Big Island The Orchid Isle

Big adventure awaits on Hawai’i Island, known appropriately enough as the Big Island of Hawai’i.

This youngest of the Hawaiian Islands chain also is the largest, thanks in no small part to its most-active volcano, Kilauea, which continues to add to the island’s mass through steady lava flows that travel from crater to sea.

Those with enough courage—or maybe just a bit too much curiosity—can witness the passionate and powerful volcano goddess Pele in all her fiery glory through a magnitude of ways, be it on an awe-inducing helicopter ride over a red-hot lava field at night or during a heart-pumping bike excursion that visits the rim of the caldera before descending into a tropical rainforest.

Hawai’i Island’s other volcanoes are not lacking on thrilling opportunities, either. At Mauna Kea, where snow covers the volcano’s mountainous peaks nearly year-round, lies the world’s largest astronomical observatory. On the other end of the spectrum, beneath Mauna Loa (which happens to be the largest volcanic mountain in the world!) hides a labyrinth of caves, canyons and coral reefs begging for exploration.

Other “big-ticket” escapes not to miss out on are as vast and varied as the island itself: Hike along mountain cliffs that end with a colorful rainbow at a secret waterfall; go ziplining on some of the state’s longest and most picturesque courses; get up-close with colorful marine life, including exotic fish, dolphins and manta rays; or saddle up on a horseback ride through a cattle ranch that also is home to historic Hawaiian sites.

Those who like things a little tamer won’t be regulated to the hotel pool. Why not go for a romantic stroll along a black-sand beach or escape to a seaside yoga retreat? Other low-key ways to unwind during your trip could involve a soak in a natural hot spring, a glass of wine enjoyed from a vineyard located 4,000 feet above sea level and a day spent in a hip upcountry town where the past melds seamlessly with the present.

Big buzz always surrounds the annual Kona Coffee Festival, an iconic, award-winning celebration of the 600-plus independent farms that make up the Kona coffee belt. Those who happen to be on-island Nov. 1-10 should check it out.

And for those who are big on culture and food, don’t worry—there’s plenty of local farmers’ markets, fine-dining establishments, mom-and-pop stores, historic homes and miles upon miles of coastal highway to satisfy the largest of appetites.

If you’re still hungry for more, then that’s where this guide comes in. We’ve sorted through all there is to do on this very big island and compiled a list of the top 101 activities, destinations and attractions.

If your stay with us is just too short to jam everything in this time around, don’t worry—you can always return for another super-sized adventure! We’ll be eagerly waiting to welcome you back with 101 Things to Do.

View our top picks below or see all 101 Things To Do on the Big Island!

Take a Farm Tour

Don’t be misled by Hawai‘i Island’s barren lava fields. The majority of the state’s agricultural products are grown and processed here. Hawai‘i Forest & Trail conducts a unique tour of local farms that are using sustainable agriculture methods. First, the tour heads to Kahua Ranch in the Kohala Mountains, where cattle and sheep are ranched… Continue »

Scout Out an 18th-Century War Temple

Scout Out an 18th-Century War Temple

Two centuries ago, Hawaiian rulers worshipped a powerful war god named Ku. King Kamehameha the Great, who fought numerous battles to unify all the Hawaiian Islands, sought Ku’s support by building a massive stone temple 400 feet above Kawaihae Harbor in North Kohala. Construction of the 20-foot-high lava rock temple, or heiau, began in 1790… Continue »

Shop Big Island-Style

Shop Big Island-Style

Whether you’re planning a Big Island shopping spree or just a window-shopping walkabout, don’t expect to hit a mall stocked with mainland look-alikes. Part of the island’s charm is the fact that it’s not riddled with department store chains. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll easily find all that you need; it’s just that shopping on… Continue »

Track the Underwater Kingdom

Track the Underwater Kingdom

Hawai‘i Island’s cerulean waters are teeming with life. Living coral can be found in 57 percent of the waters surrounding the island—the highest percentage in the main Hawaiian Islands. And where there’s coral, there are fish. At least three island tour boat companies specialize in underwater views. Blue Sea Cruises investigates the view down under… Continue »

Above It All

Above It All

It would be a mistake to rely on simple synonyms or mere metaphors to describe a flying tour of Hawai‘i Island. One could say it’s like a mythical ride on a magic carpet, or a scene from a James Bond thriller, with a chopper skirting a live volcano while lava oozes down the mountain slopes…. Continue »

Drive the Hamakua Coast

Drive the Hamakua Coast

The 45-mile Hamakua Coast road trip from Hilo to Honoka‘a is stunning. Highway 19 rises above high erosional cliffs that drop to the foaming surf below. Above the highway, the mountainside is blanketed in greenery interlaced by rushing streams, with two volcanoes—Mauna Kea and Kohala—rising in the distance. Honoka‘a is a postcard-perfect site, with a… Continue »

Take a Break in Holualoa

Take 600 specialty coffee farms, add a smattering of mills, roasters, retail outlets and museums, then cluster them along 20 miles of scenic country roads and you’ve got the makings of a self-guided coffee-tasting tour. Most people begin their tour from Kailua-Kona and head north on Palani Road (Highway 190). If Mountain Thunder Kona Coffee… Continue »

Poke Around a Fun Cowboy Town

Poke Around a Fun Cowboy Town

Waimea’s historical cowboy roots inspire a rustic kind of charm, resulting in a Western-Hawaiian version of Aspen and Sonoma chic. Nestled among some of the island’s most beautiful homes and neighborhoods you’ll find art galleries, boutiques, wonderful little cafes and collections inspired by the rough and rugged Hawaiian cowboy, known locally as paniolo. Parker Ranch… Continue »

Go to a Lu‘au

Loosely translated, a lu‘au is a big feast with a lot of singing, dancing and fun. Lu‘au often feature homegrown entertainment, complete with traditional hula and Polynesian festivities. Served with a main course of kalua pig—tender, shredded pork cooked in an imu (underground oven)—and typical Hawaiian sides of poi, Okinawan sweet potatoes, lomi lomi salmon… Continue »

Fresh from the Island

Fresh from the Island

At colorful open-air markets throughout Hawai‘i, you’ll fi nd fresh, homegrown produce at bargain prices. Look for local favorites like sweet and juicy Ka‘u oranges, Puna papayas, cherimoya, poha berries, Hamakua mushrooms, sugarloaf pineapples, Hilo lychees and Waimea strawberries. Some markets sell an assortment of cakes, cookies and preserves. Bring lots of small bills (markets… Continue »

Take a Golf Lesson

Take a Golf Lesson

Named one of the top golf schools in America by Golf Magazine, Darrin Gee’s Spirit of Golf Academy is a Big Island must for all avid and aspiring golfers. According to the academy, some of its patrons have cut as many as 22 strokes with just one lesson. Golf pioneer, innovator and mental-golf guru Darrin… Continue »