[ Big Island ]

7 Breathtaking & Free Things to do on Big Island

Searching for ways to save on your Big Island vacation? Of course you are! Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do on Big Island that will make activities and sightseeing a breeze. There are a variety of affordable (or almost free) activities too, so you can rest assured you won’t have to break the bank once your Hawaii adventure begins.

Akaka Falls on Big Island Hawaii in tropical rain forest
Akaka Falls on Big Island Hawaii

Check out these free things to do on Big Island:

1) Akaka Falls State Park

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.

clouds of hot gasses and a lava erruption on hawaiiis big island, Hawaii, USA
Image by freeimageslive.co.uk – photoeverywhere

2) Kalapana Lava Viewing Area

The Big Island is famous for its active volcano. If you want to see molten lava, the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area offers an excellent vantage point. Best of all, you can witness the hot lave gushing into the ocean, one of the must-see sights for any vacationer on the Big Island. Conditions change daily, so be sure to call the viewing hotline (808-961-8093) for up-to-date conditions during your trip.

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Lava Tree State Park/Wikimedia

3) Lava Tree State Park

It’s a fairly safe bet you’ve never seen a lava tree before. Don’t miss your chance to do so while on the Big Island. As one of the most unique free things to do on Big Island, the Lava Tree State Park, located off Pahoa-Pohoiki Road (less than three miles southeast of Pahoa), is a forest of lave trees to behold. What exactly are lava trees? Formed by a lava flow that swept through the area, the trees that are left are coated in thick lava. It’s a unique sight to behold.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center Yelp
Yelp/Em P.

4) Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Dive into discovery at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, which offers free admission Tuesday through Saturday. The center highlights the diverse marine life of Papahanaumokuakea Marine Nation Monument, a pristine ocean environment that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The best part of the center is the 2,500-gallon saltwater aquarium.

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Flickr/ Matt Rafferty

5) Mauna Kea

Rise to an elevation of 9,000 feet at Mauna Kea, the Big Island’s dormant volcano. At the Visitor Information Station you can learn about the famous astronomical observatories. Plus, once evening begins volunteers bring out telescopes. You can gaze at the stars from this amazing vantage point for absolutely free.

Pu'ukohola_Heiau_temple2 Wikimedia_RSZ
Wikimedia/Bamse

6) Puukohola National Historic Site

Experience Hawaii history first-hand at Puukohola. Hawaii’s largest heiau (temple) is located here and was built under the direction of King Kamahameha I. The founding of the Hawaiian Kingdom can be directly linked to this site, making it a true Kohala coast history lesson.

SONY DSC
Flickr/Makuahine Pa’i Ki’i

7) Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens

Bring your family to explore this 12-acre rainforest zoo free of charge. Located just south of Hilo, lush botanical gardens with over 100 varieties of flora and fauna, a petting zoo and a White Bengal Tiger are available to enjoy at Panaewa Rainforest Zoo.

Free Things to Do on the Big Island
Rainbow Falls

8) Wailuku River State Park

Another of the top-rated free things to do on the Big Island is visiting Wailuku River State Park. Why so? Well, it’s home to the cascading waterfall known as Rainbow Falls. This natural sight is easy to see, as there’s no hiking involved, making it a favorite of many. In addition, the 80-foot falls is famous for its misty rainbows. Be sure to visit in the mornings for the best chance of catching a rainbow at the falls!


Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Hawaii to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
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