Aloha and welcome to Big Island! We are so happy you made the decision to come to Hawaii for your vacation. While there are quite a few options for places to stay, for this Big Island road trip plan we are recommending you stay in the Waikoloa Resort Area. Though there are several choices, both the Hilton and the Marriott have excellent perks for families. Here is our recommendation for your Seven Day Big Island Road Trip Itinerary:
You can either have breakfast at your hotel or go to the nearby Island Gourmet Markets in the Queen’s Marketplace. It’s a great grocery store, perfect for the family on vacation. They really are a great stop for any time of the day. You can get local fruits or even spam rice and eggs local style. After you’re fed get down to the beach and enjoy the beautiful beaches right there at your hotel or head about 10 mins north to Hapuna Beach, the Big Island’s biggest stretch of white sand beach. It’s beautiful and the water conditions are almost always perfect.
Wake up early and head south towards Kona. Wander up to the historic village of Holualoa and stop at Aloha Adventure Farms for a Big Island ATV Tour or a Polynesian cultural wood carving adventure you won’t forget. Ride up through the jungle, play stick games, smash a pineapple, beat the Tongan drums, and enjoy a private fire knife show! Then sit down and carve an unforgettable souvenir with a master carver from Tonga. You’ll take home your very own tiki to show off to all your friends. Visiting Aloha Adventure Farms early on your trip will provide you with special insights as you explore the rest of the Big Island during your stay.
Before you leave Aloha Adventure Farms, stop in at the Holualoa Kona Coffee Company gift shop for a free coffee farm tour. Sample some amazing Kona coffee and even purchase some to take home. This place is amazing!
After your adventurous morning head down Mamalahoa Highway to get some lunch and wander through the local artist shops. There are two great stops for lunch. A super casual, and cash only walk-up Mexican food, Mi Taqueria Potosina, or a nicer sit down at Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe.
If you’re up for it after Holualoa Village, drive down to Kona (about 10 mins) and park at Coconut Groves market place. The parking is free. There are lots of little shops to check out along Ali’i drive which runs along the ocean. There is amazing gelato at Gypsea gelato and lots of restaurant choices if you stay until dinner. We would recommend Huggo’s, Island Lava Java, or Fosters Kitchen. If you walk north down Ali’i you’ll end up at King Kamehameha Marriott Hotel and the pier. Grab a snow cone at Scandi’s Shave Ice & Coffee Shop and take a walk down the pier and watch the local fisherman reel in a catch.
Today we suggest venturing up to the northern tip of the island. Make a stop at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory. They have samples, demonstrations, and lots of neat things to look at. When you’re done, keep venturing up the coastline to Hawi. The history of Hawi makes it one of the most important destinations in Hawaii. It is a must-see location for visitors looking for adventure on the Big Island.
Stop by Kohala Coffee Mill, which serves only 100% Kona coffee, gluten-free meals, and Big Island-made ice cream. Across the street, grab a delicious, locally-sourced meal at Bamboo Restaurant and Bar. Do a little shopping along Hawi’s boutique storefronts, with island favorites like As Hawi Turns and Elements Jewelry and Crafts.
Venture on down the road and park at the end where you can hike down Pololū Valley. Pololū Valley is located at the terminus of Highway 270, about 5 miles past the town of Kapa’au. The parking area at the start of the hiking trail is small and narrow, but street parking is easy to secure along either side of the highway.
Many visitors come for the spectacular views from the highway lookout, but the valley floor and black sand beach can be accessed by a 15-minute hike. It is recommended that you bring water as the hike down is short but rigorous.
On day 4 we recommend packing a snack and driving over to Rainbow Falls. Rainbow falls is in Hilo, but today is not the day for Hilo. Today you’re going to drive the Hamakua coastline. Some of the most gorgeous scenery on the Big island.
Rainbow Falls is a modest 80 ft high, which is not that high compared to the nearby, 422 ft, ‘Akaka Falls. However, the Rainbow Falls are more easily accessible and it is possible to see the falls from very close. A big selling point of these waterfalls is the many rainbows you can see in the early morning. Also, Hilo can get lots of rain in the late morning/afternoon, so it’s best to start this day early.
After viewing Rainbow falls head over to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is a museum of living plants that attracts photographers, gardeners, botanists, scientists, and nature lovers from around the world. The garden’s rainforest trails cross many streams and waterfalls, and harbors more than 2000 species of rare and exotic plants!
Now head to ‘Akaka Falls. The falls are easily accessible from the main road via a short trail that also takes you through a lush rainforest with giant ferns, fragrant ginger, and immense bamboo groves! Stop in Honomu on your way to the falls, or after for some food. There are little bakeries or even a restaurant or two. They are all a great option for lunch.
Now take a drive up the coastline and be sure to pull off at Laupāhoehoe Point Beach Park. This park offers stunning ocean vistas in a town with a tragic past. You can find a monument to the 20 students and four teachers that lost their lives here during the April 1st 1946 tsunami.
We have saved the best for the last on the Hāmākua coast: Waipi’o Valley! Also named the “valley of kings”, this valley used to be the political and religious center of ancient Hawaiian culture, and housed many thousands of people. Presently, less than 100 people live in this valley, leaving plenty of room for all the stunning hikes, many waterfalls, and a magical black-sand beach! However, unless you have 4 wheel drive you won’t be able to drive down. Also, even with 4 wheel drive, it can be a treacherous drive. Please be safe in your decision making. People do choose to hike down, but unless you have a full day and are extremely fit and hike often we do not recommend it. Countless people start the trek down and end up trying to hitch rides up and down the road. It truly is not for the faint of heart. However, you can get the most spectacular views from the lookout point up top.
After Waipi’o Valley, head over to Tex Drive-in. Here you can get the best and most spectacular malasadas in all of Hawaii. No seriously, these really are the best! Get some for now, and be sure to get some for later!
Head on into Waimea on your way back to your hotel. Waimea is home to Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States, founded in the late 1800’s by Samuel Parker. Check out the parker ranch shopping center for some clean bathrooms and a few shops. It also houses a food court. However, if you have an appetite and want a truly amazing dining experience we recommend checking out Merriman’s restaurant.
There is so much to see and do on the Big Island! Today we recommend taking saddle road again to Hilo, but today check Hilo out. If you leave early then go eat at Kens House of Pancakes! This place is everything! Whether you want banana macadamia nut pancakes, loco moco, or corned beef hash with your eggs, it is Hawaii! Right by Ken’s house of pancakes is Kalanianaole Ave. Drive along and pick one of the stunning beach parks to check out. Or visit them all!
After your morning in Hilo it’s time to head out to Hawaii Volcano National Park! We recommend checking out their website and seeing what appeals to you! Some people want to check out everything while others enjoy a drive through with a stop at the main caldera and the visitors center. The amount of time you spend is up to you!
After the Volcano if you have the time you can head out to south point or green sand beach. While these are both great places to visit there is some caution I would advise. If you’re wanting to head out to Green Sand Beach I recommend reading this point of view. This portrayal is exactly what you will find there. Also, note that this is typically not a beach to swim at. South Point, the most southern tip of the island….and possibly the most southern tip of the United States (depends on who you ask) is a beautiful drive, beautiful scenery, super windy, interesting spot to visit. Again, use caution and read reviews. Nevertheless, you might get lucky and see some people jumping off the cliff there.
On the way to Kona stop at the Punalu’u Bakery for some sweet bread and a bite to eat. Hopefully you have scheduled a manta ray dive for tonight! There are many companies to go with. We really enjoy the tours that leave from Keahou bay right by the Kona Sheraton. At the Sheraton, you can find the Manta Ray learning center. We recommend checking this out before your experience. Some companies that go out at SeaQuest, Sea Paradise, Dolphin Discoveries, and Kona Ocean Experience. This experience is a must when visiting the Big Island.
Today you really should head back down to the Kona area. Head to the famous Coffee Shack for breakfast. There are some options for what to do next. You could rent a kayak from Kona Boys to take out in Kealakekua Bay, or you could hike down the Captain Cook Hike and snorkel in the bay. We prefer the kayak because it’s a steep hike out. Either way it’s amazing snorkeling! Also, if you chose to kayak your most likely going to pass the local pod of dolphins that love to play in the bay! This is one of our most favorite destinations on the island! Next head up the road a bit to two-step and Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, otherwise known as the City of Refuge. Take a tour through the park and then go snorkel two-step!
A great way to end your day today would be to take in a luau. There are many luaus available here on the Big Island. We really like the intimate one at the Royal Kona Resort, but if you need to get back to your hotel to clean up the Marriott and the Hilton both offer great luaus as well.
Depending on how much time you have today is the day to go back to your favorite place, relax at the beach, visit Maunakea lookout or just relax! We would recommend another day at the beach and lunch or dinner at the Lava Lava Beach Club. Either way, make the most of your last day on the Big Island. We can’t wait to hear about your experience!