Travel Guide ~ Food, Fun, & Adventure on The Big Island of Hawaii

Pololu Valley Lookout & Beach, The Big Island HawaiiI could never get tired of this view of the Pololu Valley Lookout and Beach on The Big Island of Hawaii!

Ahh…Hawaii…The Big Island…How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways…

I had the great fortune to spend a week with my family {Mr. Spicy, our kids, my parents and Mr. Spicy’s parents} on The Big Island of Hawaii in early July.  SiSi’s BFF and her parent’s, who are good friends of ours, also happened to be there at the same time, which added to our fun!  The Big Island is a land of spectacular contrasts, from the top of Mauna Kea {almost 14,000 feet} where you can sometimes ski or snowboard in the winter, to the gorgeous white, black, or green sand beaches along the coast.  You will also find barren fields of black lava rock on the drier West side of the island, along with lush green valleys and waterfalls along the East coast. Where ever you go on The Big Island, you will find friendly people, delicious cuisine, and loads of adventures to choose from. Please enjoy my Travel Guide to The Big Island of Hawaii.  You will find all links at the end of this post.  Mahalo!

Eating & Drinking

Shaved Ice at Aloha Deli & Ice Cream in Hawi, HawaiiWhen in Hawaii, Shaved Ice is a must, especially if it has ice cream in the middle!

More options…

  • Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery ~ The Thai Green Papaya Salad with Fried Tofu at Bamboo in the charming little town of Hawi is a must.
  • Plantation Grill ~ Lovely little restaurant on the Kohala Coast in downtown Kawaihae & close to where we stayed at our house rental in Kohala Ranch.  Try the beet salad with macadamia nuts~divine!
  • The Three Fat Pigs Restaurant & Gastropub ~I can’t remember what I ate here, but I remember it was yummy :-)
  • Village Burger ~Local, free-range, grass-fed beef burgers that are super delicious.  Gluten-free buns are available for the asking too, although they were fresh out the day I dined here.
  • Lava Lava Beach Club ~ Really pretty setting right on the beach, and a great place for kids to run around, and explore the tide pools.  Gorgeous sunset viewing too!
  • Beach Bars at The Mauna Kea Resort {fabulous Mai Tai’s} and The Fairmont Orchid Hotel {I enjoyed some delicious Thai Grilled Chicken on Lemongrass skewers off of their gluten-free menu here before we had to depart back home.}
  • A special note for anyone following a gluten-free diet: All of the above restaurants have gluten-free options, and many of them have a gluten-free menu.  As always, please check with your server about ingredients used and any potential cross contamination issues. Also, in addition to these restaurants, Foodland in Waimea carries many gluten-free products including Rudy’s Gluten-Free Bread, Ancient Harvest Corn Quinoa Pasta, and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix.

Eats and Drinks on The Big Island, HawaiiBig photo Lava Lava Beach Club, then clockwise starting at top left hand of photo: Chicken with Lemongrass Skewers, Bamboo Restaurant, Village Burger Menu, Mai Thai at Mauna Kea, Beet Salad at Plantation Grill, Shaved Ice, Thai Salad with Green Papaya.

Sightseeing

Mauna Kea Beach, Big Island, Hawaii // The Spicy RDMauna Kea Beach ~ picture perfect!

More Options…

  • Spend a day at one of the prettiest beaches in the world~Mauna Kea Beach.  Arrive early during the week and snag a free parking spot at The Mauna Kea Resort.  The water is absolutely perfect, the sand is like silk between your toes, and there are plenty of shady trees.  Oh, and, you can stroll over to the beach side bar at The Mauna Kea resort for one of those luscious Mai Tais!
  • Soak in the sights of an active volcano, complete with lava flow, AND fly through lush green valleys with a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour.  Incredible experience of a lifetime!
  • Drive to the top of Mauna Kea, and step inside the world famous Mount Keck Observatory.  Note: We had a special guided tour of the Keck Telescope, but you can drive {or hike} to the top on your own.  Fascinating!
  • Take a drive along the wild {and windy} Northern Kohala Coast for some gorgeous scenery, including the spot where part of Jurassic Park 3 was filmed.

Sightseeing, The BIg Island Hawaii // The Spicy RDTop Row: View from above on our helicopter tour.  Second row: Mount Keck Observatory and telescope {see our reflections in the mirror of the telescope???} Third row: Scenery along the North Kohala Coast; Fourth row: Mauna Kea Beach.

Shopping

Fruits and Veggies at the Waimea Farmers Market, The Big Island, Hawaii // The Spicy RDGorgeous local fruits and veggies at the Waimea Farmer’s Market!

More Options…

  • Cinnamon Girl {King’s Shops}~Super cute clothing for women and girls, and lots of fun accessories too!
  • Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery ~ Yes, you can shop here after your meal! Pretty art work and lots of fun nic nacs, including sink drain stopper’s decorated with palm tress and surf boards.
  • As Hawi Turns ~ More cute nic nacs in Hawi. Be sure and check out all the fun Filthy Farmgirl Soaps, including Filthy Hula Girl, Filthy Surfer, and, ahem, the “extra filthy” naughty flavors.
  • Waimea Farmer’s Market~Fabulous farmer’s market in the lovely town of Waimea.  Nosh on delicious coconut candy from the Hawaiian Candyman; Taste the delicious jams from Honomu Jams {LOVED the Passion Fruit Butter!}; Buy some gourd art; Sip on a fresh coconut; load up on fruits and veggies and local goat cheese, so you can make your own macadamia nut, goat cheese and beet salad, insipired by this yummy salad!
  • Wishard Gallery ~ Lovely paintings, prints, and accessories at this gallery in the Parker Ranch Shopping Center!

Shopping on The Big Island of Hawaii // The Spicy RDLarge photo: As Hawi Turns.  Top right hand of photo, then clockwise: Hawaiin Candyman coconut candies; The view form the Waimea Farmer’s Market; Drinking fresh coconut water; Gourd Art; Honomu Jams {Mine got confiscated at airport security-oops!}

Activities & Adventures

Kohala Ditch Adventures, The Big Island, Hawaii // The Spicy RDGetting ready to load up in jeeps for our irrigation ditch adventure!

More Options…

  • Do a nighttime snorkel with the Manta Rays-no photos to show, but an incredible experience and a must do!
  • Hitch a boat ride to the Captain Cook Monument & snorkel or snuba with all the tropical fishies.  Water slide and boat jumping adventures included!
  • Take in the view at the Pololu Valley lookout, then hike to the bottom to stroll along a gorgeous black sand beach.  Yes, you’ll probably need to hike back up the steep and rocky ~3/4 mile trail again :-)  Great workout!
  • Hang with the Cowboys & Cowgirls at the Parker Ranch Rodeo on The 4th of July. A rodeo on the 4th was definitely a first for me!
  • Do the hula at a luau at The Mauna Kea resort.  Sisi and her BFF were all giggles as they tried to learn the hula.  Fun!
  • Play a round of golf at Mauna Kea {As recommended by Mr. Spicy!}
  • Kayak along an old sugar cane irrigation ditch and venture through spooky caves in a gorgeous green valley.

Hawaii Adventures, The Bg Island // The Spicy RDBig photo: Cowboys at the Parker Ranch Rodeo.  Top right photo, then clockwise: T-shirts for sale at the rodeo; Pololu Valley Beach Trail; Driftwood at the beach; Pololu Valley lookout; Kayaking into the pitch black irrigation tunnel; Waterfall by the irrigation ditch; Captai Cook Monument; Kayaks; Hula Girls; Luau Show; Getting ready to snorkel!

Eat, See, Do ~ The Big Island of Hawaii

Eats & Drinks: Bamboo Restaurant & GalleryPlantation Grill; The Three Fat Pigs Restaurant & GastropubVillage BurgerLava Lava Beach Club; Gazebo Bar at The Mauna Kea Resort; Hale Kai Restaurant & Bar at The Fairmont Orchid Hotel; Foodland Grocery Store; Aloha Deli Ice Cream & Shave Ice.

Sightseeing: Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours; Mount Keck Observatory on The Top of Mauna Kea; Mauna Kea Beach; North Kohala Coast.

Shopping: Cinnamon GirlBamboo Restaurant & Gallery; As Hawi Turns; Waimea Farmer’s MarketWishard Gallery.

Fun and Adventure: Snorkel with the Manta Rays; Captain Cook Monument Tour & Snorkeling or Snuba; Pololu Valley hike; Parker Ranch Rodeo; Luau at The Mauna Kea Resort; Mauna Kea Golf Course; Kohala Ditch Adventures.

And, before I go, just a few more photos to make you smile :-)

Big Crocs Kona, Hawaii // The Spicy RDBig Tex had to try these ginormous crocs on while we were strolling the streets of downtown Kailua Kona…

Hawaiian Wildlife, The Big Island, Hawaii // The Spicy RDLoved spotting all these sweet creatures near our house rental in Kohala Ranch!

Hawaiian Sunset, The Big Island, Hawaii // The Spicy RDUntil next time…

Aloha my friends!

Have you ever been to Hawaii?  If so, which islands?  Any favorite Hawaiian restaurants, shops, sights, or adventures?  Please share!!!

As always, I love hearing from you! Please join the conversation, and, if you enjoyed the post, I’d love it {and truly appreciate it!} if you stumble, tweet, pin, or share the post.  And, if you haven’t done so already, be sure and sign up for my monthly newsletter, Delicious News for all things healthy and delicious!

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Comments

  1. I grew up in Kona! My parents live in Captain Cook…Ive snorkeled the monument a million times. So glad you had such a fab time! Did you have any local food or plate lunch? Hawaii no ka oi!

    • What a gorgeous place to grow up Samantha! I loved the snorkeling at the monument and my son tried snuba for the furst time and loved it! Sadly, I didn’t get to try a plate lunch, but our friends who were there ate at Chubby’s Diner by the bowling alley and really enjoyed it. Next time :-)

  2. These are awesome!! we’re trying to plan a trip ourselves (plus going to Ireland, and NY, etc, etc,) so this is really helpful!! Thanks E.A.! I’d love to try to plan a trip there with Bri and fam too!

    • Thanks so much Kristin! You, Brian, and family would have a fabulous time there. Hope you get to go soon, although Ireland, NY, etc etc all sounds pretty good too :-)

  3. Oh, we were just there in February and we loved the Bamboo Restaurant and Lava Lava. We stayed at our timeshare at the Hilton Kingsland in Waikoloa. So much fun and such great memories. Funny how some of your pictures are the same ones that I took, too!! So glad to see you had a great time!

  4. Thanks for the trip back home!!!! You did it all! Nice write up. So helpful for so many. xoLexie

    • You’re welcome Lexie and thanks so much for your comments-glad to know from a local that we hit all the right spots, although I still need to go back :-) I really wanted to hike to the Green Sand Beach. Next time…!

  5. Love the big island but haven’t beens since pre-kids. What a trip. Was there a reason you all went? Any exciting gfree finds? So funny to see mango at the farmer’s market…

  6. What a wonderful looking trip.

    #jealous :)

  7. I want to goooooo!!! Hawaii is on my bucket list, for sure.
    So, I never liked shaved ice because a) it wasn’t ice cream and b) it never contained chocolate. BUT, shaved ice with ice cream in the middle?? Brilliant!

  8. Great fortune is right. #sinceitwasntmeimgladitwasyou ;)

  9. This looks amazing!
    I have only been to Hawaii when I was little so I don’t remember much.
    We are talking about going to Hawaii for our honeymoon and this gives me a lot of great ideas!

  10. Somehow I got confused and thought you were still in Hawaii. What a great recap! I would be a bit stressed out if I went on a vacation w both my parents and in-laws but sounds to me like you had a blast

  11. Ohhh, I love love this post. I’ve been to all the islands except fro Molokai and I think the Big Island is my favorite because of all the diverse terroir on one island!! We stayed in a house up on the hill in South Kohala closer to Hawi (loved that town.) I’m pinning your post as I long to go back some day – alas my sister-in-law use to live in Hilo but is now back on the mainland.

  12. Great post EA! I will bookmark this in case we book to go to Hawaii. A long way from Scotland but I have always fancied going ever since I made friends with a family from Hawaii when I was a child. They taught us some fun traditional dances and of course they held luaus. You worked hard on this post (I can tell from all the links) so thanks so much. Who needs a Lonely Planet guide when we have you!

  13. I’d love to go to Hawaii! I’d love to have that Hawaiian shaved ice. The food and the view… so beautiful.

  14. We just got back from the Big Island and enjoyed many of these same great spots! Under activities, I’d add petroglyph hikes from the Fairmont Orchid, and Kona Jet Ski. Kona Jet Ski takes you out on a motorboat to a floating dock called “Adventure Island” about 3/4 of a mile out in the ocean… and there’s a giant trampoline tethered to it (!!!). My kids had a great time jet skiing, and then they spent the afternoon jumping on the giant ocean trampoline, catapulting themselves into the water, and then clambering back up.

    Food-wise, I’d second Village Burger (love!) and would also add Annie’s Island Burgers in Kona.

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