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Things to do in Big Island of Hawaii

Itineraries for Your Trip to Big Island of Hawaii

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1 Day on the Big Island for First Timers

Curated by Lydia Schrandtwriter, editor, and award-winning photographer.

The Big Island earns its name. From waterfalls to coffee farms, beaches to volcanoes, there are a lot of attractions and a lot of ground to cover—the island is bigger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined. Here’s how to make the most of a single day on Hawaii’s largest island.


One way to see the Big Island’s highlights in a single day is on a circle island tour. Get an early start for the trip to Waipio Valley, where King Kamehameha was raised as a child. Stop at several waterfalls along the Hamakua Coast, usually including Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls. Alternatively, kick off your day with a helicopter flight above the island. You get to see the island’s volcanoes, valleys, and waterfalls from above, while learning about the geology of the Big Island and Hawaiian archipelago.


Spend your afternoon touring one of the Big Island’s star attractions, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Explore the lava fields, steam vents, volcanic craters, and lava tubes at your leisure. Those on a full-day circle island tour usually drive through the park before continuing along the coast. Popular stops include Kealakekua Bay, the spot where Captain Cook was killed; Punaluu Beach, a black sand beach known for its Hawaiian green sea turtles; and a Kona coffee farm in the highlands. 


A tour of the Big Island in a single day can take upwards of 12 hours, but if you have free time (and energy) in the evening, you’re in luck. The waters off the coast of Hawaii are one of the best places in the world to see giant manta rays in the wild. On a nighttime snorkeling tour, you head offshore, don snorkeling gear, and hop in the water to observe these magnificent creatures feed on microscopic plankton in their nighttime habitats. Some tours offer guaranteed manta sightings.

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