I just got back from my trip to Hawaii. I went to the Big Island with two of my sisters. The trip was about a week and we spent about 5.5 days on the island. I have been to the Big Island before, a little over 10 years ago. I did most of the planning for this trip and I just tried to find all of the best things to do in combination with what I remember doing 10 years ago (the things that I liked). This post is kind of just a photo dump of all of my favorite vacation pictures. I inserted a link above each group of photos in case you are interested in doing one of the activities. I really think we were able to fit in most of the things that we would want to do. I think 4-5 days is a good minimum amount of time for each island. I am just going to briefly go through the photos and explain where they are and include any necessary information. I am planning on posting a more general post about visiting Hawaii on a budget for my next post. This trip was on a pretty tight budget and that’s how I normally travel. So, look out for that!
These photos aren’t in the exact order in which we visited each place. A few of the photos are of the same spot but on different days. For most of the trip we stayed at The Grand Naniloa Hotel. Overall it was pretty good for the price. It’s a small resort right on the water in Hilo. The room and the grounds were very nice. You can check out the tide pools right on the property and rent paddle boards. They also offer 2 free drinks per night, which worked out perfectly because one of my sisters is of drinking age and the other is only 19. They also offer golf and some other activities. Overall, I would definitely stay there again, especially because it was only $175 per night. The only few drawbacks were that the building itself was a little dirty on the outside and the parking lot was detached and unpaved. I was a pretty far walk from the lobby. It was a good value for the money though.
We saw two waterfalls on the trip, one at Wailuku River S.P. (free) and the other at Akaka Falls S.P. Akaka Falls does charge to park and get in but it was totally worth the price. It is the taller of the two and the loop hike was amazing. It a really fun jungle walk. Both are on the Hilo side of the island. That side is much more green and jungly. It’s the rainiest town in the U.S.
The first day we did the 2.5 (one way) mile hike to Green Sand beach. It’s one of the only green sand beaches in the world. You can also drive a jeep, which is complicated, or hitch a ride with locals. We ended up paying for a ride on the way back. It was $15 per person. It is such a beautiful beach. It’s not a great swimming beach but it’s fun to see the green sand. After that we stopped at South Point. It is the most southern spot in the U.S. It’s a popular cliff jumping spot. We didn’t jump but my younger sister really wanted to. It’s extremely high and I didn’t want to risk getting hurt on the first day of the trip. Another beach that we visited is the famous Black Sand Beach (Punalu’u Beach). It’s a really big beach with sea turtles. It’s very touristy so I wouldn’t want to spend a ton of time there but it’s beautiful. I love black sand. It’s so mesmerizing. We also visited Kua Bay. We went there three times because it’s a super clean and beautiful beach. The water is crystal clear and it’s so fun to swim in. There isn’t a ton of room on the beach for a towel but it’s great for swimming.
We visited Volcanoes National Park two times. The first time we went in the Thurston Lava Tube and did the short hike past this amazing crater lookout. Then we went back another day to see more of the steam vents and the other crater. Sorry I forgot the names of the craters but one of them you can actually see a tiny bit of red lava. Of course, there is a fee to get into the park but I have a National Park Pass so we were able to re-enter whenever.
Another hike that we did is the Pololu Valley Lookout. That was my favorite thing that I did when I was in High School and visited for the first time. It’s a pretty short hike down a little mountain to a black sand beach. There are a few different trails so you can walk more into the valley or walk further past the beach. It has amazing views of the coastline. I highly recommend that hike but I wouldn’t want to do it on a hot day. The day we went it was partially cloudy and super windy. Coming from Hilo you will drive past the King Kamehameha Statue. We also saw rainbow on the mountain.
We made a quick stop at the Kaumana Caves on the last day. They are free to do and very rugged. There aren’t any lights inside and it is rough terrain. You definitely need a reliable flashlight and good sneakers. There are two different caves you can walk into. They are lava tubes. I’m not sure how deep they go because we didn’t go that far into either side. It was really cool. I recommend it if you have some extra time. Another quick stop we made on the last day was the Liliuokalani Gardens. It’s a Japanese garden park right on the water. It’s a bit run down but it was a fun little stop.
We did two paid excursions. We went on a Catamaran boat ride with snorkeling and the other was a night manta ray snorkel. If I was to choose one I would 100% do the night manta ray snorkel. It’s been on my bucket list to swim with manta rays for a long time. My last trip to Hawaii we saw them but weren’t able to swim with them. Basically, you take a boat out as the sun is setting and you hold onto a paddle board and let the manta rays swim underneath you. I was initially a little bit scared because it is dark and you are in open ocean. They use big lights to attract the plankton which is what manta rays eat. Because of the lights it wasn’t that dark. It was such an amazing experience because the gigantic manta rays swim all around and underneath you. They do loops and come really close to you. They are harmless to humans, in case you are getting them confused with sting rays. If this is on your bucket list too, Hawaii is one of the best places to do it! The other excursion was a 4 hour long boat ride to the Captain Cook memorial snorkel spot. The snorkeling was amazing. It’s a really good spot to snorkel. We saw a turtle in the water and tons and tons of different types of fish. This excursion was not necessarily worth the money because there were other boats that cost a lot less and you can actually snorkel from the beach in the same spot. It was a fun boat ride but a bit overpriced.
Overall, the trip was amazing and I already want to go back to Hawaii. I went to Maui and Kauai a few years ago on my honeymoon. I will link those posts if you want to see that trip. I have not spent any time in Oahu and really want to visit that island next. If you have any tips for Oahu let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for my next post about how I managed to make this trip so affordable. I think it was only around $700.