The largest of the Hawaiian Islands, called Big Island, offers truly remarkable natural beauty. The island is unique mainly because of its volcanic activity, thanks to which visitors are able to watch the molten lava with their own eyes. Let us inspire you to set out to visit this extraordinary place that has so much to offer. We made the list of the best Big Island attractions you must see.

The Hawaiian Islands were created by volcanic activity only recently – just a few million years back. The Islands are also the most remote U.S. state, located in the middle of the ocean. Which is why staying in Hawaii is so expensive. Everything has to be transferred to the islands from far away and that costs money. Nevertheless, the Hawaiian Islands are an extraordinary destination and a real paradise on Earth.

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Between the lava fields sometimes life is explored

A little about the history

The first inhabitants of the islands were the Polynesians, who settled in Hawaii in 1000 AD. The first European who visited the islands was James Cook in the 18th century. He died on the islands when fighting with the natives. For long decades, there have been clashes between Western civilization and the Polynesians, before the United States succeeded in adding the Hawaiian Islands to its territory in 1898.

Practical advice and tips for Hawaii Big Island attractions

It’s important to know that the only way to get around the island is by car. Since Hawaii is one of the U.S. states and Americans are famous for their car culture, don’t count on being able to move a finger without a car.
Fortunately, you can rent a car right at the airport (we recommend  or If you don’t have an international driving permit, check out International Drivers Association. Regarding accommodation, staying in hotels (even the cheapest ones) is still pretty expensive, but we luckily found hotel for a good price – Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel v Kona (, Shaka Shak Guest House v Hilo (, If you are thinking about reducing your budget, there is a possibility of camping and cooking.

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The island of Big Island consists maily of hardened lava

Hawaii is located on several small islands, so it would be a real shame to see only one of them.  Each of the islands is unique in its own way and we decided to visit Oahu and the biggest of them – Hawaii – nicknamed Big Island because of its size.  In a short, you’re able to discover one the most beautiful beaches on the planet, walk through a tropical rainforest, find yourself in a desert or get close to active volcanos and watch the glowing-hot lava. Lava is probably the biggest attraction of Big Island – we simply couldn’t miss it.

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The biggest attraction of Big Island is a national park where the active volcanoes Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are located. The second one is, with its 4.169 meters (13,679 ft), the biggest volcano on Earth. After arriving in the park, make sure to get information in the Kīlauea Visitor Center, where they are happy to give you some useful advice. The volcanic activity is different every day and the park has a lot to offer. Here you can find the ranger programs, including the guided tours. Make sure to reserve an entire day for the park visit!

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In the middle of the National Park – a short distance from the volcanoes

One of the biggest attractions of the park is most certainly the view of the lava lake visible from Kīlauea Overlook, which is best viewed during or after sunset. During the day, you’ll only be able to see dense smoke, but with the dying light, the bubbling lava is much more visible. Meanwhile, you can go through the short trek Kīlauea Iki Trailhead, which will lead you to the collapsed crater of an extinct volcano, where visitors can admire the hardened lava. Not very far is located the lava tunnel called Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku), through which molten lava used to flow underground. On the way, you can admire the beautiful views of the surrounding area. When you reach the seashore, make sure to admire the Holei Sea Arch, which are large arcs created by lava. You’ll get a taste of history when seeing the glyphs engraved into the lava stones, Pu`u Loa Petroglyphs, which were left there by the natives. Who would like to know more about the volcanic park can visit the very interesting interactive museum. And the greatest experience is, of course, seeing the streams of molten lava flowing into the cool waters of the ocean. There are several ways how to see this unique phenomenon, but the best way is from a boat.

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Active lava lake

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Underground lava tunnel, a hot lava flowed through it

2. Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – Black Volcanic Beach

The most famous black beach in Hawaii is also of volcanic origin. The black sand is created by the crumbling solid lava after it was exposed to the sea. The volcanic sand is slightly coarser than a regular white beach sand but is easier to get off clothes and quite pleasant to the touch. The beach is ideal for an afternoon siesta, as it’s equipped with a changing room, sanitary facilities and also a snack and souvenir shop. It’s of course forbidden to take the sand from the beach with you, but you can buy it in the shop as a souvenir. The black beach is also famous thanks to the green sea turtles. The turtles come to the beach to rest and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of them as well. Another amazing experience is snorkelling, with a little luck, you can watch the turtles playing in the sea, eating sea grass. The most important thing is to keep away from them and don’t touch them! Eva was a volunteer rescuing green sea turtles on a small island in Indonesia.

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View of black beach

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Green turtles come to rest on the beach

3. Papakōlea Green Sand Beach – The Green Beach

The beach Papakōlea, with its green coloured sand, is absolutely astonishing. It’s one of the four beaches in the world with green sand. This curious colouring is caused by the mineral olivine, commonly found in lava. It’s one of the first crystals created when the molten rock begins to cool down. The beach is located at the bottom of a former volcano crater Puʻu Mahana, now only a half circle. The other half of the crater disappeared into the sea. That’s why accessing the beach is a bit more challenging, but still possible using the stairs. A rocky path leads to the beach, which may be conquered on foot or in a large four-wheel drive. Of course, the locals are ready for tourists, so you can get a ride straight to the beach for $10. And the drive is a true off-road experience. We recommend getting to the beach on foot, as it is a very interesting walk, and arrange a car for your return journey.

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A trip to the beach with a 4WD is really an experience

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View of the green beach

tom_profilIf you are looking for the perfect place for a swim, we would most certainly recommend the beautiful white-sand beach with gorgeous sea Hapuna Beach State Park. The beach is fully equipped, including showers, changing rooms and small gazebos, which offer at least some shade from the afternoon sun. Simply said – paradise.

4. Pu’u O Umi Natural Area Reserve – Trek through the jungle

If you are looking for something different after getting bored of lazing around on beaches, set out for a short trek through the Hawaiian jungle (about 4.7 miles). The trail will take you through a varied and beautiful countryside, which is extraordinary and can’t be found anywhere else in the entire world. The forests are dominated by large Hāpu’u Pulu trees, which form the character of the local countryside. Prepare for a slightly cooler weather in the rainforest and a more humid climate – choose solid trekking shoes. However, if you don’t feel like walking, a gorgeous view of the bay with black sandy beach and a bright blue ocean will be enough. This view is worth it to just stop for a moment and take it all in.

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Ocean view – Natural Area Reserve

5. Mauna Kea Observatories

Manua Kea is an extinct volcano, which used to be active regularly in the past. Its height is over 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) above sea level, but if its underwater part is measured as well, this peak reaches 10,205 meters (33,500 ft). This makes it the tallest mountain in the world. On top of this volcano, Mauna Kea Observatories are located – major astronomical observatories. A night-sky observation complex run by the Hawaiian University. This place is ideal for observing stars, especially because it is high above the inverse layer and there is minimal light pollution. Also because of its convenient position, it is possible to watch both the sky in the southern and northern hemispheres at the same time. We strongly recommend visiting the observatory. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed in visiting, because due to exceptionally poor conditions (fresh snow caused a power failure), the observatory was closed and later we regretted it. Even the largest telescope in the world is planned to be constructed there; it’s supposed to measure up to 30 meters in diameter and should be operational by 2018.

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The way to the observatory offers unique views

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A view of the extinct volcano craters on the way to the observatory

6. Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

This place, sacred to the Hawaiians, is located on the West Coast of Big Island. The James Cook memorial isn’t located far from this historical park, so don’t miss it. The place preserves and reminds visitors of the traditional way of life of the local native inhabitants. Visitors can walk through the marked path and see Hawaiians in traditional clothing doing ordinary work, as well as traditional Hawaiian sculptures, original dwellings of native people, their games, and their customs. Archaeological monuments of the local native inhabitants can also be found here. A number of temple walls and ponds have already been reconstructed. If you want to get to know the real Hawaiian culture, make sure to visit!

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Traditional statues of local Polynesians

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Big Island Travel Guide | Big Island Attractions | Big Island Hawaii Atractions