Updated: Jun 23
A little bit of preparation goes a long way when it comes to your trip to Big Island - especially in high tourism seasons like November through April! Personally, when planning a trip I like to have the main experiences and logistics nailed down, but then I like to leave space for the people and experiences we encounter along the way.
While we think the best trips to the Big Island are experienced by renting a Campervan, in this article will cover the main things to book in advance even if you're not renting a Campervan to make sure you have plenty of time to prep for your trip.
How to Prep Lodging + Transportation for your Trip to Big Island
This one's best to not wait until the last minute. Of course we recommend touring the island in a cozy, luxury campervan 😉 but if that's not your style, I recommend booking a couple Airbnb's and getting a vehicle on Turo (here's why a Campervan might be a good fit).
If you're not going to rent a Campervan, I recommend booking a spot for 3-4 days near Hilo and then 3-4 days near Kona and maybe one night near Volcano so that you can see the lava glow at night without needing to take the long drive back after.
Unfortunately the island is extremely car-centric and lacking good public transportation systems. In addition, everything on Big Island is spread out! So getting a rental car is a must if you want to see more than just downtown Kona.
How to Prep for your Campervan Trip in Hawaii
When you adventure the Big Island in a Campervan rental, there are a few things we recommend preparing in advance: your route and where to park. Fortunately, when you book with us, we make this easy as pie!
When guests book with us we send them a map with spots they can park the van overnight on the island (here's a couple of our favorite spots to camp on the beach in Hawaii). The spots range from secret spots I've found during my travels around the island, to camping spots with instructions on how to attain a permit, to spots you can park in a pinch.
After you book with us, take a look at the map ahead of time and plan your route. You don't need to book all of your spots in advance, but getting a sense for which spots you need to plan ahead for is key.
In general, Big Island is very chill and full of Aloha spirit. You don't normally have to book ahead, but there's a couple activities you'll want to book ahead. These include:
Dinner at Merrimans (though you can usually walk in for brunch!)
Manta Ray night dive or snorkel (lots of different charters for this)
Trip to Mauna Kea or Waipio Valley - these trips require a 4x4 vehicle to get to, so if you don't have that, book a trip with a tour company in advance. (Note that you can still drive to the Waipio lookout and the Mauna Kea Visitor Center where you can hike up a little Pu'u (hill) and get a phenomenal sunset view.
If you're scuba diving, schedule your dive with the charter in advance - we love Kona Honu, Big Island Divers, and Kohala Divers.
Kayaks at Kealakekua Bay (or the guided Outrigger Canoe if you're not feeling quite as adventurous) at Ehu and Kai
Your tour at Hawaiian Vanilla Company
Other than that, on big island, you can probably pick it up on the fly! Just remember that things close earlier than the continental U.S., so plan accordingly!