4 days on the Big Island

When determining which Hawaiian islands to visit, we were amazed to find out that the Island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island, is the largest island in the US and also home to 8 of the world’s 13 climate zones. One day you could be snorkeling over a reef, to watching live lava flows, to snow-capped mountains 14,000 feet above sea level and even diving with Manta Rays. Pretty incredible, right? We had 4 magnificent days to explore the Big Island and knew we wanted to fit in as much as possible. The below itinerary s the perfect way to explore most of the island on a quick trip and take in all the natural beauty the island of Hawaii has to offer.

Big Island Hawaii

Day 1

  • Begin your trip by flying into the east side of the island at Hilo Airport
    • We highly recommend securing a rental car to explore the island, especially a 4-wheel jeep if you are off-roading
  • There are not many hotels in the area, so get in the heart of the action by staying at the Volcano House
  • Hop in the car and do some exploring:
    • You are minutes away from the Volcanoes National Park (Kilauea’iki hiking trail, volcano art center, jaggar museum to see the glow on the crater) and the Thurston Lava Tube
    • One of our favorite expeditions was exploring the 18 miles of lava flow on Chain of Craters Road. Drive all the way to the end to the Sea Arch lookout point
    • This is an hour drive away, but you can’t leave the Big Island without seeing black sand at Punalu'u Beach. It is crazy to think the sand was created by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it reached the ocean and cooled. They say it is bad luck to bring home any form of lava, but we may have bent the rules =)
  • End the evening viewing the lava flow from Kalapana. You can drive, hike or even go by helicopter or boat tour. Depending on the time of year, it is a pretty incredible experience that makes you truly appreciate nature
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
Black Sand Beach Big Island Hawaii
Lava Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii

Day 2

  • Prepare yourself for a long day of driving, but it is a chance to explore the beautiful island
  • Get up early to check out the volcano heated pools, Ahalanui or the tide pools in Kapoho. These are part natural, part man-made pools that are volcanically heated at around 90 degrees
  • Head into the town of Hilo and catch breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes
  • Nearby is the immaculate Rainbow Falls. If you have some time to kill, Akaka Falls is even more stunning (422 ft.) with a hike up to the waterfall
  • One of our favorite stops (if not our favorite) on the Big Island was experiencing Mauna Kea. This is a dormant volcano with the highest peak in all of Hawaii. You drive 14,000 feet above sea level within 1 hour (with a short stopping break in between) and literally arrive at the top above the clouds. Breathtaking is an understatement. Try to catch a sunset, as it is hands down the best sunset we’ve ever seen. Quick tip - This is where a rental car comes in handy =) If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive car or are nervous about the drive, we recommend going through a tour company
  • Head south to Kona, where you’ll stay for the next 3 nights. We absolutely love the Hilton Waikoloa or the Four Seasons Hualalai. Both of these are incredible hotels that are worth checking out, even if you don’t stay on property. There are also plenty of budget friendly options in the heart of Kona, closer to all the action
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii

Day 3

  • Take in the scenic views with some coffee and a quick bite at Island Lava Java
  • After refueling for the day, take on the Hamakua Coast, which is a beautiful highway drive. It is a stark contrast to all the lava flows you will have seen throughout the Big Island thus far. This area is lush, green and feels like a Little House on the Prairie scene
  • Another highlight of the trip is visiting the Waipi’o Valley Lookout. If you are looking for another thrill in the 4-wheel jeep, drive down the steepest road in the US. It seriously was insane!! The views when you make it to the bottom of the valley are stunning and well worth the minor panic attack when driving down
  • Drive through the cowboy town of Waimea and definitely make a pit stop at the Big Island Brewhaus. Without question, our favorite beer is the Golden Sabbath made at this brewery. Sadly, it is only distributed in Hawaii though
    • Another unique stop in Waimea is the Parker Ranch, which used to be the largest ranch in the US. We weren’t able to fit this in, but it is supposed to be a very unique experience with great horseback riding excursions.
  • When heading back into Kona, stop by the Waikoloa Village for some shopping and Kua Bay Beach. We loved this secluded white sand beach to relax at for sunset
  • If you are brave enough, end the evening with a Manta Ray night dive through Big Island Divers. Unfortunately it rained on us the evening we were scheduled to go, so dying to go back and try it
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii

Day 4

Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
Big Island Hawaii
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