So many things to see and do in Hawai’i, and we’ve only covered a small part. Hawai’i was one of those places where we always wanted to go, but that seemed so far out of our reach. Because, Hawai’i is neither close ( we live in Europe), nor cheap to travel to. That being said, it was quite daring on our part to plan a 3 week US, culminating with a week on Hawai’i. Here is what we learned and experienced on the first part of our trip to Hawai’i, our short stay on the Big Island of Hawai’i. As everybody else before us, we have found Hawai’i to be truly a unique place through its history, nature, and rugged landscape. Like nothing else we’ve seen or experienced until it.

When to visit

Hawaii is a good place to visit all year round. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before planning your visit. Best travel months for beach activities and water sports are mid-May to early October. If you’re planning more outdoor activities, such as trekking and hiking, the best times to visit are from mid-May to early June and from late November to early April. The wettest months on Hawai’s Big Island are March and November, but rainfall is usually very localized and coming down in showers. The eastern side of the island ( Hilo) gets more rainfall throughout the year, compared to the western side ( Kailua-Kona) – so keep that in mind when planning your trip and choosing your accommodation.

The mean annual rainfall map for the Island of Hawaii. Image credit: Frazier, A. G., Giambelluca, T. W., Diaz, H. F. and Needham, H. L. (2016)

How to get here

The Big Island of Hawaii has 2 airports: Kona International Airport ( KOA), located north-west of Kailua-Kona and Hilo International Airport ( ITO). Direct flights into Kona International Airport are available from Oahu and many airports on the west coast of the United States. There are a few flights from international airports, namely: Vancouver and Tokyo. Most flights into Hilo are inter-island flights from Honolulu.

Keep an eye on our travel deals section for any flight deals to Hawaii! Maybe the next great price ( with flight dates in 2021, of course) is from your city / country!

Since it was our first time in the US, and we made our way to Hawaii from the East Coast, we’ve chosen to spend a couple of days in San Francisco first. This was our first time flying onto an island, and experiencing the laid back atmosphere of a mostly outdoor airport.

Where to stay

We set aside a week for Hawaii, split between the Big Island and Oahu. With only 3 days to spend on the Big Island, we chose to book our accommodation on the sunny side of the island. Our plan: spend some time exploring the village, take a tour around the island and head out to the Volcanoes National Park and spend some time by the beach.

Although Hawaii is the most expensive place to live in, there are accommodation options for all budgets. You have vacation rentals available through Airbnb or Vrbo, bed and breakfasts, or hotels and resorts. Since our stay was quite short, we chose to stay at one of the resorts, the Sheraton at Keauhou Bay. The Sheraton Kona Resort has an incredible oceanfront location. Here you can take a night-time dive with the manta rays. If diving is not your thing, you can just admire them from the shore, from the hotel restaurant terrace.

What to do

For the best experience on the Big Island, renting a car is recommended. Remember to do that in good time, especially if you are traveling there in high-season. If you are short on time, or not an avid driver, plan accordingly. Book your accommodation around most of the places you would like to see and be ready to spend a little bit on tours. That is, if you would like to explore still the rest of the island. We’re not very big on driving, and we still enjoyed every moment of our stay on the Big Island.

We split up our stay in Kona between 3 activities: relaxing by the pool/ beach, biking into town, and a full-day tour around the island.

Biking from Keauhou Bay into town was quite an experience. We biked on the coastal road (Alii Drive). Unfortunately, as nice as the views are on the ocean side, we had to be very vigilant and careful. There are no bike paths, so we were biking on the side of the road, with cars on our left. The bike ride to the town and back was about 20 km, so quite a work-out. On our way back we stopped at one of the public beaches, Magic Sands Beach Park. A very impressive beach, with a white sand beach and crystal clear waters.

For a quick tour of the island, we booked the Hawaii Grand Circle Island Tour with Roberts Hawaii. The entire tour was about 10-12 hours, with pick-up from the hotel early in the morning. Started our day by amazing waterfalls at Rainbow Falls State Park. We walked through the Volcano National Park and hiked down through the Nāhuku – Thurston Lava Tube. For the end of our day, we had some rain, clouds, and a moody ocean at Punaluu Black Sand Beach (black sand beach). We did get to see a couple of green sea turtles, which made for a perfect ending for our tour. There were a few additional stops along the way at Gilbert Kahele Recreation Park and Punalu’u Bake Shop. Check out a few shots our day spent exploring the Big Island.

One thing I regret not doing while on the Big Island is taking a helicopter tour. around the island, and getting to see the lava flow into the ocean. Oh well – just another reason to head back to Hawai’i.

We are very happy how our entire US trip turned out. We saw so many new places and had so many unique experiences. For our time on the Big Island – I feel we barely got a preview of what is there to see. We left with the hope and desire to get back there someday, to explore more.

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