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First Time to the Big Island? What to See


If you’re venturing to the Big Island of Hawaii for the first time, you’re in for a treat. Home to a wide range of climactic zones, cultures, and natural wonders, you’ll be in awe of all the things to do here. Its vast topography alone makes for some stunning retreats. From the time you step off the plane at Kona International Airport or Hilo International Airport, you’ll be met with a variety of opportunities to experience this largest of all the Hawaiian islands. Here is just a sampling of what you should hit.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This is a World Heritage Site and as such, you won’t be disappointed in its arid deserts, impressive lava tubes and of course Kilauea volcano, in a constant state of eruption since 1983. It’s located 30 miles outside of Hilo and was founded in 1916, spanning 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the ocean. And with more than 150 miles of hiking trails that meander along volcanic craters and lush rainforest, you’ll also get an up close and personal look at petroglyphs, lava tubes you can actually walk inside of, and two active volcanoes.

Downtown Hilo

For charming buildings and ages-old architecture, you can’t miss a visit to downtown Hilo. The wooden storefronts hark from a different era, earning its spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you’ll be able to shop at galleries, boutiques and specialty shops, eat at local restaurants and visit important cultural sites. Take your time going down Kamehameha Avenue and see Hilo Bay off to the side. Pop in at an art gallery to peruse locally crafted paintings, woodwork, glasswork and jewelry. Don’t forget to hit the East Hawaii Cultural Center, dedicated to preserving the island’s creative and traditional arts. The kids may really enjoy the Pacific Tsunami Museum documenting the natural disasters of 1946 and 1960 that required Hilo to rebuild from scratch.

Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is a must see for the nature lover. This is the ideal spot for snorkeling, too. This is where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed in the 1700s in his quest to discover new lands. At approximately 12 miles south of Kailua Village, Kealakekua is known as the Marine Life Conservation District. For the ultimate in marine life, you’ll enjoy snorkeling among the colorful coral reefs and varying species of fish. Don’t forget the picnic for a day-long outing.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Known as the “Garden in a Valley on the Ocean,” the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden boasts 2,000 species, 125 families and 750 genera of plants. Couple this visit with a four-mile scenic drive of Hamakua Coast on Highway 19. This valley area spans 40 acres and is protected by tradewinds, the perfect storm for the natural greenhouse effect to help plants of all kinds flourish.

Many people choose to couple their stay at the Big Island with a jump over to Oahu. If you decide to come here, call us at Hoku Hawaii Tours to experience our wildly popular Pearl Harbor tours.