Hawaii Week: The Big Island

The island of Hawaii, or “The Big Island” as it is often known, has two key tourism spots: Hilo and Kona. In this post we’ll show you the differences and break down the best places to Eat, Stay, and Play.


Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls, personal photo


Hilo is on the east side of Hawaii and gets 5 times as much rain as the west side of the island. During my 3 days there, we experienced hours of rain every single day. Hilo is also very laid back and adheres to the slow pace of the Old Hawaiian lifestyle. Beaches on this side of the island are cool, with choppy waves and black sand beaches. Don’t let all this keep you away from Hilo though. With its rains you’ll see amazing rainforests and waterfalls unlike anywhere else in the state. Hilo is also closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the sites inside it. I’d recommend Hilo for anyone who likes hiking, nature, adventure and doesn’t mind getting a little dirty. Check out my adventures in Hilo on my Flickr page.


Spam Omelet with rice

Kens House of Pancakes, by flickr user ewen and donabel

Ken’s House of Pancakes: The portions are large and it’s open after dark which is a rarity in Hilo. During my trip to Hawaii I found myself without many dining options over the weekend so I have tested every meal of the day at Ken’s and I heartily approve. Don’t miss the pancakes!

Seaside Restaurant: Seaside Restaurant is known best for its fresh seafood (the restaurant is located on a fish farm!) but locals swear by its prime rib. Not only is the food delicious but the location is amazing and has beautiful views.


Mauna Loa Volcano

Lava flow, personal photo

Liliuokalani Gardens: These Japanese Gardens are picturesque and very peaceful.  The entrance is marked by Banyan trees and inside you can find bridges, flowers, paths, and lanterns. It’s a perfect place for a picnic or an evening stroll.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: There’s so much to see in this park that you really need more than 1 day to see it all. During my visit I saw Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The highlight of my visit was the activity along Chain of Craters Road and the hike we took to the lava flow (picture above). Since the lava is still active and flowing, I’m sure it looks different now and the trail is different. A word of advice that my parents didn’t take to heart: Start late in the day, bring snacks, and bring as much water as you can carry. Thankfully we all followed the advice to wear comfy shoes because the lava is tricky to walk on. Still, you can’t beat the views here.

Akaka Falls State Park: Akaka Falls has a 1-mile walking trail with bamboo, flowers and trees marking the path. The highlight of course is Akaka Falls, a 422 foot waterfall. This is a calm peaceful area perfect for exploring and taking photos of.

Wailuku River State Park: The highlight of this park is Rainbow Falls. This waterfall is only 80 feet tall but it makes for a very beautiful waterfall. Where the falls hit the water below you’ll often see the glimmer of a rainbow, hence the name.


Castle Hilo Hawaiian

Castle Hilo Hawaiian, personal photo

Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel: During my own stay in Hilo in 2005, I stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian. The rooms were spacious and quiet and is within walking distance of Liliuokalani Gardens. Rooms have lanais that overlook the ocean waters and you’re only a 45-minute drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.


Kona, Hawaii............................IMG_6240

Kona, by flickr user Bruce Tuten


Kona is your typical sunny beachy tropical location. It’s a resort town with plenty of hotel options and dining and shopping options. Kona is also close to the prime snorkeling spots at Kealakekua Bay. The western coast is full of white sandy beaches, though they are smaller in size than the beaches on other islands. Kona is best for travelers looking for swimming, tanning, or a good night life.


Rapanui Island Cafe: This is a small restaurant with a mix of Hawaiian/Indonesian/Asian Fusion foods on the menu. The mussels are a top pick for appetizers and both the ahi tuna and the shrimp get high marks with guests.

Da Poke Shack: Poke is a mix of a hodge podge of Hawaiian favorites. Most recipes include raw fish and vegetables and seasonings. Locals swear by this place and tourists should try it to get a sense of authentic flavor.


Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano that is the tallest mountain in the world when you count the portions underwater. Many people visit the Visitor’s Center up at 9000 ft. but if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you can go to the summit up at 14000 ft. The volcano also has a nightly stargazing program free of charge.

Kua Bay

Kua Bay, by flickr user xxrobot

Kua Bay: Also known as Manini’owali Beach, Kua Bay is part of Kekaha Kai State Park. The sand here is sugar-fine and the water is clear and blue. This is a top spot for snorkeling, diving, or just laying out in the sun. On days where the waves are higher, consider trying out a body board to ride the waves.


The Fairmont Orchid: The grounds of this hotel are fabulous, from the beautiful pool to turtles climbing out of the ocean to sunbathe. The service here is also top-notch. If you are looking for a luxurious experience without the high price of some nearby properties, this is a slightly more affordable option. Check out Camels & Chocolate‘s visit to the property.

Hilton Waikaloa Village

Hilton Waikoloa Village, by flickr user annamatic3000

The Hilton Waikoloa: This resort has so much to do making it a beloved spot for families. The pools here have waterslides while some are adults only, there’s a lagoon you can ride kayaks in or try a spin on a waterbike. There are cruise packages, whale watching packages, dolphin adventures and snorkeling trips.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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