Hawaii the “Big Island”

Guide


Hawaii’s Big Island isn’t just big, it’s still growing. This is the home of one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea), the tallest sea mountain in the world at more than 10,000 metres (Maunakea), the most massive mountain in the world (Maunaloa) and the largest park in the state (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). All but two of the world’s climate zones generate everything from lush rain forests to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountaintops to beautiful black sand beaches.

  • The sunny Kona District stretches for about 60 miles and features historic places and calm clear waters for great snorkeling and water sports.
  • You may not see it from Queen Kaahumanu Highway, but the Kohala Coast, also simply known as “South Kohala,” is where you’ll find some of the island’s finest resorts.
  • Journey through North Kohala to visit special spots like Hawi, the Pololu Valley Lookout and some of the island’s most historic sites.
  • The Hamakua Coast is known for its lush botanical gardens, waterfalls and lovely coastal views.
  • Hilo is the county seat, home to Hilo International Airport and is blessed with waterfalls, gardens and local attractions.
  • South of Hilo, Puna takes you off the beaten path from the summit of Kilauea to the black sand beaches of Kalapana, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Hawaii Island’s southernmost region, Kau, is where you’ll find most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Key facts


Capital:Hilo
Land Area:10,432 sq. km | 4,028 sq. km
Population:185,079
Languages:English, Hawaiian
Currency:US Dollars
Exchange Rates:UK£1 = US$1.6
Money:ATM’s available and credit cards widely accepted
Visas:None for stays up to 3 month subject to eligibility

Getting there and around


Long Haul Flights

From the U.K there are numerous daily services offering “one stop” connections to “Hawaii” the Big Island – Kona & Hilo Airports. Typical journey times last at least 18 hours and therefore it is important to take into account such things as refuelling stops and seat comfort when choosing a carrier and fare. The Hawaiian Islands are very well served from mainland North America and you may wish to stopover on-route (see USA/Canadian Destinations below). We have a selection of suggested City and Fly Drive stopover packages that can be tailor-made to your exact requirements.

Itinerary suggestions:

It is possible to fly out of one US City and into another e.g.
London – Los Angeles – Kona Airport (Hawaii) – San Francisco – London

If visiting two or more of the Islands, fly non-stop into Honolulu, take an inter-island flight from Honolulu to Hawaii “the Big Island” and then a non-stop flight back to Los Angeles e.g.
London – San Francisco – Honolulu (Oahu) – Hilo (Hawaii) – Los Angeles – London

If visiting the West & East sides of Hawaii “the Big Island” consider flying into Kona and departing from Hilo (roughly two and a half hour drive apart) or vice-versa e.g.
London – Los Angeles – Hilo Airport (Hawaii) – “self-drive” – Kona Airport (Hawaii) – Los Angeles – London

US/Canadian Destinations:
Kona Airport Destinations: Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Phoenix, Vancouver
Hilo Airport Destinations: Los Angeles, San Francisco
International Destinations: None – must transit via Honolulu (Oahu)

Inter-Island Flights

Hawaii “the Big Island” has two airports: Kona Airport to the west and Hilo Airport to the east. Most visitors arrive into Kona. There is also the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport on Oahu first and then taking a short, 40 minute flight to Hawaii’s Big Island. Click here for additional inter-island flight times.

Kona Airport Destinations: Honolulu Airport (Oahu), Kahului Airport (Maui)
Hilo Airport Destinations: Honolulu Airport (Oahu), Kahului Airport (Maui)

Note: There are non-stop flights from the US mainland to Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii’s Big Island. For the neighbouring islands of Lanai and Molokai you will need to connect through Oahu (Honolulu) or Maui (Kahului).

Driving

To really experience all that Hawaii offers, we suggest renting a car from Kona Airport or Hilo Airport. Reserve your rental vehicle in advance because quantities can be limited on some islands.

Distances from Kona Airport to:

  • Akaka Falls State Park: 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • Hapuna Beach Park: 30 minutes
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 3 hours, 15 minutes
  • Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona): 15 minutes
  • Keauhou: 25 minutes
  • Kealakekua Bay: 45 minutes
  • Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: 1 hour
  • Waimea: 45 minutes
  • Waipio Valley: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Distances from Hilo Airport to:

  • Akaka Falls State Park: 30 minutes
  • Hapuna Beach Park: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 45 minutes
  • Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona): 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: 3 hours
  • Waimea: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Waipio Valley: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Public Transport

Options include tour buses, shuttles, taxis or city buses.

When to go


Weather on all of the Hawaiian Islands is consistent, offering only minor changes in temperature throughout the year. There are really only two seasons: the summer months that extend from May to October and the winter months that run from November to April. The average temperatures vary little however, at higher elevations they can drop dramatically. Hawaii’s Big Island is an incredible collection of many diverse micro-environments, each with its own weather. You can travel through all but two of the world’s different climate zones on Hawaii, ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Maunakea and Maunaloa.

Kailua – Kona
Mean Daily Temperatures – Centigrade/Fahrenheit

 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
 High | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | LowHigh | Low
             
Temp (C)26 | 1726 | 1726 | 1726 | 1827 | 1827 | 1928 | 1928 | 2028 | 2028 | 1927 | 1926 | 17
Temp (F)79 | 6379 | 6379 | 6379 | 6481 | 6481 | 6682 | 6682 | 6882 | 6882 | 6681 | 6679 | 63
Rain Days131316161515171715161514
             
When to go A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations Best time to travel Best time to travel A good time but may be some considerations A good time but may be some considerations

Travel possible but not recommended
A good time but maybe some considerations.
Best time to travel.

Things to see and do


From the molten magma flowing from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-capped heights of Maunakea; from the green rainforests of the Hamakua Coast to the jet-black sands of Punaluu Beach; Hawaii’s Big Island is an unrivalled expression of the power of nature.

Kau

  • Ka Lae is the southernmost point in the US and is believed to be the point where the first Polynesians landed on Hawaii.
  • Punaluu Black Sand Beach –  This is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii and a place to spot protected honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtles.
  • Nahuku, also known as Thurston Lava Tube, is located at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is easy to explore.
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park –  133,500-hectare park spanning the summit of Maunaloa to the sea and home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

North Kohala Coast

  • Pololu Valley Lookout offers a breath-taking view overlooking Pololu Valley, a black sand beach and the north eastern coastline.
  • Travel to the cool, green pastures of Waimea to discover paniolo (cowboy) country, as well as fine dining, shopping and culture.
  • Hawi is a charming town home to unique boutiques, galleries and restaurants.
  • Lapakahi State Historical Park –  This partially restored fishing settlement is over 600 years old.
  • Kamehameha Statue, Kapaau –  The original King Kamehameha Statue can be found in Kapaau, near his birthplace in North Kohala.

Kohala Coast

  • Hapuna Beach on the Kohala Coast is one of the largest white sand beaches on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Hamakua Coast

  • Akaka Falls State Park features two amazing waterfalls, Akaka Falls (135 metres) and Kahuna Falls (30 metres).
  • Waipio Valley Lookout –  This lookout at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive features breath taking views of the lush and historic Waipio Valley.
  • Hamakua Heritage Corridor –  Take a memorable drive from Hilo to the Waipio Valley Lookout to see scenic overlooks, waterfalls, botanical gardens and small towns.

Hilo

  • The Hilo Farmers Market is one of the best open markets in Hawaii, featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, plants and local crafts.
  • Liliuokalani Gardens is a beautifully landscaped, 12-hectare Japanese garden featuring fishponds, pagodas and rock gardens.
  • Downtown Hilo is a historic town that features a variety of unique shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants and cultural sites.
  • Just west of Downtown Hilo, Wailuku River State Park is home to the 24-metre Waianuene (Rainbow Falls) and Peepee Falls which feeds the beautiful pools called Boiling Pots.

Puna

  • Volcano Village – Charming artist community located five minutes from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Lava Tree State Park –  7-hectare state monument with excellent examples of unusual lava tree molds.
  • Kalapana, once a historic town partially destroyed by lava, now a lava viewing area on the south eastern coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Kona

  • Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park features Hawaiian Fishponds, sacred temples, and native wildlife on the Kona Coast.
  • Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park – This Marine Life Conservation District is a historic area that marks the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on the island.
  • Holualoa, this small town and art enclave, located on the slopes of Hualalai Volcano, is located in the heart of Kona Coffee country.
  • Hulihee Palace is located in the heart of Historic Kailua Village, this was a historic holiday home for Hawaiian royalty.
  • Historic Kailua Village is a lively seaside town in the heart of Kona home to shopping, dining and important historic sites.
  • The Keauhou resort area, just south of Historic Kailua Village in Kona, is where you can often spot manta rays and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles).