The Big Island was my home base for my internship, and as a result, this page has the most day trips by far. After having the opportunity to visit the four main islands, I am confident in saying that the Big Island is my favorite, and I’m happy I got to live in Hilo. The Big Island is larger than the other three main islands combined and gets the second least amount of visitors, just shortly ahead of Kauai. Most of the tourism is found on the western side of the island in Waikoloa and Kailua-Kona, leaving Hilo almost untouched by tourists. Even if it is the third rainiest city in the country, living here was a great way to experience the local life of Hawaii. Below you’ll find a sample of the day trips I’ve written up during my time here:
This day trip was my second day on the island. I wanted to explore, but also save money, so I settled on driving the Hamakua coastline. This trip includes a stop at Akaka Falls and details of my hike down into Waipio Valley. Afterward I stopped at the local favorite, Tex Drive-In for some toasty malasadas.
Day Trip II: Kona by Day and Night
This day trip brought me to Kona to visit some friends from Arizona. On Friday night we attended a luau and on Saturday, we explored Ali’i Drive and the coffee village Holualoa, where I roasted my very own coffee beans.
Day Trip III: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
After a few weeks of getting used to life in Hawaii, my coworkers and I decided to take the Hele On Bus for $1 down to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We spent the day exploring the mini-trails near the visitor center, trying not to freeze in the cloudy, rainy high-elevation weather.
Day Trip IV: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park II
Shortly after the previous day trip, we returned to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this time with our own car. We used it to drive around the park and hike the Kilauea Iki Trail, followed by viewing Kilauea Crater by night.
For this day trip we visited the northernmost valley in the Waipio chain (see Day Trip 1 for Waipio Valley). Since it was facing east, we decided to leave at 3am in hopes of viewing sunrise. The hike itself was magical, especially because we were the only people in the valley besides two campers. By the time we left, around 11am, the valley was busy with visitors making the trek down to the beach.
Day Trip VI: Ka Lae and Papakōlea Beach
Ka Lae is also known as South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. This is a big adventure spot for daredevils, due to the 40-foot cliff jump off the edge. We were lucky enough to visit on a sunny day when lots of people were out and about. Later that day we hiked two miles to Papakōlea Beach, also known as Green Sands Beach (one of two in the world)! The beach qualifies as a green sand beach because the sand is made of olivine; however, when we were there it was overcast and the sand didn’t look as vividly green as we were hoping.
Day Trip VII: Mauna Kea Observing Run
My Mauna Kea observing run was probably the highlight of my trip. I got to spend one night acclimatizing and the next three nights observing on the tallest mountain in the world. I even got to observe during a laser run!
Day Trip VIII: Things To Do In and Around Hilo
This post is all about the town where I spent seven months living. The third wettest city in the country, Hilo is sometimes overlooked by tourists, but it has quite a lot to offer. The trip included a visit to the botanical gardens, tsunami museum, the local zoo, one of several waterfalls, a planetarium and of course, the Hilo Farmers’ Market.
Day Trip IX: Adventures in Kohala
This day trip was packed with adventure, as I had a long-time childhood friend visiting. Our first day was spent zip lining, exploring beaches and horseback riding.
Day Trip X: Sea Turtles and Sea Arches
The second day my friend was on the Big Island, we visited Punalu’u Beach (known for its sea turtle population) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park again. This time at the park, we drove to the end of Chain of Craters road.
Hiilawe Falls is located at the back of Waipio Valley. The hike itself is only two miles, but it is on a road with an average grade of 25-40% followed by a mile upstream a river. I was sore for days after doing this hike.
Day Trip XII: Kapoho, Honaunau and Kealakekua
This blog post is actually composed of three day trips to three of the best snorkeling sites on the Big Island, although there are many great ones. My favorite was Kealakekua Bay, which is famous for a reason. But Kapoho Tide Pools and Honaunau Bay are both great options for snorkeling as well. As a bonus, this post ends with a beautiful Kona sunset.
Day Trip XIII: Honokane Nui Trail
The Honokane Nui Trail starts in Pololu Valley (see Day Trip V) and continues into Honokane Nui Valley for a round trip total of about 6 miles. Pololu Valley was one of my favorite places on the Big Island, and I vowed to return one last time before I left. On this trip, we continued hiking from Pololu and completed the treacherous descent into Honokane Nui, repelling down a “trail” that had been destroyed by an earthquake 7 years previously.
View this page for a rundown of all the Big Island beaches I visited. Keep in mind, there are many more!
Before leaving the Big Island for good, I devoted one day to driving around the entire island, taking in the varied landscapes and visiting some new, out-of-the-way destinations. Some of my favorite photos are from this day trip, so I highly recommend checking it out!