Big Island Destination Guide
Big Island Holidays
If you want to experience all of Hawaii in one stop then Hawai’i or ‘Big Island’ as it’s widely referred to is just the place. An enormously diverse island that’s twice the size of all of the other Hawaiian islands combined, Big Island is a land of vast extremities. Surprisingly untouristy, the island’s size gives you plenty of freedom to explore everything from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains. Much slower-paced than Oahu, Big Island’s sleepy rural towns give you the opportunity to encounter a rugged side of Hawaii that’s remained relatively untouched by tourists.
As with most places in Hawaii, a major attraction is palm fringed beaches and at Big Island you’ll find not only white sand beaches but also black and green sandy ones too, thanks to fragments of lava. Punalu’u is the most famous of the black sand beaches, while Papakolea, on the south of the island, is one of only two green sand beaches in the United States. Another one of Big Island’s attractions is volcanoes of even bigger proportions. Mauna Lao is the world’s largest volcano in both mass and volume while Kilauea is the island’s most active - something you’ll see for yourself on a lava flow tour. Still taller, Mauna Kea is the biggest peak in Hawaii, with a base-to-peak height that beats out Mount Everest. Take a drive to the top to enjoy a sunset and do some stargazing at the observatory.
Eat And Drink
Big Island isn’t only a treat for the visual senses. Pack a loose pair of pants and prepare to indulge in the island’s rich produce, which has benefited from growth in rich volcanic soil. Some of the finest regional cuisine can be found in the farms of upcountry Waimea and at the resorts of the Kohala Coast, while local comfort food can be sampled in the diners of downtown Hilo. Wherever and whatever you decide to eat, your meal won’t be complete unless you finish it off with a cup of the island’s world famous local brew: Kona coffee.
Where To Stay
Though big in size, Big Island’s largest variety of accommodation is centred on the Kohala Coast. Just a short drive north of Kona International Airport, Kohala Coast’s options offer the most luxury but the comfort does come at a price, particularly in peak season. On the east of the island, historic Hilo is a less developed part of Big Island with well-priced hotels and good access to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For a charming getaway, another option is to book a stay at one of the handful of country lodges in upcountry Waimea.
Though no competition for Honolulu when it comes to shopping, you’ll still find more than enough souvenirs to fill your baggage allowance at Big Island. Local coffee, aloha shirts and artwork made from local materials such as lava, coconut and koa all make popular purchases and can be found in abundance along the Kohala Coast, at the Queens’ Marletplace and The Kings’ Shops. Similar tourist orientated items can be found to the south in the idyllic town of Kailua-Kona, while Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo has a selection of both international and Hawaiian shops.
Like A Local
One thing a trip to Hawaii isn’t complete without is seeing a luau, a traditional Hawaiian celebration complete with food, hula dancing and Hawaiian music. It’s impossible not to be mesmerised by the skills of the performers and if you’d like to pick up a few skills to take home with you, there are a few places around Big Island to do so. The Na Wai Iwi Ola Foundation is one of the best and offers a range of classes on hula dancing and traditional chanting that cost little more than a donation, while the centre stage at Kings’ Shops in Waikoloa Village is where you can get some free lessons on playing the ukulele.