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First-Timers Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii

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1,449 Reviews
First-Timers Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii
The largest of the Hawaiian islands, and more than double the size of all the other islands combined, the Big Island can be overwhelming. Here are our tips for first-timers to make the most of their time on the island.
 
Visit Volcano National Park
The Big Island is made up of five major volcanoes. Head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to both Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Depending on when you visit, you might see active lava flow or other volcanic activity. There is plenty to do, including hiking trails, seeking out petroglyphs, taking scenic drives, stopping at overlooks, and discovering natural wonders, including craters and old lava flow.
 
Discover Both Sides of the Island
The Big Island features two distinct and different sides: sunny Kona to the west, known for its beaches, and rainy Hilo to the east, known for its waterfalls and lush valleys. No matter if you stay on the west or east side, plan to head to the other side to appreciate the diversity of the island.
 
Go Stargazing
Mauna Kea towers 13,796 feet (4,138 meters) above sea level. The height and lack of pollution makes it an ideal spot for stargazing—it’s no wonder some of the world's largest telescopes are here. Head up to the summit or to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station at 9,300 feet (2,790 meters) to watch a sunset or sunrise and enjoy a clear view of the stars.
 
Spend Time on the Beaches and in the Water
There are more than 80 beaches on the island, including white sand, green sand, and black sand beaches, and it’s possible to see all three in one day. There's plenty to do in and on the water too. The Big Island offers only limited surfing, but it has plenty of amazing aquatic wildlife: go swimming with dolphins, snorkeling or scuba diving with manta rays at night, or whale watching in season.
 
Sample Local Flavors
Kona coffee and macadamia nuts are two of the Big Island’s signature crops, renowned the world over. Taste them at the source and learn more about the growth and production processes on a farm or plantation visit. Plus, purchase souvenirs to take home.
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20 Tours and Activities | All Big Island of Hawaii Tours

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Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History

Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes, Waterfalls, Sightseeing, History

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The Big Island of Hawaii has a diverse ecosystem unlike anywhere else on the planet, and on this day-long nature tour, experience the beauty of its black-sand beaches, thundering waterfalls, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you’re lucky, find Hawaiian green sea turtles basking on the coast. Since the tour only requires a moderate amount of walking, it's an educational adventure for travelers of all ages, with snacks and refreshments included.
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  • 11 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$193.21
From
$193.21
Taking safety measures

Night Manta Ray Adventure -Guaranteed!

Night Manta Ray Adventure -Guaranteed!

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Have a unique Big Island experience snorkeling with manta rays on this tour. Led by a local guide, you’ll take a short cruise out to the manta site, where you’ll watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunset before dipping into the water to watch the manta rays up close. All necessary equipment will be provided for your excursion, as well as light refreshments and snacks to enjoy on board. Your tour will conclude at its original departure point. If you don't see manta rays on this excursion, book again for another night--no charge.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours
From
$66.67
From
$66.67

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

star-4.5
Experience big skies and incredible nighttime views on this Mauna Kea stargazing trip with a small group. Join no more than 28 guests for a pre-trip picnic at a historic Hawaiian ranch, proceeded by a ride in a 4x4 luxury van to the summit of the Big Island's tallest peak. After admiring a sunset view, continue down to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. The trip also includes a guide and a hooded parka to keep you warm.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$235.60
From
$235.60
Taking safety measures

Atlantis Kona Submarine Adventure

Atlantis Kona Submarine Adventure

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On this exciting Kona submarine tour, dive deep below the cobalt waters just off the Kona coast, where an entire world of fish and marine creatures is waiting just below the surface. As the submarine descends towards the colorful reef, peer through the portholes at fish that swim to within inches of the submarine windows, and experience the sense of peace and calm in this world beneath the waves. This is a great way to explore underwater without even getting your hair wet, and, if you’re very lucky, there’s even the chance you could see a passing shark.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$133.22
From
$133.22

Small Group Waipio Valley and Waterfalls Adventure

Small Group Waipio Valley and Waterfalls Adventure

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See three of the Big Island's most famous waterfalls in a single day on this guided tour. Travel along the Hamakua Coast to Akaka Falls, Hi’ilawe Falls, and Rainbow Falls. You also sample seasonal fruit and macadamia nuts at a fruit farm in Hilo, swim at a private waterfall, and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
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  • 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$207.83
From
$207.83
Taking safety measures

Small-Group Big Island Tour: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kona Coffee Farm

Small-Group Big Island Tour: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kona Coffee Farm

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On this tour from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, experience some of the Big Island’s best sights in a small group capped at 10 people. In addition to stopping at Punalu’u Beach Park to walk down a black-sand beach, you have the chance to sip Kona coffee on the plantation right where it’s grown, as well as hike through a lava tube that was formed by Kilauea volcano. What’s more, receive an iPad to use on the tour. Use it for photos, videos, and info, as well as playing games or watching movies while traveling between the sites.
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$186.99
From
$186.99

Maunakea Stellar Explorer HILO

Maunakea Stellar Explorer HILO

star-4.5
Hawaii’s natural wonders aren’t only on land and in the sea—the Big Island is also a prime spot from which to admire the wonders of the solar system. This tour is the only one that includes both afternoon solar viewing and nighttime stargazing, accompanied by astronomy experts. Visit Rainbow Falls and the Kaumana lava caves, then explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and use a state-of-the-art solar telescope and Dobsonian telescope to spot solar flares, galaxies, star clusters, and planets.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$184.34
From
$184.34

Kealakekua Bay and Wild Dolphin Adventure

Kealakekua Bay and Wild Dolphin Adventure

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There are few places in all of Hawaii more historic than Kealakekua Bay, as it's the spot where Captain Cook was killed in a skirmish with native Hawaiians, and the Hawaiian monarch, King Kamehameha III was born just a few miles away. The history aside, it's also one of the best places to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii, and you'll have the chance to experience the beauty on this snorkeling tour from Kona. Search for dolphins on the way to the bay while admiring the volcanic coast, and after scouring the red for coral and fish, climb aboard for a lunch that's served by the friendly crew.
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  • 4 hours
From
$87.18
From
$87.18

Kona Tour: Coffee Plantation, Kealakekua Bay, Kaloko-Honokohau Park, and Bee Farm

Kona Tour: Coffee Plantation, Kealakekua Bay, Kaloko-Honokohau Park, and Bee Farm

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There’s much more to the Big Island of Hawaii than volcanoes, waterfalls and luaus, and on this informative tour of the South Kona region, you’ll learn the sacred history of this shoreline and sample the local honey and famous Kona coffee. With the help of a knowledgeable guide, you’ll visit petroglyphs, look for green sea turtles and visit sacred Hawaiian temples. Even better: you'll hear the legends, mythology and lore of ancient Hawaii through today. This tour is capped at 15 people, so you’re ensured a personalized experience.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$145.17
From
$145.17
Taking safety measures

Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

Evening Volcano Explorer from Hilo

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Explore the fascinating world of active volcanism, biological diversity and past and present Hawaiian culture at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visit Kalapana, a village destroyed by advancing lava, and the black sand beach on the island. Learn about everything from active volcanic craters and steam vents to the historic Jagger Museum. Enjoy dinner at Volcano Winery, featuring a private tour with wine tasting, then watch for current activity at Kilauea Volcano, the most active of the five volcanoes in Hawaii. Hotel pickup and drop-off provide for a seamless experience.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$187.43
From
$187.43

Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling Tour - 4 hour Kona Zodiac Adventure

Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling Tour - 4 hour Kona Zodiac Adventure

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Splash into the crystal-clear waters of Kealakekua Bay on this Big Island snorkeling adventure! Dart in and out of sea caves and explore the gorgeous Kona coastline in an agile Zodiac raft. Snorkel among colorful tropical fish, and keep an eye out for other marine life like whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Along the way, learn about the island’s geologic history and local legends from your expert guide, and see the spot where Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$129.71
From
$129.71

Big Island Air Tour by Cessna Plane

Big Island Air Tour by Cessna Plane

star-4.5
Soar above the Big Island’s volcanic steam vents, rainforests and rugged coastline on an air tour by Cessna Plane. Enjoy almost two hours of flying time as you explore Hawaii’s most iconic island, and explore a dynamic landscape of simmering volcanos, crashing surf and lava flows. Take in commentary from your pilot as you bank above Hawaii Volcanos National Park and get extraordinary aerial views of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, then watch for migrating whales as you glide over the coast’s beaches, farms and renowned surf breaks.
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$479.00
From
$479.00

Snorkel, Kayak and Dolphin Experience in the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay

Snorkel, Kayak and Dolphin Experience in the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay

star-4.5
In terms of history, scenery, and marine life, there isn’t anywhere on the Big Island of Hawaii that compares to Kealakekua Bay. This protected cove on the island’s west shore is where Captain Cook met his end, and today a memorial stands at the bay to honor the famous explorer. On this guided Big Island kayaking tour, hear the history of Captain Cook as well as surrounding temples, and, after paddling past rugged sea cliffs and caves, snorkel and swim in the clear waters of this Marine Life Conservation District.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$106.44
From
$106.44

Kilauea Volcano Bike Tour

Kilauea Volcano Bike Tour

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On this 2-wheeled, adventurous Kilauea tour, explore Hawaii’s active volcano from the comfortable seat of a bike, where you ride through multiple microclimates and past rugged volcanic terrain. This Hawaii bike tour is one of the best ways to explore Kilauea volcano, where every bend in the road reveals a new volcanic wonder, from steaming craters to lava fields to cliffs dropping off toward the sea. Even better, the tour includes visits to the steam vents and Thurston Lava Tube.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$179.44
From
$179.44

Big Island Manta Ray Night Kayak and Snorkel Adventure

Big Island Manta Ray Night Kayak and Snorkel Adventure

star-4
There’s simply no feeling that compares to seeing enormous manta rays up close, as their graceful wings seem to fly underwater and turn in rolls all around you. On this Big Island kayaking and snorkeling tour, experience the thrill of paddling to a cove in search of wild manta rays, and then watching the beautiful, graceful rays as they feed and flip through the water. While watching the rays from the kayak is great, it’s even better when you grab a snorkel and slink off the edge of your boat — joining the wild rays for a swim and an unforgettable snorkel.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$102.35
From
$102.35

Big Island's Hawaii Grand Circle Island Tour

Big Island's Hawaii Grand Circle Island Tour

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This Big Island circle tour hits all the highlights of the stunning Big Island of Hawaii.  While riding in a comfortable minibus, watch out the window as the landscape changes with every bend in the road, from tropical, misty valleys full of ferns to a barren, black lava coast. This Grand Circle island tour includes round-trip transport from Kona, with pickup and drop-off at your hotel.
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  • 10 to 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$189.29
From
$189.29
Taking safety measures

Triple Crater Hawaii Volcano Hiking Adventure

Triple Crater Hawaii Volcano Hiking Adventure

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Explore three volcanic craters during one great trip on this 11.5-hour excursion on the Big Island. Travel aboard a high-end Mercedes van as you trek to the still-steaming Mauna Ulu, enjoy an amazing hike across Kilauea Iki crater and discover the summit of Kilauea Caldera. All entrance fees, plus a deli-style lunch and and local-style dinner are included.
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$223.08
From
$223.08

Whales guaranteed in Kona Waikoloa

Whales guaranteed in Kona Waikoloa

star-3.5
During their annual migration, Hawaii plays host to one of the largest populations of North Pacific humpback whales in the world. On this seasonal tour, held only between February and April, set sail along the Kona-Kohala coast and enjoy spectacular views as you cruise around the Big Island. Whale sightings are guaranteed, so if you aren’t lucky enough to spot the majestic creatures, simply come back on another day, free of charge.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$91.60
From
$91.60
Taking safety measures

Kona History Tour, Place of Refuge, Coffee Plantation & Painted Church

Kona History Tour, Place of Refuge, Coffee Plantation & Painted Church

star-4
Kailua-Kona is the capital of Hawaii’s Big Island and home to many historic and cultural sites. Take in some of the highlights on this tour, visiting three popular attractions. Enjoy a guided tour of the Greenwell Coffee Plantation including coffee tasting, visit the magnificent St Benedict’s Painted Church, and admire the scenery at the Place of Refuge (Pu'uhonua O Honaunau) National park.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
From
$95.99
From
$95.99

Private Grand Circle the Big Island Mercedes Sprinter

Private Grand Circle the Big Island Mercedes Sprinter

Complete a circuit of the Big Island during this full-day circle tour. Riding in style on board a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van with your party up to 11 other family members or friends, stop at the island's highlights and landmarks, including Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and South Point, the southernmost point in the U.S. While you travel, watch DVDs containing information about Hawaiian culture, traditions, and history onboard your vehicle. Pickup and drop-off at Kona hotels is included.
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  • 12 hours
From
$1,537.44
per group
From
$1,537.44
per group