I had a wonderful time on Big Island of Hawaii! All the beaches, mountains, waterfalls and food we had exceeded my expectations and made me want to see other places. Below is my actual 7-day Big Island itinerary from Sept 2 to Sept 8, 2017. Feel free to use it as a guide when planning a trip to Big Island.
Please note, the goal of my trip is to see as many things as possible, so I was a little bit rushed and didn’t spend a lot of time in each destination. You can definitely skip some places and focus on other destinations. I will write more about each destination I visited in separate posts. Places with the tag Recommended! are highly recommended, and I wished I stayed longer!
- 1 Flight
- 2 Accommodation
- 3 Transporation
- 4 Itinerary
- 5 Comments
We travel from Vancouver, and there aren’t any direct flight from Vancouver to Kona during the summer. Thus, like people from many other North American cities, we have to connect in one of the west coast cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles, and flight with two stops are not uncommon. In fact, we had two stops on the way back to Vancouver on Sept 9: San Francisco and Portland. I sometimes think: are we not one of the west coast cities?
Arrival time is also one of my big consideration. Many flights arrive at Kona in the late afternoon, which means people will just go to the hotel and rest. I didn’t want to waste my entire day flying, so I chose a flight that would arrive at noon at Kona. It turned out to be a wise decision, even though I had to be at Vancouver airport by 3:30 am.
To get the cheapest flight possible, I chose the return flight with two stops. Many flights are overnight ones which leave Kona in the late evening and arrive in west coast cities in the early morning, which is possible because of the 3 hour time difference. The 5-hour overnight flight was quite painful because I couldn’t get to sleep and my butt hurt. It wasn’t totally bad, as we had the entire day on the day of the flight, and we saved one day of the hotel.
To fully see Big Island, it is important to decide how many days to stay on the Kona side and Hilo side. It would be difficult to stay only on the Kona side and still visit Hilo or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I had 6 nights on this trip, so I chose to stay on the Kona side for 4 nights and the Hilo side for 2 nights.
On Kona side (west coast), I stayed at Hilton Waikoloa Village. I chose it because it was the cheapest hotel I saw on Expedia at that time. I will write a detailed review in a separate post. On Hilo side (east coast), I booked a B&B, Shaka Shak Garden Inn, on Booking.com. I’ve never stayed in a B&B before, and I will describe this experience in a separate post.
Renting a car is an absolute must when traveling on Big Island. There aren’t public transportation to all the destinations. I was so unprepared for this, and I felt embarrassed when I talked to the agent at Alamo. I will find some time to learn all the details of renting a car and write a post about it.
Below is our actual itinerary, or the places that we visited on Big Island. I plan to write a post for each of the destinations.
Day 1 (Sept 2): Getting Started
- Early morning flight from Vancouver to San Francisco and then to Kailua-Kona.
- Lunch at Daylight Mind
- Puako Petroglyph Park and see the archaeological preserve
- Picked up snorkel gear at Snorkel Bob’s and practiced snorkeling at Waikoloa Lagoon
- Dinner at Napua (Hawaiian cuisine & seafood) Recommended!
Places we missed:
- Lunch at Beach Tree Bar inside Four Seasons Resort. We skipped it because we missed the left turn into the resort, and the next intersection was too far away.
- Visit Mahai’ula Beach & Makalawena Beach. We tried to go back on Day 3, but the road was too difficult to drive. I was afraid that the uneven road would damage my rental car.
Day 2 (Sept 3): Kohala Coast & South Kona
- Breakfast at Island Lava Java Recommended!
- Hapuna Beach State Park (snorkeling) Recommended!
- Mahukona Beach Park
- Kapa’a Beach Park (snorkeling)
- Lapakahi State Historical Park
- Lunch at Cafe Pesto (Italian)
- Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
- Kahaluu Beach Park (snorkeling)
- Dinner at Splashers Grill (Hawaiian)
Places we missed:
- Magic Sands Beach Park
Day 3 (Sept 4): Mauna Kea
- Breakfast at Mai Grille
- Anaeho’omalu Beach Recommended!
- Kiholo Bay
- Manini’owali Beach
- Took out lunch at Umeke’s Poke Bowls (poke) Recommended! and had it at Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area
Day 4 (Sept 5): Kona & South Kona
- Breakfast at Island Lava Java (again!) Recommended!
- Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (turtles!) Recommended!
- Downtown Kailua-Kona. Visited Kamakahonu Beach and Hulihe‘e Palace.
- Greenwell Farms (coffee plantation) Recommended!
- Lunch at Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers
- Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
- Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park Recommended!
- Pae’a (snorkeling) Recommended!
- Dinner at TK Noodle House (Asian fusion)
Places we missed:
- Peaberry & Galette (crepe)
Day 5 (Sept 6): The Black Sand Beaches
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach Recommended!
- Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls
- Dinner at Sombat’s (Thai) Recommended!
Places we missed:
- Papakōlea Green Sand Beach. We decided not to go because it would take us 2 hours to hike to and from the beach.
- Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens
Day 6 (Sept 7): Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Recommended!
- Steam Vents, Sulphur Banks, Jaggar Museum and Kilauea Overlook
- Kilauea Iki Crater and Thurston Lava Tube
- Drive down Chains of Crater Road
- See lava glow at Jaggar Museum after dark
- Dinner at B&B with takeout from Cafe 100
Day 7 (Sept 8): Hilo & Hamakua Coast Drive
- Breakfast at Cafe 100
- Downtown Hilo: Visit Two Ladies Kitchen Recommended! and Hilo Farmers Market. Had coffee at Just Cruisin Coffee
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Recommended!
- Snack at What’s Shakin
- Akaka Falls State Park
- Snack at Tex Drive-in
- Waipio Valley Lookout
- Had coffee at Waimea Coffee Company
- Fly home in the evening
I managed to visit most places in my plan. I’ve tried to reduce driving by reorganizing the places to visit before the trip. It turns out that the driving is still too much for me (I am the only driver). Even though it only takes 10 minutes to fully explore some destinations, putting too many places in the itinerary is definitely not a wise thing to do. Nevertheless, it is still a fabulous trip and it will definitely become one of my best memories!