You have the unique opportunity to watch one of nature's most powerful, beautiful processes as the earth unfurls to release its magma from the volcanoes. As one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, Kilauea volcano is consistently one of Big Island's biggest attractions. Its reputation precedes it as a sacred place for Native Hawaiians as well.
Hawaii's black sands draw much of the attention for its beaches. Drawing its color from the volcanic activity, the Punaluu Black Sand Beach on southeastern Kau's coast is stunning. Hawaiian Green Sea turtles will bask in the sun beside you (please do not disturb them, however, as they are endangered and protected).
Mamalahoa Kona Heritage Corridor was named in honor of Kamehameha the Great’s “Law of the Splintered Paddle.” The storied footpath granted runners safe passage for centuries, and today the 10-mile Mamalahoa (paddle) Kona Heritage Corridor survives with stories of Hawaii's past and present. The immigrant influences of Europe, Asia, and the Americas are still evident, survived by historic architecture, shrines, coffee farms, art galleries, and Holualoa Village.
The Royal Footsteps Along the Kona Coast Byway is seven miles of a 700-year history. The stretch of road unfolds the centuries of Hawaii’s Alii, or ruling class. You will be led past four of Kona's seven “Royal Centers,” which were the sacred locations chosen due to an abundance of natural resources and recreational value; they were also reserved for Hawaii’s kings and queens. Count among them Hulihee Palace (one of three palaces in the United States), the royal surfing grounds of Kahaluu, Hawaii’s oldest Christian church and several heiau, or sites of sacred Hawaiian temples.
The Kau Scenic Byway is a 54-mile loop of ancient Hawaiian history. Enjoy the wealth of natural wonders and the southernmost point of the United States. Long stretches of pristine, unrequited scenery makes for exceptional experiences along this byway. Stop at the Honuapo Overlook, and indulge in one of Hawaii’s most remarkable views. The byway also takes you to Punaluu Black Sand Beach, the 1000-year-old cave system of Kula Kai Caverns and gives you majestic vistas of Hawaii's lava fields.
Akaka Falls State Park is nestled along the northeastern Hamakua Coast. The 2 mellifluous waterfalls are seen on only one short hike, while a pleasant 0.4-mile hike will take you through a lush rainforest of wild orchids, bamboo groves, and coquettish ferns. You'll pinch yourself to find this is all indeed real, especially with the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the towering Akaka Falls, which plummets down 442-feet.
Hilo is a region of Hawaii known for its dramatic waterfalls, fertile rainforests, blooming gardens, and its geographic inverse of the volcanic Kohala Coast. Hilo is also the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located 45 minutes south. You'll find plenty to do with a collection of renowned museums, art galleries, unique shops, and everlasting favorites like the Hilo Farmers Market.
Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a vivacious seaside town in the heart of the sunny Kona Coast. When the sun sets, Kailua Village puts forth a lively nightlife with live music, great local food, and ocean vistas. During the day, find a variety of shops, cafes, historical sites, and more.
Visitors are never short of activities at Keauhou. Just south of Historic Kailua Village, the Keauhou area has become one of Hawaii's most frequented destinations. The waters are perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Enjoy a combination of golf courses, spas, and fine resort restaurants on land. Spot manta rays at night as they meander near the shores to feed on microscopic plankton, and you may even see napping honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) in the shallow tide pools as well.
A centerpiece of Hawaiian culture, Puuhonua o Honaunau is a 180-acre national historic park that once served home to royal grounds and a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. In these times, those who broke kapu (or sacred laws) were given one chance of redemption: evade pursuers and arrive to a puuhonua, or a sacred places of refuge. If successful there would be a ceremony of absolution, and the law-breaker would return to society.
Quirky and fun, Waimea immediately shows its sense of humor with stop signs that read “Whoa,” instead of “Stop.” Waimea is known as paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country, with rolling, green pastures that still serve home to cattle, cowboys, and ranches. The community also features some of Hawaii Island’s finest chefs and endless entertainment with the Kahilu Theatre.
Puukohola Heiau is a stunning stone visible from the road. Located north of Kohala Coast's resorts, the National Historic Site is home to one of the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii. Heiau were sacred places of worship for Native Hawaiians, and Puukohola Heiau itself was built to fulfill a historic prophecy.
The Pololu Valley Lookout is at the end of Highway 270. Experience remarkable views of verdant cliffs and the dramatic northeastern coastline. There are horses grazing on the hillside, outcroppings in the waters offshore and the black sand beach. You may opt to hike down to the valley floor and the black sand beach, although swimming is ill-advised due to strong currents.
This thin strip of white-sand beach is flanked by the Anaehoomalu Bay on one side and two ancient Hawaiian fishponds, Kuualii and Kahapapa, on the other. Located near the Waikoloa Marriott, it is a favourite spot for swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling and other water activites.
One of only three royal palaces in the entire United States, this former residence dates back to 1838, and once served as King David Kalakaua's summer palace. The elegant gardens, the vintage koa furniture, the Hawaiian quilts, and the whole of the decor are a page out of Hawaiian history.
Bite Me Fish Market Bar and Grill gives guests the unique opportunity to watch as the fish come in fresh and get weighed, ensuring that your meal will be as fresh as the sea itself. They serve breakfast, and the dinner menu is served all day. Enjoy wine, domestic or imported, or Hawaiian beer to complement your meal.
Lotus Cafe specializes in bringing quality Asian cuisine developed from 35 years of experience. Using natural, organic ingredients, they bring the flavors of Northern Thailand, Burma, India, and Indonesia to the Big Island. Enjoy dishes that enhance the foods' nutritional and medicinal benefits, with fresh herbs and spices.
Rays on the Bay at Sheraton Kona is a sight in and of itself. With open-air seating that offers vistas of the Pacific and its spectacular sunsets, the restaurant is second to none. It is also the only dining venue on Big Island that was built on lava cliffs this close to the water. There's live music nightly from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., served alongside pupus, dinner, and a diverse rum bar.
Winner of the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, Sushi Rock is loved by all. Located in the relatively quiet town of Hawi, the restaurant booms with a variety of fare. Enjoy a selection of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, beef, soups and salads. There are cooked fish entrees, homemade desserts, and a full bar.
Kona Beach Restaurant was designated as the "Favorite Hotel Restaurant- Neighbor Island" by the Honolulu Advertiser in 2000 and 2001. The result of great food and a friendly atmosphere, their wins were also due to the unbeatable tableside views of Kamakahonu Bay and the Pacific.
Kamuela Provision Company offers a twist on Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, serving favorites like charbroiled steaks and fresh seafood using local ingredients to ensure authenticity. Pair your meal with tropical cocktails or fine wines, and enjoy conversation while music from the contemporary guitar plays on their lanai. Reservations are recommended, and they suggest collared shirts for gentlemen.
Dona & Toni's is pizza like you've never had it before. Enjoy traditional pizzas or one of the many unique signature pizzas inspired by the island like the Huli Huli chicken. If you prefer, you can build your own pizza with your choice from a wide selection of meats, sauces, vegetables, and cheeses. Dona & Toni's also serves salads and authentic Italian pasta dishes.
The award-winning Brown's Beach House is under the helm of Chef TK Theosavang, who spotlights the best of island-inspired ingredients with fresh seafood. Located steps from the shore, the elegant beachfront restaurant has won the prestigious Hale Aina Award for "Top Big Island Restaurant" by readers of Honolulu magazine. Nightly entertainment from Nino plays island memories on Hawaiian slack key while you dine.
Wasabis's Japanese Cuisine is located in the Coconut Grove Market Place in Downtown Kailua-Kona. The family-owned restaurant offers guests indoor and outdoor dining areas, along with their full service sushi bar. You may even choose to dine in the private Teppanyaki room.
Don the Beachcomber is an open-air, signature restaurant at the Royal Kona Resort. They feature a prime setting on the water's edge, allowing for views of Pacific sunsets. The menu comprises of Pacific Fusion, Prime Rib and seafood specialties, and the culinary team prepare entrees in the Exhibition Show Kitchen.
Beach Tree Restaurant offers unparalleled dining at the Four Seasons Resort. Enjoy culinary delights inspired by dishes from around the world that have been given an island twist. Sample one of 60 wines available by the glass, carafe, or bottle or one of many unique island-inspired cocktails.
This compound, long-time property of the Keli'iho'omalu family, has recently become a hotspot for locals to shop, eat, drink, dance and socialize, making it a great place for visitors to experience local culture. Every Wednesday there is a night-market, where farmers, artists and entertainers gather to enjoy, among other things, the weekly live music.
The picturesque Beach Tree Bar and Lounge is located at the Four Seasons Hualālai. Enjoy cocktails beneath the sunset while sitting beachside. Local favorites for fare include the warm artichoke and crab dip, tomato and basil bruschetta, and the rainbow sushi rolls.
Holua Bar offers visitors a refreshing break from the sun and pool. Enjoy a selection of tropical cocktails, crisp salads, yummy wraps and sandwiches, or juicy burgers. Island-style pupus are served as well, and a full menu of Kona Brewing Company's local micro-brewed beers is available.
The Malolo Lounge is a posh, comfortable space reminiscent of Old Hawaii. The modern Waikoloa bar is draped in elegance, offering five seating areas. The lounge is perfect for family and friends to converse while sipping on a signature cocktail. Enjoy one of 20 vintages available by the glass and admire original artwork by artists from the Big Island.
The Sunset Luau overlooks ancient fishponds as the sun sets over 'Anaeho'omalu Bay. Torches are lit on the historic site with traditional Hawaiian chants to welcome guests. Serve witness to the opening of the "imu," an underground pit where an entire pig has been slowly cooking all day. Traditional luau foods and American favorites are served alongside the pig. Following dinner, guests are engaged with the music and dance of Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa.
Locals flock to the dark and seedy little bar that is Sam's for two main reasons: karaoke and the lack of tourists. It is a great, understated place to have a drink and a good time and to have a moment on stage, while rubbing elbows with locals and foregoing the tourist-trap feeling of much of the island's nightlife.
For a taste of cinema on Big Island pay a visit to this historic building from 1930, where you can catch a movie or one of the frequent special events hosted there. The theatre is very much in tune with the arts scene on the island, and it is a good place to find out about local happenings to be on the lookout for.
The location in a strip mall is nothing special, but behind the doors of the Mask-querade Bar is the island's best gay bar, providing a change of pace from the island's usual sports bars. Most nights host special parties or events, like drag shows or barbecues on Sundays.
Visitors to Don's never fail to comment on the wonderful sunsets that can admired from this outdoor bar, but the 10 varieties of mai tai also attract the crowds (be sure not to miss Don's Mai Tai festival in August). On Sundays there is live music on the xylophone, as well.
Blue Dragon Coastal Cuisine & Musiquarium was given the titles of "Best Live Music and Best Night Life" in 2009 as well as "Best Dining Atmosphere," "Best Family Entertainment," and "Best Bartender" in 2010 by readers of North Hawaii News. Outdoor dining, live music, dancing and delicious drinks await at the Blue Dragon.
This friendly, "neighbourhood" brewery in Hilo doesn't require an appointment. Visitors can simply show up at any time and get the chance to try to free samples of the different varieties available on tap while learning all about the brewery and the island from the warm and welcoming staff, and even take some local brews home with them.
Beloved by locals, the Kona Brewing Company continues a tradition of brewing high-quality beer started in 1995 as Hawaii's largest craft brewery. Visitors can order a sampler to try four different varieties, including Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale. There is an outdoor patio with live music on Sundays, and there is a good selection of food, from gourmet pizzas and sandwiches to fresh produce salads.
As beer lovers themselves, Humpy's has a "no crap on tap" policy. All 36 beers on draught are thus fresh, hand-crafted beers which can be enjoyed from the patio seating on the ground floor or from up above, where the views of the Kona coast at sunset are spectacular.
The crowds at this popular dive bar regularly comprises college students and workers, locals and tourists, regulars and first-time visitor. The Tavern hosts live music most night, and also offers open mic nights, a pool table and game room, and a fresh open-air porch area.
As Big Island's only enclosed shopping center, Prince Kuhio Plaza offers 85 retail shops and eateries, a stadium seating 9-screen theater and over 200 community events, promotions, and family entertainment programs each year. Find familiar national brands, as well as local Hawaiian names.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays the open-air Hilo Farmers Market bustles with over 200 vendors selling their products. Local specialties, such as exotic flowers, tropical fruits and honey, are sold alongside market staples, like cheeses, fresh produce and freshly baked pastries. The rest of the week a smaller market of about 30 vendors can be found.
The Parker Ranch Center is anchored by the popular tourist attraction Parker Ranch Store and the historic Ikua Purdy statue. The Center has several Big Island product retailers, as well as the Fireside Food Court. Be sure to admire the 32 historic Paniolo murals depicting its cowboy heritage.
Probably the best-located bookstore in Hawaii, facing the beautiful Hilo Bay, Basically Books carries a great selection of Hawaiian music and an impressive array of maps. But books are the main focus at this family-owned independent store, and there is plenty of Hawaiiana literature to choose from.
Big Island Candies was established in 1977 to create the finest macadamia nut chocolates and cookies in the world. Today they are not only home to the famous diagonally dipped shortbread cookies, but also an assortment of globally acclaimed sweets that are all handmade with ingredients such as high-grade chocolate, island eggs, and premium 100% Hawaii-grown macadamia nuts.
Ueshima Coffee Corp is located on the beautiful Kona Coffee farm overlooking Kailua Bay. They welcome guests to observe a working Kona coffee roasting facility in one of their complimentary tours. You can also try your hand at roasting your own private label 100% Kona Coffee.
The Shops at Mauna Lani is your resort destination shopping centre located on the sunny Kohala Coast. Find a wealth of shopping, dining, entertainment and cultural activity opportunities. You can even take a self-guided plant tour (ask any retail merchant for the brochure).
Big Island Bees offers guests the opportunity to sample or purchase all existing varietals together with other beeswax and honey products. Their honeys are distributed throughout Hawaii, and the quality has led to them being featured in national publications such as The New York Times and Food and Wine.
Although it boasts an impressive selection of over 600 varieties of wine, including imports from around the world as well as local vintages, the Kona Wine Market also carries over 100 specialty craft beers -from Belgian ales to local micro brews- specialty liquors, and even gourmet foods and cigars.
The unique bronze hula lamps on display at this shop are steeped in tradition and based on the vintage topless retro hula lamps of the 1930s, and they surprise both for their variety and their quality. They have become highly sought after by visitors to the island in search of a unique memory or gift to take with them. They can also be mixed and matched with a selection of hand-painted lamp shades.
This market, open 6 days a week, feels almost like a lush park with some stalls hidden among its numerous trees. Visitors can pick up tropical flowers and fresh produce, souvenirs and postcards, jewellery and clothing, arts and crafts, treats and much more. The outdoor garden cafe offers burgers, fish tacos, smoothies, shave ice, and any other refreshments you might need to enjoy the market.
Colourful, tropical and beautifully patterned fabrics and quilts line the walls in this small shop, which also offers an array of local Hawaiian arts and crafts, as well as unique photography, cards and souvenirs. The owners even offer different courses, such as quilt design and book making classes.
Two airports serve Hawaii Island: Kona International Airport (KOA) in Kona in the west, and Hilo International Airport (ITO) in Hilo in the east. KOA services major airlines, including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, GO! Mokulele, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, United Airlines, US Airways and Westjet. KOA is accessible by car, taxi and shuttle, with The Hawaii County Mass Transit Agency Hele-On bus operating a limited service between the airport and Kailua-Kona town. ITO services GO!, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. ITO is accessible by car and taxi without public transportation available.