The aptly named Big Island is the biggest, although not the most developed, of Hawaii’s islands. It offers spectacular natural beauty with 11 of the possible 13 weather climates represented on the island — you can see snow on Mauna Kea, feel rainforest drizzle in Hawi, and bask in hot sunshine in Kona in the same morning … along with plenty of opportunities for adventure activities. So book a Big Island hotel and get ready for some “big” island adventures.
Explore a Volcano
At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the only active volcanoes in the U.S. national park system, you can hike over volcanic rock, explore lava tubes, and trek through craters. Although you can explore on your own, an easier and more informative option is to venture out with Hawaii Forest and Trails, who will masterfully navigate the moonscape terrain and crinkly, pudding-skin-like volcanic rock while regaling your group with facts about the biodiversity of the park. On an evening trip you’ll be able to see the fiery glow of the volcano at the Kilauea Caldera (don’t worry, the observation station is a full mile away from the crater).
The clear waters of the Pacific are ideal for deep-sea snorkel adventures. The menagerie of rainbow colored sealife below the surface includes the humuhumu nukunuku apua’a (the state fish; as much fun to spot as it is to say), as well as vibrant coral, black sand, and massive sea turtles. The staff at Ocean Sports can even instruct you on free-dive snorkeling (like a short scuba dive without the tank) to get closer to stunning schools of fish.
Try Paddle Boarding
Part surfing, part kayaking, this local ocean sport has you standing on a surfboard and gliding through the water with an extra long paddle (try a calm lagoon first before you hit the Pacific Ocean). It’s a surprisingly intense workout (it requires super core strength and balance to keep you upright and paddling), plus a great way to see enjoy the aquatic life and beautiful island views.
Ride a Zipline
Taking a trip to lush Hawi on the island’s north tip is a bit like visiting Land of the Lost, first climbing through fields, then over volcanic mounds, and then finally arriving amidst lush vegetation and towering palms. Here, you’ll find Skyline Eco Adventures, where a harness and line are waiting to whisk you through the air on a jungle canopy tour. The eight airborn stops start low – just a few feet off the ground – and build to a death-defying crescendo as you glide over a deep ravine with a postcard worthy view of a waterfall. Don’t worry, even novices are ready for the high-ride by the time they’ve tried all the stops along the way.
Swim with Dolphins
If you’re on the Big Island, chances are you’ve been seeing dolphins and even whales (depending on the season) breaching off shore. To get an up-close experience with local dolphins, head to Dolphin Quest in the Hilton Waikoloa Village, the only dolphin program on the island, where intimate dolphin swims in a tropical lagoon big thrills and soft adventure.