ALOHA readers! I’m SO excited to put together this travel guide for you all!! My mom and I went to The Big Island in Hawaii and stayed in Kailua, Kona for the first time earlier this month. This was our first time to Hawaii and definitely won’t be our last.
As you step off the plane at the Kona Airport, there is nothing between you and the runway – you feel the warm, humid and fresh air overcome you as you step out of the airplane and down from the ramp. It’s such a beautiful site on the plane ride in… and even more beautiful as you land. You know you are in a special place when you arrive.
I’ve put together a full itinerary of our trip, which was about 7 days in length. We found that around 1 week was the perfect amount of time to stay – any less than that and it would be too little.
Day 1 – Arrival
With the flight taking up most of the day on our first day, we got to the hotel later, just in time for dinner. The flight takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes. It’s worth it to fly Hawaiian Airlines and upgrade to the extra comfort seats if you can – you can relax and get some great food on this airline!
Day 2 – Hotel + Downtown Kona Exploration
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel in downtown Kailua, Kona. It’s a waterfront hotel, complete with an INCREDIBLE on-site restaurant, beach activities such as snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and sun-bathing, and a pool/bar area with fantastic food. This hotel even has the best Luau – we didn’t go but we were able to see it from our waterfront room and the party looked super fun.
The second half of this day was spent exploring and shopping in downtown Kona. Notable shops are just around the bend from our hotel. There are crystal shops, clothing shops, fun places to buy little trinkets and Hawaiian souvenirs. The downtown Kona scene is definitely worth checking out.
Day 3 – Punalulu Lookout Hike + Mauna Kea Beach
We mapped out our entire trip based on what we wanted to see and the locations of each destination, since the Big Island is so BIG (lol)… Definitely rent a car and plan accordingly for the attractions that you want to see. You can’t make it around the island in one day.
The second day we drove up North to check out the Punalulu Hike, a major tourist attraction but one that’s actually worth it. The hike itself is about 30 minutes to and 1 hour both ways, so you want to plan ahead and bring water and hiking shoes, as this is a lookout point but wouldn’t be worth it without the hike in my opinion.
The hike leads you to a black sand beach surrounded by massive green mountains and valleys reminiscent of Jurassic Park. My mom was overjoyed at this, since it’s her favorite movie! You can walk along the beach and through the woods behind it and it’s just stunning.
On the way back, we headed to the Mauna Kea resort since I heard a bit about it from a friend. It’s a lovely, smooth-watered, white sand beach where you can do all of the swimming you wish! The beach is actually for the resort’s guests, but part of it is open to the public. A great way to end the day before heading back to the hotel.
Day 4 – Snorkeling + City of Refuge
Day 4 was perhaps my favorite day… It’s hard to choose but this one was up there. I’m a big snorkeler, so we planned out the entire day to snorkel on the west side of the island, which is where all the white sand beaches are. The first spot we headed to was Kahalu’u Beach Park, which is 17 miles south of Kona. We saw a huge amount of fish here, but there were a lot of people. I would highly recommend swim shoes, as the rocks can get rough going into the water.
The next spot we went was Honaunau Bay at the City of Refuge, which is 22 miles south of Kona. This beach is also called “Two-Step” because you walk down two steps in order to get into the water. You can get in other ways through rocky terrain, which my mom and I found out isn’t the best way… So definitely use the TWO-STEPS haha. The water was very clear here and the coral was unbeatable – my favorite place we went for snorkeling.
Next, we walked around to the City of Refuge, or the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. It was said in the time of ancient Hawai’i, Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau possessed extraordinary mana or spiritual power. The Royal Grounds were a center of power, open only to ali’i and those serving them. It served as a place of refuge for those who broke the sacred laws and beliefs by which all lived.
It was such a beautiful experience and beautiful grounds, so worth a visit. Be sure to bring about $10 for an entrance fee.
Day 5 – Cabanas + Snorkeling at Hotel
By Day 5, we were a bit tired out from our marathon days prior, so we hung out and snorkeled at our hotel… which has incredible snorkeling on the actual beach and directly to the east near the parking lot for the hotel.
At the Kona Beach Hotel, you can rent cabanas for around $50 per day, which are great for shade and if you want a little pampering all day with servers bringing you food and drinks 😉
Day 6 – Akaka Falls + Hawaii Botanical Gardens + Hilo + Mauna Kea
Okay… I take it back when I said that Day 4 was my favorite day. Day 5 was definitely it. This day, we drove up around Mauna Kea (the inactive volcano in the center of the island) and to a park with Akaka Falls, which is a waterfall near the town of Hilo on the east side of the island. The hike itself was only about 30 minutes on a paved road (accessible by those who can walk) to a waterfall. My mom loved the waterfall and hike, however I was underwhelmed.
The next stop was to a goat farm – we just pulled over on the side of the road and went in and I’m so glad we did! I got to play with baby goats… what a DREAM. The farm is called Honomu Goat Dairy. Stop by here!!!
We then went back and stumbled upon the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens on our way to checkout Hilo. This place was MAGIC. If there is one thing you need to do in Hawaii on the Big Island, it’s go to the botanical gardens. We were absolutely BLOWN AWAY and no words can describe the majesty of this creation – it encompasses all of Hawaii in one place. It brought me to tears visiting it and my mom would say the same. I didn’t take many pictures in the gardens or this day just because I wanted to be fully immersed in the experience.
Finally, we had dinner in Hilo and headed back to the hotel – but there was one last thing I thought up to do on the way back. We headed up Mauna Kea and witnessed the Milky Way (since it was pitch black when we drove back). What an incredible sight… If you’ve seen the milky way before, you know what I mean.
Day 7 – Departure
By this time, we were so exhausted but our hearts were so full from the experience. Thank you to Kona Beach hotel, for the amazing stay – it wouldn’t have been complete without the wonderful staff, food, and accommodations!
I hope this travel guide gives you an idea of what a 7 day trip to the Big Island could look like… We will definitely be back here. (Maybe move?!?! Lol jk but really…)