Some Of Our Favorite Spots In The Big Island / by Pay Thyself

With my parents being in Kauai right now, it only makes sense that I write about our favorite spots in the Big Island.

Last year in November, we went to the Big Island for 12 days. We split our vacation into 3 different cities: Hilo, Waimea, and Kailua Kona. It gave us enough time to explore each city and see what it had to offer. 

Hilo is real Hawai'i. Majority of the locals live here and the beaches are surrounded by volcanic rocks. It offers authentic Hawaiian food, a few gorgeous waterfalls, and it's a closer drive to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Waimea is known for its paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) culture. The gorgeous rolling hills and green pastures offer stunning hikes. We spent majority of our time at The Big Island Brewhaus, enjoying delicious beer and food. Kailua Kona is known for its tourism and world famous Kona Coffee. The city offers lots of shopping, activities, and gorgeous white sand beaches along Highway 19. 

Our top 3 places for sightseeing and adventure:

  • Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

  • Waipio Valley

  • Mauna Kea & The Visitor Center

Because the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is so big, we spent 2 days visiting the park. On our first day, we hiked the Kilauea Iki Trail, about 3 miles round trip and it's along the crater floor. At Kīlauea Visitor Center, you are able to see the vog coming out of the volcano.  We didn't stay till dark, but from photos that we've seen, the inside of the volcano turns into a dark red color. The second day, we decided to hike to the lava flow. I recommend wearing hiking shoes because it's very uncomfortable to walk on dried lava rocks. And most importantly, stay safe. 

Known for its taro fields and beautiful black sand beach, Waipio Valley is a must. It's a steep downhill walk but a local couple was kind enough to give us a ride. We spent a few hours on the beach, swimming in the ocean and enjoying solitude. 

Mauna Kea, one of the best places in the world for stargazing. We arrived at the visitor center an hour and a half before sunset to get a good parking spot. We knew that it gets really cold at night, so we wore warm clothing and our down jackets. On Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, they have a free stargazing program from 7pm to 10pm. The sunset and stargazing is unreal. 

Our top places for delicious food:

  • Merriman's: delicious burger, best Lilikoi Mai Tai on the island, and live music during happy hour

  • Big Island Brewhaus: for the craft beer lovers. I had their seasonal Starfruit Nectar Bier and Rockie's Famous Fish Bites as an appetizer

  • Kona Brewing Company: for its lively environment and amazing Kulana Bacon Cheeseburger pizza. So good!

  • Suisan: located in Hilo, freshest poke bowls and have been in business for 110 years

  • The Coffee Shack: while you enjoy a beautiful view and a delicious breakfast, feed the geckos some jelly in a small cup

  • Umekes Poke Bowls: 2nd favorite poke spot

  • Daylight Mind Coffee Company: delicious breakfast and pour over coffee

  • Tex Drive-In: best malasadas on the island

The best white sand beaches we visited:

  • Hapuna Beach

  • Manini'owali Beach

There are many other places to visit and some of the tourist attractions can be done without spending money. We recommend staying for longer than a week to truly enjoy the Big Island.

Have you ever been to the Big Island? What were some of your favorite places?