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How to Spend 3 Days on the Big Island

How to Spend 3 Days on the Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is world-famous for a long list of attractions—natural landscapes, active volcanoes, lush greenery, and warm blue waters. With three days to spend, you have time for an overview, active adventuring, and a visit a neighboring island. Here are our picks for three days on the Big Island.

Day 1: Around the Island

One way to see the island when you’re pressed for time is a guided circle island tour. Plan for an early start as you head out to see highlights of the Big Island. Soak up views from the Waipio Valley lookout, stop at the spectacular waterfalls along the Hamakua Coast, look for sea turtles on the black sand Punaluu Beach, watch an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, tour a Kona coffee plantation, and learn about the cultural heritage of the island at Puuhonua, a sacred place of refuge. If you prefer less time on the road, opt for a helicopter tour above the island to see its highlights, giving you more time in the afternoon to explore Hilo or Kailua-Kona or relax on the beach. End your day with a beachside luau and traditional Polynesian feast.

Day 2: Outdoor Adventure

Now that you’ve seen what the Big Island has to offer, it’s time for an outdoor adventure. There’s an adventure for all thrill levels. Go snorkeling or dolphin-watching on Kealakekua Bay, head beneath the surface of the sea aboard the Atlantis Kona submarine, go on a zipline through the verdant Kohala canopy, cycle around an active volcano, or trek past waterfalls (with a stop for a swim) along the island’s northern coast. No matter what you choose to do by day, plan for an unforgettable evening under the stars with a guided tour to the summit of Mauna Kea, the Big Island’s highest point and a prefered setting for sunsets and stargazing.

Day 3: Off-Island Exploration

You’ve experienced the best of the Big Island on and off the water. On your last day, take the opportunity to visit one of the other islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu. There’s a lot to see on Hawaii’s most populated island. Opt for a day trip to explore downtown Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, where a Japanese attack launched the US into World War II, or choose a circle island tour to see Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head Crater, and the charming town of Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore. With an early departure and a late return to the Big Island, consider a low-key dinner at your resort or in one of the many restaurants in Hilo or Kailua-Kona.

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9 Tours and Activities

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Night Manta Ray Adventure
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Night Manta Ray Adventure

star-5
1402
Have a unique Big Island experience snorkeling with manta rays on this tour. Led by a local guide, you’ll take a short cruise out to the manta site, where you’ll watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunset before dipping into the water to watch the manta rays up close. All necessary equipment will be provided for your excursion, as well as light refreshments and snacks to enjoy on board. Your tour will conclude at its original departure point. If you don't see manta rays on this excursion, book again for another night--no charge.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$70.00
From
$70.00

Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour
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Mauna Kea Summit and Stars Small-Group Adventure Tour

star-4.5
681
Experience big skies and incredible nighttime views on this Mauna Kea stargazing trip with a small group. Join no more than 28 guests for a warm pre-trip picnic, proceeded by a ride in a 4x4 luxury van to the summit of the Big Island's tallest peak. After admiring a sunset view, continue down to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) for a stargazing session, complete with a telescope, hot chocolate, and dessert. The trip also includes a guide and a hooded parka to keep you warm.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$246.07
From
$246.07

Helicopter Lava and Rainforests Adventure from Hilo

Helicopter Lava and Rainforests Adventure from Hilo

star-4.5
159
A must-do for adrenaline junkies, this aerial adventure takes you over the island’s volcanic landscape, so you can peer into craters and spot lava. Plus enjoy views of waterfalls and other natural features of the Big Island while aboard.
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  • 55 minutes to 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$352.03
From
$352.03

Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour

Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour

star-5
261
Casually cruise the Kona coastline and snorkel with tropical marine life, as you splash in the waters of Kealakekua Bay on this deluxe Kona snorkeling cruise. Snorkeling equipment is provided on board, and professional instruction makes this Big Island snorkeling cruise a fun-filled family adventure. On the cruise between shore and the snorkeling site, keep your eyes peeled for spinner dolphins, turtles or even manta rays, and enjoy views of volcanic formations along the Kona coast.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$176.03
From
$176.03

Atlantis Submarine Kona - Hawaii Island

Atlantis Submarine Kona - Hawaii Island

star-4.5
203
On this exciting Kona submarine tour, dive deep below the cobalt waters just off the Kona coast, where an entire world of fish and marine creatures is waiting just below the surface. As the submarine descends towards the colorful reef, peer through the portholes at fish that swim to within inches of the submarine windows, and experience the sense of peace and calm in this world beneath the waves. This is a great way to explore underwater without even getting your hair wet, and, if you’re very lucky, there’s even the chance you could see a passing shark.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From
$152.12
From
$152.12

Big Island Kohala Canopy Zipline Adventure
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Big Island Kohala Canopy Zipline Adventure

star-5
318
Fly across the lush forest of the Big Island’s northern Kohala region on a zipline adventure near Kapaau. Trek through the treetops in a canopy park featuring a series of suspension bridges, platforms, and thrilling ziplines. Expert instructors are on-hand to ensure everyone’s safety while cruising across the customizable, whisper-quiet course.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$208.38
From
$208.38

Kohala Waterfalls Small Group Adventure Tour
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Kohala Waterfalls Small Group Adventure Tour

star-5
154
Delve into Hawaii’s history and prepare to get wet on this full-day waterfall adventure tour of the Big Island’s Kohala coast. Begin with a drive up the Kona coastline past lava flows, and take in sweeping views from the old Kohala Mule Station lookout. Rumble through the rugged landscape in an off-road vehicle and hike along the tunnels and aqueducts of a historic sugar plantation. Admire the seven Kohala waterfalls and cool off with a dip under the final cascade. A picnic lunch and hotel transport are included.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$204.19
From
$204.19

Kona Tour: Coffee Plantation, Kealakekua Bay, Kaloko-Honokohau Park, and Bee Farm
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Kona Tour: Coffee Plantation, Kealakekua Bay, Kaloko-Honokohau Park, and Bee Farm

star-4.5
60
There’s much more to the Big Island of Hawaii than volcanoes, waterfalls and luaus, and on this informative tour of the South Kona region, you’ll learn the sacred history of this shoreline and sample the local honey and famous Kona coffee. With the help of a knowledgeable guide, you’ll visit petroglyphs, look for green sea turtles and visit sacred Hawaiian temples. Even better: you'll hear the legends, mythology and lore of ancient Hawaii through today. This tour is capped at 15 people, so you’re ensured a personalized experience.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$145.55
From
$145.55

Triple Crater Hawaii Volcano Hiking Adventure

Triple Crater Hawaii Volcano Hiking Adventure

star-5
54
Explore three volcanic craters during one great trip on this 11.5-hour excursion on the Big Island. Travel aboard a high-end Mercedes van as you trek to the still-steaming Mauna Ulu, enjoy an amazing hike across Kilauea Iki crater and discover the summit of Kilauea Caldera. All entrance fees, plus a deli-style lunch and and local-style dinner are included.
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  • 11 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$1,281.06
per group
From
$1,281.06
per group