10 Amazing Activities to do on the Big Island of Hawaii

Airbnb in Kona on the Big Island

The big island of Hawaii is an adventurers dream where the Pacific Ocean becomes warm and turquoise, and the coastline is teaming with colorful fish. It’s a place where the sweet taste of açaí bowls fill your belly, and the flavor of Kona coffee fills your mug. The sound of ocean waves crash onto rugged black rock, and nearby rushing waterfalls fall in lush green rainforests. In this post, I'll give you ideas for 10 Amazing Activities to do on the Big Island of Hawaii.

1. Go Night Snorkeling or Diving with Manta Rays

Night Snorkeling with Manta Rays on the Big Island

The Snorkeling Excursion with Manta Rays is more of a night float than a night snorkel since they have you hold onto a paddle board while you view the Manta Rays, but it’s still an experience you won’t forget! These massive majestic creatures look like ballerinas of the sea the way they move with grace through the water, at times getting so close they actually touch you as they do flip turns in the ocean.

2. Take a Catamaran Tour and Snorkel some Incredible Reefs

Catamaran Tour with friends on the Big Island of Hawaii
Snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaii
Catamaran Tour on the Big Island of Hawaii

Whether catamaran tour with a boat of about 30-40 people, or book a private tour with just your party, this is a beautiful way to see the Big Island (or any island). Feel the fresh sea breeze and jump into the warm water to view all the schools of fish and green sea turtles. There are some amazing reefs to see in the ocean off the coast of the Big Island.

Here are some tour options:

3 Hour Waikoloa Snorkeling & Sailing Adventure

Afternoon Snorkeling Sail to Captain Cook's Monument

1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Sail from Waikoloa (no snorkeling on this one)

Tip: Remember to lather your reef safe sunscreen on early so it soaks into your skin. The ocean is a beautiful but fragile ecosystem that we should try our best not to disrupt.

3. Grab a beer at Kona Brewing

Kona Brewing Co on the Big Island of Hawaii
Kona Brewing Co on the Big Island of Hawaii
Kona Brewing Co on the Big Island of Hawaii

If you like beer, definitely stop at Kona Brewing for lunch, dinner, or even a brewery tour. It’s a really cool space and they have brews on tap that you can’t buy on the mainland.

6. Snorkel with the Abundant Sea Life Two Steps (Honaunau)

Photo by Hiroko Yoshii

Two Steps (Honaunau) is a popular snorkeling destination because of the easy entry into the turquoise waters filled with coral reef. Bring your snorkel gear and take “Two Steps” off the lava rock and right into the experience.

Google Map Location: 2 Steps

5. Hike 4 miles to the Captain Cook Monument

Hike to Captain Cook's Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii
Hike to Captain Cook's Monument on the Big Island of Hawaii

This hike is not for the faint of heart, but the reward is high. Captain Cook’s monument is not reachable by car, you can only get to it by hiking or taking a kayak, paddle board, or boat. It’s 2 miles down, and the scenery as you descend goes from thick brushes of sugarcane and through fields of solidified lava to end up on the lush coastline filled with tropical plants, little mongooses, and schools of colorful fish. If you’re in good shape, this is a great hike. If you’re not in good shape, definitely skip it. This is not for the casual nature walkers. You can lug your snorkel gear down and go snorkeling, it’s a nice refresh to get into the cold water after hiking. Just remember, you still have 2 miles up! Bring plenty of water.

Want to skip and hike and see the monument? Try this tour Afternoon Snorkeling Sail to Captain Cook's Monument

6. Swim and Sunbathe at Mahai'ula beach

Kekaha Kai State Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii
Kekaha Kai State Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii

This is a quiet and beautiful sandy beach, but it’s a trek to get to and you’ll need a high clearance vehicle (4-wheel or all wheel drive definitely preferred). There is a parking lot at the end and you take the trail north a short walk to this more hidden paradise. We got to see some Hawaiian Monk Seals while we were there!

Google Map Location: Mahai'ula beach

7. Visit Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

Volcanoes National Park is relatively small compared to most National Parks, so you really only need one day to explore it. Here lava sporadically flows from active volcanoes, hardening into a deep onyx as it covers the terrain.

Make sure you check in at the Visitor Center so you know what trails or sections are open. There are often closures. Take in the view of the Kīlauea Caldera, do the short 1.2 mile Sulphur Banks Trail, and definitely walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. It’s also an interesting drive down the Chain of Craters Road overlooking the lava and the ocean, and ending up at the windy coastline overlooking Holei Sea Arch.

Would you rather see Volcanoes National Park from an aerial view? Get ready to be amazed (and spend a pretty penny) on the Fly over Volcano National Park and Waterfalls tour.

8. Visit Hawaii Tropical Bio Reserve

Ocean at Hawaii Tropical Bio Reserve
Flower at Hawaii Tropical Bio Reserve
Gecko at Hawaii Tropical Bio Reserve

This botanical garden has vibrant plants, colorful flowers and a rocky coastline. It’s amazing to see all the varieties of plant life in this region. Also spotting this cute little Gold Dust Day Gecko above was a highlight, keep your eyes peeled!

9. Go Ziplining Over a 200ft Waterfall

Ziplining on the Big Island of Hawaii

Hawaii has some epic zipline tours through rainforests and over waterfalls. Try this zipline over KoleKole Falls. We loved it!

Full-Day Kohala Zipline and Waterfall Adventure

3-Hour Kohala Canopy Zipline Adventure

10. Take a Short Hike to see the 442ft Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii

This is a really short half mile loop trail through lush rainforest to see two waterfalls. The first along the trail going counter clockwise is called Kahuna Falls, it’s a little harder to see but still pretty amazing. Akaka Falls is further down the path and is an absolute stunner at 442 feet and in full view. Since this is a state park, you have to pay to park in the parking lot. I usually don’t mind this because it helps fund the park, but if you’re on a tight budget, just park right outside the lot and you can hike the trail for free.

I hope this helps you plan your trip! Do you have any more insights on things to do on The Big Island of Hawaii? Please leave them in the comments below.


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