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10 Days on Hawaii's Big Island


Land of Stunning Contrasts

The Big Island of Hawaii is an island of microclimates. It is possible to experience alpine weather on the 13,800-foot summit of Mauna Kea, arid conditions in the desert and tropical showers in the rainforests. The “Orchid Isle” is known for its beautiful flowers, macadamia nuts and coffee, but you can also experience world-class vanilla, mono-floral honey and distinctive regional cuisine.

Start your Hawaiian vacation with a coffee plantation tour, then get the lay of the land with an exciting helicopter tour over dramatic coastlines and volcanoes dotting the island. Take a road trip to see the most active volcano in the world; go whale-watching in season; play golf on gorgeous courses; visit delightful art galleries; and end your days with relaxing beachside cocktails at sunset.

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Highlights

    • Tour a coffee plantation
    • Take a helicopter tour of the island
    • Explore Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
    • Take in Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea from Saddle Road
    • Spend the day at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
    • Stay at Puakea Ranch
    • Gallery hop in Waimea


Day 1 : North Kona

Pick up your rental car at Kona Airport and drive to Four Seasons Hualalai. After check-in, take an early lunch at Beach Tree Bar & Lounge in the resort.

Enjoy on-site activities such as golf, the beach, a spa massage or, for families, the "fish circus" at King's Pond, where colorful fish have been trained to perform tricks.

In the evening, sip cocktails as the sun sets and enjoy dinner at 'ULU Ocean Grill or Beach Tree for alfresco beachside dining.

Day 2 : South Kona

Take an early breakfast in your room before driving 45 minutes south for a coffee plantation tour at 10 a.m. at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. Or take a helicopter tour around the Big Island. 

After your excursion enjoy lunch at your leisure. For lunch with a view, head to the Coffee Shack.

In the afternoon, explore Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park or visit Kona Brewing Co. for a Kona beer.

Have dinner among the koi ponds and lush gardens of Holuakoa Cafe in Holualoa or at Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill back in North Kona.

Day 3 - 4 : Hilo & Day Trip

Leave the Four Seasons Hualalai early in the morning to make the 90-minute drive to Hilo via Saddle Road, passing between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea volcano, now dormant, reaches 13,796 feet above sea level, and rises over 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor, making it taller than Mount Everest. Mauna Loa is the world's largest subaerial volcano and covers half the island. 

Take a leisurely lunch upon arrival in Hilo — or, if it is a Wednesday or Saturday, head to the Hilo Farmers Market for a picnic.

Spend your afternoon exploring the lush Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, and then have dinner at Hilo Bay Cafe. You will overnight in Hilo.

DAY TRIP: SOUTH POINT OR HAWAI'I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Make a day trip of your choice. If you feel like a road trip, drive along the coast to South Point, the southernmost point in the United States, to gaze out at the vast Pacific Ocean. 

Alternatively, make your way to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea volcano, the most active in the world, spills 250,000 to 650,000 cubic yards of lava onto the land and into the ocean every day. Erupting continuously since 1983, it has added more than 500 acres to the area of the Big Island. 

One can easily spend a day or more exploring the park’s attractions, but save the most extraordinary sight until last: Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, is said to reside in a crater in the caldera of Kilauea known as the Halema'uma'u. As the sun sets, gather at the Jaggar Museum at the northwest rim of Kilauea for the best view. Like the crowds at Times Square waiting for the New Year’s countdown, you can peer at the caldera in anticipation of the moment when the gathering dusk will enable Pele to be revealed. A tenuous glow will be followed by fierce bursts of fiery red.

Return to Hilo for another night.

Day 5 - 6 : Hamakua Coast & Hawi

Depart early from Hilo after a quick breakfast. As you drive along the scenic Hamakua coast, you’ll see deep water-carved gulches and valleys, thick with tropical foliage. Along the way, stop at 'Akaka Falls State Park to witness two of Hawaii's most beautiful waterfalls. Or you can visit Hawaiian Vanilla Co. for a lunch featuring vanilla-based courses, a fascinating lecture and a tour of the plantation.

Continue on your scenic road trip and stop at the Waipio Valley Lookout to admire the dramatic beauty of the Big Island. This valley is about one mile across and over five miles deep, and surrounded by cliffs up to 2,000 feet high.

Complete your day of driving in Hawi, located on the northern tip of Hawaii Island. 

For dinner, Sushi Rock offers an extensive menu and imaginative and beautifully executed food. The island fish cakes with a spicy wasabi aioli, ponzu reduction and a delicious Asian slaw are not to be missed. Also sensational is the “Sunset” roll, filled with ahi, unagi and avocado, rolled in tobiko (flying fish roe) and topped with a sweet ponzu sauce. 

Check in at Puakea Ranch.

Explore Hawi

Take today to explore the quaint town of Hawi, home to delightful art galleriesrestaurants and boutiques set in colorful plantation buildings. A notable spot to visit is Ackerman Galleries, which contains compelling landscapes, intriguing abstracts and still lifes by artist Gary Ackerman. Just across the street, Ackerman Gift Gallery offers a fine array of local art and crafts: paintings, prints, clothing, woodcarvings, glass and jewelry.

Kohala Artworks sits back from the main road of Hawi and offers impressive prints, original paintings, koa woodcarvings, custom koa furniture, Hawaiiana collectibles and more.

If time allows, take a 30- to 40-minute drive to the Rare Hawaiian Honey CoThe basic product is an unusually creamy, mono-floral honey produced by bees kept in a 1,000-acre forest of kiawe, a variety of mesquite. Or make your way to the scenic Pololu Valley Lookout for panoramic views of Hawaii Island and the black sand beach below.

This evening return to your hotel and enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 7 : Waimea & The Kohala Coast

Depart Hawi and continue your road trip along the North Kohala coast to Waimea, known for its rolling green pastures, ranches and paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys). Have breakfast at Hawaiian Style Cafe for the banana macadamia nut pancakes and local Hawaiian comfort food.

Notable galleries to visit in Waimea include Harbor Gallery and Gallery of Great Things. Or if you prefer to discover more about Hawaii's ranch life, go on a horseback ride at Kahua Ranch.

In the evening, take an early dinner at Merriman's WaimeaPeter Merriman’s flagship restaurant, which for more than 25 years has championed Hawaii’s regional cuisine. Expect courses like hearty tomato soup, kalua pulled pork with house barbecue sauce, macadamia nut rice and stellar macadamia shortbread cookies.

Overnight at the beautiful Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Day 8 - 10 : Mauna Kea

Spend the rest of your time on the Big Island at your leisure. Your day may include waking up to take breakfast on your private lanai at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, a round at the hotel's 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course or pampering yourself with a spa treatment. There are plenty of kids' programs and pristine pools for the children. Or simply lie on the beach, taking in the Hawaiian sun while sipping hand-crafted cocktails. 

For a day trip during December through May, you can enjoy a memorable whale-watching experience off the Kohala coast aboard the six-passenger catamaran of Endless Summer Private Charters, the Makani Kai II, which sails from the small port of Kawaihae.

Dining options at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel include the main restaurant, Manta; the Copper Bar for tapas and cocktails; and Hau Tree for casual beachside dining.

On your last day, depart for your flight back home.

Day 1 : North Kona

Pick up your rental car at Kona Airport and drive to Four Seasons Hualalai. After check-in, take an early lunch at Beach Tree Bar & Lounge in the resort.

Enjoy on-site activities such as golf, the beach, a spa massage or, for families, the "fish circus" at King's Pond, where colorful fish have been trained to perform tricks.

In the evening, sip cocktails as the sun sets and enjoy dinner at 'ULU Ocean Grill or Beach Tree for alfresco beachside dining.

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10 Days on Hawaii's Big Island

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