Hawaii - The Big Island Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Honeymoon Destinations in the USA
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Courtesy of Sean Davey / Aurora Photos/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Hawaii - The Big Island

If you have extra time, Anaehoomalu Beach is worthwhile.
  • #5
    Things to do in Hawaii - The Big Island
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    #5 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Kaunaoa Beach is one of Big Island's most picturesque white sand beaches. So, most travelers recommend coming early (around 8:30 a.m.) to Kaunaoa to snag one of the too-few parking spots – and spending most of the day there. 

    This eggshell-colored sand beach on the central, Kohala coast (in Waimea) has plenty to amuse you. Snorkeling is popular here, especially at either end of the beach, but you can also try bodyboarding, or a pickup volleyball game. The Mauna Kea Resort flanks this popular beach, and you'll find it about 30-some miles from Kailua-Kona off of Highway 19 and nearby mile marker 68. Restrooms and showers are available. If your stomach starts to grumble, consider sitting down for a meal at the resort's restaurant.

  • #6
    Hilo Farmers Market
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    #6 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Local farmers and artisans congregate each day to sell everything from produce to seafood, handicrafts to clothing in downtown Hilo. And most travelers agree there's no better place on the Big Island to sample local produce and purchase local crafts. Hilo Farmers Market sells some of everything, from the run-of-the-mill (like pineapples and bananas) to more unique items (like jaboticaba fruit or bongo drums), but you'll have to arrive early and you can't be afraid to bargain. You can also enjoy some poke and shaved ice while you browse. 

    Though most travelers enjoyed their visit to the market (especially on Wednesdays or Saturdays, when the market welcomes the most vendors), some were disappointed with the selection of wares and crafts, cautioning that some of the goods did not appear to be local. Many said this was a great place to stop for lunch, but may not be a satisfying spot for quality souvenirs. 

  • #7
    Anaehoomalu Beach
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    #7 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the Kohala Coast's premier beaches, Anaehoomalu Beach is a favorite haunt for frequent Big Island visitors. Do as they do and call it "A-Bay" – that way you'll truly be in the know. You won't find too many locals on this massive stretch of salt and pepper sand, but you will have lots of opportunities to try some water sports, such as stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling, in the calm and clear water. 

    Visitors will tell you that A-Bay isn't the most picturesque shore on Big Island, but it has convenience going for it. Hordes of hotels provide the backdrop, and there are lots of nearby bars and bathrooms to choose from. However, some say that there are limited beach chairs, so travelers might want to bring their own chairs and umbrellas. You can also visit at about any time of day you want: there are no set hours of operation and there's ample parking in a public parking lot.

  • #8
    Hapuna Beach State Park
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    #8 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The deliberately named waters of Hapuna Beach – Hapuna means "spring of life" in Hawaiian – are probably the most loved on all of the Big Island. Both visitors and residents flock to this beach on the South Kohala coast, and encourage you to do the same. If you're not visiting for the soft-as-cotton sand, then you've probably come for the aquamarine water. And if you aren't enjoying the aquamarine water then you've probably come for the unbelievable sunsets. 

    Hapuna Beach's famously calm waves are really only famously calm for part of the year; in the wintertime the tide might be too rough for swimming (though you may spot migrating whales from the shore). And this beautiful beach is understandably crowded much of the time, but doesn't have many concession stands or beach-side restaurants. Still, recent travelers are more inclined to point out Hapuna's positives: There's almost always a lifeguard on duty, which is invaluable when the tide is high. There's also plenty of parking, but keep in mind there's a $5 parking fee per vehicle. You'll also find plenty of picnic benches, showers and restrooms. The beach is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • #9
    Papakolea Beach
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    #9 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Putting Papakolea Beach on one's travel itinerary is not for the faint of heart. For one, its secluded location makes it tough to reach. Plus, there is little shade and nothing in the way of amenities, and it also experiences rough waters. But intrepid travelers brave the journey because they want to say they've visited one of the world's only green sand beaches. 

    Papakolea earned this distinction thanks to the Pu'u Mahana cinder cone (or volcanic fragment) that circles the beach's shoreline and erodes into the sand. Allot at least two hours for an excursion here, time enough to get to this secluded spot – you'll find a dead-end road in South Point off Highway 11 – and then to make the 3-some-mile hike or drive to the cinder cone's steep descent to Papakolea.

  • #10
    Punalu'u Beach
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    #10 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Some say the waters here are too rough and rocky to really enjoy swimming, but that's not the real reason to visit Punalu'u, anyway. This beach in southern Hawai'i is ideal for its picture-taking potential. For one thing, the onyx-tinted sand here owes its unique hue to the ongoing volcanic activity of Kilauea in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. And for another, this beach is often visited by Honu (or Hawaiian green sea turtles) that like to swim to and sun on the shore. You might also catch a glimpse of a hawksbill sea turtle from time to time. 

    Past travelers were in awe of Punalu'u and said it's a quick "must-see." Other described the beach as "calm," though they cautioned that the beach's black sand can get very hot. 

  • #11
    Kealakekua Bay
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    #11 in Hawaii - The Big Island
    Beaches, Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Snorkelers like to visit this remote bay on Hawaii's west coast for the tropical fish, sea turtles and Hawaiian Spinner dolphins that are plainly visible just below the calm, shallow water's surface. History junkies make the trek to Kealakekua for a different reason altogether. 

    Navigator captain James Cook first spotted the bay and stayed here as a guest in January 1779. Weeks later, tensions rose and he was killed on the very same shore. Take time in between snorkel trips and scuba dives to behold the large white Captain Cook Monument that sits across the bay. Recent visitors said the state park offers an interesting history lesson in a beautiful setting. Along with a picnic pavilion and water fountains, there are also restrooms. For more information, visit the state park's website.

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