Island of Hawai'i: Hawaii's Big Island beach vacation travel guide
The Big Island of Hawaii is the state’s youngest and largest island, and a haven for outdoor adventurers. One of the world’s most ecologically diverse places, eight of the world’s 13 ecosystems can be found here. You’ll discover active volcanos, snowy mountaintops and beaches of every colour on this island.
Exploring Big Island’s incredibly diverse ecosystems is our top recommendation for travellers. Visit the Halema’uma’u Crater at night and watch the whole crater glow in red light. Feel the spray on your face at Akaka Falls, Hawaii’s largest waterfall. Plan a visit to Puuhonua O Honaunau or Kaloko Honokohau National Historic Park to learn about ancient traditions.
Travelzoo tip: Set aside an evening to go stargazing at Maunakea, the highest peak in Hawaii. The visitor center and the summit are two designated areas for stargazing; you can plan yourself or join a guided tour. Maunakea has some of the most famous observatories in the world.
Hilo is known for its waterfalls and rainforests. Swim with manta rays or go hiking near Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanos. Caffeine fiends will want to sample the famous namesake coffee in Kona. Some of the best snorkeling can be experienced on the Kona and Kohala coasts.
Travelzoo tip: Consider booking a nighttime snorkeling trip, where you can watch giant manta ray swim and soar as they feed on tiny plankton.
Big Island beach recommendations
Travelzoo tip: In addition to the diverse ecosystems, did you know Big Island is one of the only places where you can explore white, black and green sand beaches?
Hapuna beach is a beautiful white sand beach located on the Kona-Kohala coast. The wide stretch of sand is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, and consistently ranks as one of the top ten beaches in Hawaii. Visit Punaluu Beach for stunning black sand beaches. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch sea turtles coming to shore. Visit Papakolea Beach for its unique green sand – caused by accumulation of silicate crystals known as olivine.
Also iconic is Maniniowali beach, a picture-perfect spot of white sand, black lava rock and turquoise water located in Kua Bay. Sunsets here are spectacular, so plan a visit in the fall or winter, when the sun sets before the parking area closes. Kaunaoa Beach is a picture-perfect setting also known as Big Island beach. Visit in the summer to enjoy gentle waters, or winter if you’re looking to surf the waves.
Slightly off the beaten path, Makalawena Beach is located past lava fields and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to access. Make the trip and you’ll be rewarded with sugar sand and shady palm trees.