The island of Hawaii (commonly known as the Big Island) has so much more to offer than just beaches. The island has unique natural wonders, a rich cultural history, and a diverse community working together to keep ancient traditions alive. Check out these ways to explore the history and beauty of the Big Island. Have authentic Hawaii experiences while supporting local cultures and businesses.
Aloha Adventure Farms is only a few minutes’ drive away from our Big Island Bed & Breakfast and offers tours that combine history, culture, and adventure. Their Polynesian ATV Adventure tour takes guests through a Hawaiian rainforest to explore the cultural heritages of Polynesian peoples. Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa are represented. Guests can participate in traditional hands-on activities and games with Polynesian guides.
Join their Wood Carving Tour and spend some time with a Polynesian 4th generation Master Carver to create your very own authentic wood carving. Made from top-quality wood grown locally on the Big Island, the finished carvings make perfect authentic souvenirs.
Eka Canoe Adventures specializes in Kona’s famous manta ray snorkel experience- a must-do while on the Big Island. With no barbs, stingers, or teeth, these gentle giants glide effortlessly through the water to feed on plankton while snorkelers float comfortably on the surface. Eka Canoe Adventures keeps their group sizes small, so guests get an intimate interaction with an animal long revered by the Hawaiian people. Their boat is one of only a few accurately recreated, traditional Hawaiian double-hull canoes and is the world’s only commercially licensed Hawaiian canoe.
Not only do they offer unique encounters, Eka Canoe Adventures also supports The Nakoa Foundation. This non-profit uses Hawaiian canoes as a vehicle for youth to create a sense of place, and develop skills and cultural values. The foundation promotes social tolerance and environmental responsibility through the perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions and practices.
Hawaii Forest and Trail offers a variety of tours to explore the many natural wonders of the Big Island. Their Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Give Back Experience is something special. It combines their popular Maunakea Summit & Stars tour with a volunteer opportunity to support the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. This community-supported non-profit aims to protect and restore critically endangered native Hawaiian dry forest habitat.
Interpretive guides lead you on a light hike through an endangered Hawaiian dry forest. They share the cultural and ecological importance of native species. Participants then take part in real conservation work such as seed collection. The tour culminates in a visit to the summit of Maunakea, a site considered sacred to many Hawaiian people. Watch the sunset, enjoy a picnic dinner, and marvel at the world-class clarity of the Hawaiian night sky. Guides even provide a private star show using a high-powered telescope.
These historic sites take visitors back to the days of ancient Hawaii – fishponds and fishing grounds, petroglyphs, heiau (temples), and a place of refuge for lawbreakers and defeated warriors.
Kaloko Honokōhau National Historical Park, located just north of Kona-town protects the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement. Ancient Hawaiians were adept at adapting the land to their needs. The people used fishing and agricultural practices and built large ponds to raise fish. The park includes fish ponds, ki‘i pōhaku (petroglyphs), heiau, graves, and trails to explore.
Puʻuhonua Hōnaunau National Historical Park remains one of Hawaii’s most sacred historic places. It’s hundreds of years old yet beautifully restored. Also known as the “place of refuge,” the site served as a safeguard from physical harm to any who took shelter in its walls. This could include defeated warriors, civilians during times of war, or breakers of kapu (ancient Hawaii code of conduct).
Take a self-guided walking tour of the grounds including the Great Wall, standing 12 feet high and 18 feet thick. Fierce wooden images of gods guard the sacred temple that once housed the bones of 23 aliʻi (chiefs/God-like royalty).
Beyond the puʻuhonua, explore the Royal Grounds, which were the home of the aliʻi. The grounds also host Keoneʻele Cove, the royal canoe landing; the Keōua Stone, the favorite resting place of the high chief of Kona, Keōua; as well as hālau (thatched workhouse), fishponds and a heiau.
Lapakahi State Historical Park is a partially restored fishing settlement that dates back more than 600 years. This rugged coastal park gives you a glimpse into what it was like to live like the Native Hawaiians.
Take the mile-long self-guided tour of this 262-acre park and see restored hale (houses), burial sites, shrines, and lava stone walls. Play traditional Hawaiian games and learn more about life in early Hawaii. The park’s rocky shoreline also faces the Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District. If you visit between December and April, watch the coastline for the spouts and splashes of wintering Humpback whales.
Cultural Demonstrations and Performances
The Kona Coffee Living History Farm tells the rich story of Kona’s coffee pioneers during the early 20th-century history. Costumed interpreters demonstrate traditional crafts, agricultural activities, and the everyday tasks of people from the past. Walk among the coffee trees, watch how farmers milled and dried their world-famous coffee, and visit the original 1920s farmhouse.
Today, Kona Coffee is still picked by hand and milled by farmers whose families have been doing it for generations. The flavor is delicate, yet bold and is distinguishable from machine-harvested coffee. Elevate your experience with a cozy stay at the Holualoa Inn, a bed and breakfast nestled right in the historic coffee belt. Every breakfast is accompanied by delicious estate-grown coffee.
In Hawaii, the term ‘talk story’ is pidgin (slang) for talking with friends, chit-chatting, or rekindling old times. On the last Tuesday of each month, the Outrigger Kona Resort hosts Under the New Moon Talk Story. This free event takes place from 5 to 6:30 pm and includes storytelling, music, and hula performances that celebrate Hawaii’s rich past.
The Volcano Art Center sponsors a variety of activities, workshops, and performances that explore the richness of Hawaiian culture. Activities can include storytelling as well as hands-on crafts.
Planning a visit to one of the National Parks during your visit? Visit Puʻuhonua HōnaunauNational Historical Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see what culture and craft demonstrations or performances may be happening during your trip.
On your next trip to the Big Island, leave the plastic leis and kitschy luaus behind and experience the real Hawaii.