Are you planning to visit the Big Island of Hawaii this fall? Discover our favorite things to do on the Island in the fall, where to stay and some must-see places to visit during your stay!
The Big Island of Hawaii November 2018
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The Big Island (officially named Hawaii) is the largest island in the United States’ Hawaiian archipelago in the Central Pacific. Its diverse terrain spans colored-sand beaches at Papakolea (green) and Punalu’u (black) to lush rainforest. Within Volcanoes National Park, there are 2 active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Hapuna Beach and Kahalu’u Beach Park in the west are popular snorkeling sites.
Hawaii is my home away from home! I have been coming here since I was a kid myself and am so lucky to be able to visit as often as I do! The Big Island holds a special place in my heart and every time I come here I experience something different and there is something new to see! I love exploring it with my kids, and I love that I have this website so I can share it with you too!
First and foremost I will give credit to my all-time favorite book “HAWAII, THE BIG ISLAND REVEALED” which you can buy (Here) or REI sporting goods store.
Why do you need this book when everything is online? Well first of all a lot of places in Hawaii don’t have great cell service especially when your out exploring and second of all the book tells the stories and the history behind each place and I never go exploring without it! That being said, This book was written for a very large audience and it is 100% the author’s opinion of the “best things” and “must-sees”. Somethings that they said were amazing weren’t my cup of tea or maybe it wasn’t great with kids and other recommendations were spot on!
So between this blog post and the book, I think you should be covered and see the best of the Island!
Where to stay
We had a total of 11 people on this recent trip including my family of four, my parents, and my husband’s sister and her family from Australia. All in all it was 5 kids and 6 adults. We decided on a VRBO that could accommodate all of us! I almost always stay in Mauna Lani because it is the sunny side of the Island with the best weather, and if you get a VRBO here you have access to the private beach club which is incredible.
The house we rented on this trip was PERFECTION. It had 3 master suites and a fourth bedroom for the kids, a private pool, a lovely well-stocked kitchen, 2 car garage and every beach toy you can imagine was there for our use. The house was very clean and well taken care of as well!
I did a private tour of the home so you can get a real feel for the home instead of just professional photos you find online.
Another added benefit of getting a VRBO is the convenience of a full kitchen, being able to cook, pack lunches, wash bottles, and do laundry.
Resorts and Hotels
If you are looking for a morning walk that is good exercise but also do-able with the kids, this is one I highly recommend. There is parking and a paved path that you can walk and bring a stroller if necessary. You can see a gorgeous fish pond with jumping fish, lava tubes, a ton of history and then walk along the entire coast. It’s breathtaking scenery and best if you go early in the morning around 7/8 am before it gets too hot!
Mauni Launi Private Beach Club
This beach club is included if you stay in Mauni Lani at any of the houses or condos. We love it here because there is a full restaurant and bar on the beach where you can order food or just grab a drink.
There is white sand, crystal clear water, amazing snorkeling, paddleboards to rent and no waves since it’s protected in a bay.
It is a dream for parents with kids because this beach has it all! You can also order a glass of wine at the bar and they will put it in a plastic cup for you to bring down by the water! (yes please)
My favorite sunset cruise on the Island is also here in Mauna Lani! It’s kinda pricey at $100 pp but you do get appetizers, cocktails and the most amazing concert with live music while the sunsets!
Just make sure Joey is working or you’ll miss out on the music and that would ruin the whole thing! Kids have to be at least 3 years old so you cannot bring babies on this one! I was going to bring my 5-year-old but this ended up just being an adult cruise for us this time! Book your sunset cruise (HERE)
Waipio Valley is something you cannot miss if you are visiting the Big Island. It is one of the most beautiful spots on the Island. Steep walls surround the black sand beach with waterfalls along the edges. Fifty Generations of Hawaiians have lived and died here and they believe the spiritual mana or supernatural power left by those departed is preserved and felt to this day. A picture will not do it justice! You must come and see it and breathe it all in 🙂
Some people go all the way to the bottom, but you would have to have 4 wheel drive and the escalade is much too big since it’s a very narrow and dangerous road. Honestly, I have been down a few times and don’t think it’s necessary. Just go to the top and view it all from the lookout point. If you absolutely need to go down – then pay for the guided tour so a professional can drive you down and back up!
The next stop you shouldn’t miss is Laupahoehoe Point. Laupahoehoe is known for its scenic views, but it also holds a tragic story and is said to still be cursed to this day! There was a tsunami that 39 people and over half of them were young kids on April Fool’s Day in 1946. The names and ages of the victims were engraved on a rock, which you can see below..
Most of my family said I was crazy and didn’t want to come to the cursed area but I insisted on coming and it is breathtaking and gorgeous! It also makes for an insane photo backdrop because of the bright blue water against the black rocks!
Apparently, the story on the Island is that the place is still haunted and cursed to this day! The ocean is angry and it’s always rough seas here. It is so dangerous that you should never, ever swim here. You shouldn’t even go on a boat or anywhere on the water. In 1996 there was a Toyota barge carrying a bunch of cars and the whole thing capsized and sank .. I guess the insurance company wanted to come out to investigate and even though was told not to land here, they landed the helicopter anyway .. and a wave crashed over it killing the pilot and the insurance guy as well as sinking the helicopter! It had an eerie feeling about it as you walk around and the energy is strong and unsettling. I thought it was amazing to experience and you should come to check it out too! If you look at the photos below and see the Jetty and old boat ramp, it is no longer of use.
Small pit stop
If you keep driving this side of the Island stop here on the side of the road. It’s about 2 miles before akaka falls and it literally looks like jurassic park! It’s worth the stop and this photo really doesn’t do it justice. . .
I love bringing the kids here. It’s a fairly easy hike about 2 miles all the way around. It is paved and has lots of stairs going up and down so you can’t bring a stroller. My 5 year old walks it perfectly fine without getting tired and the baby was in the Ergo.
I would recommend water though because it does get hot in certain parts that aren’t covered by trees. Once you reach the waterfall there are some benches for a break and if I didn’t have kids I would probably sit and admire for hours! I do always see yogis here meditating and taking it all in. That will be me one day .. but not today! haha
Oh, yes before I forget, parking is free but when you go to enter the hike they charge $5.00 per car to enter. Pretty cheap if you ask me!
After Akaka Falls you are only 20 minutes to the town Hilo so you might as well go check it out! My family always wants to eat at the Hilo Bay Cafe.
(Which I can’t for the life of me understand why! Partially because I hate seafood and it’s known for its sushi and fresh fish and also because it is run by a bunch of hardcore hippies that are slow as FU*CK. Like literally you will wait 20 minutes for your drink and plan to be there for 2 hours or more. Even if you order sushi that doesn’t have to be cooked)
But please, DON’T listen to me if you like fish because, in our party of 11, I am the only one who doesn’t like this place. All the others rave how fantastic it is! It also has a beautiful view of the bay and great kids meals.
The Magic Tree
Directly across the street from the Hilo Bay Cafe is a park and within the park you will find the most beautiful magical tree I have ever encountered. The Banyon tree has been here for thousands of years. It is hard to describe this feeling without being under the tree in person, however, if you have the opportunity you should absolutely take the time to walk under the tree and just admire it and breath it all in.
You will thank me afterward!
I usually come to visit these falls every time I am in Hilo! It is literally a 10-minute drive from the downtown area and you can just park right there for free and then you’re at the waterfall!
It’s so gorgeous and it’s just way to easy to access. If you are in Hilo then you absolutely must stop here. It will take you all of 10 minutes and is full of so much beauty! They call it rainbow falls because the light always shines just perfect on the water and creates rainbows all day long <3
Big Island Luau
If you are looking for a luau. The best one on the island is FREE! Yup, 100% percent free.
They do not serve dinner, but the show is so good and includes the fire dancers, the Island History and a great show. It is put on by a local school for hula and this is how they practice. The performers are really good and probably about to graduate as they don’t seem any different than the others at the expensive luau’s I have been too!
The show is in Mauna Lani in front of the local grocery store shopping center. They have a built-in stage and seating. It only goes on Monday and Thursday nights. You need to arrive at 5:30 pm and the kids can make real flower lais and crafts before the show.
If you call the grocery store they tell you it starts at 7 pm and they are wrong. You will miss the whole show. Even though I knew better I let my husband tell me otherwise and I thought hmm maybe they changed the time. But no we just missed half the show! So make sure you go on time!
Happy Hour at the Fairmont
One night you should definitely go to the Fairmont and enjoy happy hour and listen to the amazing live music. They also have sea turtles on a protected beach that your kids will love to see! And at 8 pm the big lights shine down on the water and you will see all of the giant bat rays! super cool.
Valet parking is FREE too and you don’t have to be a guest so it’s a great secret spot to visit! I also always make the kids get dressed up because the grounds here are really pretty and you can get a good family photo!
Mauna Kea Beach
This is probably one of my favorite beaches on the Island. The sand is butter soft and the water is always super warm, crystal clear and has great snorkeling too. Also, the waves are so small but perfect for teaching the littles to boogie board.
If you are staying here then you have no problems accessing the beach, but if you’re not staying here then you have to arrive at 8 AM sharp. The parking lot only has 36 spots for the public and it fills up right away! Even in offseason and even during the week. So make sure you get up early and show up on time!! It might sound like a lot of work for vacation but trust me it’s worth it!
My second favorite beach on the Island is Kua Bay! OMG… it’s insanely gorgeous. I don’t like to stay for too long though because there is usually a strong current and not the best for the kids! However, worth stopping by and swimming for an hour or so! Make sure you go early enough to get parking since there are not that many spots and it fills up pretty quickly. Otherwise go at 3/4 pm and you should have a spot as the morning people will be leaving.
They also just recently added stairs and showers making it a lot easier to access for you!
The Hilton Wikoloa
Alright, I won’t say too much about the Hilton Waikoloa Resort because it really isn’t my favorite place. I have stayed here a few times and its just mehhh.. but since we had the Aussies with us and they had never been it’s a fun place to take the kids.
The kids like the dolphins, ice cream sandwiches, trains, boats and waterslides in the pool. You can pay $20.00 to park and just go in. Maybe pretend like you’re staying there and don’t pack a big giant big so you stand out. We just wear our bathing suits and a little cover-up and probably look like hotel guests. 🙂
Black Sand Beach
If you have the time YOU MUST take the time to drive up to the real black sand beach. From Mauna Lani, you have to drive all the way around the other side of the island and it takes about 2 hours and is 100% worth it! The drive is very pretty with tons of little towns and scenic views.
Last but not least, is the Volcano! The national park just reopened while we were there (November 2018) after the huge eruptions that took place in the summer of 2018. It was cool to see I will admit. However, every book and article I read says you must stay in the town of Volcano so you have enough time to see it all. So, we did…
We rented an entire yoga retreat to accommodate the 11 of us, and I would love to tell you all about the retreat but that would be a whole other article in itself! What I will tell you is that I would probably never stay in Volcano again. Ever! I thought 2 hours was enough in the national park. If you are really into hiking and that is your thing then I think 6 hours would be enough in the park! Even if you were extra extra into hiking the volcano I would still suggest you stay in Hilo overnight which is a 45-minute drive and then do two full days in the park.
Anyway, the cost of the park is $25 per vehicle to enter and then you can come back as much as you want for the next 7 days! You will see lots of flowers and offerings here as the people are paying respect to the volcano god PELE! The entire town worships this goddess and it is very cool to experience and see. But then… I am ready to get back to the beach! 🙂