First-Timers Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii
The largest of the Hawaiian islands, and more than double the size of all the other islands combined, the Big Island can be overwhelming. Here are our tips for first-timers to make the most of their time on the island.
Visit Volcano National Park
The Big Island is made up of five major volcanoes. Head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to both Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Depending on when you visit, you might see active lava flow or other volcanic activity. There is plenty to do, including hiking trails, seeking out petroglyphs, taking scenic drives, stopping at overlooks, and discovering natural wonders, including craters and old lava flow.
Discover Both Sides of the Island
The Big Island features two distinct and different sides: sunny Kona to the west, known for its beaches, and rainy Hilo to the east, known for its waterfalls and lush valleys. No matter if you stay on the west or east side, plan to head to the other side to appreciate the diversity of the island.
Mauna Kea towers 13,796 feet (4,138 meters) above sea level. The height and lack of pollution makes it an ideal spot for stargazing—it’s no wonder some of the world's largest telescopes are here. Head up to the summit or to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station at 9,300 feet (2,790 meters) to watch a sunset or sunrise and enjoy a clear view of the stars.
Spend Time on the Beaches and in the Water
There are more than 80 beaches on the island, including white sand, green sand, and black sand beaches, and it’s possible to see all three in one day. There's plenty to do in and on the water too. The Big Island offers only limited surfing, but it has plenty of amazing aquatic wildlife: go swimming with dolphins, snorkeling or scuba diving with manta rays at night, or whale watching in season.
Sample Local Flavors
Kona coffee and macadamia nuts are two of the Big Island’s signature crops, renowned the world over. Taste them at the source and learn more about the growth and production processes on a farm or plantation visit. Plus, purchase souvenirs to take home.
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