Big Island of Hawaii Itinerary Suggestions
Orchid Island Itineraries
The Big Island garnered its name from being the largest island in Hawaii. It has vast and transparent blue waters, spectacular beaches, hidden natural reserves, and an abundance of regions to travel to. If you are seeking trails to explore or sights to see in a day, three days, or however long you anticipate, the Big Island has ample amounts of activities.
Access the beautiful cascade at Rainbow Falls via Wailuku River State Park, which elicits a spectacular rainbow on bright, sunny mornings. Or journey around on the island via the Red Road Scenic Byway. You can sunbathe at Kaimu Black Sand Beach and make your way to the charming town of Pahoa Village. With various things to do and sights to see, you will find it pleasurable to escape on the Big Island.
How to use our Big Island itineraries for your trip
Big Island 'Pack-and-Go' Wayfinder Guides for daily excursions
Ultimately, we've designed our Big Island of Hawaii itineraries around a set number of on-island Big Island days: offering one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and in some cases, ten days for exploring the island, soaking in the best sights, and ensuring your precious time on the Big Island is utilized wisely. We've tried to balance our itineraries between those who seek adventure and those who are looking to find a good beach and relax. Overall, we want your experience to be exactly what you've dreamed of when planning your Big Island of Hawaii trip.
For each island, including the Big Island, we've attempted to split up the itinerary days by sorting attractions according to their geographic proximity; i.e; on Volcanoes National Park day, you'd explore the best of the Big Island's HVNP attractions, and activities. Our itineraries are not meant to necessarily be followed consecutively, which would probably be exhausting, but instead as a grab-and-go resource for 'mapping' your trip - think of us as a Wayfinder's guide to the Big Island of Hawaii. If you have 6 days on the Big Island, then selecting either our 5 or 7-day itineraries will likely work well for you, where you'd have an extra day in one case, and need to trim off a day's activities in another respectively. We always like to travel by making day-by-day plans, putting the most important attractions and activities (the must-see and do) upfront, and if the weather doesn't cooperate one of those days we just switch that day with another. That way we always get to the important stuff first, and if we have to skip anything, it's ideally the minor attractions only.
We've provided all Big Island directions via Google Maps when possible, as Google Maps works on all platforms and across all devices. You should be able to pop the directions into your phone or tablet and go. To help you visualize each day's itinerary, we've also provided overview maps that help you get your bearings.
On-page resources for the Big Island...
- Why use our Big Island itineraries to plan your trip?
- Overview of Hawaii Island - the 'Big Island'
- Big Island Accommodations - Summary of where to stay
- Big Island Transportation - Summary of getting around the island
- What to pack on your Big Island of Hawaii trip
- Additional Big Island Resources & Links
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2023 Big Island Visitor Guides
If you're visiting the Big Island of Hawaii soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Big Island Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).
~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~
Why use our Hawaii Itineraries for your visit to the Big Island?
For nearly 20 years now, we've been visiting the Big Island and making detailed notes about what the Big Island of Hawaii's highlights are and what visitors like yourself simply must-see based on the limited time you've allocated for each Hawaiian Island.
It isn't easy and can even be overwhelming to start planning a trip to Hawaii. One quick look on our website, and you'll soon discover there are hundreds of possibilities; a variety of sights to see, a plethora of beautiful beaches to choose from, and a diverse set of incredible trails that criss-cross each of the islands. Honestly, you could spend months on the Big Island and not see and do it all.
Having a reliable guide, that's key. We'd genuinely love to be your guide to the Big Island of Hawaii during your stay, and we hope you find our itineraries resourceful while planning your trip.
Overview of Hawaii Island - the “Big Island”
Often called the "Big Island" to help distinguish it from the 1,500-mile-long archipelago with which it shares its name, Hawaii, the Big Island has certainly earned its nickname. Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the landmass of the Big Island is approximately the same size as the state of Connecticut, about 4,050 sq. miles and still growing daily thanks to Kilauea Volcano on the eastern coast of the island. Composed of five major volcanoes, the island is the youngest in the Hawaiian chain with origins dating back some 800,000 years to the present day.
The Big Island of Hawaii, of course, is the largest landmass in the Hawaiian island chain- which consists of eight major islands and 124 islets. The archipelago is made up of numerous volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean stretching in a 1,500-mile crescent from Kure Island in the northwest to the Big Island of Hawaii in the east, encompassing an area of 6,459 square miles. The eight major islands at the eastern end of the chain are, from west to east, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii.
The vast majority of the Big Island's visitors stay in the western-sided Kailua-Kona area with its fantastic weather, abundant shopping, and vast array of dining options. This region also features a wide variety of accommodations, from high-end resorts and condominiums to quaint B&Bs and inns. The ocean off the Kona coast is clear and great for both snorkeling and diving. To the north of Kona is the Gold Coast of Kohala. While drier and more barren than Kona, the region offers amazing beaches, great weather conditions, and several luxury accommodations to choose from.
On the other (eastern) side of the island, you'll discover Hilo and the Puna region. These are good locations to base from if you're interested in exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This part of the island receives an abundance of rainfall that creates lush and green surroundings.
The Big Island of Hawaii seems determined to break the norm; the stereotype of the average tropical island, that is. Here you'll find the ongoing battle between green forests, black lava fields, the ocean, and the rain almost incomprehensible; the diversity is simply stunning. You may find yourself wondering, "Is this an ancient landscape or a future one?"
Hikers, horseback riders, and land lovers, in general, will find a wide variety of stunning peaks, valleys, forests, and lava fields to explore. Water lovers will find a plethora of water activities awaiting them, especially on the leeward side where the two giant volcanoes create near-pristine water and wave conditions year-round. Snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, SCUBA diving, and much more are superb here. In our daily itineraries, we’ll attempt to guide you to the very best the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer.
Those who prefer to stay on dry land will also enjoy a myriad of land activities. Golfers, beach lovers, and bird watchers can also take pleasure in knowing there are unmatched locations for each of their passions.
Recommended Number of Days to Spend on Big Island
Accommodations on the Big Island of Hawaii & Where to Stay Summary
On the Big Island, you’re probably considering splitting your stay between the Kona side and Hilo side of the island, that’s smart - it will make visiting each respective side of the island’s attractions easier, because after all, the big island is, well, BIG. The last thing you want to do most days is to spend hours in the car driving to a destination on the other side of the island. If you haven’t yet decided where to stay on the Big Island of Hawaii, we can help with that too, be sure to check out our Where to Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii article for the best tips and suggestions on where to book your stay. Don’t worry if you’ve already booked your trip on just the Kona or Hilo side, or if your lodging isn’t even in Kone or Hilo, as there are a number of accommodations, b&bs, inns, etc scattered across the island. Regardless of where you’re staying, we’ll still help you plan accordingly.
Be sure to also read our Best time to Visit the Big Island article for an in-depth look at which time of year is best to visit the Big Island for your travel party.
Getting Around the Big Island of Hawaii
On Hawaii island, a rental car is definitely the best option for getting around the island and viewing all the sights we detail in our itineraries. This is especially true because of how spread out some of the various attractions are located geographically speaking. The rental rates in Hawaii are often some of the cheapest anywhere in the world because the competition is usually fierce.
There is no reliable bus service on the island and taxi services are both expensive and illogical for sight-seeing purposes.
Summary of what to pack on your Big Island of Hawaii trip
Regardless of how much you’ve traveled in the past and where you’ve been, there is one good rule to follow when coming to Hawaii, leave as much as you can at home. Seriously, bring only what you’ll need during your stay and nothing more. For starters, schlepping around three suitcases is NOT what you want to be doing after getting off a long plane ride. Next, consider that long pants, dress clothes, and anything else formal really have no use in Hawai‘i (unless you are staying in a very exclusive resort). Chances are a pair of shorts and an old Aloha shirt are all you’ll need for even some fine dining.
As far as clothing goes, that’s usually a few pairs of shorts, several T-shirts, sandals or flip-flops (slippahs as Hawaii residents call them), and a good visor or hat, anything made of a cotton blend is usually good. A light jacket might also be nice for those visits to higher elevations.
With the motto, “less is more” in mind, here are a few other items to bring. Sunblock (the UV on Hawai‘i is typically 10+ in the spring, summer, and fall), a backpack (for any hikes) and a water bottle, slippers (flip flops, shower shoes, zoris), mask, snorkel, and fins (or rent locally instead), two bathing suits (one to wear while the other dries) and a cover-up, your phone or a camera, lightweight raincoat or poncho (for mountain/rain forest hiking), bug spray with DEET (for any forest hikes), flashlight (if the sun goes down before your hike ends or for night walks on the beach), hiking boots and hiking rods, and most importantly a list of all your troubles to leave behind. For more information on what to pack, seeing our What to Pack When Visiting Hawaii article.
Big Island of Hawaii Highlights:
- Historic Kailua-Kona Town - Historic seaside hot spot.
- Waipio Valley - Hawaii's largest isolated inhabited valley.
- Downtown Hilo - Discover local treasures in the island's capital city.
- Ka Lae (South Point) - The southernmost point in the United States.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Home of one of the world's most active volcanoes and otherworldly scenery.
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