Hawaii's largest island doesn't get the press that the others do, but it's a gem worth visiting
In order to discover the best things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, you first need to go to there. Unfortunately, this massive gem is often overlooked in favor of the sprawling beaches of Maui or the enticing rainforest and North Coast surfing of Kauai. Those islands are great, but if you haven't visited Hawaii's largest and in my opinion, most geographically diverse island, you're missing out.
From surfing to hiking and biking to off-roading, fine dining and volcano watching, the Big Island has much to offer for unique travel experiences. I couldn't write an article long enough for you to understand the wide range of activities available to you on Hawaii's mother island, so I picked a few of my favorites. If you have a chance to check any of these out let me know what you thought in the comments.
So here they are, (in my opinion) the best things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.
1. Check out the volcanos
There are actually two active volcanos on Hawaii's largest island. Kilauea, and Mauna Loa. Kilauea has been active for over a decade and sometimes puts on spectacular lava shows. These two volcanos are side by side and it's recently been suggested that they are linked deep beneath the earth, with Kilauea's spectacular eruptions acting as a vent for Mauna Loa's fury.
Although these volcanos are considered active, unfortunately, spectacular eruptions are rare and tourists should not expect to see shooting lava when they visit the volcano. Public viewing is far-removed from the action and the shots of lava shooting into the sky to be found on Google represent the lucky few, not the majority of Hawaiian volcano experiences.
This should not stop you from going. From the viewing platform in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you can see right down inside Kilauea's crater. It's a spectacular sight and well-worth the drive. Make sure you stop and check out the hot-steam springs on the way up!
2. South Point
If you're travelling to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Kona or anywhere on the West Coast, south point is only a few minutes off the road and is not to be missed. On the road down from the main highway you're greeted by massive electricity-generating windmills. These are a spectacular sight and although the windmills closest to the road are no longer in service, others can be seen spinning away in the distance producing more than 5% of the island's power.
South Point itself is a natural wonder where calm sheltered waters meet the raging Pacific Ocean. Many do cliff-dive and swim here, although I wasn't quite bold enough. This is believed to be the place where Polynesians first arrived on the Hawaiian Islands sometime between 300-1000 AD.There are old boat launches on the cliffs that although no longer in use, are a relaxing reminder of simpler times. It's a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike and is well-worth the drive.
3. Makalawena Beach
Makalawena Beach is just North of Kona on the West Coast and is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. This may not sound like much but I have travelled Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, Hawaii and the entire East Coast of Australia. Makalawena is unparalleled in it's natural beauty.
Part of the fun of Makalawena Beach, is that you can't just drive there. Well, you can, but it requires a 4x4 and somebody who actually knows how to use it if you know what I mean. You can drive the whole way like that or you can follow a slightly tamer gravel road for 5 or 10 minutes off of the highway and then hike for another 15 to get there. It's remote location is part of the fun. Makalawena is very sparsely populated, even on the most beautiful Hawaiian day simply because it's just not that easy to get to.
Snorkelling at Makalawena in perfectly clear water is worth the cost of a disposable waterproof camera. It's not uncommon to come across sea turtles laying on the beach. They love to be photographed but give them their space. All Hawaiian sea turtles are endangered and should not be touched.
4. Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay is located on the West Coast and earns it's place on the list of best things to do on the Big Island for it's beauty and history. This is the place where Captain Cook was stabbed to death in 1779 and a monument erected in his honor can be seen from anywhere in the bay. Snorkeling is fantastic in Kealakekua Bay as spinner dolphins, tropical fish and sea turtles are all regular sights there.
A word of caution on this one. There are lots of locals in this area that will offer you snorkeling tours or rides to the Captain Cook monument. Some of these folks are completely legitimate and some are to be avoided. It's always best to ask around.
5. Visit The Summit Of Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. When measured from it's true base which is well-below sea-level, it is about twice the height of Mt. Everest. Due to it's high altitude and relatively steady airflow, it is considered among the best places in the world for astronomical observation. Since the creation of the access road in 1964, 13 telescopes have been constructed at the summit.
This doesn't detract from the view however, and the view is worth the drive! This will be one of the highlights of your trip if you choose to check it out.
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This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of spectacular and worthwhile experiences to be had in Hawaii. Most people have limited time in paradise and these are some of the best things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii for sure. If you're travelling to Hawaii, it's worth picking up a detailed travel guide so you can make some informed decisions on other things to do while you're there.
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