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7 day Big Island Itinerary
Remember that this 7 day Big Island Itinerary is a guide, and you can add or replace anything that you would like. I create custom itineraries for all of my clients, so make sure to contact me if you’d like to work with an expert in Hawaii Travel!
Where to stay on the Big Island
Before we get to the 7 day Big Island itinerary, let’s talk about where to stay. The first thing that I’m often asked about the Big Island is if visitors need to book hotels/resorts on multiple parts of the islands. After all, Big Island IS big. However, I always say no. Yes, the Big Island is Big, especially compared to the other islands, but it isn’t that big. It’s a very driveable island, and it’s completely fine to stay in one place.
Map of the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Kona/Waikoloa area is where the majority of visitors choose to stay. You won’t find much around the rest of the island, especially if you’re looking for a high-end or luxury resort. Furthermore, from a cost perspective, it doesn’t make sense to switch locations as it costs more every time you do that. Even if money is no object, spending time moving yourselves and your stuff is a pain! Just stay in the Waikoloa/Kohala area where the resorts are, or even in Kona.
You’ll likely arrive on the Big Island sometime in the afternoon. However, depending on where you live, you’re going to feel like it’s evening/night. I highly encourage you to check into your resort but try to stay awake to help your body adjust.
Head to Kona or stay in the Waikoloa area and have dinner. There are plenty of oceanfront dining options in Kona; I recommend Huggo’s, Splashers Grill, or Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. Kona Inn also has an excellent Mai Tai, although I’m not a fan of their food. I have a blog post about the best Happy Hours in Kona. Check out that post for some great deals on food and drinks for your first evening on the Big Island.
The Westin Hapuna Beach, a popular Big Island Resort.
I don’t ever recommend booking any expensive tours on your first day on the Big Island. Even if you arrive early in the afternoon, delays happen, and you won’t know about it far enough in advance to do anything about it. It helps to work with a Travel Agent, but I still recommend keeping day 0 low key.
I book through Viator whenever possible because most tours offer free refunds up to 24 hours in advance. I still do not recommend booking anything on day 0, but Viator also offers a price match guarantee. You can check out the tours here.
7 Day Big Island Itinerary | Day 1
Most visitors to the Big Island want to see the volcano, so head down to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Start at the Visitor’s Center and ask about any guided hikes available that day. Other must-sees at Volcanoes National Park include Thurston Lava Tube, Jaggar Museum, and Chain of Craters Road. If you’re feeling up to a hike, the Kilauea Iki Trail is my favorite.
Some people spend all day at the park, but others stop in for just a couple of hours. If you have extra time, you can check out nearby South Point, and stop at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on the way home. This beautiful beach is right off the road, and you can often spot turtles at this location.
If you don’t do a hike in the parks, Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach) is near South Point, but you’ll have to hike about 2 miles to get there.
Stop in Kona on the way back to your resort for either Happy Hour or dinner.
On Day 2, head down to Captain Cook and explore Kealakekua Bay. There are several ways to explore the bay and see Captain Cook’s monument. You can rent kayaks and explore on your own, take a guided kayak tour or (my personal favorite) take a boat tour from Kona.
I recommend the boat tour because it includes breakfast, lunch, and it is both informative and a lot of fun! No matter how you explore the bay, make sure to bring snorkeling gear. Check out my snorkeling gear recommendations for more.
After you have explored the bay, spend the evening on the beaches near Kona or near your resort.
On day 3, we will drive north and explore the Kohala Coast. I recommend stopping at the Lapakahi State Historical Park and then exploring either Waipio or Pololu Valley. Waipio Valley will require either a 4-wheel drive and some bravery, or a guided tour. Pololu Valley is much easier, a simple hike in and out, but you’ll want to bring plenty of water and reef-safe sunscreen.
Pololu Valley has a beautiful black sand beach, so why not bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view? Even if you don’t venture into Waipio Valley, I recommend checking out the Waipio Valley overlook. If you do go into Waipio Valley, you might end being there for the entire day! It’s so beautiful, and you won’t regret it. Head into Waimea for dinner.
If you’re going to be taking a helicopter tour, I highly recommend scheduling it earlier in your trip. Sometimes the tours are canceled due to weather, and you’ll want time to reschedule if necessary. A helicopter tour can easily be added to this itinerary almost any morning. Check out my Hawaii helicopter tour review here.
Head over to Hilo to check out Rainbow Falls, Akaka Falls, Kaumana Caves, or one of many rainforest ziplines on the East Side of the island. As I mentioned at the beginning, I do not feel like you need to spend a night in Hilo as it’s only about an hour and a half from most of the resorts to Hilo.
If you want to drive up Mauna Kea, this would be an excellent day to do that since it’s on the way or on the way back. Make sure you have a 4-wheel drive and that your rental car company permits it.
Schedule a lazy beach or resort day. You’re going to need it after all of the activities. If you enjoy golf or spa treatments, this would be a great day to schedule those. If you don’t need a rest day, you can always check out the many farmer’s markets or explore Kailua-Kona more if you haven’t spent much time there yet.
The Manta Ray snorkel tours are top-rated and exclusive to the Big Island. Spend the evening of day 5 on a Manta Snorkel tour for an experience you’ll never forget.
Head to Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (City of Refuge) to explore this beautiful historical site. Please remember that this location is significant to Native Hawaiians, so please be respectful to both the cultural site itself and the animals that live nearby. Just do this the entire time you’re in Hawaii, and you’ll be just fine! 2-Step is just next door, where you’ll find some of the best snorkeling on the island.
If you missed Mauna Kea on day 4, you could always do that either before or after. I do not find Mauna Kea to be an all-day event, although I know some people do stay all day.
Another option that many visitors in Hawaii love is a luau. Island Breeze Luau is a popular luau on Kona.
I always recommend keeping day 7 open if you can. You will find things that you want to see, get recommendations from locals, and miss things along the way. Use day 7 to do anything that you have rescheduled or missed.
One reason that I recommend staying at a resort is that they will almost always hold your luggage after you check out! Many resorts will also allow you to hang out on the resort property after you’ve checked out of your room. Having a place to leave your luggage is excellent when you have a late-night flight, which most flights out of Kona are.
My favorite beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, is located just north of the Airport and is a great place to watch the sunset before your evening flight.
7 day Big Island Itinerary
So there it is my 7 day Big Island Itinerary. Don’t get mad at me if I missed any of your favorite activities. I’ve been to the Big Island many, many times and there are still things that I haven’t done. One week isn’t enough to spend on this beautiful island, and you’ll find yourself planning your next trip before your first one is over.
Looking for more Big Island? Check out more of my Big Island posts:
If you’re in the planning stages of your trip, I’d love to help! As a Hawaii Travel Agent, I help create custom vacations just for you! Contact me today to start planning.
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