The Island of Hawaii is referred to as the Big Island by Hawaii residents. Also known as the “Orchid Isle”, the Big Island is well known for it’s many orchid farms, active volcano and the pristine white sands of Kona. The big Island is home to the world’s most active volcano. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must do on your Big Island vacation.
Before you land on the Big Island it is a good idea to get to know the basic layout of the island. the island is big but you can drive around it in a day. You will want to see what sites and activities are available and where they are so you can plan your stay wisely.
There are two main airports on the Big Island. One is in Kona and one in Hilo. Those landing in Hilo will be much closer to the volcano and will be staying on the wetter, greener side of the island. Those landing on the Kona side will be staying on some of the best coastline in the islands.
The east side of the island includes Hilo and the diverse district of Puna. this side does not offer white sand beaches but it has amazing tide pools, warm springs and some great black sand beaches. You’ll find great, safe swimming at Richardson’s Beach Park or Coconut island while in Hilo. The Puna coast (found east of the town of Pahoa) has exotic tide pools nestled into the black rock of the lava flow in Vacationland. There is also a thermal heated, olympic size pond that is a popular attraction for those visiting the Big Island. This side of the island has great contrast as the lush jungle grows on the black landscape, edging the blue ocean. The colors are as unique as they are amazing. The most popular local spot is the Isaac Hale Beach Park where surfing, fishing, swimming and family BBQ’s are the main events.
The volcano is what brings a lot of visitors to the east side of the Big Island. The east side is where you can walk right up to the flowing lava, when conditions are favorable. If you aren’t up for a one-on-one with the lava while it’s on the move, you can view the flow from a distance within the Volcanoes National Park. The park is a short 1/2 hour drive from Hilo and is open year-round.
From Volcanoes National Park you can head south to get to the Big Islands south shores. The climate here is very different and so is the lifestyle. This is the part of the island that is more remote. This side has a green sand beach and the City of Refuge. You can visit this live museum to see how the Hawaiians lived long ago. The snorkeling is great at kealekakua Bay. Ka’u is on the south side and is the largest and least populated district on the Island. P Cool and lush, flowers and farming are part of the economy here. At the southwest corner, Discovery Harbor and the more arid Ocean View communities were created for people who are looking for affordable year round living. There is much less of a “touristy” feel in the Ka’u area.
The Dona coast is a Hawaiian dream. Sunny year round, this coast gets the most tourist action on the Big Island. Kona Town (Kailua-Kona) is quite small but full of life and charm. Town shuts down fairly early leaving only a few bars open for night time entertainment. The best resorts are located on this long strip of coast. North Kona is the most populated district in West Hawaii. Kailua-Kona stretches south to Keauhou with vacation condominiums, restaurants, shopping and a variety of entertainment are within a short drive. Holualoa, a beautiful little artists’ colony in the “Kona Coffee Belt”, overlooks Kailua Bay at the cool elevation of 1200 ft. The town of Captain Cook is found here. South Kona has managed to retain its rural feel, despite its increase in population. Independent coffee, mac nut and flower farms are found here, interspersed with small communities. The largest of these are Kealakekua and Captain Cook.
Waimea and Kohala are primarily communities of farming and ranching. Waimea has a wild west feel to it. the elevation makes it much cooler then the coast only 15 miles down the Hill. Kohala, The Big Island’s most northern town feels far removed from the rest of the island. Kohala is very artistic and quaint and offers some great more secluded beaches. The upper road to Kohala is very curvy and foggy at night. If you are coming back from Kohala at night it is advisable to drive the lower, coast road.
Each part of the Big Island offers something different and unique. All the main tourist activities are available on the Big Island, so you won’t miss anything you want to try and the best part is there is a lot of room and this makes for a lot more secluded venues to help you get away from it all on your Hawaiian vacation.
Big Island Attractions
Big Island Activities
- Biking on the Big Island
- Golfing on the Big Island
- Helicopter Tours on the Big Island
- Surfing on the Big Island
Big Island Information