Hawaii: The Big Island Itinerary

Hawaii: The Big Island Itinerary offers an escape from the still chilly and muddy midwestern weather. If you can’t wait another day for spring, the only thing to do is travel to where the sun always shines. Hawaii is one of those magical places.

So we braved the long airplane ride and arrived in paradise. This is the adventure that awaited us…Hawaii: The Big Island Itinerary.

We stayed at the luxurious Fairmont Orchid – Hawaii which is on the west side of the big island. The west side holds most of the upscale hotels and resorts. If you are on a budget I recommend staying on the east side of the island in Hilo. We noticed that the grocery and restaurant prices were also much less expensive there. We saved some money by shopping for groceries at Foodland Farms 68-1330 Mauna Lani Dr. Ste 200 Kamuela rather than eating out for every meal.

Either way, with a car rental, you can experience the same activities because the big island is still small enough to easily get around in a day.

Of course, there are always wonderful activities you can experience at your hotel or resort. For example, laying in the sun or shade in front of the pool or beach, ordering food, and reading a book. In addition, our resort, as do most others, offers a nice fitness center with classes and daily resort activities such as lei making, hula lessons, canoeing, Hawaiin green sea turtle watching, tours, boot camps, and outdoor yoga. One of the neatest activities was Aloha Friday at Ahuakupuna where we honored our kūpuna (ancestors) past and present in a moving ceremony.

We enjoyed all of these activities, but we wanted to go out and explore the island as well. Time for Hawaii: The Big Island Itinerary…

Puukohola Heiau

Our first stop was Puukohola Heiau (open 8 am- 4:45 pm). We originally went there because we heard it was a good place for whale watching, but we found it was much more than that. It is a national historic site with the ruins of the last major ancient Hawaiian temple. There is a visitor center to learn about the history and there are walking paths to explore. You can also reserve a spot, right by the water and shaded with trees, to camp overnight if you choose. Nearby we stopped for ice cream at Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice.

Puako Petroglyphs/ Malama Trail 

It was now time for an interesting short hike along the Malama Trail to see the Puako Petroglyphs. We were glad that we wore tennis shoes instead of sandals as this windy, rocky trail goes through the woods.  The petroglyphs were a very cool payoff at the end of the trail.

Polulu Valley Lookout

This place was my favorite spot of the entire vacation. The Polulu Valley Lookout is a beautiful overlook off the northeastern coast. You park at the top and then take a steep, but short trail down to the black beach. Beyond the beach is a green oasis where we saw animals peacefully roaming. It is a great spot for taking pictures and meditating on life to the sound of the waves.

Kalahuipua’a Historic Park

We rented bikes at our hotel to travel this fun and hilly trail. You aren’t supposed to do this as there is a sign that says to foot traffic only, but nobody seemed to mind. We got off our bikes to walk them when we saw other people coming. It is a very fun, albeit a little scary path for a bike. I wouldn’t try it with young children. We saw a lot of cool stuff like a lava tube where people lived and some petroglyphs. This trail connects with a real bike trail behind the luxury Mauna Lani Resort & Hotels where you can see gorgeous ponds, trees, and bridges. This trail connects to the beach.

Island Breeze Luau

You don’t have to do a luau when in Hawaii, but then have you really been to Hawaii? We decided to try the Island Breeze Luau at Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel 75-5660 Palani Road, Kailua-Kona. It had a lot of good reviews and it was offered every night. It included the Luau all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, Royal Court arrival, and Polynesian Revue – He ʻOhana Kakou. The prices of the luaus on the big island are higher than on the other islands. However, the show, setting, and environment are much better. This is because there are fewer people in attendance, so you get to sit up close. The experience is much more intimate. I think this is because the big island gets fewer visitors than the other islands.

Maunakea/Mauna Loa Summit Trail

Many people feel that the hike to Maunakea, the planet’s largest astronomical observatory atop the biggest sea mountain on Earth is the number one thing to do on the big island of Hawaii. If you are one of these people, you need to plan ahead. Either book a Maunakea tour, rent a 4-wheel drive (regular cars not allowed), or plan to hike all day starting early in the morning. The view is so high there is a danger of high altitude sickness, but for many, that is of small concern for the amazing view. We didn’t plan ahead, so for those who don’t, there is an alternate, shorter hike with a great view as well. That is what we did. Either way, you need to start at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station. Our GPS took us to the wrong place. Make sure you follow this link.

Hilo Downtown and Volcano Helicopter Tour

Next, we drove across the island to Hilo. I walked around the town, while my husband and daughter did a helicopter tour. I had a lovely time visiting a book store, park, farmers market, art galleries, coffee shops, and a candy shop. They got some great photographs of lava coming from the volcanos. Afterward, we met up to eat at Pineapples and visit the free East Hawaii Cultural Center which had a local artist display.

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park was my second favorite destination on our trip to the big island of Hawaii. Akaka Falls State Park provides a gorgeous short hike to an amazing waterfall. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

This park is the reason many people visit the big island- to see the volcanos. Upon arrival at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, your first stop should be the Kīlauea Visitor Center located just beyond the park’s entrance station on the right. The park is open 24 hours daily, year-round from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00. From there I suggest using this guide to see all of the attractions in and around the park. This map is also useful.

Honokaope Bay/Fishermen’s Trail

If you input HONOKAOPE BAY (49 BLACK SAND BEACH) into your GPS it will take you to a gated community with a guard. Don’t worry, just tell the attendant that you are going to the public beach and they will let you in. If it is during high tourist season they only let a certain number of people in, so go early if that is the case. Follow the signs to the public beach and you will soon see the Fisherman’s trailhead. Here you can snorkel at the HONOKAOPE BAY, or take the trail. The path starts off rocky so closed shoes are advised. The trail has a variety of terrain and finishes out on a great view of the ocean where you can see a blowhole splashing waves upon the tall rocky coastline.

Kona Kozy’s Tiki Show

For some evening fun, we decided to get tickets to Kona Kozy’s Tiki Show. He hosts an intimate gathering where you can see amazing magic tricks up close. We have all decided that this guy is truly magic! We were blown away!


Besides Pineapples, in Hilo, two other of our dining experiences stood out. One was a place called the Canoe House at the Mauna Lani resort. We made reservations ahead and got a table with a wonderful view overlooking the beach during sunset. We especially loved the Shokupan Pull-Apart Bread, Kahuku Corn Ribs, and a seasonal shrimp dish. The other spot was in the village of Kailua-Kona. We stopped and watched the locals playing volleyball before eating at Foster’s with a gorgeous view of the ocean. One more place that my husband and daughter loved was The Fish and the Hog. If you like Hawaiin BBQ then this place is for you!

I hope you enjoyed Hawaii: The Big Island Itinerary and have found it useful for your trip to the big island! For some other warm-weather vacations click here, here, or here. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

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