BIG ISLAND ITINERARY
Explore the hidden secrets of Big Island. Here is a day itinerary for you to plan a perfect trip to Big Island
If you are on the island for three days or less, we recommend that you don’t try to see the whole island; you’ll only end up touring Hawai‘i’s exotic blacktop. Pick a side. Since one of your days should be spent at the volcano, that leaves you with a scant two days to experience either Hilo’s and Puna’s beauty or the Kona side’s range of activities.
Deciding which side of the island to spend the most time on is a difficult decision, but the numbers are definitely skewed. Most visitors spend most of their time on the western, or Kona, side.
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A Day 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
1 Day Trip to Big Island - Big Island Itinerary
Now that you’re at your ideal resort and have everything you need for a day on the Big Island, including the Hawaii Revealed app, it’s time to get started! Your day begins at 7am with a quick bite of breakfast, before exploring the best of what the Big Island has to offer.
2. 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.
We like to start this hike at the Kilauea Iki Overlook and go counterclockwise, through the forest first. The trip is gentler this way and is preferable to going into the crater first. You will go through a gorgeous, ancient fern and ‘ohi‘a forest as the trail skirts the edge of Kilauea Iki Crater. Take your time here, and enjoy the beauty and grace of the forest and birds.
All along are short spur trails offering magnificent views of the crater. Judging size and distance is surprisingly difficult here until you see people walking on the crater floor. The abrupt contrast between the ancient fern forest and the newly created maw of the crater floor couldn’t be greater.
3. Lunch at ‘Ohelo Café
An easy and great choice. The kitchen is open so you can see the team of chefs at work, and you get the sense they really like cooking. The menu rotates, but whatever it is on the day you are there, it’s going to be good.
A typical night’s offering may include ribs with corn on the cob, Cornish hen, ribeye, wood-fired pizza, shrimp pasta alfredo or lobster. Prices aren’t low but neither is the quality of the food (we love the thin crust pizzas). Don’t be surprised to see the bartender use a blowtorch for the smoked rosemary.
It’s the kind of place that will make you wish you weren’t full so you could keep on ordering. Hard to believe such unbelievable food comes from a place connected to a rural gas station convenience store, but Volcano is full of the unexpected.
4. 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.
The swimming is a bit different here than at many other island beaches. Cold freshwater springs bubble up from just offshore. Consequently, the top 8 to 12 inches of the water is guaranteed to freeze your ‘okole off. You can usually see the floating freshwater while swimming and will be tempted to swim below to get a semblance of warmth. The visibility here is only fair, and you need to be conscious of rip currents. Generally, you want to stay fairly close to shore and be aware of currents during all but the calmest seas.
So why swim Punalu‘u at all? Well, one of this beach’s lesser-known treats is its turtles. The waters can get almost crowded with them. We’ve been here when you could see small groups of turtles every couple of minutes. They munch on limu that clings to rocks on the sea floor. Please remember not to disturb or play with them. In addition to the possible harm, it might cause them to find a less accessible beach to frolic.
5. 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.
Besides the view, Mi’s Waterfront Bistro boasts a menu of exceptional cuisine that captures a faraway taste with primarily local ingredients. Most of the pasta is made on site and doesn’t feel heavy. The meat is tender, and the crispy herb, cheese and spinach wontons are a must-try.
6. Night Dive with Manta Rays
Imagine the following scene: You take a boat to a dark piece of shoreline, leaving just before sunset. When you arrive, perhaps another dive boat is already there. Damn, you think. They’ll ruin it. As you slip into the water and approach what is affectionately called the campfire, numerous lights beckon to you, like a porch light calling to moths. Then gigantic shadows blot out the lights. Mantas! As you approach, one zooms over your head, missing you by an inch.
There you sit, with all the other divers, mesmerized by the performance before you. One, two, maybe three stinger-less manta rays, 6–10 feet across their wings, slowly swirling, looping and soaring all about you. Like an extraterrestrial dance performed by alien beings, these filter-feeding leviathans are more graceful than you could possibly imagine. They seem to understand that they are on stage, and they rarely disappoint.
When you think you have gotten used to their size, a goliath 14 feet across may swoop in, its enormous maw scooping up thousands of the tiny, darting shrimp that cloud the water along with the bubbles. You struggle to resist the urge to reach up and touch them—it’s best to let them initiate any touching. If you started diving because you wanted to feel like you were floating in space, night dives provide that feeling.
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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