Plan the Perfect Big Island Trip with This In-Depth Itinerary

The Big Island offers an incredibly diverse range of natural beauties and cultural experiences. This 5-day itinerary of Big Island encompasses the magnificence of nature, the serenity of Hawaiian culture, the thrill of adventure, and the delight of sampling exotic flavors. This will surely make your 5-day journey an unforgettable saga of joy and discovery.

Have you dreamt of experiencing the extraordinary beauty of the Hawaiian Islands? If so, then you’re in the right place because we’ve got the perfect Big Island Hawaii itinerary planned for you!

Over five days, you’ll explore the black sand beaches, walk through the mesmerizing Thurston Lava Tube, and embark on a unique manta ray snorkeling adventure.

From stargazing atop Mauna Kea to swimming in the cerulean waters off the coast of South Point, this Big Island itinerary is packed with bucket-list experiences that create the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure in the Hawaiian paradise. It completes the dream of spending 5 days in Hawaii.

Allow the extraordinary beauty and charm of Hawaii’s Big Island to guide you through an exciting journey in paradise. Here’s how you can savor every bit of your time on the West and East sides of the island with our highly recommended 5-day itinerary.

The Ultimate Big Island Hawaii Itinerary: Making the Most Out of Your 5 Days

Day 1: Kona Coast and Coffee Farms

On the first day of your Big Island Hawaii itinerary, you’ll be diving headfirst into the Kona Coast and its famed coffee farms. Wake up bright and early at your Big Island accommodation and relish a hearty breakfast at a local cafe (we recommend 808 Grindz Café!) to fuel up for the day.

cheap things to do in Maui

Your primary destination for the morning should be a riveting snorkel trip in Kealakekua Bay along the stunning Kona coast. The clear, turquoise waters offer an exceptional snorkeling experience with a wealth of marine life to be discovered.

You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to swim alongside vibrant corals and fascinating fish species and even get an occasional glimpse of friendly dolphins!

Post-snorkeling, it’s time to get a literal taste of Hawaii at its coffee farms. Take a Coffee, Cloud Forest, and Brewery Experience tour, which comes highly recommended for visitors interested in learning about Hawaiian culture and the world-famous Kona coffee.

During this tour, you’ll not only sample some delectable coffee brews but also gain insights into how these rich beans are grown and processed.

When you’re adequately caffeinated, consider a trip up north to Pololū Valley. The drive through the lush landscapes is an adventure in itself, but the real reward lies in hiking down into the valley.

Related Post: Things to Do in Kona Hawaii – 10 Mind-Blowing Activities

The picturesque greenery contrasted against the bright blue ocean is guaranteed to take your breath away. It’s the perfect end to the first day of your Big Island 5 day itinerary.

This Hawaii Big Island itinerary is flexible, and you should feel free to adjust it based on your preferences and energy levels.

From whale-watching tours back in Kona to packing a picnic lunch from Island Naturals for your hikes, this first day on the Big Island sets the tone for an unforgettable Hawaiian adventure.

Coffee Beans - The Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Day 2: Volcanoes National Park

Your second day on the Big Island Hawaii itinerary begins with an exploration of one of the most awe-inspiring sites in the world – the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

An absolute must-visit when visiting the Big Island, the park offers stunning, dynamic landscapes shaped by the impressive power of the earth’s internal forces. A must not miss on any 5 day itinerary Big Island!

Related Post: 7 Reasons Why You Should Visit Volcanoes National Park

Start by heading to the visitor center early in the morning. Here, you can gather invaluable information about the park’s features and ongoing volcanic activities.

You will also be able to find detailed maps, view exciting exhibits, watch films about volcanoes, and even engage in intriguing talks by park rangers.

Lava Flowing over cliffs into the ocean at Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park - The Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Next up on your Hawaii 5 day itinerary, proceed to the Chain of Craters Road, an arresting drive that unwinds from the rim of the Kilauea caldera to the ocean.

There will be plenty of pit stops along the route for photography breaks and short hikes. Don’t miss a walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, a natural tunnel where once hot lava flowed.

Your one-day itinerary to the Volcano National Park should also include a visit to the Volcano Village. This quaint township offers local restaurants where you can stop for a leisurely lunch, tasting the flavors of the Hawaiian Islands.

We highly recommend that you take part in the Evening Volcano Explorer tour guided by a professional guide. It’s an unforgettable experience to watch the active Kilauea volcano under the starry night sky, demonstrating the mesmerizing, living geology of the Big Island of Hawaii.

As your day 2 of the Big Island itinerary winds down, return to your accommodation inspired and satiated with the day’s activities. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see the Earth’s raw and breathtaking power up close!

night sky over lava flow and volcanoes at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park - Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Day 3: Hilo and the East Coast

As daylight breaks on the third day, you’ll be heading towards the city of Hilo on the east side of the Big Island. With a diverse range of experiences to offer, Hilo on the west side of the island may be vibrant and brimming with natural beauty, but it always retains its laid-back island ways.

The day starts with a scenic road trip to Hilo, which lends an opportunity to bask in the picturesque landscapes of east Hawaii. Historically rich and naturally endowed, Hilo opens up a world that seems detached from the bustle of daily life.

an aerial view of the waterfalls
photo credit: Mckay Woods via Facebook

Once in Hilo, your first stop should be Akaka Falls State Park. Here, you will be greeted with the magnificent Akaka Falls, plummeting from a whopping 442 feet into a gorge below, enveloped in luscious greenery. Its buddy, the Kahuna Falls, is another picturesque sight located on the same trail.

Wrap up Day 3 by spending some time on the black sand beaches of Hilo while feasting your eyes on the infinite Pacific ahead. Nap in the soothing Hawaiian breeze or engage in some vibrant conversations with the locals.

If you want a sprinkle of culture on your Big Island Hawaii itinerary, bid farewell to the day by attending a local hula performance in the evening.

View of Akaka Falls on a sunny day in Hilo, Hawaii, USA
photo credit: John ko via Unsplash

Day 4: Mauna Kea Summit and Stargazing

Your adventurous day 4 of the Big Island itinerary 5 days brings a change of scenery as you make your way to Mauna Kea, a summit of spiritual and historical significance to the Native Hawaiians. To make the most out of this day, it’s highly recommended to get an early start.

With the elevation of the summit at an astonishing 13,803 feet, it’s a unique chance to experience the landscapes offered by the big island of Hawaii from a bird’s eye view.

Related Post: Big Island Stargazing – Discount Tour Tickets & Reviews

Although the Mauna Kea summit is accessible by a rental car, the terrain can be treacherous, and a guided tour is a more practical choice.

While on your way up to the Mauna Kea summit, make strategic stops at Rainbow Falls, Boiling Pots, and Kaumana Caves to appreciate Hawaii’s geological wonders.

a distant photograph of a man at Mauna Kea Stellar Explorer Kona in Hawaii.
photo credit: KapohoKine Adventures via Facebook

After reaching the summit, it’s time to visit the Mauna Kea Observatory Complex — a window into our expansive universe. Here, you can observe the celestial bodies in a clarity that remains unsurpassed, making it a must-do for any big island Hawaii itinerary.

As the sun sets, prepare for a Mauna Kea stargazing session unlike any other. With the help of telescopes provided, the celestial view from here encapsulates the Milky Way, various satellites, and, depending on the time of year, meteor showers.

It’s a stellar spectacle that’s sure to serve as the highlight of your 5 days in Hawaii.

To end the day on a high note, you can also take the adventurous option of a night swim with manta rays. Embark on a manta ray snorkel experience for an unforgettable encounter with these graceful creatures. Just make sure to book this experience ahead of time to secure your spot!

HOT TIP: Dress warmly for the chilly evening temperatures of Mauna Kea and carry necessary supplies such as water and snacks. This will ensure you spend the maximum time on the West side of the island comfortably and without hassles.

night sky filled with stars with people looking through a telescope, stargazing at Mauna Kea in Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Day 5: North Kohala Adventure

As dawn breaks on your final day on the Big Island, you’ll be ready to take on one more epic adventure. The North Kohala coast is your destination, presenting breathtaking scenery and the opportunity to delve into Hawaii’s rich history.

Start your day at the Pololū Valley Lookout for panoramic views of the rugged coastline and deep valleys. A hike down to Pololū Beach reveals a different perspective of the valley’s sheer beauty, with its black sand beach and towering sea cliffs. It’s a moderate hike, so wear comfortable shoes and bring water.

Family Hiking Over Bridge at Kohala waterfalls in Hawaii

Want to see green sand beaches instead? Head to one of only four green sand beaches in the world, located near South Point in the Kaʻū district of the Big Island.

Due to its unique geological features and somewhat remote location, it requires a bit of effort to reach but is well worth the visit for its distinct olive-green sand, which gets its color from olivine crystals.

Next, visit the Kohala Historical Sites State Monument, which includes the Moʻokini Heiau, one of the oldest and most significant sacrificial temple sites in Hawaii, and the birthplace of King Kamehameha I. Exploring these sites offers a profound insight into the cultural heritage of the island.

For lunch, head to the charming town of Hawi. Known for its eclectic boutiques, art galleries, and cafes, Hawi is the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely meal and perhaps pick up a few unique souvenirs.

Related Post: Waterfalls Near Hilo – Ultimate Kayak Tour Tips & Reviews

Conclude your Big Island adventure with a visit to Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area, known for its expansive white sand beach and clear waters.

It’s the perfect spot to relax, reflect on your 5 full days journey, and enjoy a stunning Hawaiian sunset with your partner. Hāpuna Beach is also great for a final swim or snorkel in the island’s warm waters.

Kohala Coast Cliff and Waterfalls

Is 5 Days Enough for the Big Island in Hawaii?

While five days may not allow you to explore every nook and cranny of the Big Island, it certainly provides ample time to experience the major highlights.

With careful planning and our meticulously curated Big Island Hawaii itinerary, you can explore the fascinating blend of its awe-inspiring landscapes, captivating coastlines, and rich cultural heritage.

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It’s not about ticking off every attraction but immersing in the moments that make your Hawaiian adventure truly memorable, whether the attraction is free or paid.

Savor the Flavor: Must-Try Hawaiian Dishes During Your 5-Day Stay

When visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, immersing yourself in the unique and delectable local cuisine is an experience you’ll remember. Your taste buds will thank you for it!

Start your day in style at the 808 Grindz Cafe in Kailua-Kona. Here, we highly recommend the savory pancakes coupled with a traditional Kona coffee. A morning kick-off doesn’t get better than this!

As you explore the serene beauty of the Big Island, make sure to stop by The Coffee Shack near Kealakekua Bay during lunch. The papaya special here is a local darling. Why, you ask? Well, only one way to find out!

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Another location not to miss is the Punaluu Bake Shop, known for its incredible assortment of Hawaiian dishes and sweet breads. Grabbing lunch here will allow you to discover a delightful mix of traditional Hawaiian flavors.

If you find yourself in Hilo, start your day with a hearty breakfast at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. Then, after your snorkeling tour in the Sea Turtle Lagoon of Hilo Bay, make your way to The Booch Bar for lunch. Your 5 days in Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without their superb cuisine.

While dining in Big Island, grab the opportunity to enrich your cultural knowledge and understanding of the Hawaiian Islands. Don’t be shy to ask your server about the history or significance of the dish you’re devouring!

Ground view of rock statues inside a forest in Lava Tree State Monument in Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Where to Stay in Big Island Hawaii

If you’re looking to experience comfort and luxury during your 5 days in Hawaii, consider staying at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. This Hawaiian paradise overlooks Anaeho’omalu Bay, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the island’s beauty while experiencing first-rate amenities.

From relaxing spa services to invigorating water sports, this resort offers an unrivaled opportunity to enjoy the best of the Big Island. Plus, its central location makes it a perfect base for the day-to-day trips on your Big Island itinerary.

Related Post: Luaus in Hawaii – 11 Top Luaus for An Unforgettable Evening

Alternatively, a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village presents a remarkable island resort experience. This family-friendly oasis, nestled on the Ocean’s edge, boasts an artificial beach and lagoon, providing a haven for memorable water-based activities.

Their numerous on-site amenities and in-room luxuries undoubtedly enhance your enriching Hawaii itinerary 5 days. Its convenient location also makes it a favorable choice when planning your excursions in and around the Big Island.

Lastly, for a dose of unrivaled luxury during your visit to the Big Island, we highly recommend the Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Tower at Waikoloa Village. This exceptional oceanfront resort delivers a sublime experience, harmonizing comfort and elegance.

Perfectly situated to be a home base for your 5-day itinerary, the resort lets you immerse yourself in prime Hawaiian hospitality while staying conveniently close to the vibrant activities and attractions that the Big Island has to offer.

a far-off semi-top view of a village beside a wide, blue sea
photo credit: Hilton Waikoloa Village via Facebook

Know Before You Go: Insider Tips for a Smooth Big Island Vacation

Best Time to Visit Big Island

Knowing the ideal season for your Big Island visit aids in perfecting your Big Island itinerary. Although the island is inviting throughout the year, the months between April and September provide a delightful balance of beautiful weather and less crowded sights.

The sun generously showers its warmth, and there’s a lower likelihood of rain interrupting your exploration.

From May to October, you’re in for sunny days filled with beach bliss and adventure. Additionally, if you’re keen on witnessing the majestic humpback whales, then navigate your Hawaii itinerary 5 days to include the months from December to April.

large whale jumping up out of the ocean and flipping through the air

Local Etiquette and Cultural Norms

When visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, it’s essential to approach every experience with respect and understanding – it’s the aloha spirit.

From taking off your shoes before entering homes to showing reverence at spiritual sites, every action should reflect your respect for the island’s natural beauty, historical significance, and local inhabitants.

Speak softly, smile genuinely, and follow the ‘kapu’ (sacred) signs to respect the island’s sensitive areas, such as the Mauna Kea summit.

Being mindful of local culture can wholly enrich your 5-day itinerary at the Big Island, turning a beautiful vacation into a transformative journey.

Cash or Card? Payment Options in Big Island Hawaii

When considering your payment options for your Big Island Hawaii itinerary, it’s flexible. Both cash and cards are welcomed throughout the island. Major credit and debit cards are generally accepted in most establishments, especially in larger towns and tourist hotspots.

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However, if your 5 days in Hawaii include a visit to remote locales or small mom-and-pop businesses, have some cash on hand.

Do keep in mind, though, that the Big Island is a popular tourist destination, and ATMs can run out of cash, especially on weekends and holidays.

What to Bring

When visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. The weather can be unpredictable, so pack plenty of breathable clothing, a lightweight rain jacket, sturdy footwear for hiking, and a sun hat to shield from the strong midday sun.

Given the stunning undersea beauty, you won’t want to miss the chance to capture the vibrant marine life. So, don’t forget to pack a water-resistant camera for snorkeling.

Additionally, a daypack for carrying your essentials during long explorations would be useful. Remember to also bring your trusty water bottle to stay hydrated!

Family hiking with a baby through palm trees on the Big Island, Hawaii, USA

Modes of Transportation in Big Island

On the Big Island of Hawaii, transportation mainly revolves around two components: rental cars and public buses. Renting a car is the most efficient way to explore and fit in all your desired stops in your Hawaii itinerary 5 days. Providers like Discover Cars can help you find the best deals.

Although public buses exist, they have limited routes and schedules, making a rental car highly recommended for a fulfilling Big Island Hawaii itinerary. The island also has two accessible airports, Kona and Hilo, for inter-island trips or a quick ride to the mainland.

And if you’re keen on a truly unique view, helicopter tours can offer breathtaking prospects of the stunning island landscape.

blue hawaiian helicopter flying over kohala for a tour

Big Island FAQs

Yes, you can easily travel to the Big Island from Honolulu, the capital city of Hawaii, located on the island of Oahu. Interisland flights are available from Honolulu to either Kona or Hilo on the Big Island.

It's a convenient option that makes island hopping quite possible and popular among visitors.

Ready to Plan a Big Island Vacation?

If you’re ready to pack your bags for a Hawaiian adventure, consider booking a vacation package for the Big Island. This package not only saves you the hassle of individual bookings but also promises you affordable access to some of the island’s top tours and attractions.

Whether you’d like to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, marvel at Akaka Falls, or dive into Manta Ray snorkeling, all these could be on your itinerary.

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Accommodations? Rest assured, the choices are plenty, ranging from lavish resorts to budget-friendly stays, depending on your preferences.

Embark on a remarkable journey and savor the best of the Big Island in Hawaii.

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

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