Top Attractions in Hawaii: The Big Island

Scenic views, stargazing, natural areas, and authentic Polynesian entertainment make the Big Island one of the best vacation destinations.

1. Helicopter Rides

Gain the best views of the Big Island, soaring over active lava regions in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, towering cliffs in Waipio Valley, black sand beaches, and more with these helicopter tours:

2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

One of the best things to do is to journey through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visitors can see the largest volcano in the world, Mauna Loa, as well as the tallest mountain (even taller than Mount Everest!), Mauna Kea. East of Mauna Loa stands Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. Additionally, the park features seven ecological zones, making one feel as if they've reached another planet. The park encompasses 505 square miles and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

Guests can take Chain of Craters Road, which traverses 20 miles through volcanic landforms between Kilauea Caldera and Holei Sea Arch. While driving, you'll see several areas worthy of interrupting the drive. Visitors can see the lofty Kealakomo Overlook and the otherworldly Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu lava field. Further, a boardwalk trail leads to the Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs, where native Hawaiians carved more than 23,000 images between 1200 and 1450. 

3. Luaus

Indulge in authentic Hawaiian cuisine, traditional arts and crafts, and Polynesian entertainment at any of these top Big Island luaus:

4. Volcano House & Volcano Art Center 

Guests can visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’ Visitor Center to see exhibits and important safety information, as well as the film Born of the Fire, Born of the Sea. Further, the Volcano Art Center, across the road from the Volcano House, showcases classes and workshops, a gallery for local artists, hula performers, and free guided hikes into the Niaulani Rainforest.

5. Stargaze 

The Mauna National Natural Landmark serves as the highest insular mountain in the nation at 13,803 feet as well as the highest point in Hawaii. Visitors can stargaze at the peak thanks to The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. It is considered one of the clearest places in the world to stargaze. Take advantage of stargazing tours for the best experience. 

6. Ziplining 

Enjoy scenic drives before soaring over tropical river gorges and lush countryside with any of these zipline attractions:

7. Rainbow Falls

A short drive away from downtown Hilo, Rainbow Falls offers incredible views, with rainbows shining through the waterfall mist on sunny days. The 80-foot waterfall cascades over a natural lava cave and into the Wailuku River below. After parking your car, you can head to the viewing platform to gain the best views and photos. You can also climb up adjacent rocky steps to tower over the waterfalls for a bird’s eye view. 

8. Akaka Falls State Park

Home to two beautiful waterfalls, Akaka Falls State Park sits along the Holo Coast on the northeastern side of the island. A short hike, you can walk 0.4 miles uphill through a tropical landscape of bamboo, ferns, and vibrant orchids. Along the path, you’ll come across the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the 442-foot Akaka Falls that cascades into the gorge below. 

9. Cruises

From snorkeling and whale watching to sunset dinner cruises, there are numerous cruises to enjoy off the Big Island’s shores:

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