Big Island Travel and Adventure Guide


The hype is real. The Big Island was incredible! It was an out of this world adventure right when we landed. I get so excited thinking about the Big Island and how much of an adventure it was, I’ve decided to name this the “Big Island Travel and Visitor Adventure Guide”!

The Big Island, also known as the island of Hawaiʻi, is divided into two areas. Kona is the west and south area of the island, and Hilo is the east and north area.

How to Get to the Big Island

We flew United Airlines first class with the individual pods. We used [_______] United points in 2019, and paid $0 cash for our flights.

Where to Stay on the Big Island

We booked a room at the [Fairmont on the Big Island] using [________] points.

How to Get Around the Big Island

Black lava rock on roads of Big Island, Hawaii

Before our trip, I looked around at different rental options for the Big Island. We were wanting to rent something sporty with good handling, but with enough space for us to pack it with supplies for a whole day and still have enough room for the two of us to be comfortable. True to its name, the Big Island is a big island! We were expecting to spend a lot of time in the car, travelling from one side of the island to the other.

None of the major car rental companies offered the type of car we wanted at an affordable price, so I looked into other options. This was the first time I’ve heard of Turo, an app that you can download onto your phone and then rent a car directly from people that offer their cars for rent. I found a lot of nice luxury SUVs on Turo, including BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes. We ended up renting a Lexus SUV through Turo.

If you’re planning your trip and looking for a car to rent, I recommend you check out Turo and see what they have to offer. At the time of our trip, it was cheaper to rent the Lexus SUV through Turo than a standard SUV from one of the major national rental companies.

After we got our car and made our way out of the airport, the landscape immediately shocked us. We were expecting lush, green vegetation, but we instead saw black rocks everywhere! At first, I thought it was debris from road construction. But as we continued to drive down the highway towards our hotel, we started to realize that all of the black rock was lava rock! It was so bizarre and crazy, and it seemed like we were on another planet!

What to Do on the Big Island

Green Sand Beach / Mahana Beach / Papakōlea Beach

Papakōlea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach) is a green sand beach located near South Point of the Big Island. It is one of only four green sand beaches in the world, so definitely make this a party of your trip!

The beach is located in the very south part of the island, so it took us a while to get there from our hotel.

When you get to Ka Lae (also known as South Point), you’ll see an area with a lot of parked cars. From there, the beach is located about 3 miles (5 km) east. You have two options. You can either walk the rest of way, or you can pay for one of the “shuttle services”, which is actually just a random guy that you pay to ride in the back of his pickup truck.

The path to the beach is surrounded by rugged pastureland. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has attempted to protect the pastureland’s fragile ecosystem by restricting vehicle traffic, so the beach is only legally accessible by foot.

Path to Green Sand Beach

Hiking to the beach by foot can be difficult, especially on a sunny day. If you decide to use the “shuttle service”, here are a few tips:

It was about $30 for the two of us to get to the beach, and then another $30 to get back. Make sure you have enough cash to pay for the ride back. There was a group that didn’t have enough money for the ride back, and we didn’t have extra cash to pay for them, so I don’t know what ended up happening to that group.

The ride there is incredibly bumpy. In fact, it was ridiculously bumpy. It was so bumpy that the trucks had to drive about 5 mph to get through the rugged path, so a 3-mile drive ended up taking about 20 minutes.

Make sure to pack and bring everything you’ll need for the next two hours.

The beach is located in a bay half circled by tuff ring formed over 49,000 years ago, consisting mostly of volcanic ash produced by violent interactions of magma with groundwater. There’s an incredible view waiting for you when you get there!

You have to climb down the cinder cone to reach the beach. It’s very steep, so be careful!

Traveling there can be long and uncomfortable, but it is definitely worth it! The sand’s distinctive olive green color is due to the abundance of the mineral olivine that eroded from the volcanic cone (tuff ring) enclosing the beach.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano with a peak of 4,207 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in the state of Hawaiʻi and second-highest peak of an island on Earth. It’s recommended that children under 16, pregnant women, and those in poor health not go higher than the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 feet.

There are tours available, and they seemed awesome, but we decided to drive up to the VIS ourself before turning around.

Our stop near VIS at Mauna Kea
On the way down from Mauna Kea


You can find many waterfalls in Hilo, located on the north and east side of the Big Island. The Hilo side of the island gets a lot of rain, which has created some spectacular waterfalls in lush locations with tropical rainforests. Here are the waterfalls that we checked out:

ʻAkaka falls (inside state park, small entrance fee)
Rainbow falls (free to visit)
Peʻepeʻe Falls (free to visit)

They were all fairly close together, so we were able to see these three waterfalls all in the same day we were exploring in Hilo.

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island. Up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge. This place was also a site of refuge during times of battle, and the surrounding area was home to many generations of powerful chiefs.

Other Things to Do

What to Eat on the Big Island


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