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15 incredible and free things to do on the Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of all of the Hawaiian islands. The size of the Big Island means that there are plenty of things to do, including plenty of free things to do on the Big Island. The Big Island is home to over 100 beaches (all free!), numerous state parks, one National park, and five volcanoes.
15 free things to do on the Big Island post is the third installment in my “free things to do in Hawaii” series. Make sure also to check out 10 free things to do on Kauai, 15 free things to do on Maui, and 10 free things to do on Oahu.
Please keep in mind that many of these activities on the Big Island are free but run off of donations. Consider making a donation or purchasing from a gift shop when available. You might also consider purchasing a product such as honey or coffee if taking a tour. Make sure to support local during your Hawaii vacation. Mahalo! Now, let’s get to the list.
1. Visit the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
This list of free things to do on the Big Island is filled with both historical and cultural sites. The first is Puako Petroglyph Preserve, where you can see about 1200 petroglyphs. Petroglyphs offer a unique view of Hawaiian history. The word “Petroglyph” comes from two Greek words: “Petros” for rock, and “glyphein” to carve. Hawaiians call them “k’i’i pohaku, “or images in stone.
You can view more Petroglyphs at the nearby Waikoloa Petroglyph field or Pu’u Loa Petroglyph, inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visiting the Petryglyph fields is one of my first memories of Hawaii, and I highly recommend it for families with children.
2. Lapakahi State Historical Park
You can see how ancient Hawaiians lived at Lapakahi. This State Historic Park is a large area of ruins from an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. Located in North Kohala, Lapakahi dates back to the 14th century and is a must-see if you’re staying in or visiting the Kohala area.
3. Take a tour of a Kona Coffee Farm
One of the best free things to do on the Big Island is to take a tour of a Kona Coffee Farm. There are plenty of coffee farms offering free tours. I recommend Heavenly Hawaiian, Thunder Mountain Kona Coffee, or Kona Joe.
4. Visit Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
There are plenty of historical sites on this list of free things to do on the Big Island. The Kohala Historical Sites State Monument is one that you won’t want to miss.
5. Check out South Point
Ka Lae, known as South Point, is the southernmost point in the United States. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark District. It is believed that Ka Lae is the first place where the Polynesians came to shore when they reached the Hawaiian islands.
6. Take a tour of the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company
All macadamia nuts from the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company are grown by local farmers on the Big Island. You can take a tour of the factory, try free samples, free coffee, and purchase gifts to bring home in the gift shop.
7. Take the short hike to ‘Akaka Falls
Akala Falls is a 442-foot tall waterfall about 11-miles north of Hilo. There is an entry fee of $5 per car or $1/per person for pedestrians. So while it isn’t free, it’s a very inexpensive and easily accessible way to see beautiful waterfalls.
8. Visit one of the Big Islands multi-colored beaches
The big island has over 100 beaches, and they are all free and open to the public. Here are some of my favorite beaches on the Big Island:
- Kekaha Kai State Park (just north of the Kona airport)
- Hapuna Beach
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- Papakōlea Green Sand Beach
- Waialea Beach (Beach 69)
If you love sea turtles, make sure to check out the best places to find sea turtles on the Big Island. Don’t forget to bring your reef-safe sunscreen.
9. Visit the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens
Located just outside of Hilo, the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo is the only tropical zoo in the United States. It is home to a variety of rainforest animals as well as endangered Hawaiian animals, such as the nene goose. The zoo is small, so plan to spend an hour or two here. It is free, but consider leaving a donation or making a purchase from the gift shop.
10. Drive to the summit of Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is one of the few places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in just two hours. You will need to stop at the visitor center to acclimate to the elevation. Keep in mind that you’ll need a 4-wheel drive.
11. Check out Big Island Honey Museum and tasting room
While the beekeeping tour does require advanced reservations, you can visit the Big Island Honey Museum and tasting room for free.
12. Visit The Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
Located in Hilo, the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center features a 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium, interactive educational exhibits, lifesize models of wildlife found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and artwork inspired by those islands and Hawaiian culture. Best of all – it’s free!
13. Hike down to Pololu Valley or Waipio Valley
Waipio Valley gets more attention, but Pololu Valley is easier to access and is beautiful too. You can park and hike down to Pololu, whereas with Waipio, you’ll have to (very carefully) drive down in your 4-wheel drive or take a tour. No matter what you choose, make sure that one of these free things to do on the Big Island is on your list.
14. Visit Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
I told you this list of the best free things to do on the Big Island would be full of cultural and historic sites. The Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park or the City of Refuge is another must-see on the Big Island. The Pu’uhonua protected the kapu breaker, defeated warriors, as well as civilians during the times of battle. Take care to be respectful and observe all posted rules and regulations.
15. Snorkel at 2-Step or Kealakekua Bay
I highly recommend kayaking or taking a sail and snorkel tour of Kealakekua Bay. However, you can snorkel at either 2-step (right next to the City of Refuge) or hike down to Captain Cooks’s monument and snorkel there for free. These are two of my favorite areas for snorkeling on the Big Island, although the hike to the monument isn’t for the faint of heart.
- Where to find sea turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii
- 7-day Big Island Itinerary
- 7 Best Big Island resorts
- The problem with Airbnb in Hawaii
- The 7 Best Things to do on the Big Island
- Best Happy Hours in Kona
- 25 best things to do in Kona
- 100 things to do in Hawaii
Book your Hawaii vacation with a Hawaii Travel Specialist
If you’re looking for a Big Island honeymoon or Big Island vacation personalized just for you, give me a call! I specialize in working with clients to create the perfect vacation for you. That means no packages; everything is personalized. Make sure to contact me or go ahead and fill out a custom travel request, and I’ll get back to you to start planning ASAP!
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