Things to See on the Big Island Image

Chain of Craters - Old Lava Flows

Big Island Best Things to See

Big Island Sights Guide

To say the Big Island is bursting with some of the best and most popular sights and attractions in Hawaii is certainly an understatement.

Tour otherworldly volcanic landscapes; marvel at the beautiful waterfalls, lovely parks, and botanical gardens; or stop by the museums and cultural centers. You can even commune with the stars on the world's tallest mountain.  Here we'll show you the best landmarks and natural wonders the Big island has to offer. Start planning your Hawaiian vacation right here- with Guide of US- Hawaii. 

John Derrick
Published on: 07-20-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick

This entry includes resources for the Big Island's Top Things to See, including tips, advice, rankings, maps, and more.

Top 10 Big Island Things to See

The numbered sights listed below are our absolute favorites on the Big Island of Hawaii. When ranking sights & things to see for visitors, we consider several variables - accessibility, scenery quality, location history, costs (if admission required), type of path (if walking/hiking is necessary), and general safety. Here are our top picks for Hawaii's Big Island.

Four Mile Scenic Route

North Hamakua Region
#10 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

Halfway between mile markers 8 and 7 on the Hawaii Belt Road, you will see a rather large sign that says "Scenic Drive." Turn makai (toward the ocean) onto Mamalahoa Highway and prepare for a curvy, gorgeous drive along Onomea Bay.

Several rustic one-lane bridges separate stretches of dense jungle foliage. Graceful hala trees display their splayed roots next to gigantic jungle ferns and orange African violets lay like polka dots on the road.

There are several unofficial pullouts along the way where you can get out and view streams partially shaded by massive palm trees. About one mile in you will begin to see flickers of Onomea Bay through the coastal plants. 

South Point at Ka Lae

South Kau Region
#9 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

The traditional Hawaiian name for South Point is Ka Lae meaning "the point." The turnoff for South Point Road is between the 69 and 70-mile markers with a large green sign pointing toward the ocean.

The two-lane paved road cuts through macadamia nut groves, pasture land, and a Mauna Loa lava flow. About five miles into the 12 mile trip to Ka Lae the road shifts to a one-lane rugged passageway through vast, flat pastureland. Short, scrubby plants cling to the fields while cattle graze.

 Just past mile marker 8 is an excellent view of South Point. The road splits at the 10-mile marker with the left fork heading to the Kaulana Boat Ramp and beginning of the Papakolea (Green Sand Beach) hike.

Puukohola Heiau

Kohala Region
#8 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

As you approach the junction of Highway 19 and 270 heading north, look makai (toward the ocean) and you should see a majestic stone structure atop a hill. This is Pu'ukohola heiau.

This heiau, a sacred place of worship, has a particularly interesting history. Built between 1790-91, Pu'ukohola was the project of the great King Kamehameha.

Today the heiau and neighboring structures are part of a national historic site. The entrance to the park is after the 2 mile marker makai on Highway 270. 

Rainbow Falls State Park

Hilo Region
#7 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

One of several falls along the path of the Wailuku River in Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a gorgeous waterfall to visit early in the morning. Its name originated from the fact that on some early mornings a rainbow can be seen arching across the falls. 

From the lookout, the surrounding vegetation is a dense jungle. A path to the left of the lookout provides a view from the top of Rainbow Falls.

Waipio Valley Overlook

Kohala Region
#6 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

Located along the Hamakua Coast on the northeastern coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i, Waipi'o Valley is the largest and southernmost of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains.

Time and nature's elements have carved an unimaginably massive valley filled with deep green-encrusted cliffs cut by plunging waterfalls. Its floor is carpeted with forests and neatly formed taro patches interspersed with the homes of its few residents.

At the mouth of the valley, the ocean licks the mile-long black sand beach which is sliced in half by the river that is partially fed by the 1,200 ft. free-falling Hi'ilawe Falls which resides deep in the valley.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

North Hamakua Region
#5 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

This isn't a free attraction, but we still encourage all visitors to make some time and stop at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens you'll find anywhere: the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

This stunning rainforest preserve is touted as one of the most beautiful locations in Hawaii; a distinction it well deserves. With the aid of the map provided by the garden, you will easily spend several hours ambling through the various sections of this magical lush wonderland. Every twist and turn leads to a new plant or tree.

Puuhonua o Honaunau Historical Park

Kailua-Kona Region
#4 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (poo-oo-ho-noo-ah o hoe-now-now), formerly known as Place of Refuge at Honaunau, is an incredibly beautiful and educational experience that no trip to the Big Island should be without.

After paying your vehicle entrance fee and walking past the educational displays, you round a corner and are transplanted into the world of the ancient Hawaiians. On this scorched land of sand and lava rock, the ali'i (ruling class) of Hawaii made their home. 

Visitors can explore how the Hawaiians worked and played underneath the shade of Honaunau's stately palms. Great snorkeling is available nearby at Two Step at Keone'ele Cove.

Pololu Valley Overlook

Kohala Region
#3 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

As you pass the 28-mile marker on Highway 270 past Hawi, the coast will open up and you will suddenly be treated to a breathtaking view of the lovely Pololu Valley.

On a sunny day, you will see the vibrant blue and green ocean crashing into the rugged sea cliffs and the deep green carpet of vegetation lining the sides of the valley.

A short walk to the lookout reveals the many folds and creases of the inner part of the valley which drop into a rich, green floor. Lines of ironwood trees divide the lush valley from the grainy black sand beach that meets the ocean.

Akaka Falls State Park

North Hamakua Region
#2 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

Akaka Falls State Park, along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, is home to two gorgeous waterfalls and an abundance of lush tropical greenery to delight visitors.

The stroll to reach Akaka Falls is almost as beautiful as the falls itself. After taking a short set of stairs, turn left and follow the paved pathway through amazing greenery and small waterfalls flowing into babbling streams.

You will hear the dull roar of the waterfall before you see it. Just as you round a corner, you'll catch a glimpse of Akaka Falls free-falling 442 ft. through a green-lined gorge.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Volcano Region
#1 Rated in Sights to See on the Big Island

Originally founded in 1916, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) is a living, breathing testament to the awesome power of Mother Nature. HVNP is located 30 miles southwest of Hilo and 96 miles southeast of Kona. It's open year-round, 24 hours a day. 

HVNP is home to Kilauea Volcano, the most continuously active volcano in the world, and the park offers the unique experience of walking on land that is younger than you are. In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has been honored as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

The park encompasses 333,000 acres of natural wonders and is situated at 4,000 feet above sea level. With its wealth of trails, drives, and activities you will likely need at least two days to fully experience all the park has to offer.

All Big Island Sights & Attractions

Categorized by Region

Need Help? Check out our Big Island of Hawaii Regions Guide →

North Hamakua Region Sights

South Kau Region Sights

Big Island Sightseeing Tours

The Big Island has a vast array of sights and attractions, and we’re sure you have your Hawaiian must-do list well underway! No matter which destinations you choose, be sure to see the sights with a professional guide. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again (with experience): Nothing beats touring Hawaii with an expert, local guide with in-depth knowledge of the history, culture, flora and fauna, and practically anything else you’d like to know about Hawaii. So, peruse our handpicked tours led by some of the industry’s best guides and book the ones you simply can’t pass up. And remember, many of these tours fill up quickly, so book early to ensure availability. Mahalo!

Recommended Big Island Tours
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