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4-day Big Island Itinerary
Welcome to my 4-day Big Island itinerary. As a Hawaii Travel Agent, I’ve been asked to create some Hawaii itineraries, and I’ve been working on just that.
First, let me say that I would never recommend spending just four days on the Big Island! The Big Island is, well, big, and there is so much to do and see!
My 4-day Maui itinerary has been very popular, so I wanted to create a shorter itinerary for the Big Island. If you have more time, check out how to spend a week on the Big Island.
The best way to enjoy the Big Island is by car. There are so many things to see on the Big Island; you’re going to need a car, preferably a Jeep, to truly enjoy it.
Trust me; you’re going to want a car. I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best prices on rental cars in Hawaii. You don’t have to pay anything to reserve your car (you pay at pickup), and you can cancel at any time if you find a better deal.
Is there a bad time to visit the Big Island of Hawaii?
I’m often asked if there is a bad time to visit the Big Island due to volcanic eruptions. The answer is no.
The resort areas are very far from the volcano. Vog (a form of air pollution-volcanic smog) was a problem at one point, but the air quality has recently been excellent.
There’s never a bad time to visit Hawaii due to the weather, but there can be bad times to visit Hawaii due to crowds. If you’d like to learn more, check out the worst time to go to Hawaii.
Where to stay on the Big Island
Many blogs out there say you should stay in different parts of the island during your visit, and I’m afraid I have to disagree 100%.
Although the Big Island is big, it’s not as big as you might think. It’s pretty easy to drive around the island, and I’ve never had an issue accessing any part of the island while staying in just one area.
The longer you stay in one place, the most cost-effective the stay.
If you’re only visiting the Big Island for four days, it’s best to stay in the same place. You can check out the best resorts on the Big Island for some of my favorite places to stay.
4-day Big Island Itinerary
Remember that this 4-day Big Island itinerary can be moved around to work for you. If you would like a custom itinerary, I create one for all of my clients! Make sure to reach out if you need any help planning your Hawaii vacation.
Short Big Island Itinerary
Day 1 – Volcanos National Park
When my clients tell me they want to go to the Big Island, they almost always mention Kilauea, the active volcano.
Volcanos National Park is unique and a must-see on the Big Island. If you enjoy hiking, I recommend the Kilauea Iki Trail. I have a guide to Volcanoes National Park, so make sure to check it out in order to make the most of your day here.
There are other ways to enjoy Volcanos National Park, including a volcano helicopter tour and small group tours. Make sure to check out my Guide to Volcanoes National Park for everything you need to know.
I had to wrap my camera around a tree with a Gorillapod to get this shot on the Kilauea Iki Trail.
On the way to Volcanos National Park, stop at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, one of the best places to view sea turtles on the Big Island.
It’s illegal to touch or go near the turtles, so keep your distance. I have a blog post about Hawaiian animals if you’d like to learn more about sea turtles and other animals that call Hawaii home.
Things to do near Volcanos National Park
If you’re only spending a couple of hours at Volcanos National Park, you could circle around and check out Hilo on the way back. Some of the top places of interest in Hilo are:
- Akaka Falls
- Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
- Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
- Hilo Farmers Market
- Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo
- Rainbow Falls
I have a blog post about things to do in Hilo for even more ideas.
Depending on when you return, you can end your day at your resort or the beach, watching the sunset. Check out the best places to watch the sunset in Hawaii here.
Although it’s not a great beach for swimming, you’ll often find sea turtles hanging out at Punalu’u!
Day Two – Snorkeling and Luau
If you love boating or snorkeling, you will want to check out a snorkeling tour of Kealakekua Bay.
Kealakekua Bay is one of the best places to snorkel in Hawaii. You don’t even have to snorkel if you don’t want to. You’ll likely see some wildlife, dolphins in particular, from the boat.
I recommend the morning tour, which covers breakfast and lunch. For dinner, why not cross a luau off your Hawaii bucket list? I recommend the Voyagers of the Pacific.
If a luau isn’t for you, or if you plan to go to one on another island, have dinner or enjoy Happy Hour in Kona.
Day two would also be a great time to explore the town of Kona. Here are 25 things to do in Kona to give you some ideas.
Day 3 – Waipio Valley or Pololu Valley
On day 3, we’ll be heading North to Waipio Valley if you have a 4-wheel drive or Pololu Valley if you don’t. You can also take a tour of Waipio Valley. Pack a lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery and black sand beaches.
***As of 2022, Waipio Valley is now closed to visitors. Please choose Pololu Valley instead!***
Waipio Valley is one of the most stunning places in all of Hawaii!
Be respectful of those who live in the area, and do not trespass. Check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii for more tips.
On your way back, stop at Lapakahi State Historical Park. Here you can explore the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.
If nighttime snorkeling with manta rays is on your Big Island to-do list, day three would be a great day to do that.
Day 4 – Beaches
You’ve had a full three days, so take some time to relax on your last day on the Big Island. Take a helicopter tour, or spend your day on the beautiful beaches.
Some of the best beaches on the Big Island include:
- Makalawena Beach
- Hapuna Beach
- Papakolea Green Sand Beach
- Kekaha Kai State Park
- Mauna Kea Beach
- Punaluu Black Sand Beach
- Pohoiki Beach (another black sand beach)
For a full list, check out The best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii.
If you want to do more snorkeling, you can check out Two-Step.
The historical City of Refuge is just next door to Two-Step. Similarly, it’s a must-see!
Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park is one of my favorite beaches in Hawaii. Located just north of the Kona airport, I’ve spotted sea turtles here more often than not!
More things to do on the Big Island
For even more ideas, check the 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island, 50 free things to do in Hawaii, and the 10 best tours on the Big Island.
4-day Big Island itinerary
I hope this short Big Island itinerary helped you get some ideas for your Big Island vacation. Don’t forget to check out some of my other blog posts for more Hawaii travel ideas:
- Is Hawaii safe?
- The 30 best beaches in Hawaii
- 10 things to know before going to Hawaii
- The best restaurants on the Big Island
- 20 things you should never do in Hawaii
- What is the best luau in Hawaii?
- The best boutique hotels in Hawaii
- What is the best island to visit in Hawaii?
Ready to plan your Big Island vacation?
I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, but I am selective about which clients I take on in 2022 and beyond. You can contact me if you’d like more information. Prefer to DIY your vacation? No hard feelings! I have over 100 blog posts to guide you along the way. I recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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