When most people think of Hawaii, the image that comes to mind is of laying on the beach, relaxing while the sun sets over the ocean. You can do this on the Big Island of Hawaii, but if that’s all you do, you will miss out on so much more that the island has to offer.
We went to Hawaii on a spur of the moment week-long holiday to celebrate my nonexistent leap day birthday (as has become the tradition!).The following is our Big Island road trip itinerary, which covered some of the best sights and gave us a great introduction to this idyllic isle.
Guest post and photos by Karilyn Owen of No Back Home
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
The largest of the Hawaiian islands has it all, from active volcanoes and lush rain forests to sandy beaches and snow capped peaks. The Big Island offers something for everyone, making it a great destination for families who love to get out and explore.
Given that we were on a Big Island road trip, spending little time at our hotels, we opted to mix our accommodation up with more traditional Hawaiian motels, glamping and a few luxury rooms thrown in for pampering.
A road trip around Big Island, Hawaii
[author] [author_info]Our Big Island road trip itinerary:
- Captain Cook
- South Point
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
*If you have more time, you can head north from Hilo and explore the following destinations:
- The Hamakua Coast
- The Kohala Coast
- Akaka Falls State Park
- Waipio Valley
Number one on our list was a visit to the City of Refuge (Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park) where my son earned his 9th Junior Park Ranger badge.
A visit to Kona is not complete without snorkelling. We tested the waters at Two-Step and Kahalu’u Bay. Kahalu’u being the better option for kids and beginners. It is shallow, has a lifeguard, and is full of colorful fish, corals and turtles.
Our real reason for visiting Kahalu’u – the Hawaiian shaved ice. Massive and oh so delicious.
Heading out from Kona on our family trip to Hawaii, we drove to South Point, the most southern point in the United States. Here the adventurous dive off the edge of a cliff and climb their way back up a rickety ladder.
No thank you! Just watching the other jumpers was enough adrenaline for me.
Down the road a bit further, you dead end to a parking lot where you can hike three miles (no shade) or pay locals for a hair-raising ride down dirt roads to hang out at Papakōlea Beach. Green sand beach, as it’s known, is one of the most famous beaches on the Big Island. It’s one of only four green sand beaches in the world. It was torture abiding by the rules of not taking any home with us.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Moving on, we finished up our day with an awesome night time hike at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Seeing the red glow of lava lighting up the night sky was a highlight for all of us.
Volcanoes National Park is a must visit if you’re planning a family vacation on the Big Island in Hawaii.
The park itself has so much to offer visitors. Where else can you hike through a volcanic crater with steam vents lining your path?
Hiking the four mile Kīlauea Iki Trail through lush rainforest to the inside of the still steaming crater lava lake was out of this world. Knowing that there was lava flowing under our feet as evidenced by the numerous steam vents made this trail extra exciting. It’s not often that you can tell people you hiked inside a volcano!
We absolutely loved glamping in the rustic, but plush Namakanipaio Cabins at the park. The fun and feel of camping without the hassle and discomfort.
Hilo was the next stop on our Hawaii road trip. To really do this area justice, you need a few days in this cute rainy town. We stayed outside of town at the beautiful Inn at Kulaniapia Falls overlooking a gorgeous waterfall. It was hard to leave this fabulous property, but snorkelling at Richardson’s Beach, tide pools in Kapoho and more beautiful waterfalls were calling us to keep on moving.
After a day of chasing rainbows along the coast and hiking at Pololu Valley we ended our road trip at the beautiful white sand beaches of The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort for a few days of luxury and relaxation.
Soaking up the rays, playing in the sand and watching classic Hawaiian sunsets was a perfect end to an amazing holiday touring a fascinating island.
The best time to visit Hawaii
Temperatures on the Big Island remain relatively constant throughout the year, making this an ideal year round destination. However, the best time to visit is between September and November when lodging is the least expensive. Peak season of December to March is when hotels can be pricy.
Three things you should definitely do
1) Exploring ancient forests, volcanic craters and searching for hot lava flows make Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a must do on any visit to the Big Island.
2) Snorkelling with sea turtles and in the technicolor world underwater is an experience everyone will go home raving about. Another underwater experience that you should try (and we definitely will when we next go to Hawaii) is swimming with wild dolphins in Oahu.
3) Don’t miss hiking to Pololu Beach where you can swing on a log swing, help build a tree fort and play in the black sand before making the short but steep trek back up a gorgeous foggy trail.