Explore the Big Island in 10 Days
Big Island of Hawaii 10-Day Itinerary Suggestions
At some point in planning your vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii, it’s probably going to hit you, “Wow, this is a lot harder than I thought it’d be... there’s so much to do.” Welcome to the state where the possibilities for activities and adventures are limitless, to where you’ll likely never find yourself bored unless you refuse to leave your hotel room. This portion of our website is here to help you focus on planning your trip and should allow you to organize what you want to do into simple itineraries. Planning your vacation doesn’t have to be a chore, and hopefully, our recommendations will be of assistance in your preparation.
We’ve designed our Big Island of Hawaii itineraries around a set number of on-island Big Island days: offering one, three, five, seven, and even ten-day itineraries for exploring the island, soaking in the best sights, and ensuring your precious time, and potentially money, on the Big Island of Hawaii are spent wisely. We’ve tried to balance our itineraries between those who seek adventure and those 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 trip.
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.
Our ten-day Big Island of Hawaii itinerary below includes many of the recommendations in our three-day Big Island itinerary, five-day Big Island itinerary, and seven-day Big Island itineraries, plus some additional sights, attractions, and activities for the extra two days on the island. Ten days is usually more than enough to thoroughly explore and discover most of the Big Island of Hawaii’s top attractions, and we’ve covered all of the highlights in the ten-day Big Island of Hawaii itinerary below.
— article continued below —
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.
Ten Day Itinerary for the Big Island
10-Day Big Island Wayfinder Guide
We'll officially kick off our itinerary suggestions by quickly covering the days you both arrive and depart. While they are not completely a wash in terms of planning something to actively do or participate in those days, we like to keep them open and use them for relaxing after we arrive and before we depart.
Arrival Day on the Big Island
Let the first day you arrive be a day to adjust to the islands. Grab a bite to eat, pick up supplies and/or groceries, enjoy your first Hawaiian sunset that evening, and get to bed early as it has likely been a long day. If you’re flying in from another island, as we often do, then some light sightseeing probably won’t be a problem once you’re set up with your new rental, etc. But generally, we advise people to take it easy the first day, soak in their local surroundings, and acclimate to Hawaiian time.
Departure Day from the Big Island
Like your arrival day, this day is meant to wind down from your trip and prepare for your jump to another island or for the journey home. We suggest grabbing a bite to eat from one of your favorite local restaurants near your accommodation and maybe some final souvenir shopping at some of the many stores and local shops around the island. Undoubtedly, the local community would appreciate your business. In Hawaii there are no “Goodbye’s” - so we’ll say A Hui Hou, which in Hawaiian means ‘Until we meet again.’ Aloha!
Big Island 10-Day Essentials Itinerary
We're working on our more advanced modular itinerary for the Big Island, similar to how we've set up our Maui Itineraries. Until we have that ready, check out our essentials Big Island of Hawaii itinerary to get you started.
For finding local food, which we recommend as many nights as you can do so, check out our recommended best local dining articles; look for the Big Island section in each article. In this suggested itinerary, you'll want to split your time and accommodations between Kailua-Kona (Days 1-6) and then head to the Hilo (or Volcano Village) area for the remaining days. On the day you depart, likely from Kailua-Kona, head back across the island to catch your flight.
Day 1: Kailua-Kona Town
- Spend the day exploring downtown Kailua-Kona: visit the Hulihe'e Palace and Mokuaikaua Church. Do some souvenir shopping as you walk along Ali'i Drive.
- Have dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Kona Coast
- Visit the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park in the morning.
- Spend the afternoon at Kua Bay (Manini'owali Beach), and don't forget the sunscreen.
- Dinner in Kailua-Kona.
Day 3: Coffee and History
- In the morning, visit a Kona Coffee farm to learn about the local coffee industry.
- Drive south to visit the Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
- On the way back, stop for a late afternoon snorkel at the famous Two Step beach nearby.
- Whether you snorkel or not, for lunch, stop by Kaaloa’s Super J’s for laulau (you'll thank us later).
- Explore the Coastline here as you return north to Kailua-Kona.
- Return to Kailua-Kona for dinner.
Day 3 Alternative: Beach Relaxation
Day 4: North Kohala and Waimea
- Drive north to Waimea, explore the town, and have lunch.
- Continue to North Kohala, and visit the Pololu Valley Lookout.
- On the way back, stop in Hawi town for shopping and dinner.
- Return to Kailua-Kona.
Day 5: Mauna Kea
- Spend a day on Mauna Kea, and remember to prepare for the altitude and colder weather.
- Visit the visitor center and, if possible, arrange a stargazing tour.
- Return to Kailua-Kona.
Day 6: North Hamakua Coast
- Take the 'north route (Highway 19)' to explore the Hamakua Coast, starting at Waipio Valley.
- Visit Akaka Falls.
- Drive the 4-Mile Scenic Route to Onomea Bay and visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (admission required). Make sure to stop at What's Shakin' for an excellent smoothie experience.
Day 6 Alternative: Beach Day
- Have a relaxed day at the beach. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is highly recommended.
- Have a picnic lunch on the beach.
- Return to Kailua-Kona for dinner or dine at a beachfront restaurant.
Day 7: Volcano Adventure
- Start early and drive to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. We also recommend that this be the day you change accommodations to the Hilo side. We absolutely love the Volcano Village area outside the park. Nestled amongst the fern forest, it doesn't feature fancy resorts but has some of the nicest B&B and inns you'll find almost anywhere.
- Spend the day exploring the park: see Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, the Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube, and hike the Crater Rim trail (or the highly recommended Kilauea Iki trail for a longer trek).
- Have dinner at Volcano House overlooking the crater.
Day 8: Hilo and the East Side
- Visit the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.
- Explore the downtown Hilo area, visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and have lunch in a local restaurant.
- In the afternoon, visit Rainbow Falls.
- If time allows, visit Kaumana Cave.
Day 9: South Point and Green Sand Beach
- Drive to South Point (Ka Lae), the southernmost point of the United States.
- Hike to Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach); do NOT take the illegal shuttle service.
- On the way back, stop at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach to see the Hawaiian green sea turtles (keep away from them and do NOT touch them).
- Return to Hilo town for dinner.
Day 10: Last-Minute Souvenir Shopping and Relaxation
- Do some last-minute souvenir shopping in Hilo or Kailua-Kona.
- Visit any places you've missed or want to see again.
- Wind down and relax - it's your last day on the beautiful Big Island - soak it all in.
Please remember this is just a suggested itinerary, and you might want to adjust it based on your preferences and local weather conditions. Be sure to also check out our one, three, five, and seven-day Essentials Itineraries for the Big Island of Hawaii.