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Your First Trip to Hawaii’s Big Island

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Home to Hawaiian cowboys, Ironmen and a volcano goddess, Hawaii’s Big Island offers experiences found nowhere else earth. From seasonal snowcapped mountains to black sand beaches, this variety of climatic zones stretches across Big Island's 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 accommodation 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.

Featured Sites and Attractions

Waimea, Hawaii's Big Island

Travel to the cool, green pastures of Waimea to discover paniolo (cowboy) country, as well as fine dining, shopping and culture.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii's Big Island

133,500-hectare park spanning the summit of Maunaloa to the sea and home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Downtown Hilo, Hawaii's Big Island

Downtown Hilo is a historic town that features a variety of unique shops, art galleries, museums, restaurants and cultural sites.

Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona), Hawaii's Big Island

Historic Kailua Village is a lively seaside town in the heart of Kona home to shopping, dining and important historic sites.

Keauhou, Hawaii's Big Island

The Keauhou resort area, just south of Historic Kailua Village in Kona, is where you can often spot manta rays and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles).