I was so excited when my then-fiance, Jordan, visited me for a week in Hawaii. There were so many things I wanted to do while I was on the island, but couldn’t because I had nobody to do it with. Because he was there for 8 days, I really maximized our time. I got to enjoy him, but we also got to enjoy the beauty and richness of the Big Island.
The Big Island is my home, so I think it’s fair to say that I know it pretty well. When Jordan came to Hawaii, I made this list, and you can feel free to copy it! It gives a pretty solid itinerary for a 8-day vacation to the Big Island, and although it doesn’t cover the whole island, it covers some of the popular and iconic spots, and places that are significant to me. This is also an agenda for those who are a little more adventurous and like hiking or swimming. 🙂 For this agenda, I didn’t write specifics of where everything is, but that’s what Maps is for right? #thanksSiri
You’ll probably be jet-lagged so sleeping in is always nice. Take a swim at Carl Smith beach to see the sea turtles then jump off the tower at Coconut Island. Head over to the Hilo Farmer’s Market for some Filipino sweets or some cool souvenirs then stop at Foodland for a Poke bowl (shoyu poke and spicy poke are my favorite! If they ask if you want furikake and shoyu on your rice, say yes! You won’t regret it, I promise :)). Spend the rest of the evening at Rainbow Falls and drive a little more ways up the mountain to see Pe’epe’e falls. Wrap up the day with a trip to Walmart for groceries (you’ll need stuff for breakfast the next day, and I highly recommend stocking up on tons of water–and please, if you’ve never been to Hawaii, please don’t forget sunscreen) and a Jamba Juice across the street for refreshment.
Wake up early to start the drive to South Point–going early guarantees you’ll beat the rush of the tourists. And don’t be afraid to stop at the Lookout to take some amazing pictures too!
Stop at Punalu’u Bakery in Na’alehu to grab water and lunch for later (their lilikoi malasadas are pretty bomb). 😛 Then head to South Point and jump off! There’s a sign that says not to jump off but how many opportunities in life will you have to jump off the southernmost tip of the United States of America? 😛 I always pack an extra big jug of water so I can rinse the salt off after jumping off South Point and before getting back into the car.
After, hike to Green Sand beach–you can catch a shuttle that the locals advertise, but it’s fun to walk as well. I enjoyed the hike because we could stop and find seashells by the shore, but be careful because the sun can be pretty brutal. We ate lunch at Green Sands then hiked back and drove to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Enjoy the turtles there and relax on the black cliffs before rinsing off (and we changed into different clothes because we were so sweaty after the hike) and heading to Volcano National Park. It should be dark by the time you get to the park so that when you drive to the Jaggar Museum, you can see the glow of the lava (side note, you’ll probably need a sweater for this). On your way back down to town, stop in Keaau for a bite to eat (L&L’s is a local favorite, but you can always opt to shopping at Foodland for sushi and mochi).
I hope you’re already convinced that this is the place to go to on your vacation to Hawaii! Start the morning with a dip at Carl Smith then head along the coast, enjoying the views of Hilo bay, to these waterfalls:
-Akaka Falls (it costs $1 for the entrance fee but it’s worth it!)
Keep on going to Waipio Valley and take the hike down (it’s worth it!!). Enjoy the scenery then hike back up and grab a bite at Tex Drive-in. They’re known to have the best malasadas, and I think they really do! I would also recommend their teri-beef plate. It’s so moist (sorry if you hate that word) and tender, you won’t regret it. 🙂
Wake up early (like at 5am) to drive on Saddle road from Hilo to Kona. Do a morning session at the Kona LDS Temple (if you’re LDS! :)) then grab a bite–Kona has a multitude of places you could eat at–and then head to Hapuna beach. Spend as much time as you would like there, and then make your way back to Hilo. You can go back through Saddle road, or stop through the Hawaiian Cowboy county, Waimea. When you’re back in Hilo, a good place to eat is Sweet Thunder Sushi. They have the most amazing sushi rolls.
We’re still going! 🙂 Grab a bite or pack breakfast and spend time in Pahoa side by going to Pohoiki and watching the surfers. If you’re early enough, you can go into the Ahalanui hot ponds, but if you’re not early I wouldn’t recommend swimming in there. We just put our feet in to feel the warmth. Go to the end of Kaloli Drive to hike to the Shipman Beach Park (aka Ha’ena). Make sure not to get smashed guava on your shoes or it will stain–I learned that from experience. Go to Keaau for lunch/dinner again (I highly recommend L&L’s Chicken Katsu). Finally, head back to Volcano to hike out and see the lava flowing into the ocean. If you follow the Chain of Craters Road to the very end, you should be able to hike out and see the lava. We went in the dark so it was wonderfully cool and refreshing. It was a very pleasant hike.
Have another great morning by treating yourself to breakfast somewhere (Ihop, Ken’s House of Pancakes, or Hawaiian Style), then head back up to enjoy Volcano National Park in the daytime. I recommend the Crater Rim hike, and the Thurston Lava Tube. On your way back down to town, stop at the Panaewa zoo to see the white tiger. You can also choose to stop at the Macadamia Nut farm. Grab a Bubble Tea on Kino’ole street at the Hilo Rice Noodle Shop (Taro is my favorite flavor!). Then enjoy the rest of the day at the beach (Carl Smith is always my #1 recommendation but there are others in Keaukaha too).
You’re probably super burnt out by now! But there’s still more to do. Walk out along the barriers that keep Hilo Bay what it is, but don’t go too far unless you can tell the tides (which most people can’t so just don’t go too far). If you still want to relax, head up to Bird Park in Volcano and enjoy the scenery and beauty there.
Your last day in Hilo! 😦 Just enjoy the beach, and I would recommend last stop things like Big Island Candies or trying laulau from Kuhio Grill. If you’re going across the island to the Kona airport, I would recommend having enough time to stop at Mauna Kea and going to the visitor’s center up there (that’s more of a “just so you can say you did it” type of thing).
So there you have it! Like I said, this itinerary is really packed but if you want to get the most of your trip there, I would highly recommend at least looking through my list of things, because I condensed it more by location. In any case, if you end up going to Hilo, have an amazing time! There is so much to enjoy and to see, and of course the biggest thing is to savor the moment–savor the warmth, the kindness, the culture, and the life of the island.
At the moment, the Big Island is experiencing tons of lava flows that are destroying homes. The places I’ve mentioned are out of the way of this flow.