THE PERFECT 4 DAY BIG ISLAND HAWAI'I ITINERARY
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
We had the opportunity to visit the Big Island of Hawai'i for 4 days and had the most amazing time! This 4 day Big Island itinerary will help you plan your perfect Hawaii vacation!
It is no joke that this island is the biggest of all of the Hawaiian islands! All of the other islands combined can fit into Hawaii island 2 times! How crazy is that? We definitely felt the vastness of Big Island during our stay here, as we are used to staying on Oahu which is the 3rd largest of the islands.
With that being said, with a minimal amount of time to see this island (4 days), it is best to make the most out of the time that you have.
We took an early flight from Oahu to Hilo dto make use of the rest of day 1 that we had! If you are traveling between the islands, there are usually several flights throughout the day to choose from using Hawaiian Airlines.
After we landed and got our rental car, we headed to Hapuna Beach. This beach was actually rated the #1 beach in the USA in 2021 by Forbes. Being beach people, of course we had to visit this beach immediately, haha!
Hapuna Beach was definitely beautiful and had the clearest water that we have ever seen. We would highly recommend visiting this beach when on the Big Island.
Although, I don't think that it ranks as the #1 beach in our books. The only things that we didn't enjoy about this beach was that there was minimal shade and the fact that they slapped a resort right on the beach, which takes away from the natural beauty.
There is no doubt though that this has to be one of the best beaches in the USA.
There is a $5 parking fee for the entire day to park at Hapuna Beach with plenty of parking spots.
Just a short drive away from Hapuna Beach lies Waialea Beach. This beach is known for it's snorkeling.
We didn't spend too much time at Waialea Beach due to the fact that it is a small beach, and we really only needed about an hour to do all of the snorkeling.
This beach is very rocky, so I highly recommend that you come with water shoes if you want to get in and snorkel. I did not bring any water shoes and had a hard time getting in and out of the water.
The water clarity this day was not that great, but I wouldn't let this deter you from visiting because no matter what beach you go to, water clarity will change day by day.
There were a lot of fish to see here!
I overheard a local saying that the best snorkeling here is around the rocks. So naturally, this is where I went. The fish and marine life definitely gravitated to the more rocky areas.
I also want to mention to be careful if you visit, as the waves kept pushing us closer to the rocks. I can imagine that this can become dangerous especially if you are not a strong swimmer. I had to make a good effort to not get pushed into the rocks and hurt myself.
During our 2nd day on the Big Island, we visited the cute little town of Kailua-Kona.
HEAVENLY HAWAIIAN COFFEE TOUR
We are huge coffee fans, so we had to do a coffee tour while in Kona. We decided to do our tour with Heavenly Hawaiian Coffee Farms which came recommended by other blog posts and youtube videos.
The coffee farm tour is an hour long and they take you around the property teaching you about how they grow the beans and brew the coffee. Our tour guide was so funny and made the tour very interesting. We learned a lot and really enjoyed this tour! They gave us samples of their different brews and even gave us some samples of several different flavored macadamia nuts. The farm used to be a macadamia nut farm, so they have access to some macadamia nut trees that are still growing on the farm.
We booked the tour online and it was $6 per person, which we thought was a really great deal for what you get.
We walked away with their Kona Fire roast which is a medium roast. The bags of coffee are very expensive due to the fact that this famous coffee is only grown is this region of the world. Kona Coffee is famous for a reason and there is truly nothing like it out there, so we couldn't pass up buying a bag.
After our coffee tour, we decided to check out the town of Kona! This is a really cute town with lots of shopping and restaurants.
Be aware that there is free parking! We almost paid for parking but someone directed us to a free lot nearby!
We spent several hours wandering around the town. We did not eat at any restaurants, but we did try some awesome shave ice.
They had advertisements for happy hours at various restaurants and breweries too. You can honestly find a restaurant here for anyone! They had tons of shops of various kinds to browse in.
After we finished browsing around the shopping village, we made our way to this small beach. It was really nice to just sit at the beach and enjoy watching the waves roll in as the afternoon went by. We enjoyed watching this boy boogie board, as he was very good at it, haha!
Below is our youtube video over our first two days on the Big Island
SNORKEL WITH MANTA RAYS
This was probably our favorite thing that we did this day!
This excursion was with Kona Style, and I believe that we paid around $109 per person. We bought the sunset cruise and snorkel package that left around 6:15 for the sunset cruise to the Manta Ray Village.
The cruise lasted around 30 minutes to arrive at the Manta Ray Village. We had never done a sunset cruise before, so we really enjoyed this part of the excursion!
Once arriving to our snorkel spot, we got out of the boat and loaded on to this platform that you hold on to with your hands allowing your legs to float under a pool noodle. This is done in order to keep people from kicking down below and allowing the Manta Rays to come closer. It also protects the Mantas from getting hurt by people.
To be honest, holding on to this platform was a bit difficult due to the fact that the workers pushed you around in order to find the Manta Rays in the first place. I was also mostly holding on to one hand since I had my GoPro in the other.
It took around 20 minutes for us to find the Manta Rays, but I believe that that is not always the case.
Once we found the Mantas, we had around 20 minutes to watch them come by and swim around. The Manta Rays during our excursion did not come very close to us, but we have seen that they can get close enough to touch you sometimes. The Mantas were a bit shy this day ;) Our guide noticed that these Mantas were not the usual group that hangs out in that area.
Besides our shy Mantas, we really enjoyed this excursion overall!
Once arriving back on the boat, they gave you hot chocolate, tea, and cookies which was a nice touch because the water got pretty cold after snorkeling for awhile.
To be honest, we got a late start on day 3. We started the day around noon. Our lack of sleep and a busy couple of days caught up with us, haha!
Akaka Falls is located on the east side of the island and is definitely one of the must see waterfalls!! These falls are close enough to Hilo that it will be an easy drive if you are in that area. Akaka Falls is 442 feet high and is very impressive!
Entry is $5 per person, but keep in mind that if you park in the parking lot it will cost you more. We parked on the side of the road (with other people) and did not have to pay for parking.
There is a short walk no more than half a mile to see the waterfall. The walk is a loop around in the jungle, and you also get another view of a separate waterfall off in the distance.
This waterfall was really cool to see, and the experience all together was one that you won't want to miss!
Rainbow falls is about a 30 minute drive from Akaka Falls. I recommend that you visit both right after another for an awesome waterfall tour!
Rainbow Falls is a much shorter waterfall (80 ft), but it is still pretty impressive! It gets it's name because in the morning you can see a rainbow coming off of it. We visited this waterfall midday so we did not get to see the rainbow, but we still enjoyed the view!
There is no entry fee or parking free to see this waterfall.
Also, there is no walk or hike to the waterfall overlook!
Punalu'u Beach is a popular black sand beach on the Big Island! This beach is famous for not only it's black sand, but for it's common sea turtle sightings.
This was a major bucket list item for us because who doesn't want to see a black sand beach in their lifetime?!
This beach is located south of Volcanoes National Park so it was a good drive from the waterfalls, but we really wanted to see it! It took us around an hour and a half to get there.
We unfortunately didn't see any sea turtles this day, but it was still super cool to visit the beach. Also, it was more of an overcast and chilly day so we did not swim.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
We think that if you are near any national park that you should visit it, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is no different! This was one of the national parks that we have always dreamed of visiting!
This national park is pretty big so it might be best to spend a full day here if you can. We opted to only spend half a day because we wanted to see and do so much in such little time.
Entrance fee into the park is $30 per vehicle.
Kilauea Iki Trail
We started off our time in the park hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail.
To get to this trailhead you need drive along Crater Rim Drive. There is plenty of parking at this trailhead and there is also overflow parking near the Thurston Lava Tube that is only a short walk.
This trail is a moderate 3.3 mile loop trail that takes you through the jungle and down into the Kilauea Iki Crater. The last eruption was in 1959. It was very awesome walking on dried lava and seeing all of the remnants. There is also a trail guide that you can follow to learn about the eruption back then. All you do is stop on the numbered signs and read off of the corresponding number on the pamphlet.
This hike will take you around 2-3 hours to complete.
We thoroughly enjoyed this hike, and it was actually one of our favorites that we have done just due to the fact that there are really no other hikes that you can find like this in the USA.
Thurston Lava Tube
After our hike on the Kilauea Iki Trail, we visited the Thurston Lava Tube. You come right out at the start of the lava tube when finishing the Kilauea Iki Trail, so it is a great thing to add on to your hike. The lava tube is a very short walk through and actually makes a loop back to where you started. The tube is lit up, so don't worry about bringing a flashlight for this one.
Thurston Lava Tube
Our last stop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was at the steam vents. These stops are about a mile into the park and is just a quick look. You really don't have to do any work to see this attraction. The steam is created from rain water trickling down into the hot earth.
Hilo is a cute little town on the East side of the island and is actually the city that our flight landed in to. The city center is a fun place to explore because it has that old timey Hawaiian town vibe that everyone knows and loves.
We spent some time exploring all of the shops around the town and also visited the farmer's market.
The farmer's market runs every day, but the days with the most vendors are on Wednesdays and Sundays. We did not visit on either of these days, but there were still vendors selling fruit, veggies and hand made goods.
The town was super cute in my opinion, but I can imagine that it might not be a town for everyone. There were a lot of murals decorating the buildings, and you had shops of all kinds to choose from.
After exploring the town, we made a stop at Coconut Island. This island is located in Hilo and is a very small "island" or park that people go to hang out at. You can also swim here, but keep in mind that there is hardly any sand. We enjoyed this little island for several hours while we caught some sun rays and swam around. Keep your eye out for turtles here :)
That is everything that we did on the Big Island in 4 days! We hope that this helps you plan your next Hawaii vacation!
For a more visual representation of our last two days on tbe Big Island, check out our video
Let us know in the comments what you would love to do on the Big Island!