Updated: Feb 13, 2022
I am sitting… on some hardened lava rocks. Not the most comfortable thing I’ve sat on, but the scenery around me is so beautiful I forget about the little spiky pain. This island is full of lava flows both new and old. The ripples, swirls, layers, and sheer vastness are incredible. It’s hard to imagine the landscape before the flows took over everything in their path. But then again, all you have to do is keep driving and see how the environment shifts from one section of the island to the next.
Discovering Black and Green Sand Beaches -- Kona coffee
Hiking on lava rocks -- Beautiful and unique landscapes
This map shows a collection of things to Eat/ Drink, Do, See, or Stay. Each collection is in it's own group layer in the map to make it easy for you to explore by location or by topic. Click on a point to see the Map Happy Travel comments and get links to websites, google directions, and more!
Yellow points are the Map Happy Travel Favorites. These special spots are considered the Musts for your adventure. They are explained in greater detail below.
Map Happy Travel Guides
It’s become an annual tradition for me and my two older brothers to go on a sibling vacation together. Generally these “sib-cations” are adventurous, outdoorsy, and done on the frugal side. Our trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was right on par! We covered most of the island, but there was still so much to see and do! Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
Eat & Drink
As the name suggests, “Eat and Drink” will highlight different restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and coffee/tea stops. Some must-try spots include:
This place came highly rated and highly recommended and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere was laid back and relaxed but the food and drink were amazing! If you like spicy drinks, go for the spicy margarita. The fried tuna steak was hands down one of the best meals I had on the island.
Punalu'u Bake Shop
A must visit. The macaroons are exceptional. They have a drink bar with coffee and other beverages, ice cream, and a little shop packed full of goodies.
Koana Coffee Shop
Fantastic little coffee shop. The owner, Brian, is very knowledgeable and clearly passionate! He offered us free samples of the spicy hot cocoa and taught us all about the subtleties of the different coffees he sells (and brews) in his shop.
This is not one specific place, but rather a must do as much as possible! Kona coffee is amazing and I highly recommend getting as much of it as you can while on the island.
Things to see
The “See” section of the map is for some of the unique and special things to admire along the drive. Here are a few of my favorites:
Kaimu Beach Park
This park offers an amazing opportunity to walk on old lava flows. There’s a free parking at the end of Kalapana Rd. Walk along the red stone path out towards the ocean. There are small coconut trees just starting to grow out of the husk.
Rainbow and Akaka Falls
These falls are located just outside of Hilo. Absolutely worth the short drive to see the lush jungle and falls. Small entry fee helps to pay for the upkeep of the paved path through the forest and down to the waterfall. See beautiful, massive trees and lush vegetation.
Pololu Valley Lookout
The Big Island is full of diverse landscapes and environments. One of my favorite views was at Pololu Valley Lookout. This lush jungle was a drastic change from the lava flows we drove through to get here. You can hike the (steep) trail down from the lookout to the beach. The beach is good for swimming, walking, or just relaxing.
Things to Do
When on an adventure there is always plenty to “Do”! This collection of the map includes lots of hiking, swimming and outdoor adventuring. You can’t go wrong with any thing you choose, but try not to miss these:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
This is absolutely a must when you travel to the Big Island of Hawaii. The Kīlauea Visitor Center is a great place to start, to pay your park entry fee, get your map, and plan your visit. The Kilauea Overlook gives you a great view of the volcano before hitting the road exploring the park. See the “Drives” section below for some more recommendations for exploring the park.
Pohoiki Black Sand Beach
One of my favorite beaches on the island. There is limited parking along the road and a small hike down to the water. Be warned it is popular amongst nudists. Remember to be respectful, especially if you are trying to take pictures of the environment here.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach
The big island of Hawaii gets lots of attention for their black sand beaches, but did you know there is also a green sand beach?! The green color is actually glassy crystals (Olivine) that wash ashore from ancient lava flows. The journey out to the Green Sand is an adventure in itself! The road is very rough in some parts, with very soft fine dirt in others, so most folks (including us) park the car and hike the hour in. You can also hire a Jeep (with driver included) to skip the dusty trails and get you to the beach directly.
I put this on the Do list as opposed to just something you see because the experience of getting to the top is wild! This mountain is just over 13 thousand feet tall, which means if you drive from the beach town or Hilo, you are climbing all 13 thousand feet in one trip. The visitor center halfway up the mountain requires all visitors to acclimate to the elevation before continuing up to the top. Be warned, you also need a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you plan on winding your way up (and down) the dirt and gravel road to the summit.
Hilo Farmers Market
Local market filled with produce and local artists. A great place to shop for unique souvenirs or get some fresh fruit to snack on during your visit.
We did a ton of driving around the big island. Personally I feel like it is mandatory to get a car on this island if you really want to see it all. Aside from the general routes between Kona and Hilo, there were a few recommended scenic routes highlighted on the map.
Chain of Craters Road
This park road is an easy way to see some incredible lava flows and views in Hawaii Volcano National Park. There are numerous pullovers along the way to take in the views or learn more from the informational plaques.
Old Mamalahoa Hwy
This turn off is located just north of Hilo and will take you through some incredible jungle environments down to the ocean. There are a couple places to pull off and explore small hiking trails. I also recommend stopping at the 6 Ton bridge for some beautiful views of the river.
Katie’s Visit Info
The Travel Dates
Tuesday, November 9th to Sunday November 14th, 2021.
The big island has two major airports, Kona and Hilo. We flew round trip into Kona, rented a car and drove around the whole island.
My two brothers, John and Charlie. This trip was our 4th Annual “Sibs-cation” sibling reunion adventure!
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