Whether you’re looking for a heart-stopping activity or a family-friendly excursion, there is a wealth of activities to choose from on the Big Island. From night swims with manta rays to hikes through active volcanoes, here are some of the best things to do on the Big Island.
After dark in Kona, dozens of visitors do the unthinkable— plunge into inky nighttime seas to swim with giant manta rays. Manta ray swims are one of the most popular things to do on the Big Island. Although some rays can grow up to 25 feet, mantas are harmless. And they’re among the most graceful, mesmerizing, and intelligent creatures in the sea.
Each night, this top-rated manta tour shuttle guests to the rays’ favorite haunts— typically off Keauhou Bay. From there, the boat crew lowers a floating platform into the water. The platform is outfitted with handles to hang on to and lights that illuminate the deep. The lights attract scores of microscopic plankton, in turn attracting hungry rays. Snorkelers simply hang onto the raft and watch as the rays perform a hypnotic ballet beneath them.
Kealakekua Bay is usually associated with Captain Cook and the historical events that took place there. But the bay is also a Marine Life Conservation District, home to one of the most well-preserved reef systems in the world. The reef slopes sharply away from shore, creating an ideal habitat for an array of marine animals, from fish and eels to larger animals like rays and dolphins.
Departing from Honokohau Harbor, this tour zips south to Kealakekua Bay. Along the way, you’ll watch for dolphins, false killer whales, and humpback whales (in season). After an exhaustive snorkel sesh, explore a rugged lava coast dotted with sea caves and dramatic arches.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the state’s best-known attractions— and for a good reason. The park sits on Mount Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Here, lava lakes boil with molten magma, steam billows from deep cracks in the ground, and small tremors shake the park daily. The earth here is primordial and alive.
For an in-depth experience, spend a full day exploring Kilauea on an Active Volcano Tour. This excursion offers visitors an exclusive look at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hike several miles across otherworldly lava plains, explore subterranean depths at a private lava tube, and learn about plant and animal life in the area. After sunset, the tour culminates with views of the Halemaumau lava lake glowing in the darkness.
Mauna Kea’s sacred peak rises nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. With a thin atmosphere and minimal light pollution, conditions are optimal for viewing the constellations.
But reaching Mauna Kea’s summit isn’t easy: the peak is only accessible via a grueling 4×4 drive that’s not for the faint of heart. However, this Mauna Kea Stargazing tour makes it easy. This tour shuttles visitors to the summit utilizing a custom-built 4×4 motor coach. Afterward, the tour returns to 9,000 feet for an unforgettable stargazing experience. Watch as the sun sets and the constellations come alive and peer into the heavens with an 11″ Celestron Telescope.
No matter which Hawaiian island you visit, a luau is a must. There are many great options on the Big Island.
Feast and Fire Luau: Located on the oceanfront at Keauhou Bay, Feast and Fire luau features pre-show cultural activities, a Hawaiian feast, an artisan village, and a top-rated Polynesian show.
Island Breeze Luau: This luau is held near Ahuʻena Heiau in Kona— the estate of Kamehameha the Great. Cast members arrive via outrigger canoe, and the celebration features an imu ceremony, open bar, and fire dancing.
Hawaii Loa Luau: Hosted at the Fairmont Orchid, the Hawaii Loa Luau invites guests to explore nearby cultural sites and talk story with the cast before the show. Enjoy a top-rated buffet dinner and watch as ancestral stories are told through song and dance.
Kona Oceanfront Luau: The Kona Oceanfront Luau takes place in the heart of Kona at the iconic Royal Kona Resort. Watch a spectacular sunset and Polynesian show, complemented by an open bar, cultural activities, and fire dancing.
After a few days of exploring Kona’s touristy digs, a trip to the Kohala countryside is a breath of fresh air. This exclusive Waterfall Adventure explores North Kohala’s remote locales, far from Kona’s glistening resorts and perpetually busy beaches.
Ramble across the rugged landscape in a six-wheel-drive vehicle to reach a private nature reserve, where you’ll explore nearly two miles of trails. As you wander through the rainforest, passionate guides share valuable manao about Hawaiian history, culture, and native animals. Wash off the jungle humidity in one of seven cascading falls in the reserve before stopping for lunch at a scenic location overlooking Pololu Valley.
This Kona sunset cruise features everything a good evening should: epic views, a well-stocked bar, a delightful feast, and live music. But instead of leaving guests to their own devices, this cruise provides a fascinating look into Kona’s rich history.
This cruise travels from Kona to Kealakekua Bay, passing over 50 historic sites. A local historian narrates the journey, pointing out heiaus, ancient palaces, and battlefields. After arriving at Kealakekua Bay, the emcee concedes to the onboard musicians, and a succulent Hawaiian feast is served as the sun sinks into the Pacific.
For some, Kona calls to mind one thing: coffee. The upper reaches of the region are dotted with small coffee farms that capitalize on Kona’s perfect coffee growing conditions, producing some of the world’s most highly-prized coffee beans.
To get a glimpse of how this esteemed coffee is made, book yourself a spot on a Kona Coffee Plantation Tour. Guests are welcomed with a fresh cup of award-winning Kona coffee and invited to explore the coffee’s seed-to-cup journey. This excursion includes a tour of the plantation’s five-acre coffee farm, a visit to the roasting room, and closes with a limited edition coffee tasting.
From high-elevation cloud forests to arid lava deserts, the Big Island is home to a myriad of microclimates and diverse landscapes. And at a whopping 4,028 square miles, it’s almost impossible to explore the island in its entirety on a short vacation.
Instead of pushing your rental car to the limit, opt to see the island from above on the Big Island Spectacular Helicopter Tour. In under two hours, you’ll feast your eyes on the fiery depths of the Kilauea caldera, the perpetually green Hamakua Coast, and the spilling waterfalls and plunging valleys of North Kohala. This excursion also features a landing near Laupahoehoe Nui, where guests are afforded unparalleled photo opportunities near a 1,200-foot waterfall.
Besides coffee, beer is one of the Big Island’s most famous exports— namely, the brews from Kona Brewing Company. Beer lovers, be sure to reserve your spot on a brewery tour of Kona Brewing’s new 30,000-square-foot facility.
This tour includes a peek around the brewery, where 100,000 barrels are produced annually. You’ll learn about the brewing process, Kona Brewings’ sustainable practices, and talk-story about all things beer with your Liquid Aloha guide. The best part: at the end of the tour, you’ll be treated to four 4oz beer tastings.