A woman admiring the sunset from a lava field in Volcanoes National Park on island of Hawaii Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Tommy Lundberg
A woman admiring the sunset from a lava field in Volcanoes National Park on island of Hawaii. Image: Hawaii Tourism Authority Tommy Lundberg

Best things to see and do on island of Hawai’i

See active volcanoes, swim with manta rays, visit coffee plantations and go horse riding on the island of Hawai’i
A park ranger explains pahoehoe lava flow area in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on island of Hawaii Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Heather Goodman
A park ranger explains pahoehoe lava flow area in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on island of Hawai'i. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority Heather Goodman

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Visitors to island of Hawai‘i can find a diverse range of experiences across its dramatic landscapes, which range from lush valleys to snow-capped peaks. The island is home to five volcanoes, including two of the world’s most active. Maunaloa erupted for the first time since 1984 in November and December 2022, while Kīlauea has erupted dozens of time since 1952, with the most recent eruption beginning in September 2023. For the latest updates and alerts visit nps.gov

Scenic helicopter flight

You can see portions of the volcanoes in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, which has numerous hikes to explore its more than 1,400 sq km. But the best way to appreciate the island’s incredible scenery – which also includes towering waterfalls, canyons and awe-inspiring coastal cliffs – is by booking a scenic helicopter flight. 

Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Another UNESCO site, Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, is considered one of Hawai‘i’s most sacred historic places. Once the home of royal grounds and a place of refuge for lawbreakers, here you can see ki‘i (wooden images of gods) that guard  the temple of Hale o Keawe heiau, the ruins of an important chief’s  home and ancient rock ponds where fish were trapped.

nps.gov

Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve on Island of Hawaii Image Heather Goodman Hawaii Tourism Authority
Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve on Island of Hawai'i. Image: Heather Goodman Hawai'i Tourism Authority

See petroglyphs on island of Hawai‘i

Along the Kohala Coast, on the north-western side of the island, the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve boasts more than 3000 ki‘i pōhaku rock carvings dating back to 1200AD. Although the true meanings of the ancient etchings are unknown, it is generally believed they are records of births and other significant events in the lives of the people who lived on the island. Just north of the Mauna Lani resort, the rocky Holoholokai Beach also features carvings of humans, canoes and turtles.

Fair Wind and the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawaii Image Fair Wind
Fair Wind and the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawai'i. Image: Fair Wind

Visit Captain Cook’s final resting place at Kealakekua Bay

Further south on the Kona Coast, book a cruise from Kailua-Kona to Kealakekua Bay, a protected Hawai‘i Marine Life Conservation District where you can see the monument to British explorer Captain Cook, snorkel among tropical fish, and maybe even spot spinner dolphins!

Go snorkelling or scuba diving with manta rays

You can also book a tour from Honokōhau Harbor, just north of Kailua-Kona, to go snorkelling or diving with graceful manta rays each evening. Hawaiian Sails offers tours aboard a replica of an ancient double hull sailing canoe called Hahalualele (the Flying Manta Ray) from the beach at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel at Waimea.

A woman holding Kona coffee beans Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Heather Goodman
A woman holding Kona coffee beans. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority Heather Goodman

Visit coffee plantations in Kona

Coffee lovers can visit Kona plantations where coffee beans are grown in the mineral-rich soil, harvested and processed. Many offer tours and samples to the public, and the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is held there each November.

A horse rider looks at Maunakea from Waimea on island of Hawaii Image Hawaii Tourism Authority Heather Goodman
A horse rider looks at Maunakea from Waimea on island of Hawai'i. Image: Hawai'i Tourism Authority Heather Goodman

Go horse riding on island of Hawai‘i

The island of Hawai‘i also has a rich cowboy culture, centred in the upcountry pastures of Waimea and North Kohala. While cattle are more likely to be rounded up by ATVs these days, you can still experience the paniolo (cowboy) lifestyle and go horse riding at ranches in the area.

Play golf on island of Hawai‘i

The island is also a dream destination for golfers, with expertly-designed courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean, lush green fairways set against black volcanic rock and greens speckled with palm trees.

Hilo and Kamuela Farmers Markets

On the eastern side of the island, the town of Hilo is worth a visit to see its museums, art galleries and shops. Spend a morning wandering among more than 200 stalls at the daily Hilo Farmers Market, where exotic fruit, jam, jewellery and arts and crafts are sold (the big market days are Wednesday and Saturday). Kamuela Farmers Market in Wailea is also worth checking out on a Saturday morning.

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