Big Island Adventures

Things to do in Big Island

Hawaii’s Big Island is the youngest of the islands and, thanks to its beautiful molten lava flows, it is still growing. And the Big Island is big not only in area, but also in adventure- from standing at the summit of Mauna Kea to a swim at the base of a paradisiacal waterfall, or maybe even a trek through an ancient underground lava tube, the Big Island is sure to please. Here you’ll find 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones, the world’s most active volcano, and some of the greatest adventures on the planet.

And because we here at Hawaii Guide want to make sure your Big Island adventures are as fun, safe, and memorable as possible, we have carefully handpicked the Top Big Island Things to Do for you. We are proud to partner with our friends at Hawaii Forest and Trail and The Volcano Van to provide you with the absolute best Big Island adventures. Both of these companies offer you guided outdoor adventures to the most awe-inspiring Hawaiian locations; however, what sets them apart is their intimate knowledge of and love for the beauty that can only be found on the Big Island. Best of all, their passion for what they do translates into a spectacular experience with top-notch, personalized customer service for you

Hawaii Forest and Trail

Specializing in guided nature tours, Hawaii Forest and Trail will lead you to some of the most remote and amazing Big Island attractions. You’ll be introduced to the island’s remarkable natural wonders and gain insight into the history, biology, geology, and Native Hawaiian culture that form the basis of the Big Island we know today. Adventures range from half-day to full-day tours and can even be customized to perfectly fit your needs. Check out these spectacular selections:

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Kohala Things to Do

This is a one-of-a-kind canopy adventure featuring 9 lines, 5 sky bridges, and a rappel, all sustainably built. Be prepared for the thrill of a lifetime as you zip along at speeds up to 45 mph- all while enjoying the serene beauty of the lush forest canopy. Best of all, this exciting adventure is ideal for beginners and experts alike; and professionally-certified guides ensure you are in good hands. An added bonus: a complimentary treat of local macadamia nuts, fruit snacks, and trail bars helps keep your energy up. You can even rent a GoPro and your guides will gladly help you capture the moment by snapping some photos for you. Plan about 3 hours for this tour.

This family-friendly adventure takes you off road in a Pinzgauer (Austrian military vehicle), and on to a laid-back nature trail walk. You’ll even see historic taro terraces. The highlight of this adventure is, of course, the swim under one of seven beautiful waterfalls. Then sit back and relax as you enjoy a picnic lunch with breathtaking views from one of the Big Island’s top scenic lookouts. Make sure to save room for ice cream, as you’ll stop in historic Hawi town for some shopping and a local frozen treat. This is an all day adventure lasting 8 hours.

Can’t decide between the Kohala Canopy Adventure and the Kohala Waterfalls Adventure? No worries… just book the Zip & Dip! This exhilarating and inspiring adventure combines the best of both worlds- zip high above the forest floor, enjoy a picnic lunch with unbelievable views of the North Kohala Valleys, and relax with a refreshing swim under a waterfall fed by a pure mountain stream- perfection. This adventure runs a full day- approximately 9 hours.

This is the abbreviated version of the Kohala Waterfalls Adventure and is great fun for the entire family. This tour takes you off road in a 6-wheel drive Pinzgauer Austrian military vehicle. You’ll also take a short (under 1 mile) guided nature walk, followed by a swim in one of three private waterfalls. This is the perfect tour for those who want all the fun, but packed into about 3 hours.

Kailua-Kona Things to Do

This is the ultimate birdwatching experience, as you’ll explore two very different environments in the same outing- a cloudmist forest on Mauna Loa and a sub-alpine dryforest on Mauna Kea. Most notable is that you will have the unique opportunity to observe native flora and fauna that can be found nowhere else on the planet; many species of which are endangered. Visit the last wild Palila habitat as you try to spot this rare bird. Other endemic species you may encounter include the elepaio, omao (Hawaiian thrush), iiwi, akiapolauu, apapane, and more. You’ll have plenty of time to spot these beautiful specimens, as this journey lasts a full 12 hours.

Long ago, Native Hawaiians bestowed the name Hakalau upon this area, as it means “many perches”- aptly named, indeed. Today, this dense rainforest still plays host to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. The perfect complement to the Rainforest and Dryforest Birding Adventure, this tour focuses on the unique history of Hawaii’s flora and fauna. This area is also home to many rare birds, so nature lovers and birdwatchers alike will be equally fascinated. Plan a full day for this 12-hour adventure. 

The Big Island has a surprising range of ecosystems and climate zones, and this tour takes you off the proverbial beaten path to a place most visitors will never experience. Your expert guide will share his/her knowledge of the area’s unique geology, culture, and history as you traverse rainforests, lava flows, cinder fields, lava tubes, craters, and steam vents. The highlight of your tour comes in the evening when you experience the vibrant red glow deep inside Halemaumau Crater. You’ll need 12 hours to take in all the beauty on this trip.

This tour will have you journeying from sea level, through a dense rainforest, and then 6,000 feet up into volcano territory. You’ll be granted exclusive access to the upper slopes of Kona’s very own volcano, Hualalai, as well as a lush native forest. Plus, you’ll get to peer into volcanic craters that plunge deep into the earth below and even tour an intact lava tube. Additionally, your tour features a stop at one of Kona’s most well-known coffee farms. Of course, all this adventure merits a treat- so prepare yourself for delicious samples of 100% Kona coffee, tea, and chocolates to round out your experience. Tour duration is 7 hours.

This epic journey loops around the entire island and covers the absolute must-see Big Island spots, all of which will be woven into the story of Kamehameha the Great. You’ll visit four different national park sites, tour a private lava tube, spot sea turtles on the beautiful Punaluu black sand beach, explore a tropical fruit farm, and admire scenic waterfalls, valleys, and historic landmarks. And to keep your energy up, a delicious continental breakfast, deli lunch, and snack are provided over the course of this unforgettable 12-hour adventure.

Go from sea level to the nearly 14,000 ft. summit of Mauna Kea and enjoy one of the best views of a starry sky anywhere on Earth. Along the way, your guide will share stories of early travelers who ventured through the area. At a stop at the historic Humuula Sheep Station at 7,000 ft. elevation, you’ll enjoy a delicious picnic dinner. Later, take in a world-class sunset at the top of Mauna Kea- the highest point in the Pacific. If that weren’t enough, you’ll sit back and enjoy your own private star show as you sip hot cocoa and ponder the wonders of the Hawaiian night sky. Ages 16+ on this 8-hour adventure.

Hilo Things to Do

Journey through the rugged and remote lands of Kau and discover how Mother Nature’s forces shaped the landscape and people of Hawaii’s largest district. You’ll hit all the must-see stops at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, including the Thurston lava tube, Jaggar Museum, and you’ll even get to view the impressive Halemaumau Crater. A drive through macadamia nut orchards and a stroll on a famous black sand beach are also included. If that weren’t enough, sample world-class coffee and island treats on an exclusive tour of a private coffee estate. This adventure lasts 7 hours.

Learn, have fun, and sample delicious island goodies while surrounded by the lush green landscape and natural wonders of Hilo. You’ll view four different waterfalls and hear about the area’s history as you enjoy the ride along the bay shore. A visit to a lovely tropical fruit farm is a visitor favorite; you’ll see cacao, macadamia nuts, coffee, and more. That temptation warrants some sampling, and you’ll do so at a private gazebo overlooking Rainbow Falls. And don’t forget the delicious locally-made lunch, of course. The highlight of your adventure will be the option to swim or kayak under a breathtaking 120 ft. waterfall- simply amazing. This is a shorter excursion at about 3.5 hours.

This sacred home of Hawaiian deities also plays host to the greatest astronomical complex on the planet. You’ll venture from sea level to the summit and learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of Native Hawaiian navigational skills and our modern pursuit of understanding our universe. Visit the Imiloa Astronomy Center and enjoy a pre-opening tour and private star show. Spot the highly endangered Mauna Kea silversword plant, the mountain’s crown jewel, and stroll through a koa wood forest, too. Naturally, stunning views of Hawaii Island and Maui are included. Make sure to open your imagination, as you’ll learn about current research into the wonders of our universe at a world-class astronomy complex. This tour runs 8 hours.

The Volcano Van

Volcano Adventures

Are you looking for a personalized guided tour provider that serves all three major resort areas on the Big Island- Hilo, Kailua-Kona, and Kohala? Do you want to sightsee and take your adventure at your own pace; perhaps making a quick unscheduled stop if something catches your eye? Then our friends at The Volcano Van are the perfect tour company for you. They have an extensive knowledge of the Big Island and its natural marvels that they would love to share with you. Their adventures include a full day of unforgettable sights, as well as a deli-style lunch. In addition to their best Big Island adventures listed here, they can also work with you to customize a one-of-a-kind adventure for you and your party. They can take you from macadamia nut plantations and coffee farms to waterfall swims and trail hikes- you choose what you want to see and do!

Your day starts as you’re picked up at the airport or your hotel and whisked away on an epic adventure. Be ready to cover a huge portion of the Big Island and enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ve ever encountered. Highlights include the cinder cones and rolling grassy hills of Kohala (which happens to be home to one of the largest and oldest cattle ranches in the U.S.); Mauna Kea and its world-renowned astronomical observatories; and the imposing Kilauea, which has been erupting regularly since 1983. Also, legend has it that Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, makes her home in Kilauea’s fiery craters. Of course, your expert guide will tell you more about that. Kilauea steaming bluffs, Kilauea Iki crater, Thurston lava tube, and so much more… this spectacular tour has it all.

As you wait for your ride, prepare yourself to experience a real slice of heaven on earth. Mauna Kea hasn’t erupted for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive; as it has aged, jungle streams, waterfalls, and sea cliffs have graced its ‘retirement’. This tour takes you from the highlands of Waimea, through the coastal jungles of Hilo, and down the Hamakua Coast. If you depart from the Hilo side, you’ll stop at the famous Rainbow Falls. As an added bonus, this adventure includes an amazing trip along the Saddle Road, which travels between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Other highlights include Laupahoehoe Bay, Akaka Falls, and Onomea Bay.

No trip to the Big Island would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Kilauea volcano and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You’ll travel along the south Kona and K’au coasts, through Pahala, and ascend Kilauea’s southwest rift zone. This adventure takes your from sea level to summit and through many different microclimates along the way. At the summit of Kilauea, you’ll hike a few trails and visit the Jaggar Museum, Kilauea Iki crater, Thurston lava crater, and the Kilauea caldera. Then you’ll head back down with a few stops along the way. Once at Kilauea’s shores, you’ll visit the ancient Pu’u Loa petrogylphs. Plus, you’ll even take the famous Red Road to Kalapana- a town buried by lava in 1990.

Choose one or more of these Top Big Island Things to Do and book your big adventure today!

Article Edited/Contributed by: Tony Malizia & Michele Lopez
Published/Updated:

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