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Big Island Sample Itineraries / Travel Guide

green arrow3 day itineraries are the minimum amount of time needed to complete the given activities. We highly recommend extending these itineraries even up to 2 weeks (or mix & match itineraries) to fully enjoy your time in Hawaii. Yet, we realize not everyone has all the time they need so we wanted to present the minimum amount of time to complete an itinerary, given a full day schedule every day. For example, instead of staying 1 night in a given place, you could spend 3 and have more time to explore, relax, and enjoy the area.

green arrowA $ is placed beside activities that require some sort of fee or charge.
green arrowAll itineraries assume arrival at the Kona Airport, since this is most likely.

#1 Big Island See-All Itinerary: designed for a 1st time visit to the island. This is an aggressive schedule but allows the most comprehensive tour of the island since you are strategically moving around the island and staying in a different location every night.

#2 Big Island Off-the-Beaten Track Authentic Itinerary: designed for the traveler that wants to get away from the main tourist crowds; good for a 2nd or 3rd visit.
hawaii ferry serviceFor an eco-friendly & off the beaten track experience, stay at Lova Lava Land in a yurt or stationary VW Camper Bus!hawaii ferry service

#3 Big Island Party & Tourist Highlights Itinerary: designed where you can stay in one place all 3 days and take day trips to explore. This is more of a relaxed itinerary, with particular emphasis on tourist sites and night life.

#1 Big Island See-All Itinerary (click map for larger view)
Day 1:
blue arrowFollow Hwy 11 south from the airport and check out Kailua-Kona town.
blue arrowCheck out the beautiful west coast beaches, the Captain Cook monument, and Kealakekua Bay.
blue arrowContinue on Hwy 11 around the tip of the island, making sure to stop at Punaluu Black Sand Beach for a little relaxation, lunch, and views of the basking turtles.
blue arrowHead towards Hawaii Volcanos National Park (Kilauea Crater) $ and check the visitor's center for current eruption conditions. They will tell you where and if you can see lava flows. There are endless possibilities for exploring in and around the crater and lava fields. If your timing is lucky, a sunset view of the flowing lava fields is something to never forget.
Stay: Eco-Resort in Ocean View, Big Island
Day 2:
blue arrowSince the road connecting Puna and Kilauea Crater is now covered in lava, head up Hwy 11 east.
blue arrowIn Keaau, you can take #130 south to explore Puna, with Kahena Black Sand Beach, more lava flow views, Lava Tree State Park, and picturesque roads.
blue arrowNext, head north towards Hilo and check out the many rainforest waterfalls north of Hilo including Rainbow, Akaka $, Umauma, and Peepee Falls.
blue arrowTime permitting, continue north by Lauahoehoe Park and end sightseeing for the day at the beautiful lookout of Waipio Valley.
Stay: Vacation rental, budget hotel, or B&B in Hilo or one of the smaller surrounding towns of Keaau or Pahoa.
Alternative: Camp at Keokea, Waimanu Valley, Kalopa, Laupahoehoe, or Kolehole.
Day 3:
blue arrowEmbark on Saddle Road and drive up the fast-increase-in-altitude Mauna Kea Road. Be aware for altitude sickness once on the volcano. There are several types of activities here, from skiing to hiking or looking around the visitor's center.
blue arrowContinue driving west on Saddle road to check out the town of Waimea (Kamuela) and the varied options of beaches on the north-west coast including Spencer Beach (calm, good for children) and Kahaluu Beach Park (snorkeling).
Stay: Vacation rental in Kamuela, Captain Cook or Kailua-Kona area OR if you can fly out of Hilo consider lodging closer to there.
Alternative: Camping at Kapaa, Mahukona, Spencer, or Hapuna Beach Parks.

#2 Big Island Off-the-Beaten Track Authentic Itinerary (click map for larger view)
Click to see larger image.
Day 1:
blue arrowFrom the airport, head a little north to Makalawena Beach. A 15 min walk will reward you with one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Boogie boarding and
freshening up in the freshwater pool here are just some of its attributes.
blue arrowHead south all the way down Hwy 11 and turn off at the tip of the island on South Point Road.
blue arrowPark at the end of this road and a 2 1/4 mile each-way trail will lead you to the unusual Green Sand Beach.
blue arrowGet back on Hwy 11 and journey to Hawaii Volcanos National Park $. Check at the visitor's center for current eruptions and decide on a hiking trail that suits your interests. Some longer trails offer shelters to sleep in at night.
Stay: The only real authentic green accommodation we've found on the Big Island (Ocean View).
Day 2:
blue arrowExplore the quiet but magical areas of Puna (the region on Hwy 130, 132, & 137).
blue arrowPlan a stop at the volcanically heated pools of Ahalanui and also nearby tide pools in Kapoho for possible snorkeling.
blue arrowHead north past Hilo to Kukuihaele and the Waipio Valley.
blue arrowOnce at the Waipio Valley lookout, you have several options of how to get down the ridiculously steep road into the valley. Even SUVs and 4x4's will violate some rental car agreements so think about walking or paying for the shuttle $, wagon $, or horse ride down $.
blue arrowLush, wonderful scenery with a beach, waterfalls, and hiking opportunities await you.
Stay: Vacation rental in Kamuela, Captain Cook or Kailua-Kona area.
Alternative: Hostel in Hilo or camping in Keokea, Waimanu Valley, Kalopa, Laupahoehoe, or Kolekole.
Day 3:
blue arrowHead west to Waimea/Kamuela to visit the cowboy town known for the famous Parker Ranch.
blue arrowEither take a detour to go on Saddle Road and visit the Mauna Kea observatory or continue heading west towards Mauna Kea Beach Park. Mauna Kea Beach Park offers a resort feel with calm waters and boogie boarding.
blue arrowVenture north up #270 to check out Lapakahi Park (snorkeling & Hawaiian ruins).
blue arrowContinue past Hawi, to end of the road at the Pololu Beach Lookout. There is a trail here down to the black sand beach of Pololu (20 min down, much more coming up).
Stay: Vacation rental in Kamuela, Captain Cook or Kailua-Kona area.
Alternative: Camping at Kapaa, Mahukona, Spencer, or Hapuna Beach Park.

#3 Big Island Party & Tourist Highlights Itinerary (click map for larger view)
Click to see larger image.
Day 1:
blue arrowHead south from the airport to Kailua-Kona.
blue arrowSnorkel at Kahaluu Beach Park.
blue arrowEnjoy a kayaking trip around Kealakekua Bay $.
blue arrowTake in a coffee plantation tour at Greenwell or Bayview $.
blue arrowEnjoy the sunset with happy hour specials $ in Kailua-Kona.
Stay: Condo/vacation rental in Kailua-Kona or one of the surrounding towns such as Captain Cook.
Alternative: Vacation rental in a smaller town such as Kamuela or Waikoloa.
Day 2:
blue arrowHead south on Hwy 11 to relax at Punaluu Black Sand Beach with the turtles.
blue arrowDrive east to Hawaii Volcanos National Park $. Check the visitor's center for current eruption conditions. They will tell you where and if you can see lava flows. There are endless possibilities for exploring in and around the crater and lava fields. If your timing is lucky, a sunset view of the flowing lava fields is something to never forget.
Stay: Stay in a Big Island yurt rental or budget green accommodation in Ocean View.
Day 3:
blue arrowFrom Kailua-Kona, take 190 then 200 (Saddle Road) towards Hilo. This is the longer route but will offer interesting scenery and a chance to drive up
to Mauna Kea.
blue arrowCheck out the quaint rainforest town of Hilo and the many waterfalls north of here (Rainbow, Akaka $, Umauma, and Peepee Falls to name a few).
blue arrowHawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens $ is another tourist stop alone the way.
blue arrowTime permitting, check out the Waiplio Valley lookout before leaving the east side.
blue arrowCircle back around to take a different and faster route back to Kailua-Kona, 19 then 190.
Stay: Condo/vacation rental in Kailua-Kona or one of the surrounding towns such as Captain Cook.
Alternative: Budget hotel, hostel, or vacation rental on the east coast.
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