkeling. Don’t forget to bring a picnic mat and some beer. Cheers!
HAPUNA WHITE SAND BEACH
Hapuna Beach is one of the top rated beach in big island. This beach is wide and long, stretching for several hundred yards making it the biggest white sand beach in big island. Hapuna Beach is the best place to visit in Big Island Hawaii for those who love crowd and some cool vibes. Hapuna Beach has consistently been rated on International Top Ten lists of the islands’ best beaches and it definitely is! If you are looking for a fun vibe and soft sand; this is the beach to be. Hapuna also offers lot of water activities like swimming, bodyboarding, sunbathing and snorkeling and a professional lifeguard.
Enjoying a day on the soft white sands of Hapuna beach is the best thing to do in Big Island Hawaii and is loved by the visitors. This is another reason to snorkel here, the sandy soft bottom of the sea doesn’t hurt your feet.
What are the amenities at Hapuna Beach?
It is a relaxing beach with ample parking, food vendors, picnic areas, restrooms and showers making it the best family beach in big island.
Hours: 7am – 6:45pm
Entry Fee: $5 per person
Time required: half to 1 day.
Pro Tip: Hapuna beach gets crowded in no time. Arrive early, find a spot at the front of the beach so that you are able to watch your stuff while enjoying inside water. We carried water floaters and enjoyed in the water for half a day.
PUʻUHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is a great place to visit if want to learn about Hawaiian culture. This place was once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. This is the best places to see in Big Island Hawaii if you want to know about Hawaiian Gods and the culture of native Hawaiians.
In ancient times, if someone broke the sacred laws, the kapu, and the only punishment was death. Then the only chance of their survival was to reach the Pu’uhonua, a place of refuge. The Pu’uhonua protected the kapu breakers, defeated warriors, as well as civilians during the time of battle.
This Hawaiian National Park is the the place to see in Big Island Hawaii for strengthen your understanding of Hawaiian culture. In this park you’ll see wooden images of gods, known as ‘Fierce kii’ guarded the Hale o Keawe Heiau, a sacred temple that housed the bones of 23 alii (i.e. chiefs) and the nearby Royal Grounds which were the sacred home of Alii.
Hours: 7am – 6:45pm
Entry Fee: $20 per vehicle
Time required: 1 – 2 hours
Visiting Pu’uhonua historical park is the best places to see in Big Island Hawaii to spend a day learning about Hawaiian history and also enjoy the ocean. Visitors can walk through the park on a self-guided tour for a 0.5 mile trail. Park Ranger gives information on the history of Hawaii and are offered daily in the Amphitheater next to the Visitor’s Center.
Pro Tip: Grab a park map that corresponds to numbered markers along the trail so you can read about different points of interest and get to know about Hawaiian culture!
If you love natural scenery, Akaka Falls is one of the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii, towards the Hilo side. At Akaka Falls State Park, there are two gorgeous waterfalls, the beautiful 100 foot Kahuna Falls and the free-falling Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge. This pleasant 0.4-mile uphill hike is good for all skill levels. It will take you through a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, really large bamboo groves and draping ferns.
Drive to the waterfalls from Kailua Kona and enjoy the scenic drive to Akaka Falls. It’s a loop trail that took us 1 hours or so including walking and taking pictures. The main waterfall has a nice sitting area to relax and and soak in the beautiful view. Akaka Falls is said to be Hawaii’s most famous waterfall and is the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii Hilo to enjoy hiking the tall waterfall.
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm
Entry Fee: $5 per person by credit card only
Time required: 1 hour
Pro Tip: Although this is a small hike, it is not stroller friendly. There are few stairs along the trail and you’ll need to go up and down for a bunch of times.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK: MAUNA LOA AND KAILUA VOLCANO
Mauna Loa and Kailua are among Earth’s most active volcanoes. Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since its first historical eruption in 1843. Kailua’s most recent eruption began on September 29, 2021 which is another reason to visit and get a sneak peak into the dramatic lava. Also, Mauna Loa is the biggest volcano in the world! And the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii to take a helicopter ride and enjoy the view from above.
Out of the top 10 things to do in big island, we rate this number 1. There are two ways to experience visiting these giant volcanoes. You can either take a helicopter ride or choose to walk around Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. Hawaii’s Volcano National Park extends from sea level to 13,681 feet, the two volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kailua are inside this park.
If you visit park, you will go through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests, as well as a visitor center, petroglyphs and two active volcanoes. We explored it through a helicopter ride, it took us around waterfalls, over Mauna Loa and Kailua volcanoes from multiple directions and to other lush areas of Hilo. This is one of the best things to do in Big Island Hawaii Hilo. The views were gorgeous! We even say some lava in action inside the volcanoes!
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle
Time required: half day
There are various tour providers with different helicopter tour packages. Do not miss this experience, this is the most beautiful place on the Big Island of Hawaii with breathtaking views from the sky. We booked ours through Paradise Helicopters. If you plan to hike, for your safety, please stay on marked routes, heed all warning signs, and stay out of restricted areas. There is a danger of harmful volcanic gases and unstable land in these areas.
Warning: Stay away from holes and pits. Do not explore after dark.
Pro Tip: Pick one between Volcano Helicopter Tour and Hawaii Volcano National Park, both are meant to explore volcanoes, they are just two different ways.
Rainbow Falls is a waterfall located in Hilo, Hawaii. It is 80 feet tall and almost 100 feet in diameter. The Rainbow Falls cascade over a lava cave that, according to legends, was home to the ancient Hawaiian goddess, Hina, the goddess of the moon. This roaring waterfall is quite scenic and also one of the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii to visit when you want to spot beautiful rainbows. When you look below the waterfall, the water rushes down making it like a large pool.
Rainbow Falls is very easy to visit and you’ll have a high chance of seeing rainbows if you visit somewhat early in the day, like around 7am. Rainbow Falls is the best place to visit in Big Island Hawaii if you are looking for a quick stop. Once you park the car, you can see the rainbow from the parking lot. If you’re looking for things to do around Hilo, then this Big Island waterfall can be something to consider.
Hours: 8:30am – 6pm
Entry Fee: No Fee
Time required: 15-20 mins
Pro Tip: Don’t plan for this separately. Make this a quick stop while you are doing Hilo scenic drive along the Coast.
The Kaumana Caves are lava tubes that were created by 1881 Mauna Loa flow goes underground. They are located near the Saddle Road, outside of Hilo. It’s one of the popular offbeat places in Hilo Hawaii.
The parking is across the road and is free. Once you reach the spot, there is a yellow metal ladder with descends down to two lava caves. Hiking through Kaumana Caves is one of the unique things to do in Big Island Hawaii Hilo. At the entrance, there is one big and one smaller lava caves. If you want to explore one cave, explore the bigger one. The base ground of the cave shows very interesting geological formations because of lava that flowed through it in the past years.
Once you enter the bigger cave and move forward, at some point it becomes really narrow, only few people continue ahead from that point. Make sure to carry a good flashlight to explore. The ground inside the cave is very irregular, slippery and really dark. Cell phone light is not enough to get clear visibility. As a tourist, you must include the experience of exploring a lava cave in your itinerary along with visiting the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kaumana caves are among the top things to do near Hilo.
Hours: 8am – 8pm
Entry Fee: No Fee
Time required: 30 minutes – 1 hour
If you don’t want to go inside the caves, you can just go in for a few steps inside both the caves, look around and come back. Wear sturdy shoes to not get slipped by stepping on uneven base ground.
Pro Tip: Bring headlamps for each person instead of flashlights so that you can keep your hands free to maintain balance on uneven grounds and for crawling into narrow passages.
HILO BAYFRONT BEACH PARK
Hilo Bay Beachfront Park is one of the longest beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii and one of the Hilo big island secret spots that is lesser known by visitors.. Hilo Bayfront Beach is a black sand beach and makes a great scenic stop around Hilo area. If you are looking for fun things to do in Big Island Hawaii, look no more. This is a popular beach in Hilo for water activities like surfing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking. The beach skyline is quite spectacular to see after rainfall as you can spot multiple end to end rainbows from this beach. We were very lucky to spot 17 rainbows in one day while driving at Hilo coast. Hilo Beachfront Park is one of the best places to see a rainbow in Hilo.
Swimming is not advised at Hilo Bayfront Beach, as the water is not very clean due to industries that used to be around it in the past days. The government is in progress to completely restore this area to it’s original form. Nevertheless, the black beach and it’s shore are nice viewing spot, especially one of the best places to see in Big Island during sunset. Restrooms and showers are available at the beach, also a few beach shops are also present.
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: No Fee
Time required: 15 – 20 minutes
Pro Tip: Plan to quick stop at this beach when you return from Akaka falls and/ or Rainbow falls and click some awesome pictures during sunset at the black sand beach.
PAPAKOLEA GREEN SAND BEACH
Papakolea Green Sand Beach is the best unique things to do on the big island. It really feels amazing to see different colors of nature! We never imagined that a green sand beach also exists somewhere in the world!
Papakolea is a green sand beach and one of the unique and offbeat places to visit in Big Island Hawaii. There are only four green sand beaches in the world. Visiting this place is a once in a lifetime opportunity and is definitely the most beautiful places on the Big island of Hawaii; infact one of a kindin the whole world! Green sand beach is one of the top attractions in the Kau district.
Papakolea is the best thing to do in Big Island Hawaii if you want to spend entire day with your family alongside the beach enjoying a little picnic for yourself. Papakolea beach is carved in a 49,000 years old cinder cone belonging to the Mauna Loa volcano that contains the green crystals (olivine) and the volcanic black minute crusts. This is the reason it’s called Green Sand Beach. It is different shade of green in different corners.
Swimming in the beach is possible but with caution because the currents can be strong. People also surf there sometimes. There is no life guard at the beach, no washrooms or any food shops. Make sure to bring enough food and water along with you and enjoy at the green sand beach. Papakolea makes one of the most beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii to enjoy a secluded experience.
Hours: 24 hours
Entry Fee: No Fee
Time required: 3 hours to half day.
Pro Tip: Take a beach mat with you to enjoy at the beach as there is no point to rest along the hiking trail.
Take back all the garbage with you! Leave no trace!!
What should I not miss on the Big Island?
Big Island is so beautiful in itself, and it is really big so it is not possible to visit each and every place on the Big Island. If you ask us, what you should not miss on Big Island are Waipio Valley, Black Sand Beach, Green Sand Beach, Hapuna White Sand Beach, A’Bay Salt and Pepper Beach, Volcanoes National Park and the coastal drives.
Which part of the Big Island is the best?
Both Kona and Hilo side of Big Island Hawaii are beautiful, so it depends on the visitors taste. If you like water activities, Kona is the perfect place for you. It provides options for some of the best things to do in Big Island Hawaii like snorkeling, manta ray dive, cruising, scuba diving, canoeing etc. If you like rainfall, Holi is best for you! Hilo is one of the highest rainfall receiving land of the world!
What is considered the prettiest island in Hawaii?
Different people have different favorites. But what most say is Maui and Kauai are the most prettiest island of Hawaii because they are non- commercialized. They are still present in their natural forms! Big Island, being the youngest island of all, is also considered a great place to visit to explore all the variety of experiences it has to offer!
Is it better to stay in Kona or Hilo?
We would say it is better to break your stay in two parts. Big Island is really big with limited number of accessible roads. Kona and Hilo falls at opposite corners of Big Island. So if you are staying at both places according to your itinerary, you will end up saving a lot of time!
We tried to include all the details you need to visit Most Beautiful places on the Big Island of Hawaii. If you have any questions, post them in comments or on our Facebook page and we will try to answer as soon as we can.
Connect with Bruised Baggages on Instagram to watch latest updates. Happy Exploring !!
If you are still deciding where to visit, check out:
I have been wanting to explore Hawaii for so long, and this guide has me totally desperate to see it, especially ‘The Big Island’. I grew up in New Zealand, so the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Islands are interesting to me. I’d like to visit Pu’uhonua o Honaunau for sure.
I’ve had Hawaii on my bucket list for far too long! Thanks for all of the info and inspiration – I hope I can visit soon! Xx Sara
Wow, these are gorgeous! I’ve been to Hawaii multiple times but not all these spots. Thanks for sharing – saving for a future trip!
Looks like there’s tons of stuff to do. Those waterfalls would be first on my to-visit list – stunning!!
Thanks for sharing!