Natural Hawai'i

Big Island: Things To Do and Places To Go

hawaii volcanoes national park

The Big Island offers many options for the visitor, and of course no visit would be complete without a visit to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or to the active volcano viewing area. The Park offers many educational opportunities. The Big Island itself ranges from tropical and lush, to arid and dry, and of course to red hot volcanic flows.

Akaka Falls State Park:

End of Hwy. 220.

A 66-acre park that features a  trail through lush vegetation. Trail leads to the picturesque 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the 420-foot Akaka Falls.

Big Island Tropical Gardens:

1477 Kalanianaole Ave., Hilo.

2-acre garden, featuring any native Hawaiian plants labeled for identification.

Open Mon.-Sat.8-5. Admission fee: $3.00 adults, $ 1.50 children (under 12 years free). (808) 961-6621.

 Ellison S. Onizaka Space Center:

At Keahole Airport, 7 miles N. of Kailua-Kona.

Features displays, educational films, and participatory and audio-visual exhibits. Named for Hawaii’s first astronaut, Ellison S. Onizuka, who died in the 1988 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

Open daily, 8.30-4.30; Admission fee: $2.00 adults, 50¢ children. (808) 329-3441.

Hale Kea:

Kawaihae Rd., 1 mile west Waimea.

Restored residence of the Parker Ranch manager, built in 1897. Was also owned by millionaire Laurance Rockefeller, and served as a retreat for such celebrities as Jacqueline Kennedy, Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford. Boutiques and galleries, and the Hale Kea Restaurant.

Open daily, 10 a.m.-9.30 p.m. Free admission.  (808) 885-6094.

Hawaii Botanical Garden:

Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive off Hwy. 19.

A 25 acre garden, with plants indigenous to rainforests. Established in 1984.

Open Mon.-Fri. 8.30-4.30. Admission fee: $ 12.00 per person (children 12 and under free). (808) 964-5233

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:

Kilauea Visitor Center is off Crater Rim Rd., off Hwy. 11.

Includes volcano eruption sites, hiking trails, campsites, forest preserves, bird sanctuary, native plants. Points of interest in the park include the Volcano Art Center, Kilauea Caldera, sulphur banks, steam vents, Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Overlook, Thurston Lava Tube, Kilauea Iki Crater, Chain of Craters Road, Mauna Ulu, Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, Holei Sea Arch, Mauna Kea Ice Age Reserve, and current lava flow.

(808) 967-7311

Henry Opukaha’ia Memorial:

68 miles S.E. of Kailua-Kona.

On Punalu’u Rd., off Hwy. 11, 8 miles east of Na’alehu. Memorial to Henry Opukaha’ia, who, in 1809, at 17, became the first Hawaiian to convert to Christianity.

KONA Historical Society Museum:

On Hwy. 11, 1/2 mile S. of mile marker 112 in Kealakekua.

Built from stone in 1875. Historical artifacts,  memorabilia, old photographs depicting ranch life on the Kona Coast.

Hours: 9-3, Mon.-Fri. (808) 323-3222.

Hokuloa Church:

Puako Rd., west of Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy. (19) at Puako. Small, white stucco church, built by Reverend Lorenzo Lyons, dedicated in 1859.

Hulihe’e Palace:

75-5718 Ali’i Dr., Kailua-Kona.

Two-storied Victorian style home built in 1838 by Big Island governor John Adams Kuakini. Served as vacation home for monarchs until 1916. Museum with koa furniture and artifacts.

Open 10-4. Admission fee: $4.00. (808) 329-1877.

Imiola Congregational Church:

Hwy. 19. 1/4  mile east of Waimea.

Wood-frame church,  built in 1832 by  Reverend Lorenzo Lyons, and where Lyons is buried.

Ka Lae - South Point Park:

Hwy.11 to South Point Rd.,12 miles, to Ka Lae.

This point, the most southern point in the US, is where the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, between 500 A.D. and 700 A.D. Features a light station, a fishing temple, and ali’i burial site.

Kaloko-Honokohau Park:

Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy. 3.5 miles north of Kailua-Kona.

1,200 acres along Honokohau Bay. More than 200 historical sites, including shelters, heiaus, petroglyphs, fishponds, spring-fed natural pool, and ancient burial sites.

Open daily 8 a.m.-3.30 p.m. (808) 329-6881.

Kailua Pier:

Off Ali’i Dr. and Palani Rd., Kailua-Kona.

Built in 1915, at the site of the first landing (April 4 1820) of American missionaries in Hawaii. The pier now is the focus of activities centered around water sports, recreation, boat excursions, and fishing charters.

Kalopa State Park:

37 miles north of Hilo, Hwy. 19 north to Kalopa Rd to Kalanai Rd.

100 acres of virgin Hawaiian rainforest with several self-guided nature trails. Maps available at trailheads.

Kamehameha Statue:

Hwy. 270, in Kapa’au at the Kapa’au Courthouse.

9-ton bronze statue, cast in 1880 in Florence, Italy. Statue was lost at sea and subsequently found and erected here in 1884. A duplicate stands in Honolulu in front of the Judiciary Building on King Street.

Kamuela Museum:

Hwy. 19, and Hwy. 250  in Waimea.

Features Hawaiian artifacts.

Hours: 8-5 daily. Admission: $5.00 adults; $2.00 children. (808) 885-4724.

Kaumana Caves:

Kaumana Dr. & Saddle Road.

Caves created from lava tubes during the 1881 Mauna Loa flow. Stairs lead down into the dark caves.

Lava Tree State Monument:

2 miles from Pahoa at intersection of Hwy. 130 and 132.

A 40-acre park, filled with vertical columns of black lava that were ohia trees prior to the 1790 lava flow.

Liliuokalani Gardens:

Banyan Dr. and Lihiwai St. in Hilo.

30 acres featuring Japanese gardens, pagodas, ornamental stone structures, waterways,  ponds and views of Hilo Bay and Coconut Island.

Lyman Museum & Mission House:

276 Haili St., Hilo.

Home of missionaries David and Sarah Lyman, built in 1839. Adjacent to the Mission House is the Lyman Museum.

Open 9-5 Mon.-Sat.,1-4 Sun.; tours throughout the day. Admission fee: $4.50 adults, $2.50 seniors and children. (808) 935-5021.

Macadamia Nut Factory:

The Hawaiian Holiday Macadamia Nut Factory is located on Lehua St. in Honoka’a.

Visitors can tour the factory, and view the roasting and packaging of macadamia nuts.

Open 9-6 daily. Free.

Manuka State Wayside Park:

Hwy. 11, 40 miles south of Kailua-Kona.

Features an arboretum with 48 species of native Hawaiian plants and more than 130 species of other exotic plants and flowers.

Mauna Loa Coffee Mill & Museum:

Napo’opo’o Rd. approximately 2 miles south of Captain Cook.

Museum features artifacts and photographs from the early 1900s about coffee growing.

Open daily, 9-5. (808) 328-2511.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Center:

Macadamia Rd., south of Hilo.

Features an orchard, a processing plant and visitor center. Video films shown on growing, harvesting and processing macadamia nuts.

Open daily, 8.30am-5pm. Free. (808) 966-8618, 966-8612.

Mokuaikaua Church:

Ali’i Dr., across from Hulihe’e Palace in Kailua-Kona.

Oldest Christian church in Hawaii, dedicated in 1825 by Queen Ka’ahumanu, rebuilt from coral in 1837. Features exhibit room, with a scale model of the ship Thaddeus, which first brought missionaries to Hawaii.

(808) 329-1589.

Nani Mau Gardens:

421 Makalika St., Hilo.

Gardenias, orchids, anthuriums, and a macadamia nut orchard.

Open daily 8-5. Admission: $7.50 adults, $4.50 children (under 6 years free). (808) 959-3541.

Onizuka Center int’l Astronomy:

Summit Rd. 6 miles north of Saddle Rd. (Hwy 220).

Exhibits and displays about the facility and natural history of the cosmos.

2-hour tours to the summit offered on Saturdays and Sundays (1p.m.) include a visit to one of the University of Hawaii’s telescopes; also star-gazing programs on Friday and Saturday nights, 7-10 p.m.

Center open Fri. 1-5pm, Sat-Sun. 8am-12noon. (808) 961-2180 or 935-3371. For road and weather conditions, call (808) 969-3218.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo:

Mamaki St., Hilo.

Only tropical rainforest zoo in the U.S., comprising roughly 40 acres with over 50 species of animals and birds.

Open 9-4 daily; free. (808) 959-7224.

Parker Ranch Visitor Center:

Parker Ranch Shopping Center, at Hwys. 19 and 190, in Waimea.

Offers a video of the history of the Parker Ranch and Waimea. Museum of the history of the Parker family, including several artifacts.

Open daily, 9-5. Admission: $5.00 adults, $3.75 children. (808) 885-7655.

Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive:

Off Hwy.19, approximately 5 miles north of Hilo.

4-mile scenic drive.Lush, tropical foliage and many narrow, single-lane bridges.


Waikoloa Beach Dr., 3/4 mile from the Waikoloa Beach Resort entrance.

One of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs on the island (approximately 2 acres). Thousands of petroglyph figures, several caves, rock shelters and ancient house sites.

Puako Petroglyphs:

Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy. (19) to N. Kaniku Dr., north to parking at end of road.

Approximately 3,000 petroglyphs.

St. Benedict’s Painted Church:

Hwy. 160, 7 miles south of Captain Cook just past mile marker 1, go North on a small road.

Oldest Catholic church on the island (1902). Beautiful coastline views.

St. Peter’s Church:

Ali’i Dr. in Kailua-Kona, 1 mile S. of White Sands Beach Park.

“The Little Blue Church by the Sea” was built in 1880. Overlooks Kahalu’u Bay.

Star of the Sea Painted Church:

Hwy. 130, 8 miles south of Pahoa.

Built 1929 and features stained glass windows and murals .

Suisan Fish Auction:

Lihiwai St. and Banyan Dr., Hilo.

Public auction of fresh fish. The morning catch is displayed and auctioned to local restaurants and wholesalers.

Auction hours: Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-9 a.m. Fish market hours: Mon.- Sat. 8 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

Wailoa River State Park:

Bayfront Hwy., southern edge of Hilo Bay.

150 acre park with the Wailoa Center serving as a visitor center and art center, with information on tsunamis and photographs of Hilo showing the devastating tsunami that occured in 1960.

Open 8 a.m.-4.30 p.m., Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri.; 12 p.m.-8.30 p.m. Wed.; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

Waipio Valley:

Hwy. 240 at north end of Hamakua Coast, 48 miles north of Hilo.

Waipio Valley is one of the most famous and most beautiful in Hawaii. Includes the 1,200-foot Hi’ilawe Falls and the 620-foot Kaluahine Falls. Waipio Beach is the longest black-sand beach in Hawaii. Swimming not recommended.

Wood Valley Temple:

On Pikake St. in Pahala, (72 miles S.E. of Kailua-Kona).

Classic Buddhist temple, built in the early 1900s and re-dedicated by the Dalai Lama in 1980. Seminars & retreats.

(808) 928-8539.

Places to go in Big Island Hawaii
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