Hawaii (The Big Island) Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

(The Big Island, Hawaii - HI, USA)

Photo showing whale watching cruisesThere is a huge amount on offer within the aptly named Big Island of Hawaii, with unique and exceptional tourist attractions never far away from the main beaches and related coastal resorts. Tourists holidaying on the Big Island will be able to enjoy some world-class attractions, such as surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, sport fishing and horse riding, while those feeling a little more adventurous may also like to consider an unforgettable helicopter tour of Hawaii, or even an underwater adventure onboard the Atlantis Submarine.

During the winter months, many huge humpback whales arrive in the warm waters around Hawaii, and subsequently, a whole new tourism industry has evolved, offering visitors to the Big Island the chance to observe these graceful giants in their natural habitat. For children, the tourist attractions don't come much better than the collection of animals at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, while for adults, do consider the scenic hiking trails along the Hamakua Coast.

Image of humpback whale, leaping in the island waters

Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruises

Address: Honokohau Harbor, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, HI-96740, Hawaii HI, USA
Tel: +1 808 322 0028
A number of different whale watching cruises are available around the Big Island and these attractions generally depart from Honokohau Harbor. Most tours last around three hours and if you don't get to see an actual whales, you can usually enjoy a complimentary trip another time. However, tourists will usually encounter plenty of friendly wild dolphins as you cruise around the Kailua-Kona coastline, and specific whale watching / dolphin packages often allow time for passengers to snorkel with the dolphins, which include a number of different species, such as Pacific bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins. Whatever the time of year, dolphin cruises are always available.
Open hours: seasonal variations
Admission: charge, concessions available

Photo of the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo / Panaewa Rainforest Reserve

Address: 800 Stainback Highway, Hilo, The Big Island, Hawaii HI, HI-96720, USA
Tel: +1 808 959 9233
Highly suitable for families who are looking for something different to the beaches of the Big Island, the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo is brimming with animal attractions, with close to 100 different types of species. This lush, tropical rain forest is home to everything from Hawaiian geese (nene), to reptiles, exotic birds, Capuchin monkeys, brown and ring-tailed lemurs, spider monkeys, and of course, the white Bengal Tiger. Visitors will enjoy picnicking in the lush gardens, where peacocks are often to be seen strolling around. This zoo offers the perfect family day out, particularly as entrance is complete free of charge. Children will particularly enjoy getting close-up to the cuddly animals in the Saturday petting zoo.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 16:00
Admission: free

Picture showing departing helicopter volcano tour

Helicopter Volcano Tours

Address: Lihue, The Big Island, HI-96766, Hawaii HI, USA
Tel: +1 808 246 0136
There really is no more memorable way to view the Big Island than by taking a helicopter tour. The aerial views are not only breathtaking, but also provide you with glimpses of many interesting tourist attractions which are quite difficult to reach by road, if not impossible at times. Helicopter tours of Hawaii also provide a very convenient way to sightsee in a just an hour or so, taking in sights along the Kona Coast, around the Waipio Valley and above Mauna Loa. All helicopters are fully air-conditioned, feature comfortable seating and offer commentary as you fly. However, as you would expect, these tours don't come cheap, with the main packages including a 'deluxe volcano and coastal safari', which lasts approximately 55 minutes and is discounted when booked in advance.
Open hours: daily - seasonal variations
Admission: charge, concessions available

East Hawaii Cultural Centre (EHCC)

Address: 141 Kalakaua Street, Hilo, The Big Island, HI-96720, Hawaii HI, USA
Tel: +1 808 961 5711
Located within the city of Hilo, where it has become central to local entertainment and general celebrations, the East Hawaii Cultural Centre offers an extensive calendar of performances. If you are fortunate, you may well be able to take in one of the regular shows, concerts or events, with the Big Island Hawaiian Music Festival each July being a particular favourite with locals. There are also a total of three public gallery spaces, where art works are regularly displayed, as well as an art studio and popular gift shop.
Open hours: daily - seasonal variations
Admission: charge, concessions available

View of Kikaua Point Beach

Snorkelling and Scuba Diving

The snorkelling on the Big Island is legendary and around the coastline you will discover some truly awesome expanses of coral reef, which are inhabited with brightly colourful tropical fish and marine creatures. In general, the best snorkelling attractions on Hawaii tend to be found around the Kona Coast in the morning, particularly around Honaunau Bay and the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Later on in the day, Puna is amongst the best snorkelling spots, where the spring-free Kapoho tide pools are a delight and heated by the island's underground volcanic activity. The are also endless opportunities for scuba diving around the coastline on the Big Island, and again, Kona stands out, being known for its inquisitive 'manta rays'. Night diving around Kona is the best way to get up close to some of the ocean's biggest rays, and with the water being illuminated by boat lights and being quite shallow, this is quite suitable for even the most inexperienced of divers.
Open hours: daily
Admission: free, charge for some activities and equipment hire

Image of trail leading to Makalawena Beach

Recreational Activities / Tours and Hiking

The Big Island is exactly as its name suggests and encompasses a huge expanses of various different landscapes, which are just perfect for all kinds of different recreational attractions and activities. Hiking is extremely popular and there are a number of scenic trails all around the island, particularly around the Hamakua Coast, Kona Coast, the Crater Rim Drive and the Saddle Road area, where the Mauna Kea Mountain is located. Mana Road is a great place for cycling, while for mountain biking, there are plenty of trails to choose from within the Volcano Park and the Waipio Valley. There are even horseback tours and mule rides available, which offer an enjoyable way to explore the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.
Open hours: daily
Admission: free