The Big Island of Hawaii features a vast landscape for visitors to explore. The youngest in the Hawaiian Island chain, a combination of scenery lets you explore everything from black sand beaches, volcanoes, lush valleys and waterfalls, and snow-capped mountaintops. Ready to discover the most popular things to do on Big Island? Read on.

Things to Do on Big Island

Some of the attractions in Hawaii you’ll want to experience when you visit the Big Island include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Waipio Valley.

Lava from Kilauea volcano entering ocean, Big Island, HI

Lava from Kilauea volcano entering ocean, Big Island, HI

1) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Established in 1916, this national park displays the results of hundreds of thousands of years of volcanism. Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the most massive volcano at this national park, offer insights on the origins of the Hawaiian Islands as well as provides visitors with dramatic views of volcanic landscapes. Furthermore, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. There is a visitor center located a the park with displays and information, as well as a Volcano Arts Center and the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, located a few miles west of the visitor center, features even more volcanic art.

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The Royal Canoe Landing Zone/Prayitno, flickr

2) Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
This Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke kapu, or ancient laws, could a avoid death by fleeing to this place of refuge or pu’uhonua. The grounds just outside the Great Wall of the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau were also home to several generations of powerful chiefs. In addition, the park contains a reconstruction of the Hale O Keawe heiau.

Akaka Falls on Big Island Hawaii in tropical rain fores

Akaka Falls on Big Island Hawaii in tropical rain forest.

3) Akaka Falls
If you’re in the Hilo area, you can conveniently access Akaka Falls State Park as it’s just a short 13 miles away. Located along the Hamakua Coast, you can view two spectacular waterfalls on one short hike. An easy-to-hike paved footpath loops through a lush rainforest, leading your to the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and then the 442-feet Akaka Falls. There is a small fee of $1 for walk-ins and $5 for cars.

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Ewen Roberts, flickr

4) Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Located on the northern coasted of the Big Island, this historic site preserves the ruins of the last major ancient Hawaiian temple, among other historic sites. A visitor center and interpretive trail can be explored, as well as the ruins of an earlier Mailekini Heiau, an underwater structure dedicated to sharks called the Hale o Kapuni and across the bay is Kawaihae harbor.

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paul bica, flickr

5) Waipio Valley
Waipio means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language, which accurately describes this beautiful site. Located in the Hamakua district of the Big Island, the Waipio Valley was the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian kings. The shore line in the valley is a black sand beach, popular with surfers. Several large waterfalls and taro farms are also located here. Likewise, hiking the Waipio Valley and stopping at the Waipio Valley lookout are popular things to do in this area.

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Makuahine Pa’i Ki’i, flickr

6) Kona Adventures
The Kona region is known for its fabulous coffee. But, it is also home to a variety of ways to get your adrenaline pumping.  Venture to the depths of the sea via a submarine tour with companies like Atlantis Adventures. During these underwater tours you’ll want to bring your camera so you can snap photos of eels, dolphins and even sharks! Of course, snorkeling and scuba diving will get you even closer to the exotic species that inhabit the ocean. Accordingly, a deluxe morning snorkel on the Body Glove is always a good idea. It will put you face-to-face with beautiful sea creatures. Horseback riding on Hawaii is also popular, especially with outfitters like Cowboys of Hawaii. Enjoy two hour horseback rides that take you through historic Parker Ranch.

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Sunset at Hapuna Beach/Eric Tessmer, flickr

7) Big Island Beaches
It’s no surprise that the beaches on the Big Island are a top tourist attraction as well. As a result, one of the top things to do on Big Island are play on the sunny beaches. Some of the most beautiful beaches include Kua Bay Beach Park, Mauna Kea Beach and Hapuna State Beach Park.

Consider a Big Island Hawaii vacation for your next unforgettable getaway!