Seeking Hawaiian island adventures that are fun for the entire family? Look no further than the island of Hawaii itself – the largest in the Hawaiian chain and commonly known by its nickname, the Big Island. Widely renowned for its stunning biodiversity and incredible range of activities, the Big Island is home to both a rainy side and a dry side, meaning that whether you prefer the dried lava beds of Kona or the lush tropical foliage of Hilo, Hawaiian island adventures are guaranteed to await you at every turn!
1. Snorkel with Captain Zodiac
From snorkeling in the beautiful Kealakekua Bay to sailing past ancient lava tubes while snapping photos of spinner dolphins, Captain Zodiac’s raft and snorkel excursions are a must on your list of can’t-miss Hawaiian island adventures. Departing daily from Kona, Captain Zodiac tours range from a three-hour whale watch (offered December through April) to a five-hour midday extravaganza that comes complete with an on-board lunch. Zipping across the waves in one of Captain Zodiac’s open-air rafts puts you in closer proximity to sea life than you would be when traveling by catamaran, and the calm Kealakekua Bay snorkeling site guarantees a great experience, even if you’re a beginner.
2. Explore Volcanoes National Park
No trip to the Big Island would be complete without a visit to the famous Volcanoes National Park, home of the active Kilauea volcano. To get the most out of your experience, be sure to set aside an entire day for exploring. That way, you’ll allow plenty of time to take in everything from the Jaggar Museum, where you’ll learn all about volcanoes and enjoy watching steam rise from the depths of a crater, to Chain of Craters Road, where you just might catch a glimpse of lava pouring into the sea. The Thurston Lava Tube is an especially perfect stop for families interested in taking a short walk through a 500-year-old cave, while those seeking a slightly longer hike might also enjoy venturing across a dried lava field to the ancient Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs.
3. Witness Unique Wildlife at Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens
You may know all about lions and tigers and bears, but what about feral pigs, two-toed sloths and kinkajous? Oh, and let’s not forget Namaste', the stunning white Bengal tiger who also calls Hilo’s Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens – the only natural tropical rainforest zoo in the U.S. – his home! Need yet another reason to check out this uniquely beautiful site? Admission is always free!
4. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Big Island Candies
Bring on the sugar rush! Like the Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory of Hawaii, Big Island Candies in Hilo is nothing short of a sweet lover’s paradise. From the moment you walk in the front door, your senses will shift into overdrive as you find yourself drooling over everything from macadamia nut cookies to Hawaiian red chili toffee. Spoil your lunch by munching on the dozens of samples placed throughout the store, and indulge in a scoop of creamy coconut ice cream before washing it all down with a delicious taste of Kona coffee.
5. Snap Postcard-Worthy Pictures at Akaka Falls State Park
Home to two stunning waterfalls, Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls, this famous Big Island state park is the perfect place to capture next year’s family Christmas card photo after enjoying an easy 0.4-mile hike amongst lush vegetation and picturesque grottos. Swap your flip-flops for a comfy pair of hiking shoes, and don’t forget to pack your umbrella, too. Akaka Falls is located on the rainy side of the island, and that means pop-up showers are likely to strike at any time!
6. Soar to New Heights Atop Mauna Kea
Ever imagined what it might be like to walk on Mars? A journey 13,803 ft. above sea level to the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea will instantly transport you to a fascinating world of lunar-like landscapes and once-in-a-lifetime panoramic views. Temperatures are chilly, and the drive up to the top can be rough, so be sure to check conditions and plan accordingly before you go. Breaking out the gloves and heavy jacket may not be quite what you had in mind for a Hawaiian vacation, but once you’re there, this is definitely one Big Island adventure you’ll never forget!
7. Bring History to Life at the Pacific Tsunami Museum
Tsunamis are and always have been one of the world’s most devastating natural disasters. At the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, you’ll learn all about the science behind tsunamis, watch video footage from survivors, and see how technology is being used to help increase warning times and save lives. After you’ve explored the museum’s historical exhibits, you can also experiment with a hands-on wave generator that demonstrates just how tsunamis form and travel across the sea.
Have you ever visited the Big Island before? Which of these Hawaiian island adventures would you most like to try out?