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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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3 Days on the Big Island of Hawaii for First Timers

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

The Big Island of Hawaii is world-famous for a long list of attractions—natural landscapes, active volcanoes, lush greenery, and warm blue waters. With three days to spend, you have time for an overview, active adventuring, and a visit a neighboring island. Here are our picks for three days on the Big Island.

Day 1

One way to see the island when you’re pressed for time is a guided circle island tour. Plan for an early start as you head out to see highlights of the Big Island. Soak up views from the Waipio Valley lookout, stop at the spectacular waterfalls along the Hamakua Coast, look for sea turtles on the black sand Punaluu Beach, watch an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, tour a Kona coffee plantation, and learn about the cultural heritage of the island at Puuhonua, a sacred place of refuge. If you prefer less time on the road, opt for a helicopter tour above the island to see its highlights, giving you more time in the afternoon to explore Hilo or Kailua-Kona or relax on the beach. End your day with a beachside luau and traditional Polynesian feast.

Day 2

Now that you’ve seen what the Big Island has to offer, it’s time for an outdoor adventure. There’s an adventure for all thrill levels. Go snorkeling or dolphin-watching on Kealakekua Bay, head beneath the surface of the sea aboard the Atlantis Kona submarine, go on a zipline through the verdant Kohala canopy, cycle around an active volcano, or trek past waterfalls (with a stop for a swim) along the island’s northern coast. No matter what you choose to do by day, plan for an unforgettable evening under the stars with a guided tour to the summit of Mauna Kea, the Big Island’s highest point and a prefered setting for sunsets and stargazing.

Day 3

You’ve experienced the best of the Big Island on and off the water. On your last day, take the opportunity to visit one of the other islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu. There’s a lot to see on Hawaii’s most populated island. Opt for a day trip to explore downtown Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, where a Japanese attack launched the US into World War II, or choose a circle island tour to see Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head Crater, and the charming town of Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore. With an early departure and a late return to the Big Island, consider a low-key dinner at your resort or in one of the many restaurants in Hilo or Kailua-Kona.

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