How to Prepare for Your Trip to Big Island
A little bit of preparation goes a long way when it comes to your trip to Hawaii, especially in high tourism seasons! 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. This article will cover the main things to make sure you have nailed down before you come.
Lodging + Transportation
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.
Because there's so much to see all the way around the island, having one stationary spot the whole time can mean a lot of driving back and forth (yet another reason the campervan is so ideal 😉). So 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.
If in a campervan or camping: plan where you'll park
When guests book with us we send them a map with spots they can park the van overnight on the island. 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. When 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. Some favorite spots you definitely need to book in advance include: Kohanaiki (Pine Trees) and Hookena Beach Park.
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
Kayaks at Kealakekua Bay (or the guided Outrigger Canoe if you're not feeling quite as adventurous) at Ehu and Kai
If you're going to the Coffee Shack in Kealakekua, they don't take reservations and you'll need to early in the morning, or else endure the long wait. If they have a long wait, go to Kaya's!
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 mainland, so plan accordingly!