Updated: Apr 21st, 2021
Big Island couldn’t have been a more perfect destination to begin my travels again. Now that things are more open than ever, especially in Hawaii, I think I planned my best 7 day itinerary yet for this trip to the Big Island.
To be fair, my boyfriend and I had been visiting different cities along the west coast and staying at each place for a month at a time. However nothing feels quite as liberating as packing a carry-on luggage and hopping onto a plane to go to Hawaii.
My 7-day Big Island itinerary starts with an adventure on the Hilo side. Then it takes you along the North Coast to Waimea, and to the west where the best beaches and cocktails await in Kona.
This itinerary is perfect for those who have been to other Hawaiian islands and are coming to Big Island for the first time. Even if you’ve been to Big Island, there might be a thing or two in here you haven’t done. We packed A LOT in.
Without further adieu, read on for the best adventure you’ll have on the Big Island!
Day 1: Explore Downtown Hilo
When I travel I like to ease into my trip. Exploring downtown Hilo is one good way to do that.
If you’re getting onto Big Island in the late evening like we did, grabbing dinner in downtown Hilo and ending the night early might be the way to go.
I also like to use the first night to get my camera and day trip bag ready to go for the next day.
Day 2: Volcanoes National Park
Be prepared to wake up early because you’re checking out the Volcanoes National Park today!!
I don’t know about you, but volcanoes were only a thing of science textbooks and National Geographic documentaries. I was curious and excited to finally see one in person.
Since volcanoes can be dormant, active, or semi-active, what you see at Volcanoes National Park largely depends on when you go and if anything is happening at the time.
Currently, you can see the Kīlauea volcano but nothing active is really going on. You may be able to see some lava flow glow at night, but you’ll have to find the right spot and weather to do so.
When you arrive at Volcanoes National Park, be sure to visit the Kilauea Visitor Center so you can get the latest details on what there is to see. That way you’ll get the most out of your visit.
Here’s a general itinerary to follow for Volcanoes National Park:
First, stop by Kilauea Overlook to see a volcanic crater first hand. Then take a short walk to Steaming Bluff Overlook and experience the rising steam caused by deep cracks in the earth, rainfall, and the heat of volcanic rock.
At this point you’ll be halfway through the Crater Rim Drive.
Continue down the Chain of Craters Road to experience volcanic history in the making. You’ll see signs to your right signaling the year and the volcanic activity that created the terrain you’re standing on today.
Lastly, end up at the Holei Sea Arch Viewing Area for an incredible view of the ocean. Looking back at Kilauea, you’ll see traces of lava flowing into the ocean. It’s not a sight you’ll easily forget!
Day 3: Waipi’o Valley & Stargazing at Mauna Kea
I was already mesmerized by the beauty of Volcanoes National Park on day 1 of our 7-day Big Island itinerary, I was starting to worry we packed too much excitement into the first day.
I’m glad I was proven wrong by Waipi’o Valley and later Mauna Kea, the best place to stargaze on the Big Island.
Waipi’o Valley can be accessed by foot or by car. If you go by car, expect to drive through unpaved and occasionally steep roads. Since our friend highly recommended us to do the drive, we chose to visit Waipi’o Valley by car and oh my gosh it was amazing!!
Wanderer Tip: The Waipi’o Valley drive is only accessible with a 4×4, so be sure to rent a car that can get you through the drive safely.
After a morning of adventure in Waipi’o Valley, we went back to our Airbnb for a nap and left again at 8pm for stargazing.
Stargazing on Mauna Kea
There are two places for stargazing on Mauna Kea – the Visitor Center (9,200 feet above sea level) and the summit (13,796 feet above sea level!!).
Because the drive to the Mauna Kea summit consists of unpaved and steep roads, there are many guided tours that’ll drive you up there and even provide a hot meal and drink for you to enjoy while stargazing.
We ended up driving ourselves up to the visitor center (which was still amazing). However this is the Mauna Kea stargazing tour we would’ve booked with if we haven’t driven ourselves.
Like driving to Waipio Valley, driving up Mauna Kea means going through unpaved and steep roads, so a 4×4 is required here too. Since you’d be driving yourself at night, I personally think that if you want to make it up to the summit, doing so through a guided tour is much more worth it.
Wanderer Tip: Pack some thick socks and a warm jacket because it’s winter on the summit!
Stargazing at the Visitors Center was the best stargazing I’ve ever experienced! I can’t imagine how incredible the summit would’ve been. I don’t think you can go wrong with either option.
Day 4: Akaka Falls State Park and Waimea
Akaka Falls State Park
Just six months ago, I was at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon admiring the countless waterfalls there. Naturally I had high expectations when it came time to visit Big Island’s famous waterfall state park: Akaka Falls.
Akaka Falls State Park is just a 25 minute drive from downtown Hilo. There are several trails and lookouts along the route, so bring some snacks to eat at one of the lookouts along your journey.
Once you get to Akaka Falls State Park, it’s just another 0.4-mile loop to get to and from the 442-foot waterfall. You might see a rainbow if you go at the right time!
Finish the day by driving north to Waimea and explore the beautiful town and beaches there. We loved stopping by Earl’s where we got a generously portioned lunch plate. The lunch plate came out to $10 which was insane given the huge portions and how tasty it was.
I haven’t really given you a break since day 1 of the 7-day Big Island itinerary, so use this day to relax, chill, and fuel up.
Day 5: Kona Coffee Farm Tour and Manta Ray Night Snorkel
Kona Coffee Farm Tour
Day 5 of the Big Island itinerary is meant to take you through some of the most exclusive Big Island activities, starting with a Kona coffee farm tour in the morning.
You’ve probably heard of Kona coffee – but did you know that any coffee grown in Kona, regardless of varietal, is considered Kona coffee? This is one of the many fun facts you’ll pick up on one of these Kona coffee farm tours. I love going on these tours because then I can come back home and impress my friends with all the new knowledge I’ve gained!
If you love learning about history and culture, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm will satisfy your curiosity there. For hands-on learners, Sunshower Coffee Farm has cupping and roasting workshops available. We toured the Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farm because they offered free tours and free tastings! A win-win for us.
For more places to get coffee on Big Island, see my complete guide to coffee shops in Kona and Hilo.
Manta Ray Night Snorkel
Last but not least, end the day with an unforgettable night snorkel with manta rays.
Snorkeling with manta rays must be done with experienced guides because they know how to attract the manta rays out. Plus, I don’t think you’d want to get lost in the ocean at night.
We booked our tour with Sea Quest Hawaii and they did not disappoint.
Wanderer Tip: This is such an unforgettable experience that you might want to consider bringing a GoPro to capture the experience! Sea Quest Hawaii rents them out too so you don’t have to buy one just for this trip.
Day 6: Self-Guided Food Tour in Kona
Day 6 of the 7-day Big Island itinerary seems like the appropriate time to begin winding down from our earlier adventures. Aside from lots of amazing outdoor activities, Kona also has delicious food! More so than the Hilo side I’d say since it’s bigger and more touristy.
Here is a list of food places I highly recommend you check out! Which one you visit first doesn’t really matter. The key is to order a bit from each place so you can get a taste of everything. However do check the hours for these places since some close early (and there’s Hawaiian time you have to consider 😉 ).
- Broke Da Mouth Grindz
- Da Poke Shack
- Basik Acai (Fun Fact: there’s also one in San Francisco where I first discovered it!)
- Papa Kona
- HiCo Coffee (Wanderer Tip: enjoy live music during their open mic WednesdaysIf )
- Kona Brewing Co.
If you’re a big foodie or coffee lover like me, check out my other coffee and food guides here.
Day 7: Discover Captain Cook
Just like how we started the 7-day itinerary on Big Island with a lowkey exploration of downtown Hilo, I like to end the trip with a lowkey exploration too. This time we’ll go to Captain Cook.
We ran out of time to explore Captain Cook, but we did stay at an amazing Airbnb there and got to experience the perfect Kona weather that way.
The Best 7 Days on Big Island Hawaii
Big Island is for adventurers, nature lovers, history buffs, coffee addicts (me!) and beach goers. It’s hard to experience all that the Hawaiian island has to offer in just under seven days, but we managed to do a good amount.
If you have less than seven days to explore Big Island, this guide is set up in a way where you can break the days up into single day trips or simply pick from the list of activities to do. You can also choose to only stay on the Hilo side or only stay on the Kona side depending on what you want to see.
No matter what you decide, be sure to leave the island how you found it, and keep the beauty for future visitors.
Thinking about visiting Maui too? Read my 5-day itinerary for Maui here.
Pin this for later
Sign up to get notified when new posts come out!