Planning your Vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii

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Are you planning a trip the Big Island and don't know where to start? This guide will help you plan your trip starting with picking the best hotel. You will learn about the different places to stay on the island as well as some favorite destinations. Whether you want to see the lava, visit the site where Jurassic Park was filmed or spend your trip lounging on the best beaches, this guide can help you. Good luck in planning your trip and have a wonderful time in Hawaii.

Table of Contents

Choosing A Hotel

What to do once you get to Hawaii

Where to Eat

A markerKona International Airport -
Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA), 73-200 Kupipi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740-2645, USA
[get directions]

If you are visiting the Big Island, chances are you will come through the Kona Airport.

Kona Airport Info and Distances

The most popular airport for tourism on the Big Island is the Kona International Airport. As you make your final descent, you will be able to see the volcanoes as well as the beautiful coastline. The Kona airport is an outdoor facility. I say this so you are prepared to walk in the rain if the weather is bad.

After you exit the terminal, you will get your bags at one of two baggage claims and proceed to getting your rental car up the street. The airport is in a pretty remote area just outside of the town, Kailua-Kona. Depending on where you stay, you may have a drive ahead of you.

Distance from Kona Airport

Kona: 8.2 mi / 16 mins

Waikoloa: 25.9 mi / 42 mins

Waimea: 36.9 mi / 54 mins

Kohala: 39.2 mi / 57 mins

Hilo: 91.2 mi / 2 hrs 9 mins

Voclano: 105 mi / 2 hrs 33 mins

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has a beautiful beach that is great for snorkeling.
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has a beautiful beach that is great for snorkeling. | Source
Spencer Beach Park is a great place to camp.
Spencer Beach Park is a great place to camp. | Source
Ancient Hawaiians gave immunity to anyone who could make it to the City of Refuge.
Ancient Hawaiians gave immunity to anyone who could make it to the City of Refuge. | Source

What to do on the Big Island

Historical Sites
Hawaii is a place with rich history and unique stories. You will want to check out some of these historical sites while you are there.

City of Refuge
In Ancient Hawaii, if you stood too close to an ali'i (chief), you were punished with death. Hawaiians believed that the Gods would release their wrath on you. They built a place, however, called The City of Refuge, where people who broke the law of kapu could gain immunity--but they had to make it onto the land before someone caught them! You can now visit the City of Refuge and look at ancient homes and tikis. It's a beautiful place with rich history and breath-taking sights. To learn more, click here.

Lyman Museum
New England missionaries built this museum as a mission house in 1839. Their descendents converted it into a museum that honors Hawaiian history. It's a fabulous place to explore and is great for kids. To learn more, click here.

Ellison Onizuka Space Center
Ellison Onizuka was a Japanese-American astronaut from Kealakekua, HI. He was killed in the Challenger crash and was the first person from Hawaii to go into space. He was a close friend of my grandfather's. After his tragic death, a space center was built in his name at the Kona International Airport. It is a wonderful place for children and adults to explore space. Learn more, click here.

Source
You can walk right up to the lava at Kilauea.
You can walk right up to the lava at Kilauea. | Source

Volcanoes

There are five volcanoes on the Big Island: Mauna Kea, Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Kohala and Hualalai. Of these, there are two volcanoes that you have probably heard of. One is the tallest mountain in the world and the other is currently active and has been pouring lava down the south side of our island for decades.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world. Many people don't know this about Hawaii, but on this mountain there is snow. People often travel up there (with four-wheel drive) to play in the snow. It is not safe to snowboard, ski or anything like that in this area due to the texture of the snow as well as the rocks that may injure you underneath.

The Keck Observatory is resting on the summit of Mauna Kea. Astronomers from all over the world use this observatory to take photos of space. Since Hawaii has little artificial light, it makes for a perfect place to take accurate photos of space.

Kilauea

You probably know this volcano due to its activity. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and constantly pours lava down the mountainside. You will have to pay for a pass to enter the park and on unsafe days, they will turn you away. You can check the status of the volcano at their website. Volcanoes National Park is also the home of the Thursten Lava Tube, a perfect tunnel made from years of lava traveling underneath the ground.

Most people visit Kilauea for the lava. On good days, you can walk right up to the lava (but watch out, it's hot!). Make sure to wear thick shoes when you go or they may melt.

Waipio Valley is known for the numerous films that it's been in as well as the place where King Kamehameha grew up.
Waipio Valley is known for the numerous films that it's been in as well as the place where King Kamehameha grew up. | Source

Hiking and Fluming

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, but the best ones take a while to get to. If you want to have the hike of your life, look no further. Hawaii has the best sites to explore.

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley is famous for the films it has been in including Jurassic Park and Waterworld. This historic site was also the home to King Kamehameha, who grew up and learned to be a warrior in this place. Waipio is difficult to get to, so unless you have a four-wheel drive truck, do not try to drive down to the valley. Cars often get stuck in the mud here, so don't risk it if you haven't been there before. To learn more, click here.

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley is very similar to Waipio, but you cannot drive down there. You can take a mule, but the steep, zig zag trail down to bay is a good hike that you will enjoy. There are many things about this place that makes it so special. There is a black sand beach in the valley that pushes water into a small creek. There are also rope swings in the trees, but I once broke my wrist from falling off of one, so be careful. To learn more, click here.

Flume the Ditch

On your way back from Pololu Valley, you can stop at the old sugar cane plantation in Hawi to "flume" the ditch. The ditch is an irrigation system that the old platation owners used. Kids used to slide down it on inner tubes and body boards, but now it is a guided tour where you sit in a kayak and paddle down the ditch through tunnels. This is a very fun, family-friendly tour that has fun surprises along the way. To learn more, click here.

show route and directions
A markerCity of Refuge -
City of Refuge Rd, Honaunau-Napoopoo, HI 96704, USA
[get directions]

B markerLyman Museum -
Lyman House Memorial Museum, 276 Haili St, Hilo, HI 96720-2978, USA
[get directions]

C markerOnizuka Space Center -
Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka Space Center, Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA), Kailua-Kona,
[get directions]

D markerVolcanoes National Park -
Volcanoes National Park, State Highway 11, Pahoa, HI 96778, USA
[get directions]

E markerMauna Kea -
Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
[get directions]

F markerWaipio Valley -
Waipio Valley, Hawaii, USA
[get directions]

G markerPololu Valley -
Pololū Valley, Hawaii 96755, USA
[get directions]

H markerFlumin' Da Ditch -
Hawi, HI, USA
[get directions]

Click on the link to the left to learn more about the beautiful beaches Hawaii has to offer as well as driving directions so you know how to get there.
Click on the link to the left to learn more about the beautiful beaches Hawaii has to offer as well as driving directions so you know how to get there. | Source
Try malasadas from Tex Drive In
Try malasadas from Tex Drive In | Source
Blackened ahi and sweet potatoes at Jackie Rey's
Blackened ahi and sweet potatoes at Jackie Rey's | Source

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Comments 14 comments

Chasing Riley profile image

Chasing Riley 5 years ago from Los Angeles

This hub is better than a travel book. I'm bookmarking it for future reference. Awesome job!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you so much, Riley!


princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 5 years ago

Brittany

I'm bookmarking this hub because it will be the first thing I'll look at when I plan for a trip to Hawaii. Excellent hub!

Princesswithapen


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, princess! I hope it comes in handy.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

Wow! Now I really want to go even more than I did before. Great pictures! You really made it easy to look at all the options. I really liked the idea of the rustic cabins - just a little better than camping. Sounds like so much fun!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, HSB. The cabins are so great but they are very cold, so if you do get to go someday, make sure you bring some warm clothes and blankets. Thanks again!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Jeez... after reading this, I'm really wishing I hadn't spent all my vacation days in other areas! I think I'll have to put Hawaii back into my vacation bucket list @_@


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Simone, thanks for commenting. It's too bad you weren't able to visit. Maybe next time?


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I hope so!!!


Derdriu 5 years ago

Brittany: What a glorious summary of all the exciting activities and natural beauty to be found in Hawaii! You offer a wonderfully tempting array of built and natural environments to visit. It must have been with such euphoria that your grandfather initially watched the ascent of the Challenger and with such grief that he witnessed its destruction. I'm sorry for Ellison Onizuka's early demise but grateful for his contribution to our ever expanding knowledge of the space through which we rotate and revolve.

Thank you, voted up, etc.,

Derdriu


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments, Derdrie. The Challenger's crash was very sad to many people in Hawaii, but Ellison's contribution to science (like you said) and his ability to achieve his dreams has inspired many people. I'm glad you enjoyed this read and hope that you can make it to Hawaii someday.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

Wow! I did not know that you could snow ski in Hawaii! That is amazing! It blows me away! to have a tropical paradise, snow and super hot volcanos all in the same place. Too strange!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, HSB! Yes, we have all of the climates on one island (except tundra, of course).


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 4 years ago from Canada

Oh how I long to spend some serious time in Hawaii. This Hub is fantastic and so chalk full of info. A great resource for anyone wishing to see the Big Island. Well done!

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