The Big Island driving itineraries highlight the best attractions, viewpoints and stories, but how you choose to explore is up to you. There’s no wrong way to start the tour, so join in at the suggested start locations, or anywhere along the route. Most visitors stay and start the tour in Kohala, Kailua Kona or Hilo and follow the route in either direction.
We recommend dividing Hawaii Island into 4 itineraries, depending on your time.
If you only have a half day, travel to the North end of the island. View the beautiful Kohala beaches and resort areas of Waikoloa and Mauni Lani. Continue on and enjoy the laidback charm of Hawi, birthplace of King Kamehameha and location of the original Kamehameha statue. Relax at the end of the road at the Pololu Valley lookout, and spot the black sand beach way below. On the return drive, you’ll discover Hawaii’s wild wild west and the Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) around the rural and ranching areas of Waimea before connecting back to the coast.
Pack your swimsuit and snorkeling gear for another half day itinerary, this time driving South of Kona. There are some exceptional snorkeling spots that we’ll point out. Of course when on the Coffee Coast, we should sample some brews. Coffee has been grown around the world, but some of the most highly prized beans come from the upland slopes around Kona. Touring is thirsty work, so we might stop and taste a few. (Look for 100% Kona Coffee that is grown locally). After this jolt, you may want to connect with some of Hawaii’s significant cultural sites, the sanctuary at the Place of Refuge and at Kealakekua Bay.
Allow a full day and head to the most active volcano on the planet. On our travels to Volcanoes National Park it’s a perfect time to review the volcanic forces at work behind the creation of the Hawaiian Islands, or you may prefer to embrace the Hawaiian legends version. Please note with the latest volcanic events of 2018, the Park is reopening in phases. Best to check for latest status and updates with the NPS link below.
For the true adventurers, a full Island Circle itinerary adds touring to the green or East side of the Island. From the panoramic views along the Hamakua Coast and the 442ft Akaka Falls State Park to peeks into the lush Waipio Valley. Not much has changed since it’s plantation days, though you won’t see donkeys plodding down to the shore with sugar bags strapped either side anymore. Plan for time in and around Hilo with it’s Liliuokalani Gardens, nearby waterfalls and lava tube caves. (Don’t try to include Volcanoes National Park to this day, it just isn’t viable timewise).