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Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do

The largest of the Hawaiian islands, and more than double the size of all the other islands combined, the Big Island can be overwhelming. Here are our tips for first-timers to make the most of their time on the island.


Visit Volcano National Park

It's a must when on the Big Island.

The Big Island is made up of five major volcanoes. Head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to both Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Depending on when you visit, you might see active lava flow or other volcanic activity, but there's always plenty to do—explore hiking trails, seek out petroglyphs, take scenic drives, stop at overlooks, and discover natural wonders, including craters and old lava flow.

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Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit for first-timers on the Big Island. Photo: Brian Fulda / Viator

Discover both sides of the island

Don't do the Big Island by halves.

The Big Island features two distinct and different sides: sunny Kona to the west, known for its beaches, and rainy Hilo to the east, known for its waterfalls and lush valleys. No matter whether you stay on the west or east side, plan to head to the other side to appreciate the diversity of the island.

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Spend some time on the coast

You can't miss the Hawaiian shores and surf.

There are more than 80 beaches on the island, including white sand, green sand, and black sand beaches, and it’s possible to see all three in one day. There's plenty to do in and on the water too. The Big Island offers only limited surfing, but it has plenty of amazing aquatic wildlife—go swimming alongside dolphins, snorkeling or scuba diving with manta rays at night, or whale watching in season.

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Snorkeling is a must in the shores of Hawaii's Big Island. Photo: Brian Fulda / Viator

Go stargazing

Big Island has some of the world's best dark skies.

Mauna Kea towers 13,796 feet (4,138 meters) above sea level. The height and lack of pollution makes it an ideal spot for stargazing—it’s no wonder some of the world's largest telescopes are here. Head up to the summit or to [Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station][(https://www.viator.com/Big-Island-of-Hawaii-attractions/Mauna-Kea-Summit-and-Observatory/d669-a1148) at 9,300 feet (2,790 meters) to watch a sunset or sunrise and enjoy a clear view of the stars.

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Sample local flavors

The Big Island is delicious.

Kona coffee and macadamia nuts are two of the Big Island’s signature crops, renowned the world over. Taste them at the source and learn more about the growth and production processes on a farm or plantation visit. Plus, purchase souvenirs to take home.

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See all Big Island of Hawaii tours
331 tours & tickets
Things to do in Big Island of Hawaii
See all things to do in Big Island of Hawaii
Where to Find the Best Views on the Big Island of Hawaii
Where to Find the Best Views on the Big Island of Hawaii