Because of the distances involved, a week is barely enough time to see the entire Big Island; it’s best to plan for 2 weeks—or even better, a return visit. Nevertheless, here is a way to see most of the highlights, changing hotels as you go.
Day 1:Arrive & Amble through Kailua-Kona
Since most flights arrive at lunchtime or later, check into your Kona Coast lodgings and go for a stroll through historic Kailua-Kona, including Hulihee Palace and Mokuaikaua Church . Wear sandals so you can dip your feet in one of the pocket coves, such as Kamakahonu Bay, within sight of Kamehameha’s historic compound, and enjoy an early dinner at an ocean-view restaurant to view a spectacular sunset. Don’t unpack—you’ll be on the road early the next day, taking advantage of your internal clock’s Mainland time.
Day 2:A Morning Sail & Afternoon Drive
The day starts with a morning snorkel tour (plus breakfast and lunch) aboard the Fair Wind II , sailing to the historic preserve of Kealakekua Bay. After returning to Keauhou Bay, head south to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park , by way of Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park and the Kau Coffee Mill, for a pick-me-up. Check into Volcano Village lodgings or Volcano House in the park, where you’ll dine in full view of Kilauea’s fiery evening glow.
Day 3:Explore an Active Volcano
Stop at the national park’s Kilauea Visitor Center to learn about current lava viewing (if any) and the day’s free ranger-led walks. Take Crater Rim Road past billowing Halemaumau Crater to see Thurston Lava Tube ), Devastation Trail ), and other sights before driving down Chain of Craters Road, leading to a vast petroglyph field and the 2003 lava flow that smothered the roadway. After sunset, visit the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum (open till 7:30pm) and its observation deck for yet another look at Pele’s power.
Day 4:Tour Old Hawaii
It’s just a 45-minute drive from Volcano to Hilo , so after breakfast go to the Imiloa: Astronomy Center of Hawaii , opening at 9am. Then explore Banyan Drive , Liliuokalani Gardens, and one of Hilo’s small but intriguing museums, such as the free Mokupapapa Discovery Center . Stroll through Nani Mau Gardens or Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden before driving along the pastoral Hamakua Coast , stopping at breathtaking Akaka Falls and the similarly stunning Waipio Valley Lookout. Dine on farm-fresh cuisine in Waimea) or Kawaihae before checking into your Kohala Coast hotel.
Day 5:Step Back in Time on the Kohala Coast
Start by exploring Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site , the temple Kamehameha built to the war god, Ku, and sign up for a free ride on a traditional outrigger sailing canoe. Continue north on Hwy. 270 to Lapakahi State Historical Park to see the outlines of a 14th-century Hawaiian village, and have lunch in Hawi or Kapaau, home of the original King Kamehameha Statue) in Kapaau. The final northbound stop is the picturesque Pololu Valley Lookout . Heading south in the late afternoon, stop at the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve . To learn more Hawaiian lore, book one of Kohala’s evening luaus.
Day 6:Sand, Sea & Stars
You’ve earned a morning at the beach, and the Big Island’s prettiest are on the Kohala Coast: Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay), Hapuna, and Kaunaoa . Skip the scuba, though, because in the afternoon you’re heading up the 13,796-foot Mauna Kea , sacred to Hawaiians and revered by astronomers. Let an expert with 4WD, cold-weather gear, and telescopes for stargazing take you there: Mauna Kea Summit Adventures or Hawaii Forest & Trail .
Day 7:Spa, Beach, or Coffee Time
On your last full day, visit one of North Kona’s gorgeous beaches hidden behind lava fields, such as Kekaha Kai State Park or the tranquil cove at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in the morning. In the afternoon, relax with a spa treatment at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii’s Spa Without Walls or another Kohala resort spa, or tour a Kona coffee farm , and pick up gourmet beans as souvenirs.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.