Travel Guide

Travel Guide
Big Island Experiences

Big Island Experiences

Big Island Weddings

he venue choices on Big Island are endless, from a sunset beach ceremony on the Kona or Kohala Coast to the serene pagodas of Liliuokalani Gardens with Maunakea towering in the background. Fill a formal ballroom of a world-class resort with family and friends or exchange flower lei in a private ceremony, barefoot in the sand or with an erupting volcano as your backdrop.

Sail into the sunset with a ceremony at sea, marry in one of Hawaii’s oldest Christian churches or say your vows on horseback in the scenic uplands of Waimea. Big Island offers a multitude of accommodation specialists, caterers, photographers and musicians to make this the wedding of your dreams. Professional wedding planners can work with you remotely to make sure the biggest moment of your life receives the exceptional attention to detail it deserves.

Applying for a marriage license in Hawaii is easy. Hawaii has no residency or U.S. citizenship requirements, though proof of age is required. The prospective bride and groom must apply together with a completed official marriage license form before a marriage license agent. There is no waiting period or blood test required and the cost is $60 payable in cash only. The license is valid for 30 days only and a marriage certificate will be mailed after the wedding. Learn more about weddings in Hilo.

Family Fun on Big Island

As far as childhood memories go, this may be hard to beat. Watch as your kids run over several Japanese bridges in Liliuokalani Gardens. See them discover ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks at sites along the Kohala Coast. Let them stargaze through telescopes at the Ellison S. Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, 9,300 feet atop Maunakea (but note that the high altitude may not be suitable for younger children). Or join them as you explore the planetarium and interactive exhibits in the amazing Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii.

Outdoor adventures abound at family friendly parks and beaches with lifeguards and full picnic and restroom facilities. Build a sandcastle, explore tide pools, or snorkel with your kids to catch a glimpse of Hawaii Island’s rich marine life.

Back on land, learn about real-life paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) and take a wagon ride at the Kahua Ranch in Waimea. Exploring the volcano tubes and lava fields from an active volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an experience they’ll never forget. Whether it’s learning about astronomy, volcanology or oceanography, your children’s school excursions just won’t compare after this hands-on vacation.

Big Island Adventures

Taking a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the rest of the island’s hidden waterfalls, lush valleys and balmy beaches is just the beginning of an exhilarating Big Island expedition.

With surroundings ranging from lava-strewn deserts to tropical plantations and gardens, you can engage in every imaginable outdoor activity here. Snorkel or scuba with manta rays off the Kona Coast. Horseback ride in the grassy plains of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country in Waimea. Discover the 442-foot Akaka Falls and the 80-foot Waianuenue, also known as Rainbow Falls in Wailuku River State Park. Hike along the 150 miles of volcanic desert and tropical trails at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With so much to do and see, Big Island is known as “Hawaii’s Island of Adventure,” and it won’t take long for you to see just how appropriately named it is.

Big Island Relaxation

Whether it’s getting back to nature on a hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or taking a dip at Hapuna Beach, Big Island has its own unique activities and environments that will help you slow down and relax.

Spend the day window-shopping and sightseeing in Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona), the coffee and art town of Holualoa or beautiful Hawi. Take a road trip along the Hamakua Heritage Corridor then wander the historic streets of Downtown Hilo. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, set up a tee time at a spectacular golf course on the Kohala Coast then hit the spa in one of the island’s luxurious resorts. Wherever you go, you’ll notice the locals here are incredibly laid back.

Heritage Sites of Big Island

Heritage Sites of Hawaii are special places located throughout the islands that provide significant historical, cultural and environmental contributions to the understanding and enjoyment of Hawaii. Whether it’s a unique natural wonder; a National Park or Monument; or a sacred place that encapsulates Native Hawaiian customs, beliefs and practices; these are the sites that are “must see” destinations that have been visited by the people of Hawaii for generations.

There are seven Heritage Sites of Hawaii on Big Island. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Hawaii’s most popular visitor attractions. This expansive park is the world-famous home of some of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Maunaloa.

If you want to see a waterfall, visit Akaka Falls State Park. This park features a popular self-guided walk that features two amazing waterfalls, Akaka Falls (442 feet) and Kahuna Falls (100 feet).

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is a site where you can learn about life in early Hawaii by viewing fishponds, kii pohaku (petroglyphs) and heiau (temples).

On the southern Kona Coast, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is where the first westerner, Captain James Cook first set foot on the island of Hawaii in 1779. He died here just a year later. A monument stands here in his name.

Also on the Kona Coast, the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is a 180-acre national historic park that was once the site of royal grounds and was a place of refuge for Hawaiian lawbreakers. It fearures many interpretive exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture.

Part of the National Park System, Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site features one of the largest heiau (temple) built in Hawaii. One of the last major temples built by King Kamehameha I between 1790 -1791, this heiau played a significant role in the unification of the Hawaiian Islands.

Big Island Ecotourism

Big Island and all the Hawaiian Islands are complex but fragile ecosystems that are easily affected by outside influences. Hawaii has the highest number of endangered and threatened native plant and animal species of any place on the planet. You can learn about these ancient methods at museums and historic places like Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and see modern practices of sustainability in the efforts of Hawaii Regional Cuisine as well as the ranches of Waimea, the coffee farms of Kona and Holualoa, as well as the botanical gardens and farmers’ markets located throughout the island.

Like any large industry, tourism can put stresses on Hawaii’s natural beauty, heritage and people – the very treasures that you come to experience. Sustainable tourism on Island is about protecting, enhancing and conserving these resources for the enjoyment of future residents and visitors.

Big Island Arts & Culture

The Merrie Monarch Festival (follows Easter Sunday in March - April) is the world’s premier hula event held in Hilo. This weeklong celebration of the native art of the hula happens every Easter with halau (hula schools) from every island and the mainland practicing year-round for the event. This moving expression of music, dance and storytelling is part of how the people of Big Island continue to perpetuate and interpret the Hawaiian culture and its uniquely affirmative spirit of aloha.

Big Island Honeymoons

Begin your life together with the adventure of a lifetime. First, take some time off to relax and indulge in the comforts of Big Island’s finest resorts, beaches and restaurants. Then set out on some romantic day-trips, hunting for waterfalls in Hilo and along the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, exploring the lava tubes and trails of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and sharing unforgettable views at the Pololu Valley Lookout and the Waipio Valley Lookout.

Whether you want to relax with a game of golf or swim with manta rays, memorable honeymoon experiences are endless on Big Island. You’ll discover a variety of accommodations on the island, from world-class resorts to charming bed and breakfast hideaways. Take advantage of our honeymoon resources to plan what will be an unforgettable stay on Big Island.

Unexpected Big Island

During winter months you may see the snow-capped peaks atop the 13,796-foot Maunakea, the tallest sea mountain in the world. Stargazing or taking a tour atop Maunakea is just one example of the many unexpected attractions and activities you’ll find on Big Island.

Big Island’s coastlines offer even more surprises. Black, white and even green sand beaches encircle the island’s 266 miles of coastline, from Punaluu Black Sand Beach to Hapuna Beach. Scuba and snorkel in the clear waters of Kona and see honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), humpback whales in the winter, and massive manta rays who harmlessly swim within inches of you, taking your breath away. With so much ground to cover on Big Island, you’ll never know what you’ll find just around the corner.

Big IslandGolf Travel

With some of Hawaii’s most magnificent courses to choose from, some crafted by the biggest names in course design, Big Island is known as the “Golf Capital of Hawaii.” Discover courses along the Kohala Coast, such as the Jack Nicklaus designed Hualalai Golf Course, the championship Francis H. Ii Brown courses of the Mauna Lani Resort and the Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed courses at Mauna Kea Resort. Not to be outdone, play the two courses of the Waikoloa Beach Resort designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Discover a variety of other hidden gems throughout Big Island and play amongst the striking contrasts of lush green fairways, pure white bunkers, jet-black lava flows and turquoise Pacific waters. Hit a bad shot and you can always blame it on Big Island. Views like this justify a mulligan.

Full list of Big Island golf courses:

  • Sea Mountain Golf Course

  • Volcano Golf & Country Club

  • Hamakua Country Club
  • Big Island Country Club
  • Hualalai Golf Club
  • Makalei Golf Club
  • Hapuna Golf Course
  • Mauna Kea Golf Course

  • Mauna Lani Resort - Francis H. Ii Brown North Course

  • Mauna Lani Resort - Francis H. Ii Brown South Course

  • Waikoloa Beach Resort - Beach Course
  • Waikoloa Beach Resort - Kings' Course

  • Waikoloa Village Golf Club

  • Hilo Municipal Golf Course
  • Naniloa Country Club

Manta Ray Diving on Big Island

The mysterious manta ray is one of the largest fishes in the ocean with wingspans of up to 20 feet or more and Hawaii Island offers your best opportunity to encounter these amazing creatures. As intimidating as these otherworldly mantas look, they are actually quite friendly. Unlike stingrays or eagle rays, mantas do not have stingers. They feed on microscopic plankton, which accounts for their large, gaping mouths.

The Kona Coast is the best place to spot manta rays in Hawaii. At night, spotlights are used to attract mantas that feed off the plankton illuminated by the light. You can see this show just offshore at resorts like the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, just south of Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona). But the very best way to experience manta rays is to go on a night boat tour.

Note that manta ray diving tours are held year round, with no peak season. On any given day you can see anywhere from a couple of mantas to more than a dozen depending on plankton levels.