Last week we discussed How To Rent a Vacation Dream House in Hawaii with important tips and recommendations to assure fabulous accommodations on The Big Island. It showcased the Rock Star home we rented for our 8th year anniversary in October 2017. What did we do for the week? Now that you know where to stay, let the adventures and eats begin!
No question that The Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most unique islands in The World! It is the island to be if you love to explore and being outdoors. People from all over travel to this island for unique adventures and learn about it’s interesting eco systems and natural wonders.
This site contains affiliate links we love and may receive a commission at no additonal cost to you. See Full disclosure.
From overhead to under your feet views of the The Big Island, take The Spectacular Helicopter Tour. One of the main reasons visitors flock to The Big Island is for the active volcanoes that ooze lots of lava.
Kilauea is one of the five volcanoes that has been erupting since 1983. It massively exploded again May 3, 2018 causing tons of damage and evacuations. Luckily, we weren’t there for the dangerous explosion, but we did see the amazing churning lava by air in a helicopter the year before.
We took the Big Island Spectacular Helicopter Ride and it’s nothing short of it’s name. The Big Island has so much visual variety to offer as it has 9 different ecosystems on 1 island and you can see it all within 3 hours in a helicopter.
We were lucky on so many levels that day.
- First we were randomly selected by the computer to sit in the front 2 seats. Because these helicopters are built purely for tourism and have floor to ceiling windows, all seats are good, but the front seats are the best for pictures!
- Second, we got to see active lava in a volcano. Super cool! It was kind of damp and foggy on some parts of the island and sometimes lava doesn’t even flow, but the day we went, we caught some awesome shots of it!
- Third, due to the need of rerouting because of visibility in some parts, our tour was extended about 35 minutes and we got to see the infamous Green Beach! That area was so beautiful. One of my other favorite sites was in the beginning when we went into some large valleys and saw several waterfalls side by side streaming down from thousands of feet high.
Our pilot was great and very nice. He made sure we got to see everything and we were so grateful! Please do yourself a favor and book this amazing tour
Hot Tip: Try to get seats in the front of the helicopter for best views and pictures. Book Experience $599 pp
We never parasailed until Hawaii and it was awesome. It was our first time using our GroPro too and since then, do not go anywhere without it. There’s a small group that meets up at a dock and rides out in a speed boat. Parties of 2 go one at a time.
The parasail experience is only 10 minutes in the air and the rest of the time, you’re just on a boat cruising around the bay as others take their turn. Time in the air can be determined by how high you go too. We were 1200 feet high for the extreme experience. The lift off was exciting, then it feels like you’re just floating balloon.
Hot Tip: Ask how high and how long of airtime the parasail actually lasts so you can better price compare.Book Experience $96-107 pp
Ever wanted to visit Jurassic Park? I don’t think dinosaurs are coming back anytime soon, but prehistoric islands do exist. We took a day tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail and had a blast hiking private trails and swimming in a waterfall.
We saw so many interesting species of fauna and beautiful waterfalls. This company has exclusive rights to these trails so it was pretty awesome to get to see the private properties. We captured amazing photos and it felt like we were in Jurassic Park. The rugged military vehicle was a fun ride getting around the rough terrain. It was like being on a safari riding around in it. Definitely wear hiking shoes and some kind of impermeable jacket/pullover.
It gets kind of misty especially around the waterfalls when it’s been raining. Our guide was highly knowledgeable and funny man. He obviously enjoys his job very much. They recently filmed the sequel to Avatar in these parts, and it was interesting hearing how the actors reacted to the area. Good times, would definitely recommend!
Hot Tip: Wear comfortable hiking shoes, active attire, and water resistant outerwear for the misty conditions. Bring bathing suit and towel to swim. Book Experience $195 pp
This is NOT swimming in a captive pool or area with dolphins. This is swimming with dolphin families in the natural open water where they are completely free to roam on their own.
The tour with Alii Ocean Tours was excellent. We swam with many dolphin families and it was fascinating to see and hear them swim all around us. I️ saw a pair of dolphins coupling right in front of me! I️ liked how the a member of the crew swam with the group to help navigate seeing the pods of dolphins in the water.
The drinks and snacks they offer on the boat were high quality and enough to get you through the half day tour. The boat was nice too. The second stop on the tour was a cool snorkel spot to see colorful fish, interesting corals and live rock. The service, knowledge, and overall experience were all top notch. I️ would not hesitate to book this company again.
Hot Tip: Bring your underwater camera. You don’t want to miss all the interaction. Don’t have one? Try this GoPro, we love it!
The Big Island is one of the handful of places where you can snorkel or dive with manta rays. Out of all the tours we did in Hawaii, this one was disappointing. We booked The Night Swim With the Manta Rays snorkel excursion the night before we left the island. There was only one tour guide available that could take us at it’s last departure at 9pm. Here’s a picture of what we took of another group looking for mantas.
The group before us had luck seeing the manta rays, but unfortunately within the minutes it took us to get out there, they were gone. One of the guides on our boat really tried her heart out to seek them out and swam around for at least 20 minutes. We didn’t even get in the water, so at the end of the fruitless tour the company was kind in fully refunding our tour. We were not the only company that was out there. Several other tour companies experienced the same fate as we all tried to find the manta rays.
Although it was a bummer missing the manta rays, I would still recommend this unique adventure. The tour comes with a wetsuit rental and snorkel. Once you’re in the water, you hold onto a board in the water where you can see the manta’s dance all around you.
Hot Tip: Get a tour that Guarantees the manta rays and Schedule this tour with plenty of days to spare in case a reschedule is needed to see the manta rays. These animals are wild and there’s always a small chance they may not be around during your initial tour. Book experience $98.60 pp
Scuba Dive 2 Tank Half Day Excursion
I wanted to do my open water dives in Hawaii to complete my scuba diving certification. Because of the water surges, I could only complete 2 of the 4 dives required. The ocean waters around The Big Island can be rough and unpredictable. I’m not sure it was the best conditions for a newbie. I’ve never been sea sick but became really nauseous on the boat ride to and from the dive sites.
We booked with a PADI certified dive shop, Kona Diving Company or KDC. Since Hawaii has vast open waters over there, their policy is no more than 2 students per instructor. I happen to be the only student that day and so thankful I was. I had a panic attack on my second dive and surfaced quickly drinking in at least a gallon of sea water that also made me sick.
If you’re a newbie, The Big Island might be a bit of challenge. For my hubby who has been certified for years, he had a blast swimming around taking great vids. The PADI instructors were excellent for students and divers. KDC takes safety very seriously. They even check to see if its been too long between dives and will make you get a refresher course before renting with them. It doesn’t have to be with them, but it does need to be with a certified shop.
Cost is $135 for 2 tank certified dives and $285 for 2 tank open water course dives.
Hot Tip: Be certified before you get to The Big Island and don’t forget your dramamine. If you’re certified, check with dive shops to see if refresher course will be needed to rent scuba dive gear. Book with KDC
Please do not come to Hawaii and miss a luau! Luaus are all about the pig and hula dancing. It’s such a blast! The Mariott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel throws award winning luaus a few times a week. Tickets include the lavish Hawaiian style buffet, drinks, and Polynesian performance.
They really go all out on the food and performances. With a waterfront backdrop of Kamakahonu Bay and Ahu’ena, it was a fabulous production where the Royal family attends the dinner. Tons of various Hawaiin dances were performed throughout the evening.
The food was better than we expected. We were impressed with the ceremonial cooking of the pig. The piggy was cooked all day in an underground clay oven called an imu. When it was ready, they performed a quick ceremony to it’s unveiling.
Hot Tip: For best views of the show, you can upgrade your tickets to VIP where you also get additional gifts and invited first to the buffet line.
Where to Eat
As foodies, we enjoy great eats everywhere we go. The Big Island’s food style is farm to table. We enjoyed trying Hawaiian local popular ingredients. Some of our faves include the Kona chocolate, Hawaiian sweet potatoes that are purple, Hapu’upu’u fish, and poke.
‘Ulu Ocean Grill at The Four Seasons Hualalai (Fine Dine)
Everything was great with fantastic outdoor ocean front seating. You do not want to miss the Poke made table side, lobster, and chocolate soufflé.
Merrimans Restaurant (Fine Dine)
For great steaks and local cuisine. Get the herb crusted filet mignon, Hawaiian tomato salad (first time we had it), and the Kona chocolate tarte made from local chocolate beans.
Mi’s Waterfront Bistro (Casual)
Fantastic water view sunsets for dinner. They had the best manicotti I ever had and the filling was made of crab! It may sound weird, but if you love manicotti and crab, this is the best of both worlds. The sauce was outstanding. Don’t miss it when in Kona.
Peaberry & Galette (Casual)
Great for breakfast and brunch. We really enjoyed their crepes and strawberry shortcake. The ratatouille crepe & spinach and bacon crepes were delicious. The strawberry shortcake was nice and fluffy and not too sweet, a nice balance of flavors and textures. Would come here again when returning to Kona!
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice (Quick Snack)
All shaved ice are not created equal! We learned that for sure eating shaved ice everywhere on the island. We tried many different cafe’s but Ululani’s was the absolute favorite. Their flavored syrups, fruit juices, ice cream and toppings are all natural and of premium quality, you can taste it.
My favorite was easily the coconut Hawaiian shaved ice with coconut ice cream. I’m loco for cocos!
Basik Cafe (Quick Snack)
If you’re into açaí bowls and smoothies, this place was one of the best places to go. It’s practically on the water and has great views to just daydream about your fabulous future as you eat your treat.
Pink Mocha Cafe (Quick Snack)
For your coffee fix or a quick snack, try Pink Mocha Cafe. It’s such a cute coffee house with the best peanut butter protein smoothie ever! Wish we would have found this place sooner while vacationing here so we could try other items, but would definitely recommend!