This lava-rich island, complete with 10 of the 14 climate zones, has more to see, do and eat than you could fit into one trip. But, here’s how you can try.
Rent a Jeep and explore the natural beauty of Hilo town. Collecting 126 inches (or more!) of rain on average per year, the area floods with lush greenery. Make a pit stop at Two Ladies Kitchen for an assortment of homemade mochi. Then veer under the rainforest canopy down Pepe’ekeo scenic drive to beach lookouts peaking through the trees, crossing creeks and waterfalls that will have you saying, “Pull over here!” more times than you can count. For an up close and personal tour of Wai’anuenue (Rainbow Falls) and Kaimukanaka Falls, charter Hawaii Forest & Trail. The half-day tour offers exclusive access to swim or kayak under a private 120-foot fall before tasting tropical fruits like lychee and macnuts.
Don’t miss the chance to dine at Moon & Turtle for Asian-fusion delights like smokey sashimi and pork belly udon.
Stay at the Palms Cliff House Inn, a boutique, “Old Hawaiian” B&B on Pohakumanu Bay. With eight ocean view rooms adorned in vintage styling befitting a Hawaiian Ali’i (a ruler believed to descend from a Hawaiian god), you’ll wake each morning to breakfast overlooking the cliff with prime whale watching views (November-May).
Visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to see the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. Feeling adventurous? Opt for a mountain bike tour around the rim of the Halema'uma'u Crater with Nui Pohaku. Set the pace or pedal the full 16-mile course through lush rainforests to watch plumes of gas escape the crater from every angle. Walk through massive lava tubes while your guide tells tales of the volcano god, Pele.
Take a sippin’ stroll through Volcano Winery to taste the local grapes and white leaf tea. With hints of local fruits like lychee, jaboticaba berry and guava, each glass is more refreshing than the next. Enjoy wood fired pizzas at the cozy ‘Ohelo Café. Then return to the park after dark to see the orange glow of fiery lava below the night’s sky.
Brunch at Gramma’s Kitchen in Honokaa for their famous ono and soft shell crab fish and chips. Then hop on an ATV and ride the rim of Waipi’o Valley. Catch some air on the trails as you pass sky-scraping eucalyptus trees to lookouts 2,000-feet above the sacred “Valley of Kings.” Bring a swimsuit and cool off mid-motor in Hi‘ilawe Falls.
Then choose your route (coastal highway or mountain passageway) and head west to the Holualoa Inn. Once a private estate, the inn was transformed into an immaculate, six-room, open-air B&B. It’s perched at 1,200 feet above Kailua-Kona in the heart of the coffee belt, which means your morning cup is some of the best around. The grounds of the 30-acre property are rich with tropical fruit, perfectly manicured gardens and more than 5,000 coffee trees. You’ll want to arrive in time to watch the sunset from the rooftop gazebo.
Walk to Holuakoa Gardens and Café before bidding adieu to your day. Enjoy farm-to-fork specialties like grass-fed beef tenderloin, fennel dusted swordfish and handcrafted house gnocchi.
Courtesy of Holualoa Inn
Wake early for a gourmet breakfast prepared by the Inn’s resident chef. Sip coffee and enjoy a handpicked fruit plate and Hawaiian-style huevos rancheros in the family-style dining room that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Snorkel or paddleboard Kealakekua Bay; arguably the clearest water in all of Hawai’i. Then step ashore and pay tribute to Captain James Cook, the British explorer who discovered the Hawaiian Islands in 1779. Believed to be a returning god, Cook is honored with a 27-foot white obelisk marking his arrival. For added excitement, claim your spot with Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions for a chance to see wild spinner dolphins, and to explore sea caves and blue grottos after snorkeling.
Design your own poke’ bowl with sides like cucumber kimchee, spicy crab salad and pipikaula (Hawaiian beef jerky) at Umeke’s. Then grab a Longboard lager at Kona Brewing Co.
Courtesy of Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions
Start your day at Kona International Airport. Don’t worry – you’re not leaving Hawai’i Island just yet. Step onto the tarmac and strap on your headphones for an air adventure with Paradise Helicopters. Start your soar over the Kona coffee district towards Kilauea. After passing miles of hardened lava fields, you’ll circle the volcano for a birds-eye view of molten hot lava inside the Halema'uma'u Crater. If Pele’s feeling spicy, she’ll even send new lava flowing down the mountainside. When you’ve seen enough (as if it’s possible), you’ll head towards Hilo for aerial views of the canopy rainforests and an epic number of cascading waterfalls. Before heading back to Kona, stretch your legs on a short hike to an 800-foot rain-filled waterfall when the Bell 407 touches down on one of the most scenic overlooks on the Kohala coast.
Wind down with the island’s signature drink, a Mai Tai. Snag a seaside table at the Royal Kona Resort and choose from more than a dozen specialty mixes. Can’t decide on just one? Grab a flight and try four. You’re still on vacation, after all.
End your trip with a locals take on island favorites at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. Start with the poke stack garnished in psychedelic-colored drizzles, then – if available on special – enjoy the perfectly-prepared lamb chops. You won't be disappointed. Call ahead for a res; this hidden gem fills up quick!