The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise filled with natural wonders, diverse landscapes, and unique experiences that cater to all types of travelers. Whether you're an adventure seeker, a nature enthusiast, or simply looking to unwind on stunning beaches, this island has something for everyone. Here are the top five must-do activities when visiting the Big Island - especially when you adventure in a Campervan with Sun + Salt Campervans!
#5 Chase Waterfalls in Hilo
Hilo, located on the eastern side of the Big Island, is known for its lush rainforests and numerous waterfalls. Exploring the Wailuku River State Park offers a chance to chase some of the island's most beautiful waterfalls, including the iconic Rainbow Falls and the lesser-known but equally mesmerizing Akaka Falls. The hike to these waterfalls takes you through verdant landscapes, where you can appreciate the vibrant flora and the refreshing mist created by cascading water.
#4 Hike at Volcano National Park
No visit to the Big Island is complete without experiencing the remarkable power of its active volcanoes. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that provides an opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring volcanic activity up close. Visitors can explore the trails that wind through lava fields, dense rainforests, and otherworldly landscapes. The highlight is Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Witnessing the glow of molten lava at night if she's currently erupting or hiking to the edge of the Kilauea Caldera during the day is an unforgettable experience.
#3 Star Gaze at Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor, offers an unparalleled stargazing experience. Thanks to its high altitude and clear skies, the summit of Mauna Kea is home to some of the world's most advanced observatories and holds deep cultural significance to the Hawaiian people.
Visitors can join a stargazing tour to learn about the celestial wonders and get a chance to observe distant galaxies, nebulas, and planets through powerful telescopes. If you're renting a Campervan, you might consider parking at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center and making dinner in the van to take up the small hill right next to it for a phenomenal sunset (without getting quite so cold and having to go quite so far to the very top).
Remember to dress warmly, as temperatures at the summit can be quite chilly.
#2: Snorkel Kealakekua Bay
For those who crave underwater adventures, Kealakekua Bay is a true gem. This marine sanctuary is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and abundant marine life. Snorkeling here offers a chance to encounter colorful fish, graceful sea turtles, and other captivating sea creatures. The bay is sacred to the Hawaiian people and historically noted as it was the site where Captain James Cook first made contact with the Hawaiian Islands. While snorkeling, take in the breathtaking scenery of the towering cliffs that surround the bay.
We recommend renting kayaks with Ehu and Kai (see our article featuring Ehu and Kai as a hidden gem!) or Kona Boys for an unforgettable snorkel and kayaking adventure that respects the sacredness of this landscape.
#1: Swim with Manta Rays on a Night Dive
Topping the list of unforgettable experiences on the Big Island is the exhilarating opportunity to swim with majestic manta rays. Keauhou Bay and Honokohau Harbor, near Kailua-Kona, are hotspots for manta ray night dives. These gentle giants, with wingspans of up to 20 feet, glide through the water gracefully, feeding on plankton attracted by the dive lights. Snorkelers and divers can float on the water's surface and watch in awe as these magnificent creatures perform their underwater ballet. It's an otherworldly encounter that will leave you in awe of the ocean's mysteries.