Hawai‘i Island offers so much to see and do that the hardest part about your trip is figuring your limited itinerary. Three days on Hawai‘i Island is hardly enough to cover this fascinating island’s entire grounds — it’s so large, you can fit all of the main Hawaiian Islands inside of it. Therefore, you must choose wisely when it comes to arranging your schedule.
You might not feel like hitting the ground running on your first day so it’s best to plan for some beachside relaxation. You’re likely staying in Kailua-Kona located on the westside of the island, as this is the most popular visitor destination. In that case, check out any number of the beaches nearby like Kahalu‘u Beach Park and grab some snorkeling gear on your way. The underwater world surrounding Hawai‘i Island is unlike any other. The vibrant colors of coral and fish are a testament to the island’s “young” birth date of about one million years (compared to Kaua‘i, which is about five million years old).
Afterwards, take a stroll through Kailua-Kona town along Ali‘i Drive and enjoy gorgeous ocean vistas. Stop by local shops and admire historical landmarks like Hulihe‘e Palace.
If you’re staying in Hilo, there are many relaxing ways to spend your day here as well. Take a short trip to see the more than 400-foot tall Akaka Falls and drive along the scenic 4-mile Pepe‘ekeo (Onomea) road that traverses through tree tunnels and wraps around a glorious coast. End your day with a sunset stroll through Lili‘uokalani Park and Gardens, a lovely Japanese garden dripping in banyan trees and adorned with seaside views.
Hawai‘i Island is the only island in the state that hasn’t stopped expanding. The magnificent Kilauea volcano, home of Pele, Hawai‘i’s fire goddess, added 875 acres of new land and black sand beaches in 2018 alone. Although there is no current lava activity, there is steam within the crater, which has expanded an estimated 1 mile wide and 1,500 feet deep for a view that is absolutely stunning by land or air.
Though you can’t predict when or where lava will be visible on any given day, making a trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is highly recommended. Park rangers are available to help you explore the park’s moon-like landscape and its history and culture as you trek across solidified lava at Halemaumau Crater, where once a lava lake constantly swirled. Or, catch a helicopter flight and gain a panoramic view of the entire southeastern area of this grand island. This is actually the best way to gain a comprehensive view of Hawai‘i Island’s enchanting landscape and several helicopter companies offer tours that depart from Hilo and Waikoloa.
This is a great day to spend time sightseeing and exploring what the North Shore and Hamakua Coast have to offer. This older side of the island is where greenery flourishes and where you can drive cliff hugging roads that traverse magnificent gulches decorated with tumbling waterfalls.
En route from Kailua-Kona, take time to explore the rolling hills of the paniolo (cowboy) town of Waimea or take a trip to the quaint seaside town of Hāwī with eclectic art galleries and lovely vistas.
If you’re staying in Hilo, you might instead consider heading to Saddle Road and driving up the majestic Mauna Kea, the prominent dormant shield volcano you can see from almost any angle on the island. This is an especially significant journey to take during the early evening so that once you arrive at, or near the top, you’ll have the privilege of gazing at an infinite sky full of stars. Just cozy up with proper attire, as it’s chilly up there and the only place in Hawai‘i that regularly snows.
Experience an impressive range of landscapes during this three day itinerary on the “Big Island.”