Top 5 things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii’s Big Island is actually called Hawaii – but that’s too confusing because we refer to the island of Oahu as Hawaii – so it goes by its nickname, the Big Island. Nice and simple, straight forward – yet deceptively bland.

The Big Island is filled with intrigue and charm. It is one of the only places where you can get up close and personal to the core of the earth. The spewing, lava-flowing, molten rock-heaving Mt Kilauea. The only volcano I have stood closer to was Mt Yasur on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island.

You can drive out to Mt Kilauea to the crater, hike over solidified lava, dodged the toxic gases, photographed the brutality of creation, then you can relax with a Kona Coffee.

Lava blocking road on Big Island
Such a bizarre sight to see lava blocking the road on the Big Island

If you have a week to spare on Hawaii you could follow this 7-day Big Island itinerary.

Here’s my list of the things you don’t want to miss on the Big Island:

1. See the latest lava flow on Mt Kilauea

The lava flow changes all the time so check with the volcano website or visit the park ranger’s office. You’ll need sensible shoes, water and a torch if you plan to stay to sunset as it’s dodgy terrain out here!

Photographing lava on Mt Kilauea
Tourists taking photo of flowing lava from Kilauea volcano.
Gutted. The lava got my house.
Gutted. The lava got my house.

2. Grab a freshly brewed coffee

Kona coffee is grown here in Kona on the Big Island. So you can sit amongst the coffee trees at Kona Joe. Owner, the beautiful Deepa Alban, is also a painter. I picked up one of her prints while I was here. Hot tip: order a mochachino – comes with a melting bar of chocolate in it. Mmmm.

3. Fly into Hilo

(it kind of reminds me of Dannevirke or Wairoa – Kiwis will know what I mean!) and rent a car. Stay a night here to visit markets, shop, look around. Then drive over the volcano stopping at the Kilauea Caldera then stay at Kailua-Kona and fly out of there.

Park ranger Charles Wilson @ the steaming vent
Park ranger Charles Wilson @ the steaming vent

4. Swim with manta rays

Manta Rays feed on plankton and if you take a night tour they use lighting to attract the rays to the banquet! There are two places on the Kona coast to swim with them: Manta Village near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou and Manta Heaven offshore from Kona International Airport. Click here for more info or to book with

5. Watch the sunset from Kailua Pier

Wiggle your toes in the sand and count your blessings.


And here’s a bonus: see how many Hawaii 5-0 cop cars like this one you can spot!

It's cool to be a cop in Hawaii
It’s cool to be a cop in Hawaii

You might also like my post on 5 beaches not to miss on Oahu