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7 day Big Island Itinerary
So you want to spend one week on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island is incredibly unique and diverse. It even has 9 out of the world’s 13 climate zones!
This means you could enjoy seeing a rainforest, snow on the mountaintop, and a sandy beach, all on the same day.
One week itineraries have been one of my most requested blog posts. If you’re visiting multiple islands, check out:
Remember that this 7 day Big Island Itinerary is a guide, and you can add or replace anything you would like. If you have less time on the Big Island, I also have a 4-day Big Island itinerary.
Where to stay on the Big Island
Before we get to the 7 day Big Island itinerary, let’s talk about where to stay on the Big Island.
The first thing that I’m often asked about the Big Island is if visitors need to book hotels/resorts on multiple parts of the islands. After all, Big Island IS big.
However, I always say no. Like, really, no, don’t do it.
Yes, the Big Island is Big, especially compared to the other islands, but it isn’t that big. It’s a very driveable island, and it’s completely fine to stay in one place.
Map of the Big Island of Hawaii.
The best area to stay on the Big Island
The Kona-Waikoloa area is where the majority of visitors choose to stay. You won’t find much around the rest of the island, especially if you’re looking for your typical resort setting.
Hilo is more of a local town and while there are a few hotels they aren’t like what you’ll find on the west side of the island.
There’s a reason for this. The best weather on the island is on the west side. You are probably planning a Hawaii vacation to get some sunshine. The people who build resorts in Hawaii are smart, and they build them in the best areas!
I have a list of 20 things to do in Hilo because I do recommend visiting the east side of the island, but not staying there.
The Westin Hapuna Beach, a popular Big Island Resort.
Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to switch locations from a cost perspective as it costs more every time you do that.
Even if money is no object, spending time moving yourselves and your stuff is a pain! Just stay in the Waikoloa/Kohala area where the resorts are, or even in Kona town.
You’ll likely arrive on the Big Island sometime in the afternoon. However, depending on where you live, you’re going to feel like it’s evening/night.
I highly encourage you to check into your resort but try to stay awake to help your body adjust.
Head to Kona or stay in the Waikoloa area and have dinner. There are plenty of oceanfront dining options in Kona; I recommend Huggo’s, Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill, Kamana Kitchen, or anything else on Ali’i Drive.
Kona Inn also has an excellent Mai Tai, although I’m not a fan of their food. I have a blog post about the best Happy Hours in Kona. Check out that post for some great deals on food and drinks for your first evening on the Big Island.
I don’t ever recommend booking any expensive tours on your first day on the Big Island. Even if you arrive early in the afternoon, delays happen, and you won’t know about it far enough in advance to do anything about it.
I book through Viator whenever possible because most tours offer free refunds up to 24 hours in advance. I still do not recommend booking anything on day 0, but Viator also offers a price match guarantee. You can check out the tours here.
Day 1 – Volcanoes National Park, Black Sand Beach + More
Most visitors to the Big Island want to see the volcano, so head down to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Start at the Visitor’s Center and ask about any guided hikes available that day.
Other must-sees at Volcanoes National Park include:
- Thurston Lava Tube
- Jaggar Museum
- Chain of Craters Road
If you’re feeling up to a hike, the Kilauea Iki Trail is my favorite. You should check out the ultimate Guide to Volcanoes National Park to plan your day!
Some people spend all day at the park, but others stop in for just a couple of hours.
If you have extra time, you can check out nearby South Point and stop at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach on the way or on the way home. This beautiful beach is right off the road, and you can often spot turtles at this location.
Black Sand Beaches on the Big Island
You have to see at least one black sand beach on the Big Island. Although Punaluu is the most popular, there are actually several black sand beaches on the Big Island.
- Waipio Beach, in Waipio Valley which is a difficult drive but very worth it! Please be respectful of those who live in the valley.
- Kaima Beach Park in Kalapana
- Pololu Valley is a hike-in valley and easier to access than Waipio Valley. You’ll need to arrive early as parking is limited.
- Richardson’s Beach. The newest black sand beach on the Big Island, located near the town of Hilo.
If you want to learn more about black sand beaches, check out the best black sand beaches in Maui where I share some fun facts about the beaches of Hawaii.
If you don’t do a hike in the parks, Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach) is near South Point, but you’ll have to hike about 2 miles to get there.
Stop in Kona on the way back to your resort for either Happy Hour or dinner.
Day 2 – Kealakekua & luau
On Day 2, head down to Captain Cook and explore Kealakekua Bay. There are several ways to explore the bay and see Captain Cook’s monument.
I recommend the boat tour because it includes breakfast, lunch, and it is both informative and a lot of fun! No matter how you explore the bay, make sure to bring snorkeling gear.
If you’re wondering what kind of animals you might see while you’re snorkeling, check out my Hawaiian animal’s post.
I always, always recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear. Renting snorkeling gear is, well, gross. I know they’re cleaned, but it doesn’t cost much to just get your own.
Black triggerfish is one of the most popular fish you’ll see while snorkeling in the waters of Hawaii.
Related: The best luaus in Hawaii.
Day 3 – The Kohala Coast & Helicopter Tour
On day 3, we will drive north and explore the Kohala Coast. I recommend stopping at the Lapakahi State Historical Park and then exploring either Waipio or Pololu Valley.
Waipio Valley will require either a 4-wheel drive and some bravery or a guided tour. Pololu Valley is much easier, a simple hike in and out, but you’ll want to bring plenty of water and reef-safe sunscreen.
Pololu Valley has a beautiful black sand beach that I mentioned earlier, so why not bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view?
If you choose to visit Pololu Valley, make sure to arrive early as parking is limited.
Even if you don’t venture into Waipio Valley, I recommend checking out the Waipio Valley overlook. If you do go into Waipio Valley, you might end being there for the entire day. It’s so beautiful, and you won’t regret it. Head into Waimea for dinner.
Pololu Valley is one of my favorite places on the Big Island.
If you’re going to be taking a helicopter tour, I highly recommend scheduling it earlier in your trip.
Sometimes the helicopter tours are canceled due to weather, and you’ll want time to reschedule if necessary.
A helicopter tour can easily be added to this itinerary almost any morning. Check out my Hawaii helicopter tour review here.
The ultimate splurge is the Circle of Fire and Waterfalls Volcano tour. You’ll see so much of the Big Island that you would never see from the ground.
Day 4 – Hilo & Waterfalls
Head over to Hilo to check out Rainbow Falls, Akaka Falls, Kaumana Caves, or one of many rainforest ziplines on the island’s East Side.
As I mentioned initially, I do not feel like you need to spend a night in Hilo as it’s only about an hour and a half from most of the resorts to Hilo.
I’ve had several people who have emailed me telling me they booked a night or two in Hilo and ended up wishing they hadn’t because it rained constantly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
If you want to drive up Mauna Kea, this would be an excellent day to do that since it’s on the way or on the way back. Make sure you have a 4-wheel drive and that your rental car company permits it.
It’s very cold on Mauna Kea, and sometimes you’ll even see snow! Make sure to bring a jacket.
Day 5 – Beach Day, Golf & Farmers Market
Schedule a lazy beach or resort day. You’re going to need it after all of the activities. If you enjoy golf or spa treatments, this would be a great day to schedule those.
Public and resort golf courses on the Big Island include:
- Makani Golf Club
- Mauna Kea Golf Course
- Mauna Lani Resort Course
- Hamakua Country Club
- Hapuna Golf Course
- Naniloa Volcano Golf Course
- Sea Mountain Golf Course
- Waikoloa Beach Course
- Kona Country Club
- Waikoloa Kings Course
- Waikoloa Village Golf Course
- Makalei Golf Club
I’m not a golfer so I can’t say which course is best, but my golfer clients have told me that Hawaii has amazing golfing.
If you don’t need a rest day (I’m a go-go-go person, I can’t help it,) you can always check out the many Farmers Markets or explore Kailua-Kona more if you haven’t spent much time there yet.
Farmers Markets on the Big Island
- Kona Farmers Market
- Kona Village Farmers Market
- Ali’i Garden Market Place
- Keauhou Farmers Market
- Captain Cook Farmers Market
- South Kona Fruit Stand
- Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market
The Manta Ray snorkel tours are top-rated and exclusive to the Big Island. Spend the evening of day 5 on a Manta Snorkel tour for an experience you’ll never forget.
At the bottom of this post, I’ve listed even more activities that you can mix and match to fill your days.
Day 6 – Explore Hawaiian History
Head to Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (City of Refuge) to explore this beautiful historical site.
Please remember that this location is significant to Native Hawaiians, so please be respectful to both the cultural site and the animals that live nearby.
Just do this the entire time you’re in Hawaii, and you’ll be just fine! 2-Step is just next door, where you’ll find some of the best snorkeling on the island.
If you missed Mauna Kea on day 4, you could always do that either before or after. I do not find Mauna Kea to be an all-day event, although I know some people stay all day.
I always recommend keeping day 7 open if you can. You will find things that you want to see, get recommendations from locals, and miss things along the way. Use day 7 to do anything that you have rescheduled or missed.
I recommend staying at a resort because they will almost always hold your luggage after you check out! Many resorts will also allow you to hang out on the resort property after checking out of your room.
Having a place to leave your luggage is excellent when you have a late-night flight, which most flights out of Kona are.
Although Hawaii is generally safe, rental car break-ins are not uncommon, especially if it’s obvious that you have valuables in the car.
My favorite beach, Kekaha Kai State Park, is located just north of the Airport and is a great place to watch the sunset before your evening flight.
More things to do on the Big Island:
It would be impossible to list everything in this 7 day Big Island itinerary, but here are a few more Big Island activities. Mix and match or create your own day out of the following:
- Take a tour of a Kona Coffee Farm.
- Visit Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
- Tour Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company
- Check out Big Island Honey Museum and the tasting room.
- Visit Mokupāpapa Discovery Center – it’s free!
- Explore underwater with Atlantis Kona Submarine Adventure (great for non-swimmers)
- Enjoy a local beer at Kona Brewing Company.
- Take a tour of Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.
- Take a surf lesson in Kona.
- Try a SUP paddleboard lesson.
- Parasail over Kailua-Kona
- Book a photo session with one of the many talented Kona photographers
7 day Big Island Itinerary
So there it is, my 7 day Big Island Itinerary. Don’t get mad at me if I missed any of your favorite activities. I’ve been to the Big Island many times, and there are still things that I haven’t done.
One week isn’t enough to spend on this beautiful island, and you’ll find yourself planning your next trip before your first one is over.
Looking for more Big Island? Check out more of my Big Island posts:
- 7 best things to do on the Big Island
- 25 things to do in Kona
- The best restaurants on the Big Island
- 7 best resorts on the Big Island
- What is the BEST Island to visit in Hawaii?
- The 10 best tours on the Big Island
- 15 free things to do on the Big Island
Ready to plan your Hawaii vacation?
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