3 Days in Big Island
Explore the hidden secrets of Big Island. Here is a 3 day itinerary for you to plan a perfect trip to Big Island
The Big Island has it all. Nowhere else in the world will you find the diversity available here. Pristine rain forests, lava deserts, world-class beaches, snow-covered mountains, an active volcano, dazzling sunsets and just about every activity you can think of. The island is huge—about the size of Connecticut. Navigating your way through this maze of opportunity can be daunting.
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3 Day Itinerary - in Big Island
Resorts aren’t actually rated 5 or 4 stars in Hawaii per se. We’ll call them the “Top Resorts on the Big Island” which are:
- Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
- Islands at Mauna Lani
Where to stay in Big Island
This list may assist you in planning what to bring. Obviously, you won’t bring everything on the list, but it might make you think of a few things you may otherwise overlook:
If you’re looking to spend the day at a beach, don’t feel compelled to bring everything with you from the mainland. Hawai‘i Beach Time (808-585-1474) rents everything beachy you can think of—from umbrellas to kayaks, beach chairs, surfboards, hammocks, etc. And their prices are fairly reasonable. Spend $50 or more and they’ll deliver it all to you anywhere on the island, for free.
What to Bring
Two bathing suits
Shoes—flip-flops, trashable sneakers, water shoes, hiking shoes
Shorts and other cool clothing
Camera with lots of storage
Light rain jacket and sweatshirt or light coat for some occasions.
Junk clothes for bikes, hiking, etc.
Mosquito repellent for some hikes. (Those with DEET seem to work the longest).
Mask, snorkel and fins
Cheap, simple backpack—handy even if you’re not backpacking
Hiking sticks (carbide-tipped ones work best here)
Reef-safe and water-resistant sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
Hat or cap for sun protection
3 Day Trip To Hawaii - Big Island
If you haven’t checked out our one-day itinerary, you can do so here. We show you how to make the most of your first day on the Big Island.
Breakfast at Kona Coffee
Of all the products produced on the Big Island, none is more well known or has received more accolades than Kona coffee. Though now out-produced in quantity by Kaua‘i, Kona coffee is unmatched in terms of quality.
With the possible exception of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, Kona coffee is widely considered to be the best in the world. Good Kona coffee lacks the bitterness of coffees from other parts of the world. By the way, contrary to nearly everyone’s belief, lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasts. (Caffeine cooks away during the roasting process.)
Early Morning Hike at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
Much of the best hiking on the island is found in and around Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea Iki is a great hike! If you only have time to do one hike while you are on the Big Island, this is one we’d recommend. It goes from ancient rain forest to a newly lava-paved crater and back through rain forest. At a little over 3 miles, it can take anywhere from 2 hours if you hoof it without distractions, to 4 hours if you stop and gawk as much as we do and enjoy lunch on the crater floor.
It is a reasonably easy hike (well…maybe moderate) with only about 15 minutes of gentle but constant incline toward the end when you ascend about 450 feet.
To get to the canyon, take Waimea Canyon Drive from Waimea. They want you to go up from Koke‘e Road in Kekaha because they hope you’ll buy something there, but the views are better going up from Waimea. On your return from the canyon, you can take Koke‘e Road (between mile markers 6 and 7) down for a different view of the coast.
Afternoon at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
This is the most easily accessible black sand beach on the island. Backed by palm trees and a freshwater pond, the sand is genuine black sand—the kind created when a chunky ‘a‘a lava flow meets the ocean and shatters into small pieces on contact with the water. These small chunks are quickly pulverized by the ocean, forming a delicious black sand.
Dinner at Mi’s Waterfront Bistro
Great service? Check. Amazing and romantic view? Check. Delicious Italian food? Triple check. You would be hard pressed to find a more spectacular ocean lookout. Sit near the edge of the balcony to hear and see the waves crashing beneath you; time it right, and watch the sky turn pink at sunset.
Day 1 in Big Island - Itinerary
Breakfast at Green Flash Coffee
What's the green flash? This green flash is a convenient spot for anyone staying along Alii Drive south of the main tourist area to get coffee since you won’t need to drill into town and find a place to park. They make serious drinks, like the Earthquake with Ghiradelli chocolate and four shots of expresso. Breakfast sandwiches, panini, and baked goods available as well. The smoothies are also a good choice and use fresh fruit for an extra refreshing taste.
Early Morning at Kahalu‘u Beach Park
This is one of the nicer snorkeling spots on the Big Island. It is often teeming with fish and offers more variety of sea life than any other easily accessible spot in Kona. Among the many fish present are wrasses, parrotfish, convict tang, porcupinefish, needlefish and puffers, as well as the occasional lobster, eel, and octopus. Outside the reef you may occasionally see deep sea life, such as tuna, marlin and dolphin jumping about.
Crowds accumulate at Kahalu‘u, but it's usually less crowded than White Sands Beach. One nice benefit of the crowds is that the fish here are used to humans, so they will let you get super close
Lunch at What’s Shakin’
On the 4-mile Scenic Drive (between mile markers 7 and 11 on Hwy 19). This is a fantastic place to get outrageous smoothies. They also have a small lunch menu of dependably tasty items, such as chicken wraps, roast beef sandwich, chicken nachos and super fresh salads. They also have daily specials with seasonal and handmade ingredients. The smoothies, their signature items, often start with frozen bananas (instead of ice) and most, like the peanut braddah, are wonderful.
Afternoon at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
This 4-mile scenic route is breathtaking—do not miss it—and leads past the Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden. Consider the 4-mile drive a "Not To Be Missed."
You don’t have to be a “garden person” to appreciate this stunningly beautiful area that fronts Onomea Bay. You wander on a self-guided tour for about an hour through over 2,500 exotic types of marked flora. Birds abound in this Eden-like setting. The smell of flowers and fruit (especially mangos) fills the air. Onomea Falls is located on the grounds, which makes a nice place to stop and take in the surroundings. Views of the bay are unbeatable.
Day 2 in Big Island - Itinerary
Dinner and a Show at Mauna Kea Lu’au
Probably the best lu‘au on the island is at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. They have a good imu ceremony where they pull the pig from the ground. They handle serving the food well, and it's also pretty darn delicious. Checking in can be slightly confusing (make sure to give them your name as you head in) but once you’re seated, you’re free to head to the buffet, and getting seconds is easy. Drinks are ordered from your table but only one is included with your entrance. The first half of the show is very strong and very Hawaiian, though the second half stalls a bit. Unfortunately, the stage is a little low, so those in back won’t see as much. (And it can be pretty loud for those up front.) Overall, a pretty classy lu‘au.
Breakfast at Cafe 100
Possibly Hilo’s most popular eating establishment. This is the most successful local restaurant on the island. For nearly 70 years they’ve served cheap, tasty, artery-clogging food and are legendary for their loco mocos. (These consist of fried eggs over rice and Spam or a similar meat—if there is a similar meat—all smothered with brown gravy.) They have nearly a dozen varieties of loco moco, along with burgers, chili, stew, sandwiches and specials for as little as $3.50. We gave them an ono because this is quintessential local food. But if you’re watching your cholesterol or fat intake, it’ll rock your Richter Scale like no other place.
Early Morning at ‘Akaka Falls
This free-fall plunge of 420 feet is best seen in the late morning. It’s $5 per car to park in the lot—free outside the parking lot—and $1 per person to walk in.
They certainly aren’t spending the money keeping the views open, and the bottom of the falls might be obscured unless you climb on the railings. If you’re in a hurry, walk left 3–5 beautiful minutes through lush vegetation and over streams to the falls. There you’ll find silver/ white strands forming as the water hits the rocks on the way down. Otherwise, there is a 0.5-mile, 15–20-minute amble (with lots of steps) through the lush bamboo-filled woods along with another waterfall. (Though the latter, Kahuna Falls, is largely blocked by vegetation.) The full loop is recommended if you have the time. Everything’s paved.
Lunch at Village Burger
Gourmet one-third-pound burgers made from locally raised beef, plus wagyu burgers (which sell out quick), veggie mushroom burgers, ‘ahi and taro. Quality is top-notch, and you can take your food to one of the food court tables or one of the few outdoor tables. Fries are extra, and the Parmesan fries are outrageously good. (Opt for them over the truffle fries.) They also make expensive but wicked shakes.
Afternoon at Waipi’o Valley
Waipi‘o Valley is as beautiful a place as you will ever visit. With unimaginably steep walls on all sides, waterfalls etching the perimeter, fields of taro and a luscious mile-long black sand beach, Waipi‘o never fails to impress.
The instant you arrive at the lookout above this awesome spectacle, you realize why this place was so special to the ancient Hawaiians. Because of its inspiring and tranquilizing effects, Waipi‘o was often chosen as the meeting place for chiefs when important decisions, such as the succession of the king, were made. Even the kings who resided in sunny Kona had residences in Waipi‘o Valley. According to Hawaiian legend, Waipi‘o Valley was gouged out by a powerful warrior with his club to demonstrate his power.
Today the allure of Waipi‘o Valley is beckoning outsiders. Visitors and residents alike enjoy the splendor of Waipi‘o. Experienced surfers and boogie boarders ride the waves off the black sand beach. Horseback rides are popular. And Waipi‘o Valley Shuttle takes groups down the steep road.
Day 3 in Big Island - Itinerary
Dinner at Manta
Views from here are soothing, looking obliquely down Mauna Kea Beach. Dinner continues the expensive route, but you can still feel comfortable in walking shorts and a nice aloha shirt. Service is polished and what you'd expect from this kind of resort. If you eat here, come for the convenience (just a short stumble back to your hotel room) or for the impeccable sunset view. If you come just for the meal, you might be irritated at high prices for food that doesn't quite hit the mark. (Salads especially seem not up to scratch.) Be very specific about how you'd like your meat prepared. They're accommodating if you send anything back, but the rest of your table will be finishing when you get your new plate. Cocktails here are absolutely stellar, some of the best we've had on the island (and we've tried a lot for you). Consider the Spiced Coconut.
Hawaii Revealed App
That’s a lot of activities to choose from on the Big Island! But we didn’t stop at simply reviewing the resorts, restaurants and activities. We’ve organized them based on prices, regions, and loads of other unique filters in one app. If you wanted to know more information, such as which resorts have an outdoor lanai, which restaurants have live music, and which activities need half a day or more, we’ve catalogued all of that information on our app, which you can filter through.
We have the same custom maps found in the book on our app, only now you can zoom in and quickly see what’s nearby, then tap on the activity to read more. The maps will also show you the distance between a resort and an attraction, making it easy to plan your Hawaii trip.
You can also find the following in our app:
- Sights Information including their locations, pricing, and contact details
- Adventure activities and their reviews
- A planner to save your favourites spots
- Maps to view nearby activities, resorts, restaurants and more.
Download the Hawaii Revealed app to see all the real gems and not to be missed sights on the islands.
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Plan your Big Island Vacation with our Hawaii Revealed App
Check out our new Hawaii Revealed app with everything you need to know about where to stay, including unbiased reviews, restaurants, and activities. Download the app for free on iOS to get previews of the best-selling Hawaii travel guides in the palm of your hand. Choose in-app purchases for full access to details on each island.
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