In continuation of covering the many islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago, I’ll give you an overview of the major sights to see in Hawaii’s largest island, the “Big Island.” Here’s how to spend seven days on Hawaii’s vast Orchid Isle.
Day 1: Land in Kona
Since the Island of Hawai’i is so large in comparison to its neighboring Hawaiian Islands, there are two major airports to fly into. I highly suggest flying into Kona International Airport (KOA) on the western side of the island, since the weather in Kona is much sunnier and drier than eastern Hilo, which is less frequently chosen as a tourist pick for a home base when visiting the Big Island. In Kailua-Kona, you will find a small downtown area with plenty of retail and restaurants along the Pacific Ocean, which is home to the legendary annual Ironman World Championship. If you would rather stay in a slower-paced resort area of the island with more sun and less walkability, driving 45 minutes north along the coast will take you to Waikoloa Village, where bicycling is common, ritzy resorts are prevalent, and sunshine is abundant. Singles might benefit from the nightlife in Kona, while families will enjoy the laid back resort atmosphere of Waikoloa Village.
Day 2: Hapuna Beach
Near Waikoloa Village sits Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, with Hapuna Beach being ranked number one on Dr. Beach’s 2021 list of Top 10 Beaches in the U.S. With a half-mile of white sand and beautifully blue waters, Hapuna Beach is the perfect location for your first full day on the Island of Hawai’i. Those who want to get their exercise in after sunbathing can walk along the coastline’s Ala Kahakai trail from Hapuna Beach to Mauna Kea Beach for a change of scenery.
Day 3: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
No trip to the Big Island is complete without a trip to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, nestled in the Island’s southeastern corner. Visitors have the opportunity to see volcanic craters, lava tubes, trails of lava fields, and might even be lucky enough to see an active volcano eruption. Interestingly enough, the Big Island is the only Hawaiian island to see snow atop dormant Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest volcano. Although Mauna Kea observatories are a far cry from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, be sure to rent an all-wheel drive vehicle to access roads leading to observatories, providing ideal views for astronomers and telescope-enthusiasts. Wine-lovers will appreciate the National Park’s nearby Volcano Winery after a long day in the sun.
Day 4: Waipi’o Valley
Accessible via a challenging and remarkably steep drive or hike down from the parking area, Waipi’o Valley is home to stunning and lush terrain, wild horses and marine life, and a peaceful black sand beach to spend a morning or afternoon. The walk and drive down is so steep that visitors are highly discouraged from taking even an all-wheel drive vehicle down the adventurous slope, as residents and experienced Waipi’o Valley travelers are likely better suited for the task. Although the hike back up to the parking area from the valley is exhausting, it’s rare that visitors regret their trek and time amidst the breathtaking scenery.
Day 5: Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach)
If you’re seeking another hike after your trip down to Waipi’o Valley, walking for a couple of hours on flat terrain to one of the only green sand beaches in the world is well worth the trip to Papakolea Beach. There is no shade during the hike to the beach, so be sure to bring a lot of sunscreen and protective clothing. Those with all-wheel drive vehicles are able to drive closer to access Papakolea Beach, although the poorly marked road and rough terrain discourages visitors from driving as opposed to walking. After spending time at the Green Sand Beach, drive a few minutes north to Punalu’u Beach, known for its picturesque black sand, food trucks, and countless opportunities to see sea turtles in their natural habitat.
Day 6: Kona Coffee Country
Need a boost of caffeine on your last day on the Island of Hawai’i? The Big Island is home to numerous coffee roasters in the outskirts of Kona. Visitors can choose from one of many roasters to discover how Kona coffee is made, taste various brews and chocolates, and take a break from the hot sun. For dinner, enjoy an oceanfront meal of fish tacos and tropical drinks at On the Rocks in Kailua-Kona to kiss your Hawaiian vacation goodbye on your last night on the island.
Day 7: Depart KOA
Return your rental car at KOA and nestle into your seat while you depart the Big Island and head back to the mainland USA. Sad your Hawaiian vacation is over? Next month, I’ll tell you how to make the most of a week in Hawaii’s beloved honeymoon destination of Maui.