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Hawaii: Big Island Adventures

How do you see everything on an island this big in a week? I now know you can't, but when visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, you will discover one of the most diverse places in the world when it comes to climate. The Big Island of Hawaii has 10 different climate zones of the 14 zones that exist. Our vacation experiences were as diverse as the climate, and we focused on spending as much time as possible outdoors. From dry and desolate volcanic landscapes to wet and foggy rainforests, we soaked in as much as we could during our trip.

map of Big Island Hawaii with destinations marked
Our Big Island Hawaii trip map. From desolate landscapes with volcanic rock to dense rainforest, this island has it all.

Cultural Landmarks and Parks

The Big Island has five national parks. We visited three of the national parks and many of the 14 state parks. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to let the pictures tell the story:

  • Volcano National Park: This park contains active volcanoes. Visiting VNP was a special highlight of our trip and worth every minute we spent. Click here for my deep dive on our 48-hours in Volcano National Park.

  • Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: This park on the Kona coast is considered a sacred and significant site where Hawaiian royalty lived. Watch the movie when you first arrive as it explains the different sites in the park. It was a pleasant walk with plenty of cooling sea breezes and expansive views.

  • Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve: Adjacent to the posh Mauna Lani resort’s golf course, we were surprised to find a field of petroglyphs. We took a winding hike through a dry, dusty and thorn-filled forest to see a large expanse of preserved petroglyphs. There are over 3,000 carvings representing people, animals and religious symbols.

Nature and Water

Akaka Falls, Big Island, Hawaii
Akaka Falls is taller than Niagara Falls and the walk to it is fragrant with eucalyptus.

On the way back to Kona from Volcano National Park, we planned time for a visit to ‘Akaka Falls State Park. The park is known for its immense waterfall, which at 442-feet, is taller than Niagara Falls. The trail is paved and easy and we enjoyed the jungle feel surrounded by orchids and fragrant eucalyptus trees.

During our drive around the island, we sought out the Pololū Lookout. The drive up to this scenic spot is twisty, turny and narrow and for us, it was dampened by rain. When we got to the parking place where the best view was to be had, a thick fog rolled in. We were sad and about to turn around when the sun burst out and created a rainbow for an admiring crowd. It was fun to see onlookers all snapping photos and smiling.

As you might guess, there are beautiful beaches all over the island. The conditions for snorkeling were not ideal during our visit and let’s just say rough water, sunscreen and me requiring help getting out of the water from the rough, uneven lava rocks means my husband’s wedding ring is somewhere on the bottom at the beach they call Two Step. Enough about that. Snorkeling can be amazing in Hawaii, but on this visit for us on this specific trip, it was not.

Two of my favorite moments in nature on this trip weren’t captured in photos - like the giant sea turtles bumping around together just under the water’s surface or the whale tail witnessed from the beach next to our rental house.


The food of Hawaii is as diverse as the changing landscape. From the sea, there is fresh fish and from the ranches, local beef and of course, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables too. The yard of our house rental provided mangos for the week! I didn’t manage to take a photo of the tuna and salmon poke we ate two times from Foodland. Poke is a Hawaiian specialty made of marinated raw fish served with rice or salad. Locals were lined up daily at this grocery chain for poke, which was a good enough sign for me. We ate royally for the price and enjoyed a poke picnic while still in our swimsuits.

Starting at the top:

Row 1:

  • Lava Flow cocktail from The Fish and the Hog in Waimea

  • Tuna steak with a scallop on top from A-Bay's in Waikoloa

  • Macadamia crusted fish with rice and broccolini from Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa - a place so nice we ate there twice. We loved this beachside restaurant for the view and the breeze and were thrilled when the service and the food were even better.

Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa was terrific for lunch with an open-air shaded bar area and dramatically beautiful at night for sunset.

Row 2:

  • Ube Bae cocktail from Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa

  • Fish tacos from The Fish and the Hog in Waimea

  • Smoked bourbon cocktail from Copper Bar at Mauna Kea Resort

Row 3:

  • Passionfruit Lava Flow cocktail from Huggo's On the Rocks in Kailua Kona - not as pretty as a strawberry Lava Flow, but just as tasty

  • Malasadas from World Famous Hot Malasadas on Puako Beach Road - roadside freshly made donuts, with filling of your choice and rolled in sugar of your choice (coconut, caramel, chocolate, passionfruit!), note only takes cash!

Row 4:

  • Lava Flow from The Fish and the Hog in Waimea

  • Sushi from Copper Bar at Mauna Kea Resort

  • Lilikoi (passionfruit) Lemon Pie from Kilauea Lodge in Volcano

I may have a Lava Flow addiction.

Hale Hoaloha Lu’au

While we’d been to a luau on Maui, a friend in our group had not and she wanted the experience (and she fully engaged, even getting up on stage when they taught hula!). A luau is very expensive, but if you think of it as "dinner and a show" with a lot of talented performers, it's easier to justify the cost. We chose the Hale Hoaloha luau at the Mauna Kea Resort, where we were greeted with beautiful shell leis and a Mai Tai upon checking in.

A band playing traditional Hawaiian music, along with a stunning seaside sunset view set the perfect mood for an enjoyable evening. As the evening began, we were served taro chips with a creamy ahi tuna dip. Then we were led to a giant pit for the imu ceremony, where the pig was buried under banana leaves, ti plants and hot rocks to roast all day. It was quite a show seeing them lift our dinner out of the ground.

The buffet opened and as my plate shows, I overindulged. I wanted to try everything! The pulled pork was delicious and there were so many sides to choose from including ahi poke, shrimp cocktail, taro rolls and Molokai sweet potato salad. The dessert offerings were miniature size, which was perfect after the buffet—lilikoi mousse, guava mousse cake, haupia pudding and lots of fresh fruit.

As we dined, we were entertained with dancing, singing and the stories of Hawaii’s beginnings and the history of the land area known as Kalāhuipuaʻa, which is considered the “piko” (center) of the majestic mountains of Haleakalā, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai. The luau was a relaxing way to end our vacation and feel grateful for all of our experiences.

Mahalo, Big Island

Our vacation was as diverse as the climate zones on the Big Island. If you want to visit an otherworldly location with so much to offer, make the Big Island your next destination.


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