Big Island in 3 days

Aloha guys! The last island we visited on our Hawaii trip was Big Island. We only had 3 days  (you will read more about how that happened later in the post…) but managed to see most of what we had intended to. We basically spit up our itinerary in three tours. Read more about how to see Big Island in 3 days.

picture big island in 3 days

If you haven’t read my posts about our time on Kauai and Oahu, check those posts out first.

Let me introduce you to this very special island quickly before we start with the tours:

Big Island is the youngest  and – you might guess it –  also the biggest of the Hawaiian islands. And as some of the islands five volcanos are still active and produce lava that flows into the sea – and thus expand the land – Big Island is still growing.

There is a lot to see on Big Island: Beautiful nature, stunning underwater life and of course the volcanos. Originally we had planned to stay on this island for five days. But as Moritz was suffering from a sinus infection while we were on Oahu and we therefore missed some days (as he had to stay in bed and see a doctor). So we extended our stay on Oahu for two days. This was a good choice because we wouldn’t have been able to snorkel in Hanauma Bay otherwise. But of course, we were missing these days now on Big Island. We put some more thoughts in our plans and came up with what I think was the perfect itinerary for such a short period of time. So here is how we enjoyed Big Island in 3 days:

Big Island in 3 Days: Day 1

We stayed in  an airbnb apartment in Kona while we were on Big Island. We had chosen the west coast of the island because it is known to be less rainy than the east coast. So on our first day we explored the west coast.

First stop: Captain Cook Monument viewing platform

This is actually a sad place as the monument shows were Captain Cook was killed in 1779. We drove to a viewing platform at the end of Puuhonua Road from where we could see the white monument on the other side of the bay.

Big Island in 3 days: Captain Cook Monument

Later we found out that there is also a trail that leads to the monument – which is actually a great snorkeling spot. Oh well, another reason to come back one day 🙂

Second stop: Pae’a for snorkeling

Of course we wanted to do more snorkeling while on Big Island as we were eager on seeing another sea turtle (or two :-)) We had heard good stories about Pae’a (aka Two Step), an area right next to the National Historic Park Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Pae’a isn’t a sandy beach. All you find are black lava rocks. But it is actually very easy to enter the water from the rocks as they form natural steps at one place.

Big Island in 3 days: Pae'a aka Two Step

The water was crystal clear and we saw all kinds of colorful fish and – tatatata: sea turtles! I think we stayed there for nearly two hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Definitely a great spot for snorkeling and even scuba diving (we spotted some divers underneath us as on point :-)). When we got out of the water, we saw another sea turtle, hanging out in one of the shallow pools on the lava rocks. Sooo cute! 🙂

Big Island in 3 days: sea turtle at Pae'a

Pae’a can get really crowded and parking space is limited. Make sure to arrive early if you plan to visit this place too!

Third stop: The southernmost point of the US

As we had already been to the southernmost point of continental USA we wanted to check out the southernmost point of the US on Hawaii as well. It was actually quite a drive, the last 30 minutes on a narrow street. We parked at the end of the road, opposite of the cliff dive. Yep, you can test your courage right next to the southernmost point if you want to. We watched some people jumping. Definitely nothing for me! I’m afraid of heights 🙂

Big Island in 3 days: Southernmost Point of the USA on Hawaii

For the next two hours or so we drove back to Kona. In the afternoon we explored the little town for a bit and relaxed with cold drinks and a shared plate of tacos. A nice way to end our first day on Big Island.

Big Island in 3 days: Kona

IMGBig Island in 3 days: Kona_4666

Big Island in 3 days: Kona

Big Island in 3 Days: Day 2

We had reserved our second day for the main attraction this island has to offer: Volcano National Park.

We chose the route via the south in the morning to get there, mainly because it is a bit shorter. After a two hour drive we arrived at the park entrance. We decided to visit Halema’uma’u Crater, the big and steaming one, first.


But the steam was not only coming from the crater but also out of the earth at several places like here, right next to the trail:



We drove off to check out the famous lava tube next. This tube was created several hundred years ago when the outer layer of a river of lava cooled down and build solid walls and a ceiling, allowing the hot lava to pass through. Eventually the lava flow stopped and the last of it passed downhill. Only the solid walls remained. Cool, right?! 🙂 Even the walk from the parking space to the tube was worth the stop as you walk through lush rainforest and are surrounded by the sound of singing birds.

Big Island in 3 days: Volcano National Park way to the lava tube

But the main attraction on this stop is without question the lava tube.

Big Island in 3 days: Volcano National Park lava tube

The ground is a bit wet and thus slippery (see the water dripping down from the ceiling in the picture?) but save and easy to do. And absolutely worth it! Visiting the tube was actually my personal highlight of Volcano National Park.

But of course there is much more to explore. After the tube we stopped at some more craters…

Big Island in 3 days: Crater at Volcano National Park

Big Island in 3 days: Crater at Volcano National Park

and drove down to the ocean.

Big Island in 3 days: Inside Volcano National Park

Big Island in 3 days: Inside Volcano National Park

Erosion vs. lava: 1:1 🙂

Big Island in 3 days: Volcano National Park

But there were also exciting things to explore next to the road, like rolls of lava…

Big Island in 3 days: Lava at Volcano National Park

… piled up lava and deep cracks in the floor:

Big Island in 3 days: Exploring Volcano National Park

Volcano National Park is definitely stunning and a must-do when on Big Island.

We had chosen another route for our drive back to Kona: via Hilo and on the saddle road between the volcanos Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Unfortunately it was VERY foggy and we couldn’t see either of the volcanos. Booooh! However, close to the ocean it cleared up again and we were able to spot some smaller, moon-like craters:

Big Island in 3 days

What a stunning place this is.

Big Island in 3 Days: Day 3

On our third and unfortunately last day we drove north to hike down to Waipi’o Valley at the east coast and end our time on Hawaii by relaxing at one of the best rated beaches of the island.

We drove to Waipi’o Valley first. The parking is very limited there so we figured it would be good to arrive early as we didn’t want to miss out on seeing this beautiful place. The hike itself is relatively short, only 3 miles (4.5 km). But it is also impossibly steep, 25 average gain and you climb down (and later up again!!) 800 vertical feet in only 0.6 miles!

Big Island in 3 days: toad to Waipio Valley

Our knees were jarring on the way down. But man was the view stunning.

Big Island in 3 days: Waipi'o Valley

The valley is named after its river and can be translated to “curved water”. It is also called “valley of the kings” as Hawaiian royalty used to live in this beautiful area.

Big Island in 3 days: Waipio Valley waterfall

When we reached the bottom of the valley, we were lucky enough to see some wild horses on our way to the beach.

Big Island in 3 days: wild horses at Waipi'o Valley

The ocean was very rough and we did some more wave watching from the black sand beach.

Waipio Valley black sand beach

On the way back we saw some more wild horses…

Big Island in 3 days: wild horses at Waipi'o Valley

… but also the wrecks of cars who’s drivers must have lost control on the steep street down into the valley.

Big Island in 3 days: Waipio Valley wrack

It is allowed to drive down with a 4-wheel-drive but seriously, if you’re not an experienced driver, I would definitely not do it! On our way up we saw a guy in a rental car who had to back up on a steep curve to let a car coming uphill pass. Boy was he nervous! It took him forever to go back a few meters and in order not to drive over the edge, he nearly ran into the rock on the other side of the road. Nope, hiking is definitely the safer option. And an amazing workout! Ok, I have to admit, going up nearly killed me 🙂 It was SO exhausting!! But once you made it, you can be really proud of yourself (we even got compliments from the other tourists when you arrived back at the parking space :-D)

Now, we definitely deserved a relaxing afternoon at the beach. We drove back to the west coast where we wanted to visit Mauna Kea Beach. It is a public beach but you have to drive onto the premisses of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Again, public parking is very limited there and we were actually doubting that we would find a parking spot as it was early afternoon already when we arrived. But this seemed to be our lucky day! There was a free spot and we could go down to the beach! 🙂

Mount Kea Beach

Well guys, and that was it! Our trip to Hawaii ends here. But it was definitely not our last 🙂

But luckily we’re not going back to cold Germany right away. We will fly to L.A. and visit Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Quite a nice stopover, don’t you think? ;-P

More information about:

Big Island

Hawaii Volcanos National Park

Waipi’o Valley

airbnb in Kona

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