Top Attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii


By Kristy Tolley

The Big Island of Hawaii is a stunning destination that offers a wide range of attractions and activities for all travelers. Known for its breathtaking natural beauty, from pristine beaches to majestic volcanoes, this island is a paradise for nature lovers. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a culture enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, the Big Island has something for everyone.

One of the most iconic attractions on the Big Island is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, this park offers unmatched opportunities to witness the power and beauty of nature. Explore the unique volcanic landscapes, hike through lava fields, and even witness glowing lava flows at night. The park also features numerous trails, scenic drives, and informative visitor centers.

If you’re a beach lover, the Big Island won’t disappoint. From popular spots like Hapuna Beach and Kua Bay to hidden gems like Makalawena Beach and Green Sand Beach, there’s a beach for every preference. Lounge on the golden sands, soak up the sun, and take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters. Snorkeling and diving are also popular activities, with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life waiting to be discovered.

In addition to its natural wonders, the Big Island also offers a glimpse into the rich Hawaiian culture and history. Visit the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, a sacred site that served as a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians. Explore the fascinating petroglyphs at the Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve, or immerse yourself in the traditional Hawaiian way of life at the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.

There’s no shortage of adventure on the Big Island. Take a helicopter tour to witness the impressive scope of the island’s natural beauty from above, go horseback riding through lush valleys, or embark on a thrilling zipline adventure. For astronomy enthusiasts, a visit to Mauna Kea Observatory is a must. Located atop a dormant volcano, this observatory offers unparalleled stargazing opportunities.

The Big Island of Hawaii is a destination that truly has it all. From its awe-inspiring landscapes to its vibrant culture and thrilling activities, this island is an unforgettable vacation spot. Whether you’re exploring volcanoes, lounging on the beach, or immersing yourself in the local culture, the Big Island will leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit destination on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world, including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. The park offers visitors a unique opportunity to witness the power and beauty of volcanic activity up close.

There are several hiking trails in Volcanoes National Park that allow visitors to explore the diverse landscapes formed by volcanic activity. One of the most popular trails is the Kilauea Iki Trail, which takes hikers through a volcanic crater with steam vents and lava formations. Another highlight is the Devastation Trail, which offers panoramic views of the barren landscape created by past volcanic eruptions.

One of the main attractions at the park is the Jaggar Museum, which provides visitors with information about the park’s geology and history. The museum also offers stunning views of the Halema’uma’u Crater, which is often filled with volcanic activity and glowing lava.

Another must-see sight in Volcanoes National Park is the Thurston Lava Tube, a natural tunnel formed by flowing lava. Visitors can walk through the tube and marvel at the unique geological formations inside.

In addition to hiking and exploring, Volcanoes National Park offers opportunities for camping, stargazing, and attending ranger-led programs. Visitors can also take a scenic drive along Crater Rim Drive, which offers breathtaking views of volcanic craters, lava fields, and lush rainforests.

Volcanoes National Park is a truly awe-inspiring destination that showcases the raw power of nature. Whether you’re interested in geology, hiking, or simply experiencing the wonders of a volcanic landscape, this national park is not to be missed.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is a must-visit attraction on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located on the Hamakua Coast, the park is home to two stunning waterfalls: Akaka Falls and Kahūnā Falls.

The main attraction in the park is Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a gorge. The waterfall can be viewed from a short loop trail that takes visitors through lush rainforest and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

The trail is well-maintained and relatively easy to navigate, making it accessible for visitors of all ages and fitness levels. Along the way, visitors can spot native plants, such as bamboo groves, orchids, and ferns, as well as various species of birds and butterflies.

In addition to Akaka Falls, the park is also home to Kahūnā Falls, a smaller waterfall located upstream. While not as famous as Akaka Falls, Kahūnā Falls is equally beautiful and worth exploring.

Visiting Akaka Falls State Park is a unique experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Hawaii. Whether you’re a nature lover, photographer, or simply looking for a memorable adventure, this park is a must-see destination on the Big Island.

Mauna Kea Observatory

The Mauna Kea Observatory, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is one of the most renowned astronomical research facilities in the world. Situated atop Mauna Kea, which is the highest volcano on the island, the observatory offers a unique opportunity for scientists and visitors alike to explore the wonders of the universe.

This observatory is home to a diverse range of telescopes and instruments, each contributing to our understanding of the cosmos. The location of Mauna Kea, with its high altitude and minimal light pollution, provides exceptional viewing conditions for observing distant celestial objects.

Visitors to the Mauna Kea Observatory can take part in guided tours and stargazing programs, where they can learn about the latest astronomical discoveries and view the night sky through powerful telescopes. These programs are led by knowledgeable astronomers who share their passion for the stars and help visitors navigate the vastness of space.

One of the highlights of a visit to the Mauna Kea Observatory is the opportunity to see the stunning sunsets and panoramic views of the Big Island from atop the volcano. The observatory is perched at an elevation of approximately 13,796 feet (4,205 meters), offering visitors a breathtaking vista of the surrounding landscape.

It is important to note that due to the high altitude and thin air, visitors should take certain precautions when visiting the Mauna Kea Observatory. It is recommended to acclimate to the elevation before ascending to the summit and to bring warm clothing, as temperatures can drop significantly at night.

Overall, the Mauna Kea Observatory is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in astronomy and the mysteries of the universe. With its state-of-the-art telescopes, knowledgeable guides, and breathtaking views, it promises an unforgettable experience for all.

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

The Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is one of the top attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii. With its stunning white sand beach and crystal clear turquoise waters, it’s no wonder why visitors flock to this beautiful spot.

This expansive beach offers plenty of space for various activities, including swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The gentle waves make it a great place for families and beginners to enjoy the water. Lifeguards are also on duty, ensuring everyone’s safety.

Hapuna Beach is not only known for its remarkable natural beauty but also for its amenities. There are picnic areas with grills, so you can have a barbecue while enjoying the beach. Restrooms and showers are also available, making it convenient for visitors to freshen up after a day in the sun.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can explore the hiking trails that surround the beach. These trails offer breathtaking views of the coastline and the opportunity to discover hidden coves and tide pools.

Whether you want to relax on the beach, swim in the refreshing water, or have a picnic with your loved ones, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area has something for everyone. Don’t miss the chance to visit this slice of paradise on your trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is one of the must-visit attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located in Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a breathtaking waterfall that cascades over a rocky cliff, creating a beautiful display of water droplets that often form rainbows in the mist.

The name “Rainbow Falls” comes from the fact that rainbows are often visible in the morning when the sunlight hits the mist created by the waterfall. This natural phenomenon is a sight to behold and is a favorite among photographers and nature lovers.

The waterfall is easily accessible, with a short walk from the parking area to the viewing platform. From here, visitors can take in the amazing view of the 80-foot waterfall and the scenic surroundings.

Aside from its natural beauty, Rainbow Falls holds cultural significance for the Hawaiian people. According to local legends, the waterfall is home to the Hawaiian goddess Hina and is considered a sacred place. Visitors are encouraged to show respect and abide by any cultural protocols that may be in place when visiting.

Visiting Rainbow Falls is a great way to experience the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the Big Island. Whether you’re looking to take stunning photos, enjoy a peaceful walk in nature, or learn about Hawaiian mythology, Rainbow Falls is a must-see destination.


  1. Visit early in the morning for the best chance of seeing rainbows.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes as the path can be slippery.
  3. Bring a camera to capture the beauty of Rainbow Falls.
  4. Respect the cultural significance of the site and follow any guidelines set by locals.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness the beauty of Rainbow Falls during your trip to the Big Island. It’s a magical place that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, also known as Punalu’u Beach Park, is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. Located on the southeastern coast of the Big Island, this beach is a must-visit destination for both tourists and locals alike.

What makes Punalu’u Black Sand Beach truly unique is its jet-black sands, which are made up of tiny fragments of volcanic lava that have been eroded over time. As you walk along the beach, you’ll notice the contrast between the dark sand, crystal clear blue waters, and lush green palm trees.

In addition to its stunning black sands, Punalu’u Beach is also known for its diverse wildlife. It’s a popular nesting site for the endangered green sea turtle, or honu, and visitors often have the opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close. It’s important to remember, however, that the honu are a protected species, and touching or disturbing them is strictly prohibited.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach offers many recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. You can spend your day sunbathing, swimming, or snorkeling in the calm and clear waters. The beach is also a great place for a picnic, as it features shaded picnic areas with tables and restrooms.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can explore the nearby hiking trails that lead to hidden gems such as freshwater ponds and scenic coastal views. Keep in mind that the beach can get crowded, especially during weekends and holidays, so it’s best to arrive early to secure a good spot.

Whether you visit for its unique black sand, endangered sea turtles, or recreational activities, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a must-see destination on the Big Island of Hawaii. Its beauty and tranquility make it a perfect spot to relax and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Hawaii.

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley, also known as the “Valley of the Kings,” is a stunning destination on the Big Island of Hawaii. This lush and fertile valley is located on the northeastern coast of the island and is surrounded by towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls.

Waipi’o Valley is home to some of the most breathtaking natural beauty on the island. The valley is filled with lush green fields, fragrant tropical flowers, and a diverse wildlife. The panoramic views from the top of the valley are simply awe-inspiring, and it’s no wonder why this place has been called “the jewel of the Big Island.”

One of the main highlights of Waipi’o Valley is the Hi’ilawe Falls, an impressive waterfall that cascades down one of the valley walls. This majestic waterfall is one of the tallest in Hawaii, plunging an incredible 1,450 feet into the valley below. The sight and sound of the waterfall are truly mesmerizing.

Another must-see attraction in Waipi’o Valley is the Waipi’o Valley Lookout. From here, visitors can take in the breathtaking panoramic views of the valley and the surrounding cliffs. The lookout offers a unique vantage point to fully appreciate the grandeur and beauty of this natural wonder.

Exploring Waipi’o Valley is an adventure in itself. Visitors can hike down into the valley and explore the lush rainforests, scenic trails, and black sand beaches. The valley is also home to a number of historic sites, including ancient Hawaiian temples and petroglyphs.

Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or history buff, Waipi’o Valley is a must-visit destination on the Big Island of Hawaii. Its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and panoramic views make it a top attraction that should not be missed.

Pololu Valley Lookout

The Pololu Valley Lookout is located on the northern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lush green valley and the sparkling blue ocean. From the lookout, visitors can enjoy views of the dramatic sea cliffs, pristine beaches, and the beautiful Pololu Stream that flows through the valley.

The lookout is easily accessible by car, and there is a small parking area where visitors can leave their vehicles. From there, a short hike down a paved path leads to the lookout point, which is situated on a cliff overlooking the valley.

The Pololu Valley Lookout is a popular spot for nature enthusiasts and photographers, who come to capture the stunning views and experience the tranquility of the surroundings. Visitors can spend hours exploring the area, hiking along the trails that lead down to the beach or simply sitting on the cliffs and soaking in the beauty of the valley.

It is important to note that the hike down to the beach is quite steep and can be challenging for some visitors. However, the effort is well worth it, as the beach at the bottom of the valley is a hidden gem, with black sand, clear water, and towering cliffs that provide a unique backdrop for photos.

For those who prefer a less strenuous activity, there are picnic tables available near the lookout where visitors can enjoy a meal or a snack while taking in the view.

The Pololu Valley Lookout is a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring the Big Island of Hawaii. Whether you are a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii, this scenic lookout is sure to impress.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, also known as the Place of Refuge, is a must-visit attraction on the Big Island of Hawaii. This sacred site holds great cultural significance and offers visitors a glimpse into ancient Hawaiian history.

The park showcases the preserved remains of a traditional Hawaiian village and a pu’uhonua, which was a place of refuge for those who had broken a kapu (a sacred law) and were seeking forgiveness and redemption. The pu’uhonua provided sanctuary for these individuals and offered them a chance to cleanse their spirits and regain their standing within the community.

Walking through the park, you can explore the ruins of the village, including traditional thatched hale (houses), restored fishponds, and sacred temples. The park’s beautiful natural surroundings, with lush vegetation and stunning ocean views, add to the sense of tranquility and serenity that permeates the area.

One of the highlights of visiting Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is the opportunity to participate in various cultural activities and demonstrations. You can learn about traditional Hawaiian arts and crafts, witness ancient rituals, and even try your hand at spear throwing or making a lei.

Make sure to take a moment to reflect on the historical and cultural significance of this sacred place. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park offers a rare glimpse into the past and serves as a reminder of the rich heritage and traditions of the Hawaiian people.

Whether you are interested in history, culture, or simply want to experience the natural beauty of Hawaii, a visit to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park should be at the top of your list. It is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the island’s unique history and the resilience of its people.

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, located on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, is a must-visit destination for history lovers and nature enthusiasts alike. This beautiful park offers a wealth of historical and cultural significance, as well as stunning natural beauty.

The park is famous for being the site where Captain James Cook, the British explorer, first landed on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. It was also the location of Cook’s untimely death, making it one of the most important historical sites in Hawaii. Visitors can explore the Captain Cook Monument, which overlooks the bay and commemorates Cook’s achievements.

In addition to its historical significance, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is known for its abundant marine life and crystal-clear waters. Snorkelers and scuba divers will be delighted by the vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish that call the bay home. The park also offers opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of the bay.

For those who prefer to stay on land, the park features several hiking trails that offer stunning panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding coastline. The Kaawaloa Trail, in particular, is a popular choice among hikers, as it provides access to the Captain Cook Monument and offers breathtaking views along the way.

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is a place where history and nature intersect, offering visitors a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re interested in exploring the historical significance of the bay or simply enjoying the natural beauty, this park is not to be missed!

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

The Mokupapapa Discovery Center is a must-visit attraction on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located in downtown Hilo, this educational center offers a unique opportunity to learn about the rich biodiversity of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The center’s exhibits showcase the incredible variety of marine life, plants, and cultural heritage found in this remote and protected area. Visitors can explore interactive displays, learn about the important role of coral reefs, and discover the unique wildlife that inhabits the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

One of the highlights of the Mokupapapa Discovery Center is the chance to interact with the knowledgeable staff and scientists who work there. Visitors can ask questions, participate in hands-on activities, and gain a deeper understanding of the natural wonders found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Whether you’re a marine enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply curious about Hawaii’s unique ecosystems, a visit to the Mokupapapa Discovery Center is a must. It offers a fascinating and educational experience that will leave you with a greater appreciation for the natural beauty and importance of protecting our oceans.

Liliuokalani Gardens

Liliuokalani Gardens is a stunningly beautiful Japanese-style garden located in Hilo, on the eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. This serene and peaceful oasis is named after Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The garden was dedicated in 1917 as a tribute to the Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work in the sugarcane fields. It is now a popular attraction for both locals and tourists alike, offering a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

As you wander through the garden, you will be captivated by its meticulously manicured landscapes, including ponds filled with koi fish, beautiful bridges, pagodas, and lush greenery. The garden also features traditional Japanese stone lanterns and statues, which add to its authentic charm.

One of the highlights of Liliuokalani Gardens is the picturesque Banyan Drive, a tree-lined road that borders the garden. This scenic drive is lined with numerous majestic banyan trees, some of which were planted by famous individuals such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Whether you visit Liliuokalani Gardens to enjoy a peaceful stroll, have a picnic in one of the open grassy areas, or simply take in the beauty of nature, it is a must-see attraction on the Big Island. So don’t miss the opportunity to experience this enchanting garden and immerse yourself in its serene atmosphere.


What are the top attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii?

The top attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea, Akaka Falls State Park, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, and Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

What can I see at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can see active volcanoes, such as Kilauea and Mauna Loa, as well as lava tubes, scenic drives, and hiking trails.

Is Mauna Kea worth visiting?

Yes, Mauna Kea is worth visiting. It is the tallest mountain in Hawaii and offers stunning views, stargazing opportunities, and the chance to visit observatories.

What is there to do at Akaka Falls State Park?

At Akaka Falls State Park, you can take a short hike through lush vegetation to see the 442-foot Akaka Falls and other scenic waterfalls.

Can I go swimming at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area?

Yes, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. The beach has white sand and clear turquoise waters.

What are the top attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii?

Some of the top attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii include Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea, Waipio Valley, Hilo Farmers Market, and Kona coffee farms.

How can I visit Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island?

To visit Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, you can enter through the park’s main entrance on Highway 11 near the town of Volcano. There are visitor centers where you can learn about the park and its volcanic activity, as well as hiking trails that offer stunning views of lava fields, steam vents, and volcanic craters.


What to Expect on the Big Island in 2024

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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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