What to Do on Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii is like a glossy postcard. It’s pretty. Like, really pretty. The kind of pretty that makes your toes curl, and a perma-smile creep onto your face. We stayed on Big Island, which is far less busy and touristy than Maui or Honolulu. It was glorious.

If I’m being honest, Hawaii had never ranked very high on my Must Visit list. But I was blown away by the beauty, and within 12 hours of being on the island, I found myself praising Hawaii for its awesome weather, overtly friendly locals, and jaw-dropping vistas. Even just typing about the island, I feel my shoulders drop, and a sudden sense of relaxation sweep over my body. Island life does that to you. (I’m obviously an expert now.)

Here’s what you absolutely need to do on your trip to Big Island.

Walk Through a Freaking Lava Tube
Located on the east side of the island (two hours by car from Kona), Volcano National Park is as cool as it sounds. Okay, I admit, I was slightly disappointed not to see any actual flowing lava, but there is so much to discover in the park; we walked through a 500-year-old lava tube (yeah, it’s a thing), toured the steaming sulfur pots, and hiked a fraction of the 240+ kilometres (150 miles, y’all) of trails, which range from novice to expert.

Drink a Beer in an Outdoor Shower
Coleman is an expert on drinking beers in the shower. But there’s nothing quite like drinking a beer in an outdoor shower. Plus, it’ll give your neighbours something to talk about.

Thrift Yourself Something Sweet
Big Island is rammed with cool vintage stores, from cheap and cheerful pawn shops to expensive antique boutiques. My favourite find was a lilac-coloured Hibiscus-print blouse. Sure, I could have easily found a Hawaiian shirt on the touristy streets of downtown Kona, but digging through others people’s past treasures is always more fun.

Take a Bunch of Selfies at the Black Sand Beach
Pfft, sand-coloured sand, move over. Your Instagram followers will be double tapping with jealousy when they see the photogenic Punalu’u Beach on your feed. It gets packed with tourists mid-day, so arrive early. But it’s such a unique piece of glorious nature, you’ll be thankful you made the stop.


Get Sweaty with Captain James Cook
For an Ontario native like myself, “hiking” generally means walking briskly on flat terrain. So, yeah, the 6.5 kilometres round trip hike to the Captain Cook Monument, with its 1,300 elevation, was a challenge. When you reach the bottom, reward yourself by diving into Kealakekua Bay, a pristine swimming cove. You’ll be thankful for the dip before making the trek back up. It’s hot as heck, and the incline is significant. If you don’t work up a sweat, I’ll buy you a beer.

Swap Boring Old Snorkeling for a SNUBA Lesson
While it’s been around for the last 20 years, Snuba—a snorkeling and scuba diving hybrid that requires no certification—is gaining in popularity. First of all, it’s way less intimidating than actual scuba diving. I was nervous to get 15 feet under water and breathe with an oxygen tank, but my capable instructor eased me into it. I felt like a mermaid, and you can too.