big island 4 day itinerary

🌺 Discover the Magic of Hawaii’s Big Island: A 4-Day Adventure 🌴

Are you planning a vacation to Hawaii’s Big Island? Look no further! In this 4-day itinerary guide, we’ll take you on a journey to explore the must-see attractions and top activities the island has to offer.

Key Takeaways:

  • Day 1: Drive from Kona to Hilo, stopping at Willie’s Hot Chicken for a delicious meal.
  • Day 2: Explore Hilo, visit waterfalls like Akaka Falls, and explore the wonders of Volcanoes National Park.
  • Day 3: Enjoy a scenic drive from Hilo to Kona, stopping at points of interest like the Hamakua Coast and Waipio Valley.
  • Day 4: Snorkel at Captain Cook and experience a magical evening of manta ray snorkeling.
  • Don’t forget to download the Shaka Guide app for a self-guided tour of Volcanoes National Park.

Embark on an unforgettable adventure on Hawaii’s Big Island, where natural beauty, rich culture, and unique experiences await. From driving along breathtaking coastlines to exploring stunning waterfalls and experiencing the awe-inspiring power of volcanic activity, this itinerary will ensure you make the most of your 4-day vacation. Soak in the charm of Hilo, indulge in delicious local cuisine, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Get ready to discover the wonders of Hawaii’s Big Island!

Day 1: Drive from Kona to Hilo

Begin your adventure by flying into Kona and embarking on a scenic drive to Hilo, where you’ll experience the cultural and natural wonders of the Big Island. Along the way, take the opportunity to indulge in some mouthwatering local cuisine. Stop by Willie’s Hot Chicken, a popular eatery in Kona, known for its delicious and spicy chicken dishes. Let your taste buds savor the flavors of Hawaii as you enjoy a memorable meal before continuing your journey.

After satisfying your cravings, make your way to Hilo, where you’ll find an array of accommodation options, including cozy Airbnb rentals situated between Hilo and the breathtaking Volcanoes National Park. Rest up for an exciting day ahead filled with exploration, stunning waterfalls, and the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the island.

Remember to check out our table below for a summary of the highlights and attractions you’ll encounter on this amazing journey from Kona to Hilo:

Scenic drive
Food stopWillie’s Hot Chicken
AccommodationAirbnb between Hilo and Volcanoes National Park

Get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating landscapes and vibrant flavors of the Big Island as you embark on this memorable journey from Kona to Hilo.

Day 2: Explore Hilo, waterfalls, and Volcanoes National Park

Immerse yourself in the vibrant town of Hilo as you explore its beautiful waterfalls, visit the bustling farmers market, and discover the awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes of Volcanoes National Park. Start your day with a delicious breakfast at Just Cruisin Coffee, known for its freshly brewed coffee and scrumptious pastries.

After fueling up, make your way to Akaka Falls State Park, where you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking sight of Akaka Falls plunging 442 feet into a lush gorge. Take a leisurely stroll through the park and marvel at the surrounding tropical vegetation and wildlife. Don’t miss the opportunity to see Kahuna Falls, another stunning waterfall nearby.

No visit to Hilo is complete without a trip to the Hilo Farmers Market. Browse through the vibrant stalls filled with locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, and handmade crafts. Indulge in some fresh, juicy fruits or pick up a souvenir to take home.

  1. After exploring the market, head to Rainbow Falls, a majestic waterfall that cascades into a pool surrounded by lush greenery. Capture the beauty of this natural wonder and take in the serene atmosphere.
  2. Continue your adventure by visiting Boiling Pots, a series of cascading lava rock pools that create a mesmerizing display of bubbling water. Take a moment to appreciate the power and beauty of nature.
  3. Wrap up your day by exploring Kaumana Caves, a lava tube formed during an eruption in the early 1900s. Embark on a self-guided tour and marvel at the intricate lava formations inside the caves.
  4. Lastly, make your way to Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover the fascinating volcanic landscapes, hike through lush rainforests, and witness the incredible active volcanoes, including Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Don’t forget to download the Shaka Guide app for a self-guided tour of the park, packed with interesting facts and stories.

Experience the natural wonders and cultural richness of Hilo as you immerse yourself in its waterfalls, vibrant markets, and the mesmerizing beauty of Volcanoes National Park. The second day of your Big Island adventure promises to be filled with unforgettable sights and experiences.

Highlights:Food Recommendations:
Akaka Falls State ParkJust Cruisin Coffee
Hilo Farmers Market 
Rainbow Falls 
Boiling Pots 
Kaumana Caves 
Volcanoes National Park 

Day 3: Drive from Hilo to Kona and relax

Soak in the breathtaking coastal views as you embark on a picturesque drive from Hilo to Kona, stopping at enchanting spots like the Hamakua Coast, Waipio Valley, and Lapakahi State Historical Park. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at a local cafΓ© in Hilo, fueling up for the journey ahead.

As you leave Hilo, the Hamakua Coast awaits with its stunning cliffs, lush valleys, and cascading waterfalls. Take your time to explore this scenic stretch, breathing in the fresh ocean breeze and capturing memorable photos along the way. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Waipio Valley, a hidden gem known for its sweeping vistas and black sand beach.

Continuing on your drive, make a stop at Lapakahi State Historical Park, where you can immerse yourself in Hawaiian history. Explore the remnants of an ancient fishing village and marvel at the preserved archaeological sites. This cultural experience will provide insight into the island’s rich heritage.

Arriving in Kona, it’s time to unwind and embrace the laid-back vibes. Find a beautiful beach to relax on or indulge in the local cuisine and refreshing drinks at one of the charming restaurants along the coast. As the sun sets, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, taking in the breathtaking colors painting the sky.

Points of Interest:

Hamakua CoastA scenic stretch of coastline with stunning cliffs, lush valleys, and waterfalls.
Waipio ValleyA hidden gem with panoramic views and a black sand beach.
Lapakahi State Historical ParkAn ancient fishing village showcasing preserved archaeological sites.

Day 4: Snorkeling at Captain Cook and evening manta ray snorkel

Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Kealakekua Bay for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure, and later, prepare to be amazed as you witness the graceful manta rays gliding through the night sea. Kealakekua Bay, located on the west coast of the Big Island, is renowned for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Strap on your snorkel gear and explore the underwater world, where you’ll encounter an array of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins.

After a thrilling morning of snorkeling, take some time to relax and enjoy the pristine beaches surrounding the bay. Soak up the sun, go for a swim, or simply unwind and take in the breathtaking coastal views.

In the evening, embark on a manta ray snorkeling experience, a truly mesmerizing encounter. Board a boat and head out to sea as the sun sets, creating a magical ambiance. Once in the water, witness the majestic manta rays gracefully gliding beneath you, their massive wingspan captivating your senses. It’s an awe-inspiring sight that will leave you with memories to cherish.

End your day with a delicious dinner at one of the local restaurants, savoring the flavors of Hawaii. Reflect on your incredible snorkeling adventures and the unique experiences you’ve had on the Big Island.

Snorkeling at Captain Cook and evening manta ray snorkel
LocationKealakekua Bay, west coast of the Big Island
HighlightsCrystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, colorful fish, sea turtles, dolphins, pristine beaches, manta ray snorkeling experience
TipsBring your own snorkel gear or rent from a local shop, wear reef-safe sunscreen, book a guided snorkeling tour for a safe and informative experience

Travel Tips for Your Big Island Adventure

Make the most of your Big Island adventure with our helpful travel tips, ensuring you have a seamless experience as you explore the island’s best attractions and embrace the local culture.

1. Plan Ahead: Before your trip, make a list of the must-visit places on the Big Island. Research the best times to visit attractions, reserve accommodations in advance, and book any necessary tours or activities. This will help you maximize your time and ensure you don’t miss out on anything.

2. Embrace Local Experiences: The Big Island offers unique opportunities to experience the local culture. Visit the Hilo Farmers Market for fresh produce and local crafts, attend a traditional Hawaiian luau, or take a hula lesson. Engaging with the local community will give you a deeper appreciation for the island’s rich heritage.

3. Explore Beyond the Tourist Hotspots: While popular attractions like Volcanoes National Park and Kealakekua Bay are must-sees, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Explore the island’s hidden gems, such as the Pololu Valley Lookout or the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. These lesser-known spots offer breathtaking views and a chance to connect with nature.

4. Pack Accordingly: The Big Island’s weather can vary greatly depending on the region. Pack lightweight clothing for warm beach days, but also bring layers for cooler temperatures in higher elevations. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and comfortable shoes for hiking.

Essential Travel Tips

Do try local delicacies like poi, kalua pig, and shaved ice.Don’t touch or disturb the wildlife, including sea turtles and tropical birds.
Do respect the island’s sacred sites and cultural customs.Don’t leave trash behindβ€”practice responsible tourism and leave no trace.
Do rent a car to explore the island at your own pace.Don’t underestimate the power of the sunβ€”wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.

By following these travel tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the Big Island and create lasting memories. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of Hawaii’s largest island, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure.

Soak in the Beauty and Charm of the Big Island

From stunning waterfalls to mesmerizing volcanic landscapes, the Big Island showcases an array of scenic locations that will leave you in awe of its beauty and charm. As you explore this tropical paradise, be prepared to be captivated by its natural wonders and breathtaking vistas.

One must-visit location on the Big Island is Akaka Falls, located in Akaka Falls State Park. This towering waterfall plummets 442 feet into a lush gorge, surrounded by vibrant greenery. Take a leisurely stroll along the paved path and let the mist of the falls refresh your senses. Another must-see is Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbows that often appear in the waterfall’s mist. The cascading water, surrounded by lush foliage, creates a truly magical sight.

If you’re seeking volcanic landscapes, a visit to Volcanoes National Park is a must. Witness the power of nature as you explore the vast expanse of hardened lava fields, walk through lush rainforests, and witness the glowing lava lake at Halema’uma’u Crater. Don’t forget to visit the Thurston Lava Tube, a unique underground tunnel formed by lava flows. At night, the park offers a rare opportunity to witness the glow of lava against the night sky.

Scenic Locations on the Big Island

Akaka FallsA towering waterfall surrounded by lush greenery
Rainbow FallsA majestic waterfall known for its rainbows and lush foliage
Volcanoes National ParkA vast expanse of hardened lava fields and unique volcanic landscapes

These are just a few of the many scenic locations that await you on the Big Island. Whether you’re hiking through lush forests, marveling at cascading waterfalls, or exploring ancient lava tubes, the beauty of this island will leave a lasting impression. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable Hawaii vacation filled with natural wonders and breathtaking scenery.


With this 4-day itinerary guide, you’re well-equipped to explore the wonders of Hawaii’s Big Island, creating unforgettable memories and discovering the true essence of this tropical paradise.

Start your adventure by flying into Kona and embarking on a scenic drive to Hilo, where you can indulge in delicious food options along the way, such as a stop at Willie’s Hot Chicken in Kona. During your time in Hilo, make sure to visit Akaka Falls State Park to witness the mesmerizing Akaka Falls, Kahuna Falls, and explore the vibrant Hilo Farmers Market. Don’t miss the chance to visit Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots before ending your day with an exploration of Kaumana Caves and a visit to Volcanoes National Park, where the Shaka Guide app will be your helpful companion for a self-guided tour.

On the third day, enjoy a scenic drive back to Kona, taking in the beauty of the Hamakua Coast, Waipio Valley, and Lapakahi State Historical Park. Once you arrive in Kona, take some time to relax at one of the stunning beaches or unwind with a delightful happy hour at a local restaurant, immersing yourself in the laid-back island vibe.

For your final day, embark on a snorkeling adventure at Captain Cook in Kealakekua Bay, where you can swim alongside dolphins and marvel at the vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful fish. In the evening, experience the magic of manta ray snorkeling, a unique opportunity to witness these graceful creatures in their natural habitat.

By following this 4-day itinerary guide, you will have the chance to soak in the beauty and charm of Hawaii’s Big Island, creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you’re captivated by the stunning waterfalls, breathtaking natural wonders, or the vibrant marine life, this itinerary promises an unforgettable vacation filled with adventure and relaxation.


Q: Can I fly directly to Hilo or Kona?

A: Yes, both Hilo and Kona have airports that you can fly into. Hilo is located on the east side of the island, while Kona is on the west side.

Q: How long does it take to drive from Kona to Hilo?

A: The drive from Kona to Hilo takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on traffic and stops along the way.

Q: Are there any recommended food options along the drive?

A: Yes, Willie’s Hot Chicken in Kona is a popular stop for delicious food. There are also various other food options along the way, offering a chance to try local cuisine.

Q: What are some must-visit attractions in Hilo?

A: Akaka Falls State Park, Rainbow Falls, and the Hilo Farmers Market are all must-visit attractions in Hilo. Additionally, exploring Kaumana Caves and visiting Volcanoes National Park are highly recommended.

Q: Can I take a self-guided tour of Volcanoes National Park?

A: Yes, you can use the Shaka Guide app for a self-guided tour of Volcanoes National Park. The app provides information and directions to the park’s main points of interest.

Q: What are the highlights of the drive from Hilo to Kona?

A: The Hamakua Coast, Waipio Valley, and Lapakahi State Historical Park are all highlights of the drive from Hilo to Kona. Each offers stunning views and unique experiences.

Q: What activities can I do in Kona?

A: In Kona, you can relax at the beach, go snorkeling, or indulge in happy hour at a local restaurant. There are also various water activities, such as paddleboarding and kayaking, available.

Q: Can I snorkel with dolphins at Kealakekua Bay?

A: While it is possible to encounter dolphins while snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay, it is not guaranteed. However, the bay is known for its vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish.

Q: Is the manta ray snorkeling experience suitable for beginners?

A: Yes, the manta ray snorkeling experience is suitable for beginners. The tour operators provide all necessary equipment and guidance to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

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