- Recently Updated: April 2022
The Big Island Hawaii is great for visitors who enjoy outdoor activities and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city areas.
With 137 big and small islets to pick, the big island stands out as the best Hawaiian island to visit. Rand McNally had a point when he quoted “Hawaii is a paradise born of fire”.
Hawaii National Park located on the big island provides magnificent volcanoes settings, unique species of plants and insight into the traditional Hawaiian culture associated with these landscapes.
Hawaii Volcanoes Park is a must-go for everyone who want to experience volcanoes and spectacular lava flows. The park features Kilauea Halema’uma’u Crater which is the second largest active volcano in the world.
This is one of best travel places to go on vacation where you can get a clear view of the lava flowing out of the volcano in Hawaii’s Big Island.
When To Visit Big Island Hawaii
The best time to visit Hawaii is from April to May as well as September to October because the islands would be less crowded. The weather is great with beautiful sunset and hotel’s accommodations are cheaper.
Nevertheless, the best time to visit Hawaii Big Island is from the months of December to March. This is the most ideal time to go check out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The west coasts of the islands are substantially drier than the east sides but the temperatures are pretty pleasant between 23°C and 30°C.
This Map Will Show You The Top Holiday Places
Where To Stay On Big Island
On the eastern side of the Big Island in Hawaii lies the Hawaii Paradise Park. It’s 15km from Hilo National Airport and 39 minutes away to Volcanoes Park.
Hale Paradise Guest House is cheaper than other similar accommodations but has a friendly and accommodating host.
The guest house is pretty peaceful and pleasant wit laid-back vibes. Clean, well maintain rooms with balcony and pool view.
Superb F&B with hotel standard amenities. It’s a nice beach vacation spot to unwind and relax, and it’s close to all the island’s attractions too.
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Best Places To Go On Big Island
- For most visitors, one or two days is enough, but you can spend an entire week in the park as well.
- An excellent place to stay is Volcano Village Estates, just 5 minutes away from Hawaii National Volcanoes Park.
- Highly reviewed and rated at 9.4, it’s also near to Hilo International Airport and Black Sand Beach(48.3km).
- The lodge has a fireplace with garden vibes setting and great amenities. A remarkable place to stay for couples and family with kids.
The Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea is such an obvious choice for one of the best vacation spots in Hawaii. So yeah, my recommendation is to proceed just before sunset to watch the spectacle show at night.
New eruption on the Kilauea volcano always draws crowds of visitors to see the plume of gas by day and the glowing lava in the crater by night. (Visit the park’s website for current flare conditions).
The main draw is the fascinating glow that emerges from the lake and radiates on the clouds above. During the day, it’s not totally impressive but from sunset it gets more sensational by the minute.
The vast majority of visitors to Hawaii National Park will go to the Jaggar Museum hoping to catch the eruption and lava flow from the crater. Instead of braving the crowds, head to Kilauea Iki Overlook to watch the action.
Other viewpoints to observe the volcano eruption include Wahinekapu, Keanakakoʻi, Waldron Ledge, and lookouts along the Crater Rim Trail. Don’t be despaired if you visit the park when there is no reported lava flow.
Just like my other post about chasing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over waterfalls in Iceland, the roaring volcanoes eruption in the big island are elusive and unpredictable.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers many other things to do especially if you like outdoor activities. I recommend Volcano Village near the park. There are excellent restaurants and art galleries too.
The Jaggar Museum is a combination of beautiful art exhibits and geological and cultural education.
When the schedule is available, you can attend the National Park Rangers presentation, which I found very interesting. (The ranger was very enthusiastic about the national park and had a nice personality too).
This is the closest view to the Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea, so you’ll want to stop here anyway!
- If you are only taking a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can visit the Volcano House for dinner.
- The Rim Lodge volcanoes house is also an original Hawaiian restaurant that offers seasonal dishes using ingredients from local ranchers and farmers.
- You will also be entertained with live music performed by local artists.
- Guests can relax after meals at Uncle George’s Lounge and Bar for drinks with amazing views of the surrounding Kilauea caldera and the roaring Halema’uma’u Crater.
- The Rim overlooks the Halemaumau crater in Kilauea, so the view here at night is incredible.
- I recommend making reservations for dinner and alcohol drinks thereafter.
Hōlei Sea Arch
The Holei Sea Arch is actually located at the end of the Chain of Craters road. A trip to this 27 meters high natural arch kills several birds with one stone.
You can travel the entire Great Crater Range Road and stop at other sights along the way. One of the best places to visit in Hawaii for couples looking to spend some quality time.
The Holei Sea Arch is a beautiful sight in itself, but what I liked most was the view of the volcanic rock at the edge of the ocean. Saltwater erosion gave birth to this rock structure.
When you are on the big island in Hawaii for the first time, you’ll notice that you’re surrounded by sea but much of Volcanoes National Park looks like a combination of rainforest and barren desert.
If you wish to explore the island on your own or self drive, I suggest getting this cool all-you-need-to-know driving trip app containing specific GPS on every turn, places to visit, in-depth information and more.
Thurston Lava Tubes
This is an interesting experience! From the parking lot, you begin descending through the dense rainforest and encounter an opening that leads to a cave which is essentially a tube cave (lava once flowed through it).
If it weren’t for ramps, lights and stairs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a silhouette of a monster on the blind side of the cave because it looked like something out of Jurassic World.
The descent and passage through Thurston’s lava tubes is fairly easy and only takes about 30 minutes but there are other places to go if you want to extend your experience.
Wahinekapu Steam Vents
There are two ways to view volcano steam vents. An easier option is to park at the Steam Vent stop on Crater Rim Drive and walk a short distance from your car.
Several of these chimneys like vents lead to the edge of the ring, where you can catch a view of the Volcano House behind them.
Another more interesting option is to leave from the Kilauea Visitor Center parking lot, located next to the Volcano Arts Center gallery, and walk 1 mile in any direction on the Haakulamanu Trail (Sulphur Shoals).
Top Things To Do On Big Island
- Walking/Hiking Shoes – Non-slip shoes for exploring. I suggest TTECON hiking shoes on this trip if you wish to hike around rugged terrain.
- Jacket/Pant – As a wind and rain barrier, a lightweight waterproof jacket and pants are adviseable.
- Socks – 100% Waterproof Breathable Socks are essentials for this terrain.
- Backpack – Osprey waterproof backpack is a good option for exploring and outdoor activities especially if you are caught in the rain.
- Magic Water Bottle – Lifestraw water-filter bottle is all you need especially for this type of trip. It remove all the impurities when you fill it up.
- Sunscreen – These are essential stuff for your trip to any hot and humidplaces.
- Trip resource: Essentials from Amazon
I walked this way on a clear day and been able to see Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Pu’u ‘Ō’ō and the Pacific Ocean. It was great to see craters along the way, which gave this hike an advantage over other shorter hikes.
The steepest of these craters is just a mile from the parking lot. If you arrive on a cloudy day or don’t feel like walking to Pu’uhuluhulu, you can always check out the craters and turn back.
To reach this trailhead, walk down Maunaulu Road to the parking lot. However, the trial might be a bit complicated. Suggest, you engage a local guide or check out the driving tip app.
Although the hike is not long, the majority of the landscape is not shaded. So yeah, water-bottle and hiking essentials are advisable to prevent heat stroke or fatique.
Kilauea Iki Trail
This was by far the best hike I did, and I think it is the most popular hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The trip begins at Kilauea Iki Lookout and descends 400 feet through the rainforest, past lava debris, wildlife and wildflowers before descending to the crater floor.
In some places, steam can be seen at the bottom of the crater, and it is interesting to see how the crater has formed as you follow the trail.
After wandering around for a while at the bottom of the crater, climb up the other side and do a loop, eventually landing on the other side.
The total distance of the trail is about 4 miles and I would say it is of medium difficulty as the 400 foot climb through the terrain is quite challenging.
Other than that, it’s pretty simple. I highly recommend taking a guide any adventure park as it really enhances and enriches the experience.
- Resource from Viator@Tripadvisor: Local Guide & Activities
The endangered Hawaiian goose (Nēnē) is the official state bird of Hawaii and is quite common…or at least as common as you would expect from an endangered species.
There are signs all over the park warning drivers to be careful, and that’s good advice. These heavy birds seem to be attracted to roads (which may be part of the reason for their endangered status).
One morning, I saw three different groups of Nene on the road at the crater area. The grasslands (there are few) along this road seem to be the best places to see these birds.
I saw several other bird species on the Desolation Trail, but I don’t know which ones they were, nor do I know if I was lucky or if they are really common in this area.
In the end, I thought it’s best to go to the park’s visitor center and talk to a ranger. The ranger I spoke with was very knowledgeable about current conditions and suggested several ideas on some other beautiful places and things to do on the big island in Hawaii.