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3 Days in the Island of Hawaii

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The Big Island of Hawaii (Hawai'i) boasts plenty of beautiful, natural features, and a wide variety of unspoiled sites to explore. Travelers seeking the untouched beauty of the island can find stunning places all along the coastline — from volcanoes to waterfalls to beaches — as well as great local eateries for foodies keen to sample authentic Hawaiian cuisine, and tons of outdoor sports options for more active visitors. With three days to play with, here are my recommendations for how to get the most out of your trip.

Good for
  • Nature Lover
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Beach Goer
  • Like a Local

22 Places

4 City Tips

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Map

22 Places

Day 1

Richardson Beach Park

Beaches

Coconut Island

Islands

Liliuokalani Gardens

Gardens

Two Ladies Kitchen

Restaurants

Hilo Farmers Market

Farmers Markets

Rainbow Falls

Waterfalls

Akaka Falls State Park

State Parks, Waterfalls

Waipi'o Valley

Valleys, Historic Walking Areas

Day 2

Saddle Road

Scenic Drives, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Maunakea Visitor Information Station

Visitor Centres

Mauna Kea Summit

Mountains

Lava Tree State Park

State Parks

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes

Volcano House

Restaurants

Day 3

Kilauea Iki Trail

Hiking Trails

Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube

Geologic Formations

Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube

Geologic Formations

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum

Speciality Museums

Punaluu Bake Shop and Visitor Center

Restaurants

Papakolea Green Sand Beach

Beaches

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Historic Sites, National Parks

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Beaches, State Parks

ClareceT1's City Tips

  • Pay attention to caution signs at waterfalls (or any other natural sightseeing spots) — flash floods and loose rocks are common dangers.
  • Hilo is one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. so always be prepared with an umbrella.
  • Be extra cautious when driving on the extremely curvy Saddle Road — going too fast may cause your vehicle to lose traction.
  • To visit Mauna Kea, you should rent a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, which is equipped to navigate the mountainous terrain.
    Day 1
  • Richardson Beach Park
    Beaches
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    An easily accessible beach close to Hilo airport, this is the first place to enjoy a swim while watching the surf break. Beach-goers can explore the park as well as scramble on the rocks.

    Good for
    • Beach Goer
    • Like a Local
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Keep walking and you'll find a second, larger sandy beach.
    • Keep an eye out for sea turtles and dolphins — they frequent the Hilo Bay area often!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Cold Pond 13/05/2021
    • black sand beach 30/03/2021
    • Richardson Beach Park
    Address:
    2279 Kalanianaole Ave
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720
  • Coconut Island
    Islands
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    A peaceful island in the Hilo Bay area that can be accessed via a bridge, Coconut Island offers great views of Hilo town and the mountains. Good for getting your bearings!

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Like a Local
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring a picnic and take advantage of the picnic tables for an impromptu lunch or snack break.
    • Look for the tsunami tree whose signs mark the water level during previous tsunamis.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Great Liitle Place 29/05/2021
    • Lovely spot among lovely spots nearby 01/05/2021
    • Coconut Island
    Address:
    Off-shoot from Banyan Drive
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720
    Other:
  • Liliuokalani Gardens
    Gardens
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    This beautiful Japanese garden pays homage to Queen Lili'uokalani, Hawaii's last reigning Monarch, complete with arching red bridges, fish ponds, pagodas, Japanese stone lanterns, and a teahouse.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The fish ponds grow in size when the tide is high, and some bridges might even be underwater at certain times of the year, e.g. on a full moon.
    • Admission is free.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Really pleasant city park 04/06/2021
    • Lovely Gardens 29/05/2021
    • Liliuokalani Gardens
    Address:
    Banyan Drive
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720-4680
    Phone:
    +1 808-522-7060
    Other:
  • Two Ladies Kitchen
    Restaurants (Japanese)
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Time for a snack? Two Ladies is a great hole-in-the-wall shop selling freshly made, authentic mochi (a delicious Japanese snack).

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • You can mix and match to customize your own box of mochi treats.
    • Be on the lookout for the giant strawberry mochi, also filled with red bean paste.
    • For smaller bites, the chocolate mochi is stuffed with mini pieces of Reese's, Hershey's, and other confectionery favorites.
    • Cash only.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 757 restaurants in Island of Hawaii
    • Mochi Mochi Mochi 20/05/2021
    • If you go to Hilo and don't go here, you're a dope 30/04/2021
    • Two Ladies Kitchen
    Address:
    274 Kilauea Ave
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720-2948
    Phone:
    +1 808-961-4766
    Hours:
    Tue - Sat
    10:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Hilo Farmers Market
    Farmers Markets
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Hawaii produces some of the nation's best fresh produce and flowers. Swing by this local spot to find fruits like papayas and apple bananas; dishes like the Filipino Pancit and Thai Papaya Salad; as well as vegetables, flowers, and artisan products.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • Seasonal fruits are often sold at budget-friendly prices here.
    • This is a great chance to try food from the different ethnic groups that live in Hawaii.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • WORST TRIP WITH THE FAMILY 08/06/2021
    • Picking up food 24/05/2021
    • Hilo Farmers Market
    Phone:
    +1 808-933-1000
    Hours:
    Sun - Tue
    07:00 - 16:00
    Wed
    06:00 - 16:00
    Thu
    07:00 - 16:00
    Sat
    06:00 - 16:00
    Other:
  • Rainbow Falls
    Waterfalls
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Rainbow Falls is surrounded by lush, dense foliage and has an impressive 80-foot drop. The water rushes into a large pool, which is bordered by beautiful wild ginger, and the falls takes its name from the rainbows that can often be seen spanning the water here.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Further uphill are 'boiling pots,' where rushing water has created deep, terraced pools. Note that these are not safe for swimming in as there is no lifeguard on duty, and flash floods happen often.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Pretty waterfall 11/06/2021
    • pretty 08/06/2021
    • Rainbow Falls
    Address:
    Waianuenue Avenue
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720
    Phone:
    +1 808-961-9540
    Other:
  • Akaka Falls State Park
    State Parks, Waterfalls
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    On the way to Waipi'o, it's worth stopping by Akaka Falls State Park. Walk along the short paved path surrounded by wild orchids and lush ferns for approximately 20 minutes and you'll soon discover the 100-foot Kahuna Falls, followed by the 442-foot Akaka Falls.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • There is a small fee to visit the park (which differs depending on whether you arrive by car or on foot.)
    • To learn more about native fauna and other interesting local facts, look out for the interpretive signposts situated along the path.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Nice Water Fall Easy Walk 04/06/2021
    • Nice but unique state park 04/06/2021
    • Akaka Falls State Park
    Address:
    End of Akaka Falls Road
    Off Hwy 220
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96728
    Phone:
    +1 808-961-9540
    Other:
  • Waipi'o Valley
    Valleys, Historic Walking Areas
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Drive down to this historically important valley by 4WD vehicle and be bowled over by the beautiful black sand beach, waterfalls, and numerous surf breaks you'll discover. Waipi'o Valley was a permanent residence for many early Hawaiian Ali'i (kings) and the area is considered to be sacred by many native Hawaiians.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • A shallow stream rushes down through the middle of the beach but can be crossed carefully.
    • Waipi'o is popular with surfers and offers great surf breaks.
    • When driving down the steep, one-lane access road, yield to oncoming traffic at pullovers.
    • Scramble across the rocks to reach the Kaluahine Fall on the south side of Waipi'o Valley.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #29 of 464 things to do in Island of Hawaii
    • Can’t Recommend Enough If You Are In Good Shape 18/05/2021
    • Drove everywhere 22/04/2021
    • Waipi'o Valley
    Phone:
    +1 800-770-0326
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    00:00 - 23:59
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Saddle Road
    Scenic Drives, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Venture onto Saddle Road, the only way to reach the Mauna Kea access road (which will take you from the lush green vegetation at sea level up to a volcanic landscape), and is notorious for its countless curves.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Watch your speed when entering the curves on Saddle Road, especially when heading downhill.
    • Look out for the beautiful Ohia trees with red Lehua blossoms; a common native Hawaiian plant.
    • Drive with your headlights on when entering clouds or encountering foggy conditions.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #12 of 102 things to do in Kailua-Kona
    • Beautiful Drive 29/05/2021
    • Driving 24/05/2021
    • Saddle Road
    Address:
    Hawaii Highway 200
    Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, HI
    Phone:
    +1 808-935-6268
    Other:
  • Maunakea Visitor Information Station
    Visitor Centres
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    The Observatory is the first stop on the Mauna Kea access road, with plenty of educational content to explore inside, as well as being a warm venue in which to stretch your legs after the three-hour drive from Hilo.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Hot chocolate and souvenirs are sold here.
    • Make sure your car is well-equipped for the drive further up the access road — with 4WD, and possibly chains when snowing in the winter.
    • The Observatory offers star-gazing sessions on certain nights of the year. Check online for the latest schedule.
    • Look for the "Invisible Cow" sign for a laugh.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 74 things to do in Hilo
    • Nothing to do at this time 14/03/2021
    • Not open in Covid times 08/11/2020
    • Maunakea Visitor Information Station
    Address:
    177 Makaala St
    Hilo, Island of Hawaii, HI 96720
    Phone:
    +1 808-934-4550
    Other:
  • Mauna Kea Summit
    Mountains
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Continue your climb up one of the Island of Hawaii's five volcanoes — best done in a 4WD — and be prepared for some spectacular views. The high elevation offers stunning sunrise and sunset shots of the horizon, and in the winter, you can even snowboard down the slopes of the volcano.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Beware of cattle wandering on the roads when foggy.
    • Bring warm clothes, gloves, hats, and even your own hot chocolate; the temperature is much cooler here and will drop dramatically once the sun disappears.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 102 things to do in Kailua-Kona
    • Wonderful tour 09/06/2021
    • Awesome 30/05/2021
    • Mauna Kea Summit
    Phone:
    +1 808-464-0840
    Other:
  • Lava Tree State Park
    State Parks
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    After spending the morning at Mauna Kea volcano, head back down Saddle Road and begin driving towards the east side of the island. Lava Tree State Park in Pahoa offers a 0.7-mile loop among 'lava trees —' lava molds of Ohia trees created when lava once swept through the area.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring mosquito repellent as Pahoa is surrounded by lush forest and mosquitoes are common.
    • Admission is free.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 20 things to do in Pahoa
    • Such a different place 05/05/2021
    • Hawaii’s version of the petrified forest. 06/02/2021
    • Lava Tree State Park
    Address:
    Pahoa-Kapoho Road
    Puna district
    Pahoa, Island of Hawaii, HI
    Phone:
    +1 808-974-6200
    Other:
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    Volcanoes
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    This National Park features plenty to keep you entertained, and is one of the few places where you can be in close proximity to active volcanoes such as Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Explore its steam vents, recently formed volcanic features, hiking trails of various lengths, the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory, and Kilauea Military Camp, among other attractions.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • There is an admission fee.
    • For overnight backcountry hikes, apply for a free permit from the Visitor Emergency Operations Center.
    • For short day hikes, consider the Crater Rim trail or the Kilauea Iki trail.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 25 things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    • Great… but… 11/06/2021
    • It's like another (amazing) world 04/06/2021
    • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    Address:
    Volcano National Park
    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Island of Hawaii, HI
    Phone:
    +1 808-964-1000
    Other:
  • Volcano House
    Restaurants (American, Hawaiian)
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Perched on the rim of Kilauea caldera, and with unparalleled views of the crater, the restaurant Volcano House is a must-visit. It is the only hotel inside the national park and offers 33 guest rooms, a restaurant, lounge, and gift shop.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The restaurant is open to non-hotel guests.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #153 of 757 restaurants in Island of Hawaii
    • Covid restricts full service 24/04/2021
    • Good food - Take out for now 08/04/2021
    • Volcano House
    Address:
    1 Crater Rim Drive
    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Island of Hawaii, HI 96718
    Phone:
    +1 844-569-8849
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    07:00 - 10:30
    11:00 - 14:00
    17:00 - 20:30
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Kilauea Iki Trail
    Hiking Trails
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    This 2-3 hour hike across the floor of the solidified lava lake at Kilauea Iki presents a unique opportunity to explore the steaming landscape, marked by piles of rocks (Ahu) and native Hawaiian plants.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water as there are no facilities on the trail.
    • Do not disturb or build new Ahu, as the piles of rocks are trail markers built by NPS in a specially non-intrusive manner.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 25 things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    • Amazing to walk across the crater 06/06/2021
    • Just Like a buckled and dilapidated parking lot 29/05/2021
    • Kilauea Iki Trail
    Address:
    Crater Rim Drive
    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Island of Hawaii, HI 96785
    Phone:
    +1 808-985-6000
    Other:
  • Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube
    Geologic Formations
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Explore this easily accessible lava tube, created when lava flowed through already solidified rocks, leaving a hollow tube system behind. This amazing natural wonder is great for kids to explore as well.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Wear sturdy hiking shoes as the trail can be uneven and steep at times.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 25 things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    • Lava tube ! 02/06/2021
    • OK, but would not wait in a line 29/05/2021
    • Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube
    Phone:
    +1 808-385-6000
    Other:
  • Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube
    Geologic Formations
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Adventure seekers shouldn't miss Thurston, a 500-year-old lava tube cave, whose first part is well-lit by overhead lights, while its second must be explored in complete darkness. Bring a strong flashlight with you and enjoy exploring every corner of this natural wonder!

    Good for
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring a headlight or flashlight with you if planning to explore the dark part of the cave.
    • There is a short walk you can take through the surrounding fern forest.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 25 things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    • Lava tube ! 02/06/2021
    • OK, but would not wait in a line 29/05/2021
    • Nahuku - Thurston Lava Tube
    Phone:
    +1 808-385-6000
    Other:
  • Thomas A. Jaggar Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Visit the Jaggar Museum located next to the USGS Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory and learn about the geology of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, as well as ongoing geological monitoring work.

    Good for
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Admission is free.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 things to do in Volcano
    • Permanently Closed 27/01/2020
    • Rest in peace 19/07/2019
    • Thomas A. Jaggar Museum
    Address:
    Crater Rim Drive
    Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
    Volcano, Island of Hawaii, HI 96718
    Phone:
    +1 808-985-6000
    Other:
  • Punaluu Bake Shop and Visitor Center
    Restaurants (American, Cafe, Hawaiian)
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    As you leave the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and head towards Kona, stop by one of the best sweetbread factories on the Island of Hawaii, located at Punalu'u. Here you can sample the various flavors of sweetbreads and malasadas (similar to a donut), and enjoy a quiet moment in the outdoor patio area.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Look around the garden grounds and you might find ripe mangoes on trees that are ready for picking.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #52 of 757 restaurants in Island of Hawaii
    • Delish 02/06/2021
    • Delicious! 08/04/2021
    • Punaluu Bake Shop and Visitor Center
    Address:
    95 - 5642 Mamalahoa Hwy
    Naalehu, Island of Hawaii, HI 96722
    Phone:
    +1 808-929-7343
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    08:30 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Papakolea Green Sand Beach
    Beaches
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Swing by this green sand beach, made up of mostly of olivine, which lends the green color to the sand composition. Marvel at this rare beauty and the sheer sandy cliffs that surround the beach. Swimming is also possible.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The beach is only accessible by hiking.
    • This is one of four green sand beaches in the world.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 15 things to do in Naalehu
    • Take the shuttle!! 06/06/2021
    • Be prepared to hike! 05/06/2021
    • Papakolea Green Sand Beach
    Address:
    Near Ka Lae South Point
    Naalehu, Island of Hawaii, HI 96772
  • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
    Historic Sites, National Parks
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    A historical park that was a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians who broke kapu laws and sought safety from pursuers, as well as defeated warriors. This sacred site also includes carved wooden images, royal fish ponds, burial grounds, and ancient royal gardens. A cultural demonstrator may also be present to demonstrate traditional Hawaiian crafts.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Be respectful of the sacred site — nudity, beach chairs, towels, mats, beach umbrellas, coolers, picnicking, pets, weddings or wedding photos, smoking, and recreational activities are not allowed.
    • Self-guided tours are available.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 11 things to do in Honaunau
    • Not to its potential 04/06/2021
    • Phenomenal 02/06/2021
    • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
    Address:
    1871 Trail
    Honaunau, Island of Hawaii, HI 96726
    Phone:
    +1 808-328-2326
    Other:
  • Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
    Beaches, State Parks
    See more photos
    ClareceT1 Says:

    Stop by this soft, white-sand beach and enjoy one of the best idyllic beaches on the Island of Hawaii. The beautiful beach often has gentle, rolling waves so it's good for visitors looking to try their hand at bodysurfing or boogie-boarding.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Beach Goer
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • This beach is also good for snorkeling.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 13 things to do in Puako
    • Perfect for families 11/06/2021
    • Boogie Board 01/06/2021
    • Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
    Address:
    Old Puako Rd
    Puako, Island of Hawaii, HI 96743
    Phone:
    +1 808-961-9540
    Other:
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