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Top 6 Off The Beaten Path Things To Do On The Big Island Of Hawaii

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The Big Island of Hawai’i has long been a popular place for tourists to visit. Featuring gorgeous beaches, an active volcano, and no shortage of high-quality resorts, it's no wonder why. If you feel like you’ve already experienced some of the most popular things to do on the island, here are 6 more off-the-beaten-path options to check out! 

Top 6 Off The Beaten Path Things To Do On The Big Island Of Hawaii

1. Hike To Papakōlea Beach

You may be familiar with both white sand beaches and black sand beaches, but Papakōlea Beach offers an even rarer twist: it’s a green sand beach. There are very few green sand beaches in the world, and this beach is one of only two in the United States. The green hue comes from the presence of olivine when the beach was formed via volcanic activity, and it results in an almost otherworldly landscape.

This is a truly off-the-beaten-path beach. To get there, you’ll head to the southern tip of the island before embarking on a 2-mile hike to reach it. Visiting early is the best way to avoid crowds and ensure you get a good parking spot near the start of the trial. 

Papakōlea Beach

2. Visit Pololū Valley

This stunning valley is located near the Kohala coast, and is an amazing place to both explore and get some photos. You can view the area from the Pololū overlook, but if you’re up for a short but fairly steep hike – about half a mile and 300’ of elevation gain – the black sand beach below offers arguably the best views.

To get to the beach, head to the overlook at the end of Highway 270. There’s a small parking area, as well as limited street parking options. If you do park on the street, make sure to head any no parking signs, as the area has several residential homes. From there, head down the trailhead towards the valley floor. It’s worth noting that while the ocean off the beach is gorgeous, it’s not a great choice for swimming – riptides and strong currents frequent the area.

Finally, make sure to bring plenty of water and possibly some snacks for the outing, as there aren’t any amenities along the trail or at the trailhead.

Pololū Valley

3. Go On A Submarine Tour

There are countless ways to see the beautiful waters that surround the big island of Hawai’i. Popular methods include boat tours, snorkeling, and kayaking. If you’ve already tired of those experiences, though, or if you’re looking for a more out-of-the-box way to explore the ocean, consider a submarine tour. Atlantis Adventures offers tours in several areas across the Hawai’ian islands, including in Kona on the Big Island. 

Submarine Tour

4. Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden is a little more touristy than some of the other options on this list. However, it’s still more than worth a visit. This sprawling botanical garden feels – and looks – more like a tropical jungle than a garden. Hosting over a thousand kinds of plants, it's no wonder why.

When heading out to the bio reserve, consider taking the scenic route (Old Mamalahoa Rd), to enjoy some stunning views before even arriving. This road is also typically easier to traverse by vehicle than the other route. The reserve doesn’t have a ton of amenities. Because of this, consider packing a small lunch or some snacks, as well as plenty of water, for your trip. In addition to being amazing to simply take in, it’s also a great spot to take photos. Better yet, photography is both allowed and welcomed in the reserve.

Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden

5. Tour Hiilawe Waterfall

This breathtaking waterfall plunges over 1,000 feet and is one of the largest waterfalls in Hawai’i. The best time to see it is after heavy rainfall when it will be flowing the strongest. During dryer spells, it is still generally flowing, albeit much more weakly. There are a couple of ways to see the waterfall.

You can head out by yourself, but the easiest way – and best way to ensure you won’t accidentally trespass on any of the private property surrounding the waterfall – is to head out with a tour group. 

Tour Hiilawe Waterfall

6. Explore Kaumana Caves State Park

Hawai’i is well-known for its volcanic activity that formed the islands. The most popular way to see examples of this is by heading over to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. While the national park is stunning, if you’ve already visited and you’re looking for additional places to visit, consider checking out Kaumana Caves State Park.

The caves are lava tubes that were created from a lava flow in the late 1800s. You can only head a short distance into the cave, as they eventually run under private property. Regardless, they’re still an interesting attraction to go see.

Explore Kaumana Caves State Park

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Leonard Schafer

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Just where do you find the gorgeous beaches. Other than the black sand beach, we never found any beaches after exploring the island for three full days. If you like to see miles and miles of thick black lava, then this is the place for you. We would never go back to the big island again.


Sunday 4th of June 2023

@Leonard Schafer, sounds like you missed everything about the big island.. I go every year to just the big island. So much more than just beaches—- waterfalls, coffee farms, lava tubes, hot springs, chocolate farms, vanilla farms, and other things.. three days on the big island doesn’t cover the whole island.

Steve Johnson

Saturday 17th of December 2022

@Leonard Schafer, Sounds like you didn't see much of the island. Plenty of amazing beaches north of Kona. Easily some of the best beaches in all of the USA.


Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Make sure you stock up with healthy food from Island Naturals. These stores are in Hilo, Kona and Pahoa.