Best Hawaiian Experiences

The big island of Hawaii is the largest (and youngest) of all the islands. Its size and diverse ecosystem make it the perfect island for many incredible experiences. To make trip planning easier for you, we’ve identified the top 10 adventures you can have on your next trip to the island of Hawaii.

1. Swim With Dolphins

Hawaii’s waters are full of amazing marine life. There are plenty of tours that will take you on dolphin viewings or swimming with the dolphins along the Kona coast. In fact, some of the tours guarantee that you’ll see dolphins or you get a redo for free!

These expeditions usually take up about half a day and include swimming or snorkeling with dolphins, a meal, and a relaxing couple of hours cruising on the water. Trust us – swimming with friendly, happy dolphins in the clear Hawaiian waters is something you’ll never forget. 

Swimming with dolphins

2. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Island of Hawaii is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park has two of the world’s largest active volcanoes (Kīlauea and Mauna Loa) and has some of the most diverse geological and biological landscapes on this planet. 

While you’re at the park, you can explore one of the many day hikes, go on the famous Crater Rim drive tour, or visit the Thurston Lava Tube (a lava tunnel). Dedicate an entire day to exploring this national park – you won’t regret it! 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Island of Hawaii

3. Night Snorkel With Manta Rays

After you spend your morning or afternoon swimming with the dolphins, you can switch to swimming with manta rays at night! Night snorkeling with manta rays is one of the more popular experiences tourists opt for on the island. The tour boats attach lights to the bottom of floatation devices. The light attracts plankton, which is what manta rays eat. As the manta rays come closer, it’s like they almost put on a show for you. They’ll twirl and somersault in the light, giving you a spectacular view of these creatures in their habitat. You can book a night snorkel tour here.

Night snorkel with manta rays on the island of Hawaii

4. Visit the Turtles of Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

The big island of Hawaii has plenty of beaches you’ll want to visit. But, a truly unique experience is the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. As the name suggests, this beach has gorgeous black sand. Most notably, people come to this beach to see the endangered Hawksbill turtles and green turtles. These turtles will usually just be sunbathing on the beach, allowing you to observe from a distance. This is an extraordinary experience because it’s quite uncommon for turtles to bask on the beach – except on Hawaiian beaches!

Turtle on Hawaiian beach

5. Helicopter Ride Over the Island

With the Island of Hawaii being the largest, likely, you won’t get a chance to explore every inch. However, one way you can make sure you take in everything the island has to offer is by taking a helicopter ride. As you fly above the island, you’ll get to see views of the magical waterfalls, dense rainforests, snow-capped mountains, the crystal-clear ocean, and active volcanoes.

Helicopter view of Hawaii

6. Go Chasing Waterfalls

There are huge, cascading waterfalls throughout the island of Hawaii. These waterfalls are so mesmerizing in person that words simply can’t do it justice. You have to see the amazing views for yourself!

Some of the best waterfalls on the island are:

  • Akaka Falls
  • Rainbow Falls (pictured below)
  • Hiilawe Falls
  • Umauma falls
Rainbow falls on the Island of Hawaii

7. Get In Some Hiking

Quite possibly, the best way to take in the lush rainforests and diverse landscape of the island is through its many hiking trails. There are trails for hikers of all levels of experience – from short loops to challenging day hikes. Check out our top 5 best hikes in the Big Island of Hawaii for more.

hawaii hiking trails

8. Ride the Waves

If you love surfing, there’s a chance you’ll spend your entire vacation to Hawaii on the beach. Hawaii has some of the best waves for surfing in the world. Even if you’ve never surfed before, now will be the time to try! Many of the more popular beaches have vendors offering surfboard rentals and surfing lessons.

Surfing on the Island of Hawaii

9. Get Close to Lava

While the island of Hawaii has two active volcanos, you can’t always see active lava. The good news is that there is visible, active lava at the time of this writing (April 2021). An eruption started in December 2020 and is still going strong. You can see a lava lake in the Halemaʻumaʻu crater! How close you can get to the lava will depend on various factors, such as the intensity and activity of the lava flow. 

You can always find the most up-to-date information on the volcanoes here. Make sure to check out the status before your trip so you can set expectations of whether you’ll be seeing active lava on your vacation! 

Lava at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

10.  Check Out the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

If you love nature, make sure to check out the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. You get to walk through miles of garden that is home to thousands of rare and endangered plants. It’s a fantastic experience and you get to feel great that you’re helping a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Hawaii’s natural botanical species. 

The Island of Hawaii greenery

The island of Hawaii has so many wonderful experiences to offer visitors. If you can’t fit all of these into your first trip, you might just have to come back!