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Lava viewing at Kalapana

Lava viewing at Kalapana border

Your First Trip to Hawaii Island

Home to Hawaiian cowboys, Ironmen and a volcano goddess, Hawaii Island offers experiences found in no other place on earth. A variety of climatic zones, from seasonal snowcapped mountains to black sand beaches, stretch across its vast topography creating rich pockets of adventure for first-time visitors to explore.

Most visitors will arrive at Kona International Airport (KOA) in Kona to the west, but Hilo International Airport (ITO) in Hilo to the east is closer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There is also the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first and then taking a short, 35-40 minute flight to Hawaii Island. We recommend a rental car and we strongly suggest booking before you arrive.

Major resort destinations on Hawaii Island include the Kohala Coast, Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) and Keauhou. There are also hotels and accommodations in Hilo and Puna on the east side, while upcountry Waimea also offers charming getaways. If you're staying in Kona and you plan to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, consider staying in Hilo, Puna or the Volcano area for a night since a one-day round trip will not give you enough time to explore the park.

The must-see for any first-time visitor is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At this World Heritage Site you’ll see the unforgettable spectacle of simultaneous creation and destruction: Arid deserts, cavernous lava tubes and the unpredictable Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since 1983. It is believed the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, lives in Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea Caldera, so great respect must be paid here whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth.

You’ll also find cattle ranches and paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) in the cool uplands of Waimea. Downtown Hilo offers a taste of local shopping, dining and culture with beautiful botanical gardens and waterfalls nearby.  And with pristine beaches and world-class golf courses, it’s no wonder the Kohala Coast is Hawaii Island’s premier resort area. In fact, take a fun day trip and follow the route of the Ironman World Championships (October) along the Kohala Coast from the heart of Kona in lively Kailua-Kona Village to charming Hawi Town in lush North Kohala.

Featured Sites and Attractions

Downtown Hilo, Hawaii Island

Downtown Hilo is Hawaii Island’s biggest small town featuring centuries-old wooden storefronts — many of which are on the National Register of Historic Places — housing a variety of sophisticated galleries, shops, restaurants and cultural sites.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Island

Watch the landscape change before your very eyes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located 30 miles southwest of Hilo, this is the home of Kilauea volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. 

Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona), Hawaii Island

Located just 15 minutes south of Kona International Airport, Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a lively seaside town in the heart of the sunny Kona Coast. Once a sleepy fishing village and a retreat for Hawaiian royalty, Kailua Village is now a destination for affordable accommodations, great shoppingdining and learning about Hawaii’s rich culture.

Keauhou, Hawaii Island

A short drive south of Historic Kailua Village, the Keauhou Resort area has emerged as one of Hawaii Island’s great cultural destinations. The area is bordered on the north coast by beautiful Kahaluu Bay with the famous Kona coffee country of Holualoa just up the slopes of Mount Hualalai.

Waimea, Hawaii Island

Travel east, inland from the volcanic Kohala Coast to discover Waimea (also called Kamuela), which is unlike any other place on Hawaii Island.