Three Big Island Day Trips for Any Traveler

Hikers near a waterfall in Hawaii

There are so many things to see and do on the Big Island, it’s hard to figure out what you can fit into one trip, let alone one day. That’s why we have put together a few sample Big Island day trip itineraries that can be completed from the Holualoa Inn. Head out for the day with peace of mind in knowing you will return to your home away from home that evening.

Laid-Back Day Trip

About 30 minutes south of the Inn is Honaunau Bay, a place of rich Hawaiian cultural heritage and abundant natural beauty. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, the historic residence of Hawaiian chiefs and the sacred Place of Refuge, has been painstakingly restored and preserved. Spend an hour ambling around the forbidden grounds of the ali’i and along the immense stone walls that guarded the sacred pu’uhonua before delighting in coral heads and abundant marine life during a snorkel at Honaunau Bay. After your swim, drive back up to Painted Church Road to visit the Paleaku Gardens Sanctuary, a perfect place to silently reflect upon the beauty of nature. Afterwards, head into Honaunau for the best laulau shop on the island (Super J’s) and a top-rated poke shop (Honaunau Poke) before continuing north through Captain Cook. If it is a Sunday, be sure to stop in at the Green Market for a wide selection of tropical fruit and local crafts on your way back to the Inn.

Mid-Range Day Trip

From the Inn, head directly north on Highway 180 and continue on 190 en-route to Waimea. Your drive boasts dazzling views of the sprawling Kona-Kohala coastline, towering volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and the peak of Haleakala on Maui. On Wednesdays or Saturdays, be sure to stop in at one of the farmers markets in Waimea to browse local goods and produce. Continue on the Kohala Mountain Road, turn right at the end of the Mountain Road and follow the highway until it ends abruptly at the top of Pololu Valley. Follow the switchback trail down to a black sand beach with a majestic backdrop of towering valley walls. If you are up for the challenge, follow the trail across the beach and up the far valley wall out to a dizzying and awe-inspiring lookout; you’ll know when you get there. Although tempting, skip the swim at Pololu Valley (the rip current is super dangerous!). Drive back into town for lunch at Gill’s Lanai for fish tacos, Bamboo Restaurant for innovative and refined island-inspired cuisine, or Kohala Grown Market for a quick and healthy bite to go. Follow the coastal highway south, and be sure to stop in at some of the interesting sights along the way. The sprawling temple complex at Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site is a must see. Continue south to the beautiful white sands of Hapuna Beach for swimming, walking, and relaxing before high-end dining and cocktails at Napua at the Mauna Lani or fresh sushi and appetizers at Sansei at Waikoloa Beach Resort.

Full Day Trip

Halemaumau Lavalake Spitfire

This itinerary will take you almost all the way around the Big Island in a day. Head north on Highway 190 to Waimea, then continue on Highway 19 to Honokaa. Drive 15 minutes north of town to the overlook at the top of Waipio Valley. After a great photo op, head back into Honokaa to stop for a coffee, or some of Tex Drive-In’s “world famous” malasadas. Then head south on Highway 19 along the bucolic Hamakua Coast. Drive up through Honomu to the lookout for Akaka Falls, which plunges 420 feet into the ravine below. At Pepeekeo, turn down the road toward the ocean to take a drive along the scenic Old Mamalahoa Highway. If you have time, be sure to stop at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden before heading into Hilo. Lunch options are plentiful here, and there is even some shopping downtown. Check out Pineapples Restaurant or Miyo’s for dining and Big Island Candies for treats to take home. It’s also a good idea to grab something to-go for dinner, as the dining options are limited after leaving Hilo. Head south on Highway 11 and continue for about 45 minutes until you make it to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Explore the summit of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, from lush rain forest to barren lava desert. Hike the Crater Rim Trail or, if you have time, Kilauea Iki. If you don’t mind the drive after dark, it is definitely worth it to stick around past sunset now that the glow has returned to Kiluaea Caldera for an awe-inspiring end to an epic day. The drive back to the Inn will take about two hours plus whether you take the south route or the Saddle Road. Once back at the Inn, be sure to soak in the hot tub before bed. You’ve earned it!