Your First Trip to Hawaii’s Big Island
Home to Hawaiian cowboys, Ironmen and a volcano goddess, Hawaii’s Big Island offers experiences found nowhere else 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’s Big Island. We recommend a rental car and we strongly suggest booking before you arrive.
Major resort destinations on Hawaii’s Big 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 the Big 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.
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