Things to Do – The Big Island

The Big Island is a great place to escape from a busy lifestyle or city life. It is a casual, slow-placed environment, offering many things to do along its vast shoreline with beaches ranging from green, black, and white sands to its lush, green mountains and forests. The Big Island is not known for its nightlife, but it makes up for this by offering the true essence of Hawai`i.

When visiting the Big Island be ready to explore the natural beauty of a Hawaiian island that is untouched by the modernism of the western world. The locals of the island love the Big Island for what it is – simple. There is no rush to get anywhere and people actually take time to enjoy the scenery while driving or sitting at the coastline watching the waves role in.

On the Big Island you can experience the land through organized tours or on your own. Mostly all of the attractions are related to nature and what it has to offer. There are fine dining establishments on the island, but most of the food is prepared “island style”. This includes a meat dish, rice, and potato or macaroni salad. The shopping on the island is limited. There are two shopping centers in Hilo town and one in Kailua-Kona, and local shops to browse and do some souvenir shopping.  When wanting to relax completely, the Big Island is its true meaning.

Tours and Attractions

The most popular attraction on The Big Island is the Hawaii Volcanos National Park. Although it is about a 30 to 45 minute drive out of Hilo, this is the best natural attraction to see. There is a visitor center located in the park where you can gather information and view a movie on volcanic activity, and obtain hiking and lava viewing maps of the active Kilauea Volcano’s lava flow. The lava flow is beautiful to view at night, but if you travel there during the day, there are beautiful hiking trails over old lava flows, lush forests, and lava tubes. On the West side of The Big Island in the city of Kailua- Kona, there are more water activities. A popular tour is from the Body Glove Cruises where you are taken on a boat to the clear blue waters of Kailua-Kona. This cruise offers snorkeling and swimming with dolphins, as well as an onboard dinner outside the beautiful Kealakekua Bay. Another popular attraction in this area is the Manta Ray night snorkeling venture. Everything that you need is provided to you – snorkel gear, wetsuit, kayak, and flashlights. Most of the tours are out of Keauhou Bay.


The night life on the island is quiet, as most establishments close by 9pm. In Hilo you can enjoy a beautiful dining experience by having dinner at Café Pesto in Downtown Hilo, directly across from the large Hilo Bay Front. The dress code is casual and local singers play music as you enjoy your meal during the evening hour. It is also a great place for lunch or to have some drinks and appetizers. Down the road from Café Pesto along the Hilo Bay Front is a popular sports bar that serves up American food, and is known for the best hamburgers in town! Although a sports bar, it is still a comfortable and safe environment for children too. As you sit at the bar, you can smell the sweet salty sea breeze and listen to the pounding waves. There are shops along the Hilo Bay Front, but you have to visit them during the day, as they close by 5pm daily. Kailua-Kona has a variety of restaurants along its pier, offering American, Mexican, and Hawaiian food. They are open for lunch and dinner, and all eating establishments are casual dress. If you want to enjoy the evening’s sunset, visit Lulu’s in Kailua-Kona, located directly across the beautiful blue ocean. It is a bar, but they serve American food and appetizers. This is a great place to relax after a full day of adventure in the cool ocean breeze.


Shopping is very limited on The Big Island. In Hilo, there is one main shopping mall, The Prince Kuhio Plaza that has a small food court, beauty salons, clothing stores, and a movie theatre. If you are looking for souvenirs from Hilo, the popular tourist spot is Wal-Mart, across the street from The Prince Kuhio Plaza, where they have many locally made items and outside local vendors to so you can take a piece of Hawaii home with you. Another great option is the local Farmer’s Market held in Downtown Hilo. The market opens on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with most of the booths open on Saturdays. It features many island grown produce and Hawaiian crafts. Located in the downtown area, it is a great place to try local Hawaiian food and browse and shop in local stores. Traveling approximately 15 miles out of town to the Puna area is another Farmer’s Market held on Sundays. It is located one mile past Maku’u Drive on Highway 130 and is very popular among both locals and visitors. There is a variety of food, produce, and local crafts. In Kona, the Keauhou Shopping Center is the most popular. There are stores for purchasing souvenirs, clothing, fine and casual dining, and a movie theatre. Downtown Kailua-Kona also has many shops for souvenirs and fashion.


When on the East side in Hilo town, the accessible beaches are alongside one strip of roadway, often referred to by the locals as “the beach cruise”. The most popular beach is the Richardson State Beach Park, with its small area of black sand surrounded by lava rocks. This is the only sandy beach in Hilo. As you make your way to the West side of the island to Kona, if you take the scenic route on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, you will have two great white sand beach options – Mauna Kea State Beach Park and Hapuna State Beach Park. Both beaches offer clear blue water and lots of white sand to sink your feet into. There is a caution at Hapuna beach for strong currents, so be safe and stay close to shore.


The slow-paced environment of the Big Island is relaxing in itself. With no freeways and large highways, the driving pace is slow as there is no rush to get anywhere. As the towns are small, there are no large crowds to bring about stress. Places may be “busy”, but never over crowded to where it becomes uncomfortable and not relaxing. The Hilo region has a few day spas where you can go and get a pedicure, manicure, or facial. If you want a massage, there are separate massage businesses in town. If exercise makes you relaxed, there is an excellent yoga studio in downtown Hilo, Yoga Centered, that offers visitors special pricing. For more luxurious pampering, you can travel to one of the resorts on the Kohala Coast and treat yourself to full services of a massage, facial, manicure, and pedicure.