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The 15 Best Things to Do on the Big Island in 2023

The 15 Best Things to Do on the Big Island in 2023

The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise like no other, boasting diverse landscapes, pristine beaches, and a rich cultural heritage. From awe-inspiring volcanoes to vibrant marine life, this enchanting island offers a plethora of activities for every type of traveler.

Why We Love the Big Island

Water flowing into the natural Pools of Paradise on the Big Island


The Big Island of Hawaii holds a special place in our hearts, as it offers a unique blend of natural wonders, cultural richness, and unforgettable experiences. But one of the main the reasons I love this tropical paradise is its diverse landscapes.

From the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls of Akaka Falls State Park, the island is a treasure trove of natural beauty.

The contrasting black sand beaches of Punalu’u and the breathtaking valleys like Waipi’o and Pololu provide a sense of awe and wonder that is hard to replicate anywhere else in the world (and we’ve seen a lot).

The island’s rich cultural heritage is another reason why we love visiting this magical place. Exploring sacred sites such as Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and engaging in traditional practices and ceremonies allows travelers to connect with the island’s deep-rooted traditions.

The warm hospitality of the locals and their passion for sharing their culture add an extra layer of authenticity to my experiences. Finally, the island offers a range of activities that cater to all types of travelers.

Whether it’s snorkeling with sea turtles at Kealakekua Bay, embarking on thrilling adventures like zip lining or horseback riding, or simply taking in the mesmerizing sunset views from a sailboat along the Kona Coast, there is always something to suit every interest and desire.

The 15 Best Activities on the Big Island in 2023

Join me as we embark on an extraordinary journey through the island’s wonders, and discover why each activity will leave you with unforgettable memories.

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Tourists taking photos of lava in one of the best things to do on the Big Island, Volcanoes National Park


Explore the raw power of nature at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Walk through lava tubes, witness the billowing steam vents, and marvel at the otherworldly landscapes shaped by volcanic activity.

Immerse yourself in the captivating visitor center exhibits and learn about the island’s geological wonders. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the dynamic forces that shape our planet.

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2. Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Adventure

Winter view of the Mauna Kea road observatory, one of the best things to do on the Big Island

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Embark on a breathtaking journey to the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the world’s premier stargazing destinations. Ascend to an altitude of 13,796 feet and witness the awe-inspiring sunset from above the clouds.

As night falls, marvel at the stunning celestial display with the assistance of expert guides and powerful telescopes. The Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Adventure promises a celestial experience that will leave you in awe of the universe’s grandeur.

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3. Snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay

Aerial view of snorkeling boats parked at Kealakekua Bay, one of the best activities to do on the Big Island


Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Kealakekua Bay and discover a vibrant underwater world teeming with marine life. Snorkel alongside colorful fish, graceful sea turtles, and perhaps even spot a pod of playful dolphins.

The bay’s calm waters and pristine coral reefs create the perfect conditions for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure. Kealakekua Bay promises an immersive experience that will leave you with a profound appreciation for the island’s natural beauty.

“As I slipped beneath the surface of Kealakekua Bay, I was greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors and a chorus of marine life. Swimming alongside graceful sea turtles and exploring the intricate coral reefs, I couldn’t help but feel a deep connection to the ocean.”

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4. Akaka Falls State Park & Coffee Tour

For a piece on the best things to do on the Big Island, a metal walkway and stairs leading down the the powerful and breathtaking Akaka Falls

Nenad Basic/Shutterstock

Embark on a scenic hike through Akaka Falls State Park and witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Akaka Falls, a cascading waterfall plunging 442 feet into a lush ravine.

Meander through the park’s lush rainforest, surrounded by vibrant foliage, and encounter other charming waterfalls along the way. The tranquility and natural splendor of Akaka Falls State Park offer a refreshing escape into the heart of the Big Island’s natural wonders.

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5. Manta Ray Night Snorkel

Underwater night view of a manta ray snorkeling in Kona, one of the best things to do in the Big Island

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Prepare for an extraordinary encounter with these gentle giants of the sea on a Manta Ray Night Snorkel. Glide through the ocean under the moonlight, as these majestic creatures gracefully swim and perform mesmerizing barrel rolls.

Witnessing the manta rays in their natural habitat is an experience that will leave you with a deep sense of wonder and appreciation for the incredible marine life that inhabits the island’s waters.

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6. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Fabulous Onomea Falls on the Big Island in the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden


Step into a lush paradise at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, home to a vast array of rare and exotic plant species. Stroll along scenic pathways, enveloped by vibrant flora and the soothing sound of cascading waterfalls.

Discover hidden gems such as the Onomea Bay and the incredible diversity of tropical plants. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden offers a tranquil sanctuary where you can reconnect with nature and experience the island’s botanical marvels.

“Walking through the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden felt like entering a secret realm of extraordinary beauty.

The vibrant blooms, the enchanting fragrance, and the lush greenery transported me to a place of serenity and wonder. This hidden gem is a must-visit for nature lovers seeking solace and inspiration.”

7. Hilo Farmers Market

Goods for sale at the Hilo Farmer's Market, one of the best things to do on the Big Island

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Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture at the Hilo Farmers Market, where you can indulge in an array of fresh produce, local delicacies, and unique crafts.

Sample tropical fruits, savor mouthwatering treats, and browse through handmade jewelry and traditional artwork. The Hilo Farmers Market is a bustling hub of flavors and creativity that offers a delightful glimpse into the island’s rich culinary and artistic traditions.

8. Black Sand Beaches of Punalu’u

Picturesque black sand beaches of Punalu'u, one of the best activities to do on the Big Island

Billy McDonald/Shutterstock

Experience the surreal beauty of the black sand beaches at Punalu’u, where jet-black volcanic sand contrasts against the vivid turquoise waters. Relax on the beach, soak up the sun, and keep an eye out for endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles basking in the sun.

The uniqueness and tranquility of Punalu’u’s black sand beaches make it a must-visit destination that showcases the Big Island’s geological wonders.

“As I walked barefoot on the velvety black sand and gazed at the striking contrast against the turquoise ocean, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe.

Punalu’u’s black sand beach is a true testament to the island’s volcanic origins and an opportunity to witness the harmony of nature’s contrasting elements.”

9. Pololu Valley Lookout & Waterfall Tour

Gorgeous view on a semi-cloudy day of the Pololu Valley Lookout, one of the best things to do on the Big Island

Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock

Witness the breathtaking beauty of Pololu Valley from the lookout point perched atop the cliffs. Marvel at the sweeping views of the dramatic coastline, verdant cliffs, and crashing waves.

For the more adventurous, descend into the valley and explore the secluded black sand beach or embark on a scenic hike along the trail. Pololu Valley Lookout offers a glimpse into the raw and untamed beauty of the Big Island.

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10. Waipi’o Valley

Gorgeous view from a hiking trail overlooking the Waipi'o Valley, one of our top picks for things to do on the Big Island

Graig Zethner/Shutterstock

Embark on a journey to the captivating Waipi’o Valley, known as the “Valley of the Kings.” Experience the lush valley’s magnificence as you navigate its steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls.

Immerse yourself in Hawaiian history and culture, and gain insights into the sacred significance of this remarkable place. Waipi’o Valley presents an opportunity to connect with the island’s heritage and be enchanted by its natural grandeur.

“Standing at the edge of Waipi’o Valley, I was overwhelmed by the sheer majesty of the scenery before me. The lush greenery, the cascading waterfalls — it felt like stepping into a mystical realm.

Waipi’o Valley is a place that holds a deep sense of reverence and beauty, and one that will forever remain etched in my heart.”

11. Dinner Cruise Along the Kona Coast

Dusk view of a dinner cruise pictured from afar with the picturesque scenery of Kona in the background

Manuel Balesteri/Shutterstock

Take on a picturesque sunset sail along the stunning Kona Coast. Feel the warm ocean breeze as you glide across the turquoise waters, taking in breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline.

Witness the sky ablaze with vibrant colors as the sun sets over the Pacific, creating a magical and romantic atmosphere. This serene sailing experience is the perfect way to unwind and create lasting memories.

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12. Zip Line Adventure in North Kohala

Happy guy ziplining over the Big Island


Embark on a thrilling zip line adventure in the lush North Kohala region. Soar through the canopies of towering trees, taking in spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and waterfalls.

Experience an adrenaline rush as you glide along the zip lines, feeling the wind against your face. This exhilarating adventure offers a unique perspective of the island’s natural beauty and is perfect for adventure seekers looking for an unforgettable thrill.

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13. Explore Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Tiki Heads at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, one of the best things to do on the Big Island

Damien Verrier/Shutterstock

Delve into Hawaiian history and culture at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Walk in the footsteps of ancient Hawaiian royalty as you explore the sacred grounds and discover beautifully preserved temples and sacred artifacts.

Learn about the traditions and customs of the Hawaiian people and gain a deeper appreciation for their rich heritage. This historical park offers a serene and educational experience that transports you back in time.

14. Horseback Riding in Waimea

Family Horseback Riding in Waimea

Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock

Saddle up for a memorable horseback riding adventure in the scenic ranchlands of Waimea. Ride through rolling green pastures, alongside grazing cattle, and witness breathtaking views of the island’s mountain ranges.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, this equestrian experience allows you to connect with nature and explore the Big Island’s picturesque landscapes in a unique and immersive way.

15. Kona Volcano Tour

Entrance to the stunning Thurston Lava Tube, one of the best things to do in Kona


Go on an underground adventure and explore the awe-inspiring Kazumura Cave, one of the world’s longest and deepest lava tubes. Descend into the depths of the Earth and marvel at the intricate lava formations and geological wonders.

Traverse through dark passages and witness the fascinating evidence of the island’s volcanic history. This extraordinary experience offers a glimpse into the hidden underworld of the Big Island and is sure to leave you in awe of nature’s power.

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So, Which Activity on the Big Island Will You Book?

The Big Island of Hawaii beckons with its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and awe-inspiring natural wonders.

From exploring volcanic landscapes to encountering marine life, indulging in local flavors, and immersing yourself in Hawaiian traditions, the island offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences.

So pack your sense of adventure, immerse yourself in the island’s beauty, and get ready to fall in love with the enchanting wonders of this island paradise. Happy travels!