{travelogue} 12 Things I Love On Hawaii’s Big Island

I just got back from a week on the Big Island of Hawaii and wanted to share some of my favorite places and things. I am not going to say that these are the twelve BEST things to do, because I am by no means an expert on the place. But here are some things that I thought were spectacular! I’d love to hear any recommendations for next time, too.


Place of Refuge (Pu’uhonua o Honaunau) – Honaunau
A super special place by the sea, this national historic park is worth a visit. Learn about Hawaiian history with cool wooden carvings and replica houses on a palm-shaded seaside. It has a 500-year-old, 17-foot-thick lava rock wall and some neat tidepools, too.

Painted Church – Captain Cook/Honaunau
A 5 minute stop at most, but definitely worth it if you’re in the area. It’s close to the Place of Refuge. I particularly like the panel that just says “Hell.”

Keei Beach – Kealakekua
Take your rental car down a bumpy dirt road and then walk 100 yards or so, and you’ll be rewarded with a sandy surf beach that’s mostly locals. If the surf is rough that day you may have the whole place to yourself- otherwise, you can sit back and watch the show. There are no facilities, but there are quite a few trees so you can get some shade.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Volcano
I loved visiting this amazing national park! The Thurston Lava Tube and seeing the glowing crater from the Jaggar outlook at night were the highlights. The park is always changing because the volcano has a life of its own and is unpredictable, so there may be other cool stuff going on if you visit.

Helicopter Tour – Hilo
The best way to see active volcano happenings right now are by air. You can also see some gorgeous waterfalls and a birds-eye view of Hilo.

Banyan Tree Drive – Hilo
Grab a picnic and pick from any one of multiple beautiful spots in the area. The banyan trees are fabulous and there is a neat Japanese garden and a few little sheltered beach areas.

Saddle Road – Hilo to Kona
An other-worldly drive through the middle of the island, from Hilo to Kona. Incredibly beautiful scenery that changes drastically every 10 minutes or so.



Don the Beachcomber – Kona
It’s not where the Bradys stayed on their ill-fated Hawaiian trip… But it looks like it could be. If you’re a sucker for that retro tiki thing like I am, you will probably enjoy a strong and sweet sunset Mai Tai at the Royal Kona Resort’s bar. The restaurant is decked out in full 1960s tiki cheesiness, complete with towering Easter Island heads. Snag a seaside seat at the Mai Tai bar and sink in for a great sunset view. P.S. As an added bonus, you can get a little Hawaiian history lesson from the royal portraits by the front desk and the little paniolo exhibit by he elevators.

The Coffee Shack – Captain Cook
I’m not sure what I like best about this place- is it the incredible views from every seat? The funky down-home vibe? The amazing lilikoi cheesecake? Or the fact that they grow their own coffee beans behind the restaurant? It all adds up to a great spot perched high above Kealakekua Bay.

Da Poke Shack – 2 locations: Kona and Captain Cook
I am a sucker for great poke and Da Poke Shack does not disappoint. They’ve got about a dozen types of ahi tuna poke and they’ll give you a taste before you commit. If you don’t like raw fish I have some great news for you: they also have some of the best kalua pork I’ve ever tasted.

Poke To Your Taste – Hilo
This is really just a “to-go” situation so don’t expect to eat here. It looks like a crazy, janky old shack but it has great poke and a bunch of tasty stuff to mix in. Pack it up and have a picnic somewhere along Banyan Tree Drive (mentioned below.)

Hilo Bay Cafe – Hilo
Two words: coconut mojito! Hilo Bay Cafe has excellent cocktails and tasty food in a pretty upstairs setting overlooking the water.

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1 Response

  1. I had a great time on the Big Island without even visiting most of the places you mention (next time!). But I have to second the recommendation for the amazing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park both day and night. Driving up to the top of Mauna Kea was pretty cool, too.