Big Island, Hawaii is – as the name suggests – the biggest Hawaiian Island and is probably as well the most diverse one. You will find here rain forests, mountains, beaches, volcanos including Kilauea one of the world’s most active volcanos, desserts and much more. Lots of people stay around the Kailua Kona area on the beaches when visiting Big Island which is definitely worth it but they miss out a lot, there is so much more to see … After my top 5 things to do in Kauai and my top 5 things to do in Maui posts, here is my list of top 5 things to do on the Big Island.
1. Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located about 35 miles from Hilo. We had a great day here, we went hiking through this impressive landscape, visited the museum and walked through the lava tube. In this National Park you’ll find the Kilauea and the Maunaloa volcano which are both active volcanoes. The Kilauea Volcano has been erupting continuously for the last 30 years, which is one of the reason why this Park is so popular. There is a very good chance to see the Kilauea erupting and sometimes you can even see the lava flowing into the sea at Kalapana.
We went to Volcanoes village for dinner and returned to the Park after dark so we could have a better look at the orange glow of the Kilauea crater, which was very impressive.
2. Champagne Pond
The Champagne Pond is a hot water cove separated from the Ocean by a reef. It’s a great place to have a swim, snorkel and spot Sea Turtles. Many locals relax here as well during weekends and holidays. The Champagne Pond is located in a residential area, unless you walk through the community, the only way to reach it is by going to the Lighthouse on Cape Kumukahi. From there you have to go over the lava fields to the Champagne Pond. This is impossible without four wheel drive. As we did not have 4WD, we had no other option than to go on foot from there, which was a 35 minutes walk.
We were staying in Hilo and went to the Champagne Pond on one of our trips to explore the Puna area of the island. We drove from Hilo to Pahoa where we visited the beautiful Lava Tree State Park, after which we drove to Cape Kumukahi and walked to the Champagne Pond. Before returning to Hilo we also visited the Ahalanui hot springs and the Kaimu Black Sand Beach.
3. Lava Walking
For this trip we had to get up very early and drive from our Hilo base to Punahaha, this village was complete destroyed in the 1990 eruption. In one of the 5 houses remaining lives our guide for today.
During the time we visited the lava did not flow into the sea but till private property, so you could only hike to it with a private guide living in this village (please be aware that the location of the lava flows always changes). So we started hiking over the 1990 lava fields, it was really hot that day and I could not imagine it getting even warmer but I felt the heat of the lava activity before I actually saw it. I have never seen anything like this in my life, it was so impressive. You could actually see several lava streams (which flows very very slowly) and every now and then a rock bursts open and lava streams out. This hike was due to the heat quite hard and took us in total about 5 hours but it was so worth it.
4. Black Sand Beach of Punaluu
On the way from Hilo to Kona, you will pass the Black Beach of Punaluu which is definitely worth a stop. It’s one of Hawaii’s most famous beaches. It is not a good place to go swimming or snorkeling but there are always lots of Green Sea Turtles on this beach. It is not allowed to touch the turtles neither to take sand from the beach.
Another good stop on your way to Kona is Ka Lae, South Point. From here you have a very impressive view over the Pacific Ocean. Besides the ocean, there is nothing anymore between this point and Antarctica.
5. Manta Ray Spotting in Keauhou
We loved the Hilo area from Big Island although it is a fact that there is much more rain than on the Kona site of the island. After our stay in Hilo, we relaxed a couple days in the Keauhou, Kona area which is a perfect spot for snorkeling … and to see manta rays at night. At the Sheraton on Keauhou Bay you can see every night lots of manta rays, you can of course also take a manta ray night excursion or even go swimming with manta rays at night.
These were my 5 favorite things on the Big Island but of course there is much more to see or do. We also visited the Waipio Valley, which must be one of the most impressive spots on the Big Island. Unfortunately it rained very hard all day and we could not see anything from the incredible views promised. On the way back to Hilo we visited an absolute gorgeous botanic garden.
*Image of Rainbow Falls via Shutterstock