Although not as populated or touristy as some of the other islands in Hawaii, the Big Island remains our favorite Hawaiian destination. We choose to stay near Waikoloa Beach on the Kona side. We love the low traffic volume and abundant sunshine it offers. There are many beach days to be had on this side of the island, while only a 2 hour drive to the Hilo side takes you to the lush rainforest-like views and volcano. We have family that has a house on the island, and are so grateful to be able to stay here during our visits!
Where to stay:
- Hali’i Kai in Waikoloa Beach – This is a wonderful area full of condos along the ocean and/or golf course. Here you can enjoy a private community pool overlooking the ocean while enjoying some island cocktails. There are also lovely trails, beaches, a golf course, tennis courts, and restaurants nearby. In the winter and early Spring, you may even be able to spot whales jumping just beyond the coast.
- Volcano House near Hilo – Prior to the 2017 volcano eruption, the Volcano House was home to some magnificent lava views in the late night hours. However, there are no more nighttime views, but it is now home to spectacular crater views during the day. There are many hikes nearby, some still closed from the volcano in hopes of reopening soon. Guides will help you find the type of trail you are looking for. There are not a lot of amenities at this hotel, but you will be able to truly enjoy the views and peace of nature.
Where to eat:
- Napua – This is a favorite date night restaurant of ours along the beach in Mauna Lani. It has amazing views, live music most nights, and spectacular Hawaiian dishes.
- Lava Lava – A restaurant at the far end of A-Bay, where you can enjoy some great Hawaiian cocktails while watching a truly spectacular showing of the sunset nightly. There is also live music. It can get very crowded around sunset, so try to get there early.
- Daylight Mind Coffee Company – When we aren’t making papaya bowls at the house, we enjoy grabbing some breakfast at this nearby coffee spot. They serve breakfast and lunch until 3 pm, serving delicious local Hawaiian dishes.
- Restaurant at Hali’i Kai pool – Their Happy Hour is from 2-6 and food is served until 8 pm.
- Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea – They serve a wonderful breakfast with HUGE servings. The pancakes are a must.
- The Rim at the Volcano House – There are wonderful views during the day overlooking the crater with spectacular service.
What to do:
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens – Hands down, this is our favorite botanical gardens around the world (and we have been to a lot). These gardens offer great ocean views along with local flora and fauna.
- Hike to Kiolo Beach – At mile marker 81, you can pull off on the side of the road to park. The beach is about a mile through the lava trail. There is a black sand beach, a hiking trail around the bay, and a small island you can swim to and possibly see some sea turtles.
- Take a day trip to Kona for some snorkeling, shopping, art galleries, or delicious food.
- Two Step, right near Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, has great snorkeling, or you can explore the park.
- Mauna Kea Beach – This is a small beach with limited parking (they will tell you there are none left, but try anyway), so best to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Here you can find more snorkel spots, tons of shade to read or relax, and a beach bar and restaurant.
- Anaeho’omalu Beach (A-Bay) – It has a nice beach near Lava Lava. Water sports equipment is available for purchase.
- Waipio Valley – Here you will find an amazing Black Sand Beach. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to drive down.
- Luau – There are many on the island, but a nice one is at the Marriott Hotel. You will need to call ahead for reservations.
- Volcano National Park – Here you can try some of the volcano hikes mentioned above. You may also visit the Jagger Museum for nice views of the crater.
- Mauna Kea Observatory – This is another trek that requires a four-wheel vehicle to travel up to summit. It gets cold in these higher elevations, so bring a jacket!
Where to grocery shop:
- Foodland – If you are in the Waikoloa area, this store has the best items for the lowest prices. They usually have nice deals going on as well. It is well-worth the extra drive to save some money!
Tip: We recommend renting a jeep if you plan on traveling to some of the more remote locations.