The Hawaii Big Island (officially named Hawaii) is the largest island in the United States’ Hawaiian archipelago in the Central Pacific. (All islands in this chain except Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau are placed under jurisdiction of the State of Hawai’i.) The Big Island is located east of O’ahu, northeast of Kaua’i, west of Maui, and south of Moloka’i and Lāna’i.
The island has an area of 10,432 km², making it the 7th largest island in the United States. Big Island is physically separated by the Kahuku Channel and Hale o Keawe Bay from O’ahu on the north, with a mostly uninhabited maritime boundary extending around the rest of its perimeter.
Hawaii Big Island Map:
The island has a population of 186,738 (2011) living spread across two distinct geographical areas: East Hawai’i and Upcountry. The total land area is 10,432 km² comprising four major physiographic sections: the rugged volcanic highlands, central plateau, coastal lowland and windward shore.
The highest point on the island is Mauna Kea at 4,205 meters above sea level. East Hawai’i is the location of most of the population, while the Upcountry is sparsely populated. Most of the island is covered by forests and includes several mountain peaks. The western shoreline offers beautiful views and a remote wilderness feel.
The Big Island has been home to several major scientific research institutions. It also includes several national parks, state parks, forest reserves, historic sites and natural areas. The island is also home to a number of temples and shrines.
Planning your Trip
Best Time to Visit Hawaii Big Island
The Big Island has a sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures and minimal humidity. It experiences a warm, wet season from May to October where temperatures average between 70 and 90°F, and a cooler, dryer season from November to April that brings temperatures in the 50s.
Despite its tropical location up to 3,000 feet of snow can fall on the Mauna Kea volcano in winter. (Though most snow falls as sleet or rain). The best times to visit are the autumn months (April to October).
When visiting Hawaii Big Island, make a budget of around $230-245 per day. This includes accommodations, food, transportation to and from the airport and excursions. You will likely spend a lot of money on souvenirs and activities.
Everyone has their own preferences for accommodation while on vacation in Hawaii. Most hotels offer prices that are on par with other islands islands such as Maui or Oahu. However, some properties are much more exclusive and expensive than others making it easier to justify the cost for a rental car that can be used to explore more of the island or cruise down to O’ahu for example.
What to Pack for Traveling?
Traveling to the Big Island of Hawaii can be challenging because of the varying climate conditions. We recommend that you pack for all occasions. Here are some suggestions to help you in planning your trip.
For short trips (2-3 days) bring a light, but versatile outfit that can be easily washed. Pack for varying temperatures and how much you plan to do outside. There is a large range of temperatures so it is easy to remain comfortable no matter the weather.
For longer trips (5-7 days) bring a comfortable, wind and water resistant jacket for windy conditions.
What to pack For Men:
For men, we recommend packing a pair of pants, long sleeve shirt, casual shirt and light jacket. If you intend to go snorkeling a rash guard or tank top is also helpful (and much cheaper than buying one on the island). In hot weather bring lots of light clothes; in cold weather bring more warm clothing.
What to pack For Women:
For women we recommend bringing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and light pants with pockets for money etc. Some travelers also carry a light sweater or tank top to layer under your shirt and/or jacket. In hot weather bring a lot of light clothes; in cold weather bring more warm clothing
What to pack for Children:
For children we recommend bringing light clothing as well. Depending on the season bring shorts and t-shirts in the summer, swimwear in spring, fall, or winter. For children between the ages of 5 and 12, it is best to bring only shoes and you can wear them while on the island. You can get new sandals on the island.
10 Best Things to do in Hawaii Big Island
- Boat Rentals
The best way to get around the island is by going out on one of the many tours. There are also many companies that will rent you a kayak or stand up paddleboard so you can explore the water along with the tour. If you do not want to travel on your own, there is a plethora of tours that take you on an island tour or snorkeling adventure.
- Jet Boating
Another great way to see the water is on a jet ski tour. Go out on the ocean for a half hour ride or spend an hour around the Big Island for better snorkeling spots. Either way, you are in for an exciting adventure.
Mauna Kea is home to some of the largest telescopes in the world and they offer public viewing of stars and planets.
- Standup paddle boarding
The best way to see the island is by board and paddle. It is a great activity for beginners and more experienced kayakers.
- Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a must for anyone going to Hawaii Big Island. There are some great spots to be found in and around the island.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the surrounding areas as well as get a workout. There are lots of kayak tours that do not require advanced knowledge.
The Big Island is known for some of the best snorkeling spots in the world. They offer everything from coral reef snorkel sites to whale watching snorkel tours and even lava tube snorkeling tours where you can see lava tubes while snorkeling!
The Big Island is home to many great surfers. There are many surfing tours that cater to beginners as well as those who already know how to surf.
There are many zipline tours that take you high into the water and then zip you over rapids. The best part is that it is a fully enclosed and padded tour.
- Whale Watching
With its many Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island is a great location for whale watching. Most of the time you will see the whales from land but if you watch, there are ways to get close to them as well.
The island offers plenty of activities for tourists regardless of age or interest.
10 Best Tours Around Hawaii Big Island
1. Hawaii Big Island Volcanoes National Park-
Located on the Big Island, the park offers many different activities for visitors. You can hike and watch nature while enjoying the sights and sounds of the island. Other activities include seeing unique lava formations, mountain biking, camping and bird watching.
2. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach-
A beautiful beach inhabited by many sea turtles that will leave you in awe. Snorkeling is also a great experience here.
3. Sunset On Mauna Kea Volcano-
If you want to get up close and personal with the volcano, this is a great option. The experience is on private land so the guides can do what they want with you. There is also a camp that offers camping tents if you are willing to do some camping.
4. Unwind in Holualoa Town-
With so much to do on the island, it is nice to just kick back and relax. There is a resort that offers you a tropical setting as well as great views of the surrounding areas. This is a fantastic place to visit for those who want to relax.
5. Papakolea Green Sand Beach-
This beach has a white sand beach with green sand that is unlike anywhere else on the island. It is a great place to visit and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding areas.
6. Snorkel/Dive With Manta Rays-
Diving with manta rays is a must when visiting the Big Island. There are many dive shops that offer this opportunity, but one of the best is right in Hilo. You will enjoy a close encounter of one of Earth’s largest creatures.
7. Coffee Tasting In Kona-
There are so many coffee plantations and shops on the Big Island that it is easy to get lost for hours just drinking coffee and shopping. The flavor of the local coffee is unlike any other.
8. Visit Akaka Waterfall –
Akaka Waterfall is one of the most beautiful places on the Big Island. It is also one of the few places that offer a cliff jumping option for those who want to test their courage. While it is quite dangerous, it is also quite awesome.
9. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park-
This park is home to many great sights as well as a historic village dating back over 1,000 years. Not only that but it is a park that offers much history in one place.
10. Kayak Kealakekua Bay-
There is so much to do on the Big Island that it can be hard to decide what to do next. Kealakekua Bay is a great place to see many fish and maybe even a whale or two. It is also an excellent opportunity for snorkeling as well as kayaking.
15 Things you Must Eat on the Hawaii Big Island
1. Local Seafood
The local seafood is among the best on the planet. They have all kinds of fresh picked and caught seafood, so you can be sure that it is high quality and fresh!
2. Grass Fed Beef
To avoid being allergic to any meats, it is important to make sure they have been grass fed. This gives them a richer taste than other beef options. It also gives them more nutrients that are not found in processed meats.
3. Fresh Squeezed Juice
You can pick fruit yourself and have fresh squeezed juice. There are many stands on the side of the road that will let you choose what you want and make it right there for you!
4. Chocolate Shops
There are a few chocolate shops in Hilo that sell a variety of chocolate. The flavors range from the classic to rarer and more expensive options. It is a great way to sample local flavors as well as learn about features of Hawaiian culture.
5. Local Food
There are some great local food options to be found on the Big Island. Some restaurants are as simple as just offering a plate of local food for you to enjoy. At other places, you can create your own meal by mixing local ingredients with items from other parts of the world!
6. Local Coffee Options
You will find many coffee places on the island and they all serve a wide variety of coffee options and flavors. Some even make their own cream and sugar if you ask for it!
7. Coconut Delights
There are many options for coconut based desserts and treats on the island. Some places even have coconut based food options as well. There are even places that make their own coconut milk options for fresh coconut milk!
8. Local Fruits
There are so many local fruits on the island that you will never get bored eating them. They have everything from pineapples to papaya and even avocado!
9. Lemon Shave Ice
This is a great treat during the hot months because it is quite refreshing. Most shave ice shops will offer a huge variety of flavors as well as topping choices for your shave ice experience.
10. Maui Onion Burgers
These burgers are a must have when on the island. They will make you feel like you are in Hawaii without leaving the island!
The name basically means “snow” but you know what it really means! It is a sweet, something that is a mix between cake and ice cream made with fruit. They are all over the island and are usually made fresh daily. You can find them at many places on the island.
12. FURIKAKE CHICKEN
This is a local recipe that is quite popular. It is basically chicken with a variety of flavors made into a marinade and then added into the mix. It includes many spices like ginger and garlic as well as wasabi powder!
13. SPAM MUSUBI
This is basically a pasta dish with Spam. Most people do not like the flavor of Spam but everyone likes this dish!
14. HAWAIIAN BREAKFAST
This is a great meal to start off the day when you are on the island. What better way to start than with some fresh local produce! There are so many different breakfast options from simple pancakes to a variety of breads.
If you have never had malasadas, you need to try them. They are similar to a doughnut but with a special topping. Many places will put them in the shape of a heart so you can cut it or get them by the dozen for yourself.