Updated: September 23, 2019
From the black volcano fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the temperate rainforests of Hilo and the warm white sand beaches of Kona, things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii range from dolphin tours and canopy ziplining, to some of the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii. If you’re looking for the top 10 things to do on the Big Island, start here!
#1 – Sail & Snorkel Kealakekua Bay
If you have only one item on your things to do on the Big Island list, this should be it. There are those who say that snorkeling on the Big Island is the best in all of Hawaii—and certainly its most popular destination is Kealakekua Bay. Check out this incredible sailing & snorkeling tour on a 45-foot trimaran. You’ll sail down the Kona Coast and enjoy two incredible snorkeling stops on your adventure. Continental breakfast, deli lunch and beverages are all included – just bring a towel!
Family-friendly | Food and drink included | All equipment included
#2 – Volcano Unveiled Guided Tour
Set out on an adventure across the Big Island’s fire and ice terrain and discover the natural history of Hawaii’s landscape that made it the beauty it is today. This full-day volcano tour is led by a knowledgeable interpretive guide. You’ll enjoy several miles of hiking and even get access to a private lava tube! Lava tubes are tunnel formations that lava once flowed through—how neat is that? It’s a must-see for everyone and an unforgettable experience. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, and afternoon appetizers are provided, so you won’t leave hungry. Make sure to arrive with an appetite for exploration!
Food and drink included | All equipment included
#3 – Voyagers of the Pacific Luau
Spend an evening immersed in Hawaii and the South Pacific’s mesmerizing culture at the Royal Kona luau! Surrounded by live music, traditional dances, and tasty food, you’ll feel like one of the locals by the end of the night. After the shell lei welcome, you can do a group hula lesson, participate in traditional arts and crafts demonstrations, and watch the Samoan fire dance—the most dangerous dance in all of Polynesia! Don’t worry – you’ll get plenty of opportunities to take photos to show off to your friends. Plus, you’ll be able to indulge yourself at the all-you-care-to-eat buffet and watch the beautiful sunset with a couple of drinks in hand.
Food and drink included | Family-friendly
#4 – Dolphin Swim & Snorkel Adventure
Swim with dolphins off the Kona Coast on this small-group dolphin swim and snorkel adventure. This one’s on almost everyone’s best things to do on the Big Island list! Every morning, the Kona dolphins return to the Big Island after a night of feeding, following the same course along the coast to their resting place in a sandy cove. Kona Ocean Adventures takes you to the dolphin’s daily migration where you can passively observe the animals from the water. Afterward, visit a reef for snorkeling with tropical fish. This experience includes premium food and drinks and guarantees you’ll see dolphins. It’s not uncommon to see more than one hundred!
Ages 3+ | Small-group tours | Food and drink included | All equipment provided
#5 – Snorkel with Manta Rays
Named one of the 10 things you must do in your lifetime by The Travel Channel, this is something you can only do on the Big Island. Watch these 1,000-pound giants glide beneath you, their wing span reaching up to 16 feet, on Sea Quest’s superb moonlight manta dive. They’ll take you out to Manta Ray Village and set you up with a manta floatation device, which keeps you afloat while also lighting up the water beneath you.
Ages 7+ | Small-group tours | All equipment included
#6 – Kohala Canopy Zipline Adventure
There’s no better way to explore the lush green canopies of Hawaii than on a zipline going up to 45 miles per hour. On this Kohala Zipline Adventure you’ll take a 6-wheel drive Pinzgauers for an off-road drive to get to the top of the course. Once you’re at the top, you’ll get to zip from tree to tree—no walking up and down stairs between zips! You can even rent a GoPro camera or have your guide take photos for you to capture your entire ziplining experience!
Another option with Kohala Zipline is their Zip & Dip tour that combines ziplining with a picnic overlooking a private nature reserve, and stops at three secluded waterfalls along the way.
Lunch & snacks provided | Transportation included
#7 – Learn to Surf
Catch some waves in Kona by taking a 2-hour surfing lesson! A group surfing lesson has a low student-to-instructor ratio and can accommodate surfers of all levels. The lesson starts off at the surf shop with safety tips and surfing basics before moving into the water. All the gear—soft-top longboards, rash guards, and booties—will be provided, so you’ll just need to bring a swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen. It’s not much of a Hawaiian vacation without surfing!
Family-friendly | All equipment included
#8 – Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Adventure
A sunset and stargazing tour on the summit of Mauna Kea is a must-do on the Big Island. This dormant volcano is the highest peak on the island—14,000 feet above sea level—making it the perfect place to watch the stars. Your guide will set up a telescope and provide an astronomy lesson while you enjoy a warm picnic-style dinner on the mountain. Be sure to wear a cozy sweater and warm socks for this trip to view the breathtaking skies, but don’t worry about getting a little cold – they even provide hooded parkas and hot chocolate.
Ages 16+ | Small-group tours | Food and drink included
#9 – Kona Dinner Cruise
One of the best ways to experience the Big Island is by boat, where you can gaze upon the beautiful island coastlines from the ocean. This beautiful sunset dinner cruise covers a total of 12 miles and 50 historical sites from the Kona coast to Captain Cook’s monument. Enjoy a Hawaiian-style buffet dinner on-board and a complimentary cocktail while watching the picturesque sunset, then enjoy live entertainment on the way back to harbor.
Family-friendly | Food and drink included
#10 – Kailua-Kona Historical Segway Tour
Why walk when you can glide on a Segway? Explore and learn about Kailua-Kona while riding this unique form of transportation The historical Segway tour begins with a quick Segway lesson, then it moves on to scenic stops rich in Hawaiian history—Kailua Pier, Ahu’ena Heiau, Kona Beach Hotel, and Moku’Auikaua Church. If you’re looking for a relaxed but enjoyable sightseeing adventure, a Segway tour is the answer!
Ages 10+ | All equipment included | Water provided
Bucket List Bonus – Big Island Private Helicopter Tour
With so many diverse landscapes to explore on the Big Island, it can feel impossible to see them all in one vacation. You can, after all, find 11 out of 13 of the world’s climatic zones here. See it all and more on a Big Island helicopter tour. Choose from the island’s best waterfalls, its superior coastline, or the full island adventure with Mauna Loa Helicopters that will take you to see active lava flows. Of all the things to do on the Big Island, this one’s the showstopper.
Ages 7+ | Private experience
Did you know that Hawaii has recently banned the use of sunscreens that aren’t considered reef safe? Check out our review of the best reef safe sunscreens to make sure you’re protecting yourself, and the environment.
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