Big Island of Hawaii is HUGEEE!!! This is the youngest island out of all other Hawaiian islands and also the biggest. East side (Hilo) receives a lot of rain resulting in lush green jungles and breathtaking scenery. West side (Kona) is called the “dry” side with lot of sunshine through the day. We split our stay between West and East side (with lodging@ Volcano Village)
Sharing the itinerary we followed, hope it helps =)
Stay at Kona: https://www.hawaii-bnb.com/ ( ~ 10 miles from KOA Airport)
Stay at Volcano Village: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/28565104?source_impression_id=p3_1575494045_jBh%2Bwq%2FYGzqe%2Bzeo
Flight from SFO —> KOA.
Day 1: (Drive to North of Kona)
- Drive to Waipi O’ Valley (Very steep/strenuous hike, be sure to book shuttle ride in advance to skip the hike. Shuttle ride takes you down to valley floor, black sand beach, small river, amazing views. $65/person) https://www.waipiovalleyshuttle.com/
- Polulu lookout
- Hapuna Beach – Beautiful family friendly white sand beach
- Magic Sands Beach
- Pu’uhonua O Hunaunau National Park – To learn about Hawaiian history/ Good photo spot
- Dinner at Ali’i Drive/ Beach side chill+dine at Lava Lava Beach club
Day 2: (Drive to south of Kona)
Checkout from BNB.
- Papakolea green sand beach ( 60 miles to south) GET CASH!! $20/person for bumpy pick up truck ride by the locals!!! Hiking can be exhausting, not flat land.
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- Stop by famous Punalu Bakery (Check Yelp!) – They sell out of popular items by evening.
- Drive to Volcano village
More places @ Kona we could not visit:
- Mauna kea beach (36 miles north)
- Kiholo Bay (31 miles to north)
- Kona Cloud Forest (10 miles north)
- Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) 17 miles north
- Hawaii Volcano National park. Go to Visitor Center to get more info on the current conditions /open trails.
- Trails open to visitors during Nov 2019:
- Crater Rim Trail
- Sulphur Banks/Steam vents
- KILAUEA’IKI TRAIL was the highlight of our trip ❤
- Return to Volcano National park if missed out on anything.
- Drive to Hilo (1 hr drive), breakfast at Ken’s pancake house ( Open 24/7 365 days)
- On the way, make a quick stop at Macadamia Nut Factory for a free self guided tour https://www.maunaloa.com/visitor/
- Hilo farmer’s market
- Rainbow Falls
- Akaka Falls
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical garden ($25 entrance fee)
- Drive back to Kona via Saddle Road
- On the way, make a 30 min pit stop at Kaumana Caves. If you wish to explore these caves, carry couple of flash lights and tennis shoes. Rocks can be pretty slippery.
- We took the free coffee tour at Mountain Thunder. It was pretty interesting. Spent about 40 mins
- Manta Ray Night Snorkel
COFFEE TOURS @ KONA
- Mountain thunder Kona Coffee: Free tours every hour. 7 days/week
- Greenwell Farms: Free tours every day 9-4
- Kona Joe: Open all days from 8 am to 5 pm. Free self-guided tours and paid guided tours
MUST DO : Manta Ray Night Snorkeling. Some tour operators with good reviews:
- Sea Paradise
- Sea Quest
- Hawaii Oceanic
- We took the tour by “Hawaii Island and Ocean Tours” ( WOULD NOT recommend )
Where to eat?
- ‘Two Ladies kitchen’ for Japanese desserts. (They accept pre-orders on phone! Skip the line)
- Hilo Town Tavern (Call in advance to find out about live music) https://www.yelp.com/biz/hilo-town-tavern-hilo
- Thai Thai Bistro and Bar (https://www.yelp.com/biz/thai-thai-bistro-and-bar-volcano)
- Makani’s Magic Pineapple shack (https://www.yelp.com/biz/makanis-magic-pineapple-shack-hilo-2?osq=Makani%27s+Magic+Pineapple+Shack)
- Krua Thai (https://www.yelp.com/biz/krua-thai-cuisine-kailua-kona?osq=Thai+Food)
- Punaluu Bake Shop (https://www.yelp.com/biz/punaluu-bake-shop-naalehu-6)