A lot of our guests only have four days (three nights) to travel the island. And while that is NOT enough time in the slightest, I've made this trip more times than I can count and this is my recommendation for what to see and do.
You'll notice that I have you usually cooking dinner out of the van. That's intentional because I've found it's usually nice to arrive where you will be a night before the sun goes down and the gate closes, which usually requires cooking your own dinner or picking something up on the way.
Day 1: Start Your Campervan Adventure in Kona
Start by picking up your unique and unforgettable Campervan at Sun + Salt Campervans. Our vans are kept 10 minutes from the Kona airport and you can check-in between 1 and 8 pm unless you do an early check-in for $50 (if the van is available).
If you get in in the morning, before you check-in I recommend renting Kayaks and going to Kealakekua to snorkel the most renown snorkeling spot on the island. You can rent kayaks from Eau and Kai or Kona Boys. Stop at Kaya’s coffee on the way or Shaka Tacos on the way back for some food. :)
From here, it’s nice to head into town to get some supplies. Some good options are Island Naturals (a little more expensive, but not by much), Sack-n-save (the best poke!), and Safeway (your staples). You’ll want to get food for any meals you plan to cook yourself.
From there, I recommend driving north to Spencer Park. You can camp in the parking lot overnight by obtaining permits online. Make dinner at a picnic table with our portable stove and enjoy the sunset over the water.
Day 2: Drive the Beautiful Hamakua Coast in Your Dream Campervan
In the morning of Day 2 I recommend taking the short trail south of Spencer to Mau’umae beach to enjoy a bit more seclusion and beautiful calm water.
When you’re ready to get going, you can drive through the quaint mountain town of Waimea and I recommend stopping for lunch at Pau or Merrimans (our favorite!). You can also keep driving all the way to Honokaa’ town - we love Andrade’s cafe, they are the most adorable Portuguese couple who run the place and really yummy bread on their sandwiches! Honoka'a also has charming stores and great spots to buy gifts.
You’ll have to go through Honokaa to get to Waipio valley. There are great fruit stands on the way, so stop and grab a smoothie or some fruit for your journey!
Waipio road requires 4x4 and it’s currently closed to non-residents. You can park at the parking lot and walk down to the lookout. It’s definitely a sacred and breathtaking spot (great for photos!).
For camping on day 2, I recommend camping at Laupahoehoe overnight and you can obtain permits online. Park right up along the water and fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
Day 3: Explore Hikes and Waterfalls in Hilo
On the morning of day 3, wake up and enjoy the gorgeous views at Lauapahoehoe while you make breakfast in the campervan. Once you’re ready start driving to Hilo and navigate to What’s Shakin’ - this will get you on the scenic route which you can follow until it spits you back out on the main road. If you don’t get lunch at What’s Shakin’, my favorite food spot in Hilo is the Sweet Cane Cafe. It’s vegetarian, super fresh, and very yummy.
After that you’ll drive to Namakanipaio campground to kill time until the gate closes at Volcanoes National Park. You can park in the parking lot and make dinner here. Once the gate is closed you can still drive in you just don't have to pay the entrance fee.
Once you’re in the park, find a quiet parking lot and stealth camp for the night.
If you spend the night at the campground - it’s first come-first serve and you can pay by cash in an envelope.
Day 4: See the World's Gentlest Volcano
I like to wake up before the sun is up and drive into the park so you can see the sun rise over Kilauea’s crater. It’s also nice and cool up at Volcano, which feels so cozy in the van at night (and helps it to not get too hot inside!).
After Punalu’u, you’re on your way back to Kona! If your van is due back by 11am you’ll need to head right back or if you have a late checkout you can also rent kayaks for snorkeling Kealakekua now instead of at the beginning if your trip.
The only thing I didn’t cram into this itinerary is the manta ray night snorkel, which is AWESOME so if you have one more night to spare, do this when you’re in Kona (and you can park the van at our place overnight since it can be hard to find formal spots to park after dark).
Well that’s it! I hope you enjoy your trip around the island and if you rent a campervan from us and use this itinerary, be sure to tell us on Instagram how you liked it!