7 day big island itinerary

BEST 7 day Big Island itinerary for epic Hawaii vacation 2023

Big Island is one of the most mesmerizing and beautiful vacation destinations that I have ever been to.

Other Hawaii islands are equally beautiful, but Big Island felt so powerful with its volcanoes and lava rocks everywhere, magical with the lush green rainforests and unique with the black, green and white sand beaches.

Big Island is really big in size, over 4,000 square miles, when compared to the other Hawaiian islands. 

I spent 7 days in Big Island with my family and I did a lot of research before our trip to make sure we cover all the must do attractions, beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls and towns in our trip.

This Big Island itinerary for 7 days covers the beaches and snorkeling spots in Kona, the must do hikes in Volcanoes National Park, the best spot to see the lava glow (if there is volcano activity during your visit), the waterfalls and rainforests in Hilo, and the unique black, green and white sand beaches of Big Island.

How many days do you need in Big Island

Ideally you should try to plan for at least 7 days in Big Island to see everything that Big Island has to offer, but not everyone can afford to devote that much time. Still I really think you need a minimum of 5 days in Big Island.

I spent a week with my family, and I could have easily found things to do for another few days. This itinerary is for 7 days in Big Island, but you can easily reduce it to 5 days or customize it as per your needs.

If you are trying to decide whether to stay in Kona or Hilo and how many days to spend on each side of Big Island, check out my post about Hilo vs Kona: Where to stay in Big Island and why.

7 day Big Island itinerary for epic Hawaii vacation

Visiting Big Island, Hawaii is a bucket list destination for most people. This 7 day Big Island itinerary will make sure you get to see all the unique sights and do the activities that are popular in Big Island. There are so many incredible things to do in Big Island.

Day 1 in Big Island: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

As the Volcanoes are so unique to Big Island, on day 1 in our 7 day Big Island itinerary we headed straight to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We had the most amazing one day in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

When you enter the Volcanoes National park, Stop at the Kilauea visitor center to pick up a map, and learn about the hikes and get information about the latest volcano eruptions.

Kilauea Iki Crater hike

Kilauea Iki Crater hike
Kilauea Iki Crater hike

If you have time to do only one hike in Big Island then it should be the Kilauea Iki Crater hike. This is a very unique hike as you walk inside a volcano crater and also through a beautiful lush rainforest. Plus at the end you can visit a lava tube! 

The total roundtrip distance is around 3 miles and has some elevation of around 700 feet as you climb down the crater and then climb back up. But it is not very hard to do, more like moderate. 

I recommend doing this trail counterclockwise from the parking lot, which is what we did. The crater has a lot of huge lava rocks and my kids had fun climbing them. 

The way back up passes through a beautiful rainforest and the coolness is welcoming after walking across the crater. 

Thurston Lava Tube

If you did the trail counterclockwise, on the way back to the parking lot make sure you visit the Thurston Lava tube. It’s a huge lava cave and it is lighted inside during the day. It was really cool and refreshing there.

The Halema`uma`u crater Overlook at the Volcano House

Halemaumau crater Overlook at Volcano House
Steam rising from Halemaumau crater Overlook at Volcano House

After your hike, stop by at the Volcano House for taking in the view of the Halema`uma`u crater from their large overlook area.

When we visited we could see steam coming out of the crater during day time. At this place you can take some beautiful pictures with the crater in the background. 

The Volcano House has guest rooms, cabins and campsites if you would want to spend the night in the national park. It also has a restaurant, gift shop and restroom facilities.

Chain of Craters Road

The Chain of Craters scenic drive is within the Hawaii Volcano National park and is 19 miles long that takes you to the sea level.

Along this drive you will see volcano craters and rocks of varying sizes on both sides of the road. There are several hikes and vistas to explore along the way.

At the end of the Chain of Craters road is the Holei Sea Arch which is 90 feet high arch carved in the lava rocks due to erosion and is impressive to see. You will need to walk around 1000 feet at the end of the road to get to the arch viewing area.

Driving all the way to the ocean and back will take around 2 to 2 and half hours, so make sure you have enough daylight hours and gas in your car to complete this drive.

Where to see the Lava Glow at night time in Big Island

Kilauea Volcano glow Big Island
Kilauea Volcano glow seen from Devastation Trail Big Island

Lava sighting depends on whether there is any volcanic activity going on at the time you visit. When we visited, the Kilauea volcano was active at that time. 

If there is volcanic activity you can stay after dark in the volcano park to see the lava glow.  

Park at the Devastation trail parking lot and walk the short and easy paved trail to the Kilauea overlook. From here you can see Halema`uma`u crater and any lava activity and glow. 

We were incredibly lucky to see the red glow of lava when we visited. It was a surreal experience to walk at night on the trail. The stars were so bright and beautiful in the clear dark night sky.

There were a lot of people on the trail so it was easy to find our way to the overlook to see the glow and back to our car. We just followed the crowds! 

We spent overnight in Hilo downtown in the Hilo Hawaiian hotel.

Day 2: Explore Hilo, Waterfalls in Hilo, Black sand beach

On day 2 in your 7 day Big Island itinerary, explore Hilo, visit the many waterfalls and then drive south to the Punaluu black sand beach!

Hilo gets a lot of rainfall year round so it’s lush and green and beautiful. It rained several times during our stay but it was never continuous. We could always go about our day and rarely got soaking wet. 

Explore Hilo – Coconut Island, Banyan drive, Liliuokalani Park

Coconut Island Hilo
Coconut Island in Hilo and Mauna Kea summit in the distance

Start your Day 2 in Big Island by exploring Hilo. Right across our Hilo Hawaiian hotel was Coconut Island which is a small island accessible by a pedestrian bridge on Banyan drive.

You can see incredible views of Mauna Kea mountain peak from Coconut island on a clear day. We could see the snow covered mountain peak with the observatories on top.

Walk along Banyan Drive which is lined by massive banyan trees. The Banyan drive is called the ‘Hilo Walk of Fame‘ as these banyan trees were planted by celebrities.

In front of each banyan tree is a plaque that lists the celebrity who planted it. Each banyan tree with its roots hanging from the branches and touching the ground seems like a mini forest!

Liliuokalani Park is a beautifully landscaped park in a Japanese garden style near Coconut island. The park is free to visit and is very beautiful and relaxing with its ponds and bridges and rock gardens.

Akaka state park and Akaka falls

Akaka falls in Big Island
Akaka falls in Big Island

If you have time to visit only one waterfall in Big Island then it should be Akaka falls and Akaka state park.

There is a short easy paved trail through a beautiful and dense rainforest to get to the falls overlook. The trail loop is only half a mile. 

It was most refreshing to walk through the tropical plants and the Akaka waterfall has an impressive 422 feet drop with lush greenery surrounding it. 

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow falls in Big Island
Rainbow falls in Big Island

Rainbow Falls is a very accessible waterfall and just a few steps from the parking lot. There is a nice overlook area to admire the falls.

If you visit before noon you can sometimes see a rainbow in the spray of the waterfall. 

Pe`epe`e Falls 

If you love waterfalls and have time Peepee falls is another falls a short walk from the parking lot. The kids will get a giggle from the name of the falls!

We did all 3 waterfalls in around 2 hours. If you are short of time you can just do Akaka and Rainbow falls. 

Punaluu Black sand beach

Punaluu black sand beach Big Island
Punaluu black sand beach in Big Island

After the falls we went to the Punaluu Black Sand beach. It is on the south east part of the Island and around an hour drive from Hilo.

We had checked out of our Hilo hotel in the morning, drove south to visit Black sand beach, and then we planned to drive to our resort in Waikoloa after the Black sand beach.  

No matter how many days you are spending on Big Island, I believe the black sand beach must be on your to do list for sure. This was the most unique beach we have ever been to. The sand is actually tiny particles of black lava rocks and looks like black sand. 

There are only four black sand beaches in the world I have heard of, so you do not want to miss your chance to see one of them on your Big Island trip. 

Turtle in Punaluu black sand beach Big Island
Turtle spotted in Punaluu black sand beach, Big Island

You can spot some sea turtles in the water if you are lucky. We saw 3 turtles near the beach in the 2-3 hours we spent at the beach.  

Stop at the Punaluu Bake Shop which is nearby for some Hawaiian sweet breads and other baked goods. This is a very famous bakery in the southern part of the island.

After a long day of driving the east, south and west coast of the island, we reached our Waikoloa resort.

We stayed at the Hilton vacation club. We had a spacious one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen with a wrap around balcony with golf course views. It was beautiful and the space was very much useful as we were planning to stay here for 5 nights.

Day 3: Hapuna beach, Waipio Valley lookout, exploring Waikoloa

On day 3 in your 7 day Big Island itinerary, visit Hapuna beach in the morning. In the afternoon drive to Waipio valley lookout for some incredible views.

Hapuna beach

In my opinion, Hapuna beach is one of the best beaches on Big Island. It has a beautiful stretch of white sand, and is very family friendly. We had a great time playing in the waves.

At the end of the beach there is a cute little cave to take some great pictures. The paid parking lot at Hapuna beach is spacious and we could easily find parking.   

Visit the beautiful Waipio valley lookout

Waipio valley lookout big island
Waipio valley lookout in Big Island

The Waipio valley is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and is sacred to the people of the island. There is an overlook at the parking lot for some breathtaking views of the valley. From the lookout you can see Waipio black sand beach.

As of February 2022 visitors are not allowed to hike or drive down the steep road to the Waipio valley. We were one of the lucky ones to take a tour of the valley when we visited in early 2022.  Access to the Waipio black sand beach is temporarily closed as well.

But even though the valley is closed to the visitors, if you have time make a stop at the lookout point for some amazing views of this beautiful valley. Make sure to check out Waipio valley artworks, an art gallery showcasing work of local artists and handmade gift items.

Tip: If you have time and love all things vanilla, book a tour at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company to learn about vanilla plants and how they process the beans to make vanilla extract. They have some great vanilla gifts to buy for home. It’s 30 minutes south of Waipio valley lookout.

Exploring Waikoloa

In the evening we walked to the Hilton Waikoloa resort and explored the boardwalk to the beach there. The Hilton resort is huge and they have a train that runs in the property between different buildings! Hilton also has a dolphin lagoon and they have dolphin shows daily. 

Sunset in big Island
Sunset in big Island

The beach behind the Hilton resort is the perfect place to catch the sunset in the evening! It was a great memorable experience sitting on the lava rocks watching the sun set over the ocean with my family. A moment in time that will be my happy place. 

Day 4: Mauna Kea Beach and Stargazing at Mauna Kea visitor center

On day 4 in your 7 day Big Island itinerary, visit the beautiful white sand Mauna Kea beach and drive up to Mauna Kea visitor center for some stargazing!

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea beach is a great family friendly white sand beach and part of the Mauna Kea resort. Public parking lot at this beach is smaller and it’s a little hard to get parking.

We circled around twice before we were allowed in. There is a café at the beach where you can get some refreshing drinks and snacks. 

Mauna Kea visitor center and star gazing

This can be an evening activity after a day at the beach. You can drive to the Mauna Kea Visitor center in your rental car, four wheel drive is not needed. 

Mauna Kea Summit tours

If you want to go to the Mauna Kea summit and visit the observatories then you can book a tour through the many tour operators in the region.

Kids under 16 are not allowed to go to the summit because of the altitude change and health risks associated with that. Because we had kids under 16 we just decided to do stargazing from the visitor center. 

Stargazing at Mauna Kea visitor center 

Call the visitor center to check for the weather before you start. The weather up there can be very different from the rest of the island. Check the sunset time before you start and make sure to reach before sunset.

We reached the visitor center just before sunset and were able to find parking. Even though the visitor center is at 9000 feet plus elevation the drive up there was quite easy and no steep cliffs at all. 

There is a small hill opposite the visitor center parking lot from where you can do stargazing. It is really cold up there so make sure to bring some warm clothes. Quite contrary to being on the beach in Hawaii 🙂 but a very unique experience. 

All the crowd was making their way up the hill and we did too. The sky was clear, and as it became darker we could see some bright and beautiful stars.

But in a little while heavy fog started setting in, and we had to cut our stargazing short. Overall it was a very memorable experience. It was pitch dark and cellphone lights and the crowds guided us back to the parking lot. 

Day 5: Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Snorkeling in Kona

On day 5 in our 7 day Big Island itinerary we will explore Kona region, visit a National Historical park and have some snorkeling fun! Kona is a tourist town and there are plenty of Kona tourist attractions for every age and ability.

Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

The Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National historical park is in Kona and is culturally very interesting and has some beautiful ocean views. 

You can fit this in your itinerary whenever you have a couple of hours in Kona. Take some time to read about the history and cultural significance of this park.

The walk through the park is just a gentle stroll suitable for all ages. The palm trees and historic artifacts make for some great pictures. 

Right next to the historic park is a famous snorkeling spot called Honaunau Bay and there were a lot of families snorkeling there. 

Best Snorkeling on Big Island

Big Island is a snorkeling heaven and there are several world class snorkeling spots for every interest. Snorkeling is must do activity in any Big Island itinerary.

Snorkel with Manta Rays 

Manta Ray Snorkeling in Big Island
Manta Ray Snorkeling in Big Island

Big Island’s main snorkeling attraction is snorkeling with the manta rays. Keauhou Bay in Kona is world famous for its resident manta rays. 

There are several tour companies that provide night time snorkeling experiences where you get to see the giant manta rays up close. It is recommended to book your tour in advance as this is the most popular snorkeling activity in Big Island. 

The Sheraton Kona resort (now known as Outrigger) is at prime location for Manta ray viewing and has a Manta learning center where you can learn more about the magnificent manta rays and see some amazing pictures. 

Honaunau Bay (Two Step)

A famous snorkeling area in Big Island is the Honaunau Bay (also called Two Step beach) which is right outside the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. There are some great coral reefs here to explore. 

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

We saw people and families snorkeling and exploring on their own. There is limited parking and only portable restroom facilities. There is no sandy beach here, but plenty of lava rocks and paths to explore the waters. 

You can visit the historic park in the morning and then head to two step beach for some snorkeling. 

Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument

The Kealakekua Bay and Captain Cook Monument is a very popular spot for snorkeling in Big Island. The Captain Cook Monument has historical significance as it marks the spot where Captain Cook was killed. 

You can reach the Captain Cook monument for snorkeling by boat tours, by hiking or by kayak. You cannot drive to the monument. 

The hike to the Captain cook monument is around 4 mile round trip with quite a bit of elevation and is considered strenuous. Getting there via a boat tour is the easiest way to see the monument and do snorkeling at the Kealakekua Bay. 

Day 6: Papakolea Green sand beach, South Point

On day 6 in your 7 day Big Island itinerary drive to the southern most part of the Big Island to visit the green sand beach and South Point.

Papakolea Green sand beach

Papakolea green sand beach
Papakolea green sand beach in Big Island

If you have an extra day in your itinerary, you can add a trip to the Papakolea green sand beach which is at the southernmost tip of the island. The sand is made of green crystals (olivines) that give the beach its name.

It is quite a long drive to get there from either side of the island. It took us around 2 hours each way. It takes up almost an entire day to visit this beach. 

The hike to the beach from the parking lot is a very long 6 miles round trip. It’s best to stick to the trail closest to the ocean to avoid getting lost as there are several paths in the sand dunes here.

You can pay the locals to get a ride to the beach but we were told that it is illegal. Although that didn’t stop people from getting rides. 

The surf can be quite rough at this beach and there are no lifeguards. 

South Point

On your way back, there is a fork at the South Point Road and 10 miles down the road will take you to the southern most tip of the United States, Ka Lae, also known as ‘South Point‘.

This entire southern part of the island is a National Historic landmark and you can experience the powerful force of nature here with the gushing winds and the ocean currents.

Day 7: Coffee and Chocolate farm tours, watching a Luau

On day 7 in your 7 day Big Island itinerary visit some coffee and cacao farms and try some yummy chocolates. Later visit Sea Horse and Octopus farms which are very unique to Big Island. End your day by watching a Hawaiian Luau and enjoy some traditional Hawaiian cuisine.

Chocolate and Cacao farm tours

There are several Cacao orchards on both Kona and Hilo side that offer paid tours of their cacao orchards and explain how they process their cacao beans and turn them into delicious chocolate. You even get to sample some of the chocolate. 

Most orchards offer tours on select days of the week, so depending on your itinerary pick an orchard that has a day and time that works for you. Advance booking is recommended. 

Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm

We visited the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm in South Kona. It was a one hour tour and was very informative. We saw the cacao pods in the orchard, and a demonstration of how the beans are processed from the pods. 

We also had little visitors who were very interested in the cacao beans. The geckos were very cute and were the star of the show! 

Their chocolate samples were delicious and we bought some more to take back to the mainland from their store after the tour. 

https://www.ohcf.us/tourvisit.html

List of some popular cacao farms offering tours

Lavaloha chocolate farm (Hilo side) 

This cacao farm is on the Hilo side and was on my list to visit if we were planning to do the tour while on the Hilo side. Make sure to check their website to see if their tour schedule matches your itinerary. 

https://lavaloha.com/tours

Kuaiwi farm (Kona side) 

https://www.kuaiwifarm.com/farm-tour

Honokaa Chocolate Co (Hilo side)

https://honokaachocolateco.com/pages/tastings-tours

Hawaiian Crown Chocolate farm (Hilo side)

https://www.hawaiiancrownchocolate.com/tours

Coffee farm tours

Kona coffee is world famous and if you are a coffee enthusiast then you are in luck on your trip to Big Island. There are several Kona coffee farms in the Kona region that offer tours and coffee tasting that coffee lovers will really enjoy. Some popular ones are listed below:

Kona Coffee living history farm

https://konahistorical.org/kona-coffee-living-history-farm/

Heavenly hawaiian coffee farm

https://heavenlyhawaiian.com/

Hula Daddy Kona Coffee farm

https://www.huladaddy.com/

Kona Joe coffee farm

https://www.konajoe.com/

Ocean Rider Sea horse farm tour

If you are looking for more experience with marine life, then make sure to check out the seahorse tour at Ocean Rider Seahorse farm in Kona. This farm is located just 5 minutes from Kona airport. Reservations are required on this tour. 

https://seahorse.com/product-category/seahorse-farm-tour-tickets/

Kanaloa Octopus farm tour

There is an Octopus farm near Seahorse farm that allows tours as well. Kanaloa Octopus Farm is located on the Big Island of Hawai’i, behind the Kona International Airport, in the Hawai’i Ocean Science and Technology Park.

https://www.kanaloaoctopus.com/

If you want to visit both seahorse and octopus farms on the same day, make sure you visit seahorse farm first. Because of strict biosecurity rules in place, you will not be allowed to visit seahorse farm if you have been to any other aqua farm including Octopus farm earlier that day. 

Most popular Luaus in Big Island

No trip to Hawaii is complete without attending a luau where you can experience the traditional Hawaiian culture, songs, dance rituals and unlimited Hawaiian food buffets. Attend this preferably on your last night of your trip for one last big Hawaiian party!

Make sure to wear your Hawaiian shirts and dresses for memorable pictures with your family! Advance reservations are highly recommended. 

Below are some of the most popular luaus on Big Island:

Legends of Hawaii Luau, Hilton Waikoloa Village

https://legendsluau.com/

The Mauna Kea Luau, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

https://www.maunakearesort.com/dine/signature/mauna-kea-luau

Sunset Luau, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

https://www.waikoloabeachresort.com/luau/

Voyagers of the Pacific, Royal Kona Resort

https://www.konaluau.com/

Best way to get to Big Island

The best way to reach Big Island is to fly in and out of Kona International airport on the west side of Big Island.

If you are island hopping then you also have the option of flying into Hilo International airport on the east side of the island. Hilo airport has some flights coming in from the mainland as well but Kona airport has more options than Hilo.

Best time of the year to visit Big Island

There cannot be a wrong time to go to Hawaii! Really, I can go there anytime of the year. If you are trying to avoid crowds, Hawaii peak tourist season is during school break season, so June to August and then December to April are crowded.

Summer break is usually less crowded than winter break. The 2 weeks during winter break from mid-December to January first week is the busiest tourist season. But if that is when you can go, then go for it.

I actually visited Big Island in January first week with my family, and we really had a great time. Hawaii is very laid back and there is no rush anywhere.

September to November, and February, March would be considered good months to visit if you do not have school going kids to worry about.

Getting around the Big Island

The best way to see the Big Island is to rent a car from the airport. We landed at Kona International Airport, and rented our car from the rental agencies at the airport itself.

Big Island is really big, with an area of over 4,000 square miles. You will need a car to see the south, east, north parts of the island. You might be able to manage without a car in the west Kona region by booking some tours, but having a car will give you a lot of flexibility.

As soon as you book your flights, it is highly recommended to book a rental car before your arrive in Big Island, as many times in peak tourist season there can be rental car shortage. Another option could be looking at rentals through private owners like on Turo.

Where to stay in Big Island

Waipio Valley in Big Island

Most hotels/resorts are either in the Waikoloa, Kona or Hilo region. On the western side most resorts are in the Waikoloa or Kona region. On the eastern side most hotels/resorts are in Hilo. 

To minimize driving time daily, I would recommend splitting time between the west and east part of the island. Going to the Hawaii volcano Volcano Park from the western side can easily be 1.5 to 2 hours driving each way.

We first spent 2 nights in Hilo and then 5 nights in Waikoloa. You can also stay in Waikoloa/Kona first, and then in Hilo. 

But if you prefer to stay at just one place for your entire stay then that is alright too. Just be prepared for starting early in the day and for long drives around the island. The island and the views are so beautiful that it should be no problem!

I will list down some recommendations for hotels/resorts in each region. There are also several vacation rentals that you can find in the Kona region on VRBO.

Where to stay in Waikoloa

Hilton Waikoloa village is the grandest resort I have ever seen! They even have their own train to transport guests between buildings! They have a dolphin lagoon as well, with shows. We saw spectacular sunsets there in the evenings. If you want to stay in a happening place and want to never have to leave the resort than Hilton is a great option.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is another great resort option in Waikoloa. Great pool, spectacular sunsets to come back to after your excursions.

The Westin Hapuna beach resort provides great access to the Hapuna beach which I think is the best beach on Big Island.

Similarly Mauna Kea beach hotel provides access to Mauna Kea beach and has great resort amenities.

Where to stay in Kona

Kona has a variety of accommodations for every budget as compared to Waikoloa region which has all the bigger and more expensive resorts.

Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is a great resort at a great location and has a beachfront. This is a popular option with families.

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa (formerly the Sheraton Kona) is a great resort overlooking the Keauhou Bay. From the resort you can see the nightly manta ray feeding lights shine into the ocean.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is on the expensive side but a world class resort with all the luxury amenities and a golf course.

Where to stay in Hilo

Banyan drive is where most of the better hotels are on Hilo side.

We stayed at the Hilo Hawaiian hotel for 2 nights and it was comfortable with great views of the Coconut Island and Mauna Kea summit. This was a very affordable hotel price wise.

Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo is another hotel on Banyan drive with similar ocean views and amenities.

Where to stay in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The Volcano house is the best place to stay if you want to spend the night in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It has guest rooms, cabins and campsites for all budgets.

Where to eat in Big Island

View from the Coffee Shack in Kona

Big Island has some amazing restaurants offering both Hawaiian cuisine as well as American, Mexican, Indian and Asian cuisine. You can find pretty much any kind of food here. Below are some of the most popular restaurant recommendations.

Merriman’s Big Island in Waimea is a very popular restaurant. Little on the pricey side but the food is worth the price. Reservations are highly recommended for this one.

James Angelo’s Underground Pizza in Waimea has the most delicious New York style pizza I have ever eaten! The tiramisu was so good too!

Lava Lava beach club in Waikoloa is another very popular beach front restaurant. Great sunset views and a very relaxed vibe. They have lawn games and live music.

Pineapples is great in downtown Hilo. The food was good and the pineapple drinks were amazing. Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo is a 24 hour diner with local as well as classic American food and breakfast foods. Macadamia nut pancakes are amazing!

The Coffee Shack in Kona is so worth it for the views! Try to get a seat in the inside room next to the window. The views were amazing here and so were the pies, Liliokai pie was delicious! The geckos roaming on the window were so cute.

Gypsea Gelato in Kona is great for icecream! The Mauka tral was so good with the macadamia nuts, chocolate and coffee. We stopped here on the way back from our Papakolea green sand beach trip.

Punaluu Bake Shop is a very famous bakery in the southern part of the island. Stop here when you visit Punaluu black sand beach, for some Hawaiian sweet breads and other baked goods.

Dont forget to try some Hawaiian shaved ice, fresh coconut juice, fresh cut pineapples when in Big island! You will find that pretty much anywhere in all parts of the island. There are many road side shacks selling these items.

Malasadas are another popular food item and is a fried donut filled with different flavors like custard, Nutella etc.

Macadamia nuts are grown locally in Big Island and you can buy them at local grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Looking for more things to do in your Big Island Itinerary?

If you want to pack some more action in your 7 day Big Island itinerary below are some more great things to do in Big Island.

Take a Helicopter tour on Big Island

Take a helicopter tour to see an aerial view of the Hawaii Volcanoes national park, rain forests and waterfalls. Many of Big Island’s waterfalls are on private property and helicopter tours can take you to some incredible waterfalls.

Do some Whale watching

If you are travelling during the whale season which is typically December to March in Big Island, you can see a humpback whale up close by taking a whale watching tour. There are many tour companies in Kona that offer these tours.

Try ziplining over waterfalls or ATV adventure

The Umauma experience in Hilo has zipline tours over 14 Umauma waterfalls and lush green rainforests. If you love ziplining, this is a must do experience. Umauma experience also has ATV tours for a 4 wheel adventure.

Explore Farmer’s markets

There are several farmer’s markets in Big Island on both Hilo and Kona side to try local foods, fresh produce and handmade gift items. This is also a great way to interact with the locals.

Most Markets are only open on 1 or 2 days a week but there are several different markets and there might be one during your trip days.

The Hilo farmers market is the biggest one in Big Island with over 200 vendors in Hilo downtown area. Its open on Wednesdays and Saturdays till 3PM.

In central Kona, Kona farmers market is popular and open Wednesdays to Sundays till 4PM. You can buy fresh produce, flowers, and handmade arts and crafts as gift items.

Drive the scenic Hamakua coast

Waipio valley in Big Island

If you have an extra day in Hilo consider driving north of Hilo on the scenic Hamakua coast. The drive between Waipio valley and Hilo is the scenic Hamakua coast. You will pass many small plantation towns, waterfalls and incredible views and vistas along the way.

Visit the ‘Painted Church’

St Benedict Catholic Church also known as the Painted Church, is in South Kona and is a beautiful historic church and worth a visit if you have time. The walls are painted with stories about early Hawaiian life. The grounds are beautiful too. The church is still active, check the open hours before your visit.

Visit Pololu Valley lookout in the northeast part of Big Island

Pololu Valley Lookout is a sea front vista point on the north east part of the island with stunning views and hiking trail to the beach. Parking is limited but there is street parking as well.

If you are planning to hike to the beach make sure you have proper shoes as the trail is steep and rocky but doable.

Things to pack for 7 days in Big Island vacation

Its best to bring everything you need with you as prices can be high here, considering most stuff is coming from the mainland. Below are a few essentials that you should pack.

  • Hawaiian style clothes – Hawaiian shirts, dresses, shorts, t-shirts, skirts, sun hat/cap
  • Footwear – flip flops and sandals for the beach. Shoes for hiking
  • Swim wear and that too several pairs! Plus reef safe sunscreen. Again lots of it!
  • Snorkeling gear – It’s cheaper to buy you own snorkeling gear then renting it daily.
  • Jacket, gloves and winter cap or beanie – This seems out of place for a Hawaii packing list, but if you are going up to the Mauna Kea summit, or even just up to the visitor center for stargazing, it is very cold up there in the night. Trust me, we even took a blanket from the hotel!
  • Backpack and reusable water bottle – For all the day trips!
  • Ponchos – for the sudden pouring rain in Hilo excursions

In Conclusion: 7 day Big Island itinerary

Big Island is truly a magical, sacred and most beautiful bucket list destination. There are so many amazing things to see that you really need 7 days in Big Island.

I hope my 7 day Big Island itinerary helps you plan a memorable vacation!

Related Posts

Visiting Big Island, Hawaii? Check out my other posts in the Big Island series: