Hawaii - Big Island/Hilo Vacations
Twice the size of all other Hawaiian islands combined, the Big Island of Hawaii features striking black- and green-sand beaches, orchid farms, two active volcanoes, and a snow-covered mountain during the winter. Visit Volcanoes National Park and see preserved footprints in an ancient lava flow, and, if you're interested and lucky enough to be there when one is happening, view an active lava flow from close up. For tamer sightseeing, visit Hulihee Palace, King Kalakaua's summer palace, built in 1838, used by Hawaiian royalty until 1916, and now a museum. Or sample Kona coffee where it is grown and milled, and macadamia nuts where they are cracked and canned.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
Courses cut from lava flows and shots across an inlet make golf on Hawaii’s Big Island a memorable experience
Active volcanoes, spectacular hiking, and a lush countryside
What's the climate like?
The west side of the island is usually sunny and dry, except in January and February. Hilo, to the east, is usually rainy in the winter.
How do I get around town?
Transfers between the airport and hotels are not included, but are available for purchase.
A rental car is highly recommended.
A local bus company goes between Hilo and Kailua-Kona, in addition to offering service within each town. Another local company offers service between Waikoloa and Kailua-Kona.
Bicycles are an excellent way to see the island; however, many roads do not have bicycle lanes, so ride with caution. Visitors can join local clubs for their weekly rides.
Taxis can be found at the airport, most hotels, popular resort areas, or by calling directly. Long trips can be expensive, so taxis are recommended when going a short distance or out to dinner.
What kinds of dining and nightlife are available?
Luaus are the most common form of evening entertainment and there are many to choose from. The best luaus are at the Aston Keauhou Resort, Kona Village Resort, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, and the Royal Luau at Outrigger Waikoloa. Variety is the spice of life and Hawaii’s Big Island has a broad range of tastes, price, décor, and scenery.
- La Bourgogne
Elegant yet casual, La Bourgogne is a favorite for those looking for an intimate dinner in a romantic restaurant. Enjoy an international menu highlighted by delectable French desserts. Kailua-Kona.
- Brown's Beach House
Relax with a table outside and remarkable views of the ocean while choosing from an eclectic menu and extensive wine list. Kohala Coast.
Enjoy romantic, open-air dining and charming views of Reeds Pond at this restaurant serving delightful continental cuisine. Hilo.
- Hualalai Grille
Dine on Kona Coast lobster, mango-barbecue baby back ribs, sesame-crusted snapper, lamb, pizza, and more at this Hawaiian-inspired restaurant. Kaupulehu-Kona.
Spectacular seafood highlights the menu while the outdoor patio allows breathtaking views of Kailua Bay. After dinner, head down to the thatch-roofed Huggo's on the Rocks for drinks and dancing. Kailua-Kona.
- Quinn's Almost By the Sea
One of the only restaurants on Hawaii's Big Island to serve dinner after 9 p.m., Quinn's is popular with tourists and locals who like to sit out on the lanai. Kailua-Kona.
Where should I go shopping?
Numerous art galleries are scattered throughout Hawaii’s Big Island, as many artists call it home. You can find original artwork, fine woodwork, and other handmade crafts at the many shops. In the small town of Hawi, there are several art galleries housed in refurbished early-1900s storefronts along the main road. Coffee connoisseurs will want to bring back some Kona coffee. Macadamia nuts are also a local specialty. Look for Hilo Hattie, Big Island Candies Inc., and Kona Coast Macadamia Nut & Candy Factory.
Shopping areas include Keauhou Shopping Center in Keauhou; King Kamehameha Mall and Kona Inn Shopping Village in Kailua-Kona; King’s Shops in Waikoloa; and Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza, Hilo Shopping Center, and Waiakea Center in Hilo.
When are the local events?
Annual Western Weekend in Honoka’a
May. Three-day event featuring a Hawaiian country-style dance party, paniolo parade, paniolo film night, rodeo, and block party.
King Kamehameha Day Celebration Floral Parade
June. Floats, marching units, Pa’u riders, bands, and more. Parade begins in downtown Kailua-Kona.
Waiki’i Music Festival
June. Two days of entertainment by Hawaii’s top music groups, cultural exhibits, food, crafts, and children’s games. On the Saddle Road at Waiki’i Ranch.
Dolphin Days Summer Fest
June. A 3-day extravaganza including a charity golf tournament; tropical heat wave pool party; and the Great Waikoloa Food, Wine, and Music Festival featuring 20 of Hawaii’s best chefs and concerts with top jazz musicians. Held at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Parker Ranch 4th of July Horse Races and Rodeo
July. Includes action-packed rodeo events, horseracing, food, and more. The rodeo provides visitors a rare glimpse at real-life paniolo in action. Held at Parker Ranch in Waimea.
Aloha Festivals Hawaii
September. Experience the very essence of Hawaiian customs, cultures, and tradition. An abundance of activities and events are held throughout the island, including the Royal Court investiture, a hulafest, paniolo parade, live music, arts and crafts, food, and more.
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
November. Hawaii’s oldest food fest features more than 30 events, including art exhibits, tastings, sporting events, contests, and a parade.
What are my golf and recreation options?
Francis H. l'l Brown Golf Course
- The South Course
This course snakes through stark, rugged lava and offers a range of mountain and ocean views. Designed by Ray Cain, Rodney Wright, and Robin Nelson.
- The North Course
This course is characterized by rolling terrain, mesquite groves, and many trees. Designed by Ray Cain, Rodney Wright, and Robin Nelson.
The following hotel has use of this courses:
- The Fairmont Orchid
Includes 2 rounds of golf with 2-night stay.
Kona Country Club
One of the most scenic courses on Hawaii’s Big Island, offering 36 championship holes of golf.
There’s no better place for sport fishing than Hawaii’s Big Island’s Kona Coast. Home of the annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, Hawaii’s Big Island boasts some of the finest marlin fishing grounds in the world. Daily fishing charters depart from the harbors at Keahou, Kailua Bay, and Kawaihae.
Snorkeling + Scuba Diving
Snorkel the clear waters of Kealakekua Bay, or along the Hapuna Beach and Honaunau shorelines to view some of Hawaii’s Big Island’s favorite snorkeling spots. Since sun block (and bug spray) are toxic to all marine life, remember to wear a T-shirt to prevent sunburn while snorkeling. Hawaii’s Big Island offers a variety of dive adventures and scuba certification courses and has been named the #1 dive destination in the world by Scuba Magazine.
First Trip to Hawaii's Big Island
For first-time visitors to Hawaii's Big Island, the sites and activities not to miss include stargazing from atop Mauna Kea at the W. M. Keck Observatory, a visit to Volcanoes National Park, and a stroll on a black-sand beach.
Hawaii's Big Island is more than twice the size of all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, plus it's still growing due to the active volcanoes. King Kamehameha the Great was born and raised on Hawaii's Big Island. Hawaii's Big Island is home to Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the country. On Hawaii's Big Island, you'll find 11 of the world's 13 climactic zones, everything from a snowcapped mountain to tropical beaches.
Take time to notice the architecture of downtown Hilo when you're perusing the shops. Many of these charming old wooden buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. And, every Friday night the doors open wide to welcome art lovers and collectors to their exhibits. Visit with the artists and enjoy the music, wine, and hors d'oeuvres.
Visitors to Hawaii are usually well aware of the many spectacular white-sand beaches. Some visitors even know about the majestic black-sand beaches. What many do not know is that Hawaii's Big Island is also home to a green-sand beach. To see the green-sand beach, take your four-wheel-drive vehicle or hike six miles from South Point, Ka Lae, to Puu Mahana.
Though you may be perfectly happy to spend your entire vacation soaking up the sun on a gorgeous beach, sometimes the kids have a different idea. A fun activity for the whole family is a visit to the Parker Ranch Center in Waimea. Here, the Visitor Center and Museum provide a glimpse into both historical and modern-day life at Parker Ranch. Enjoy wagon rides and learning the ways of the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy.
Good to Know:
|April – November
|Spring and Autumn
|Kauai is four hours behind Central Standard Time and five hours behind Central Daylight Time
|None needed for U.S. citizens
|Leave 15% or 20% if the service was excellent.
|Hawaii is very casual. Shorts are allowed at most restaurants, except fine dining establishments.