10 Reasons to choose the Big Island for your Hawaiian Vacation

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This year marks a marriage milestone for my handsome husband and I.  We’re celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in the fall.  To celebrate, we’re rounding up the gang and heading to the islands.  Well, to an island, anyway.  We’re going to Hawaii.

When first we decided to go, I had no idea which of Hawaii’s tropical islands would be the right choice for our trip.  It took a lot of research to finally narrow it down to one island.  Even that decision came after wavering on whether we should island hop or stay put.  In the end, we chose to stay put if only because the costs of and time spent flying between islands didn’t appeal to us or fit our budget.  After pouring over our options, I finally settled on visiting the Big Island.  I thought I’d share my reasons to help others who might be deliberating the same thing.

1. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

The Hawaiian islands boast several bucket-list sites to visit, but Volcanoes National Park can only be found on one of them: the Big Island.  Not only do visitors have the chance to walk through lava tubes, but if they’re really lucky, they might even be able to see lava flow into the ocean.

2. Manta night snorkel

The Big Island’s Kona coast is the absolute best place to experience a night snorkel with manta rays.  Participating is going to require that I overcome my fear of, you know, sharks in pitch black water.  YOLO.

3. Black & green sand beaches

Pumalu’u and Papakolea are two Hawaiian beaches that are well-known for the color of the sand.  Visitors can bring along small vials and collect genuine colored sand as a souvenir that can be displayed with travel treasures.

3. Shave Ice

Sure, you can get shave ice pretty much anywhere in Hawaii, but Scandinavian Shave Ice exists only in Kona.  No need to adjust your screen resolution; that does indeed read Scandinavian Shave Ice.  And yes, we are still talking about the Big Island.  When purchased from Scandinavian Shave Ice in Kona, this sweet treat is as delicate as snow.  The locals often “snow-cap” it, or top it with sweetened condensed milk.  Confession: they had me at snow.

4. Mauna Kea 

They say that for the world’s clearest stargazing, one need look no further than Mauna Kea.  So, too, is the peak of this dormant volcano said to be one of Hawaii’s most sacred places.  Guests can drive up to the visitor’s center for free programs and stargazing, or take part in one of many tours that head all the way to the top.  If you go, bundle up; it’s cold up there!

5. Kauna’oa Bay

Voted one of the World’s 10 best beaches, Kauna’oa Bay is found on Hawaii’s Big Island.  I can picture it now: white sand beaches, gentle tropical breezes, mai tai in hand…call me crazy, but, um, isn’t that reason alone to visit?

6. Active adventures

Oahu might have the Pearl Harbor Memorial and Maui is a beach bum’s paradise, but for the ultimate in adrenaline, the Big Island has no match.  Really.  Itinerary possibilities overflow with family-friendly activities that are, well, active.  Horseback riding, stand-up paddleboarding, outrigger canoeing, hiking, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, ATV’ing, ziplining…whew.  I’m breathless just typing it.  Rest assured that you will find a plethora of active adventures on the Big Island.

7. Kona Brewing Company

Even on family vacations, mom and dad are entitled to live a little.  Coffee aficionados might be more excited about Kona’s perk, or what some refer to as the “best coffee in the world.”  The rest of us will want to visit this brewery for tap beers that you can only find bottled on the mainland.

8. Waipi’o Valley

Known as the cradle of Hawaiian civilization, this valley is both majestic and breathtaking.  Visitors can opt for a challenging hike to the bottom if feasible, otherwise, mule-drawn wagon ride tours depart daily.

10.  Malasadas

Okay, technically, you can get these Portuguese confections (similar to doughnuts) on other Hawaiian islands, too.  But…can you get them from the southernmost bakery in the United States on other islands?  No.  Punalu’u Bake Shop is located midway between Kailua-Kona and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and produces what are rumored to be some of Hawaiia’s best Malasadas.  Among the most popular flavors is a passion fruit glazed variety.  Yes, please.  I’ll take two of those.

For more about our Hawaiian travels, check out my posts on our Hawaii zip line tour, Volcanoes National Park, and our time in Hilo & Kona.


  1. Darcie-these are the reasons to go to the Island of Hawaii! The volcanoes were awesome and you need to see it at night. The southernmost tip of the US is here and not Key West. Malasadas are awesome and shaved ice is devine. Plus there are so many geographical terrains you find no where else. Plus as you head south towards the bottom of the island, it because very remote and quaint. Super cool and looking forward to heading back one day!

    1. If you had to come up with a single not-to-be-missed Big Island something, what would it be? Also: I may have to hit you up for in-depth tips as our trip gets closer. Something tells me you’re an old pro at helping people plan vacations ;)

    1. No ma’am. Aulani is on Oahu; we’re strictly visiting the Big Island. You have to know that I’m tempted by Aulani, but I just can’t justify spending the extra money when condos and vacation homes give such a great bang for the buck. I am, though, looking very forward to hearing your thoughts when you return! Aloha :)

  2. You know what I am going to say – The Big Island rocks! Like seriously…lava rock is cool LOL. I love all the things you listed and more. Let me know when you want more intel from my travels. And if you don’t watch already, watch Hawaii Life on HGTV…many episodes about the Big Island. I am hooked on that show. Ono!

  3. Can you reserve a spot on the mule drawn carts? What time and from where do they depart?

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