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15 Free Things to do on the Big Island


You don’t have to spend a red cent to enjoy the many natural abundances of Hawaii’s Big Island. Some things have incidental charges, such as parking, but the following lists 15 essentially free ways to enjoy your stay on the Big Island. Get out there and have fun!

1. Kalopa State Recreation Area

At 2,000 feet above sea level, this recreational area features a nature trail perfect for any ability level. It meanders through a picturesque grove of native ohia trees, plus you’ll find plenty of picnic spots as well as an arboretum boasting palms, hibiscus and other indigenous species.

2. Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Centrally located in Hilo, you can learn about the science, culture and history of the northwestern Hawaiian islands and all the sea life that surrounds it through hands-on exhibits. Peruse the many colorful maps, murals, models and salt water aquarium. Great for the kiddos on a rainy day!

3. Puako Petroglyph Preserve

All it takes is a quick hike to get to the most expansive fields of ancient lava rock carvings you will find in the state. You’ll marvel at the 3,000 images of human and animal forms that stand for elements of every-day life harking back centuries. You can get there via the trail at Holoholokai Beach Park near Fairmont Orchid Hawaii.

4. Puukohola National Historic Site

Puukohola Heiau, which means temple in Hawaiian, was erected on a hill in honor of the late King Kamehameha I back in the 1700s. Now it’s one of the biggest of its kind in Hawaii. Learn more about its origins at the visitor center, which puts on free cultural demonstrations and programs throughout the week.

5. Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens

Hard to believe this place is free, but it is. It sits on 12 acres south of Hilo, boasting native Hawaiian hawks, lemurs, monkeys, turtles and butterflies. The many exotic plants, trees, and blooms will have your camera working over time. Don’t forget to visit the petting zoo on Saturdays, which is also free.

6. Traditional Portuguese Bread Making

If you visit the Kona Historical Society on a Thursday, you can participate in a free demonstration of traditional Portuguese bread making. From rolling out the dough to baking it in the wood-fired stone ovens, you can contribute to making your own warm sweet Portuguese bread. No charge for the program but each loaf of bread is $8.

7. South Point

Referred to by Hawaiians as Ka Lae, this place is aptly named because it represents the southernmost spot in the country where the first Polynesians landed. You’ll come across ancient temples as well as fishing shrines, all flanked by impressive sea cliffs.

8. Kaunaoa Beach

There aren’t many parking spots here so come early to snag one. You can stay all day for free at this beach, located along the Kohala coast in Kona. If you brought your own snorkeling gear, you can snorkel here for free. Lots of marine life are in abundance, so don’t miss exploring near the rocks on the left side of the beach. Another fun thing to do here is bodyboarding or volleyball.

9. Waipio Valley

Located on the North Shore, you can get here via the Hilo or Kona side. With some stunning views, you can’t miss this one. It’s no wonder it’s a top photographed site in Hawaii. The lush green valley is highlighted by craggy cliffs, backdropped by waterfalls, a black sand beach and the mighty sea. Take a drive on highway 240 to witness this must-see natural panorama.

10. Black Sand Beaches

Love to sun bathe and frolic in the water? White sand beaches are a dime a dozen, but black sand beaches are as rare as gems. Fortunately, the Big Island has a couple of them, one on either side. Head to Punaluu Beach off Highway 11, located between Kona and Hilo to the south. Then head over to Kehena Beach off Highway 137 along the Eastern shore, right near Puna.

11. Waterfalls

The Big Island is also host to a number of beautiful waterfalls, all of which are free to hike to and swim beneath. In Hilo, don’t miss Rainbow Falls and Pe’epe’e Falls off Wainuenue Avenue. On Highway 19, you’ll drive the scenic Hamakua Coast dotted with countless waterfalls. Take the four-mile scenic drive along Onomea Bay for some more spectacular sites.

12. Polulu Valley Lookout

Located on the North Kohala, you will be stunned by the tall green cliffs flanking the crystal blue ocean. The hike to Polulu is not a challenge at all, perfect for any skill level. Get there from Highway 19 by taking Highway 270 or Highway 250 to 270. Take this route both ways, as each view is a totally unique one.

13. Kona Coffee Farm Tours at Greenwell Farms

Personal walking tours ay Greenwell Farms run continuously from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday. You can tour the coffee fields as well as the processing facilities, and even enjoy free samples of delicious Kona coffee. Situated at Mamalahoa Highway Kealakekua, this is a great opportunity for coffee lovers to see how local coffee is grown and harvested.

14. Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company

In a state known for its macadamia nut consumption, you can’t come to Hawaii and not visit the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company. Try anything from plain to honey-jalapeno macadamia nuts as part of the free samples at this factory based in Kawaihae. Take the self-guided tour to find out how they grow, shell and roast the nuts. You’ll have a chance to make a purchase in the store and take some home to family.

15. Free Cultural Shows and Luaus

Ask your hotel about any free cultural performances or luaus taking place while you’re there. You can also catch these impromptu performances at shopping centers, restaurants and boardwalk shopping areas.

Care to visit Oahu while visiting Hawaii? We welcome you! Let Hoku Hawaii Tours match you with the perfect vacation excursion.