Travel Pono on the Island of Hawaii | A local’s guide to the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Trip Planning Guide

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Travel Pono on Hawaii Island

From tropical forests and black sand beaches to fields of lava rock and active volcanoes, the Island of Hawaii runs the gamut in outdoor wonder. Known as the Big Island, this destination offers more than 4,000 square miles of endless opportunities to experience Hawaii in its most authentic form.

To preserve Hawaii Island’s abundant natural beauty, we ask visitors to explore with a Travel Pono mindset. Together, we can recognize our responsibility while deepening our connection to Hawaii — here’s how.

Join a guided tour to gain access to unique experiences on Hawaii Island.

Pack right

Pack right
Flight Attendant Heather Sanchez offers this advice: “Don’t forget to carry reusable items, like utensils, bags and water bottles, and reef-safe sunscreen, along with your hand sanitizer, when traveling. These small individual actions have a meaningful impact on protecting and preserving our island’s natural resources.”

Rent a car
You’ll need some form of transportation to explore Hawaii Island’s best attractions like Kona coffee farms, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Luckily, you can take advantage of our special rates with our car rental partners. Cell reception can be spotty in areas, so be sure to download maps of your route beforehand.

Go car free
It’s a bit tricky to get around Hawaii Island without a car — but not impossible. There are local taxi companies and shuttles, plus national ride-share services, that will happily take you to your destination. The county’s Hele-On bus is also reasonably price. But your best bet might be to join guided tours, where experts lead the way to experiences, curating every special moment.

Make reservations
Do your research before heading out to any attraction. Tours and activities usually have a maximum capacity, which can book out days if not weeks ahead of time. Call to reserve a table at popular restaurants, especially if you have a large party size, to avoid any hangry disappointment.

Supporting local can be immersive — don a bee suit and learn about Big Island Bees’ special honey process.

Support local

The Island of Hawaii’s rich volcanic soil, climate diversity and ample sunshine make it the perfect place for vegetable, tropical fruit and specialty crops, like cacao and coffee, to thrive. While staying on Hawaii Island, take time to visit, support and learn from its many skilled artisans, hardworking growers and groundbreaking tastemakers. Here’s some of our suggestions:

Big Island Bees started as a small family-owned operation and has grown into one of the biggest honey producers in the state. Hand-poured in South Kona, its organic honey boasts flavor profiles rooted in the island’s tropical flower varieties. Visit the honey-making headquarters, which encompasses a free museum, store and tasting room. You can even take a tour with an expert, wearing a bee suit and all.

Coffee lovers rejoice at Big Island Coffee Roasters, where producing the perfect cup of coffee is a practice. The company took root in 2010, when its two founders, Kelleigh Stewart and Brandon von Damitz, stumbled upon an online ad listing a small coffee farm for sale in Puna, a district south of Hilo. The duo purchased the farm with no experience growing coffee, and after years of practice, they perfected their first batches and earned Grand Champion in the Hawaii Coffee Association’s Statewide Cupping Competition. The roastery is still based on the original Puna farm, where the team tends to trees, hand-picks coffee cherries (which produce the beans), mill the beans in small batches and roast some of Hawaii’s finest regional varieties.

Downtown Hilo is home to a mix of longtime and new shops that continue to make Hilo the friendly town it has always been. The Hilo Farmers Market is a popular destination for both hungry kamaaina and visitors. The market is open every day (hours may vary) and has copious fruits, vegetables and flowers grown by local farmers. Ready-made meals and drinks are also available for grab-and-go, and the market is within walking distance of several shops and restaurants.

Reminder: Each purchase is more than a transaction; it’s a show of support for the island’s entrepreneurs and the life, culture and stories they share. Best of all, HawaiianMiles members and Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® cardmembers can earn even more miles when supporting our local merchant and travel partners. To find more local entrepreneurs that will also help you get closer to your next vacation, click here.

Legend says that the cave of Rainbow Falls was the home of Hina, mother of the demigod Maui.

Gain a sense of place

It's one thing to visit Hawaii Island but another to experience it. The Island of Hawaii is a treasure trove of spectacular outdoor destinations, including Rainbow Falls, Pololu Valley, Akaka Falls and more. We recommend visiting to learn about each place and their cultural history.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the state’s two major national parks and home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Visitors can explore the park’s over 123,000 acres of designated wilderness, which includes plenty of day hikes, far-off cabins for more experienced trekkers, and a scenic drive around the summit of Kilauea. Travelers should plan their trip before exploring the park and brief themselves on its cultural significance.

Other National Parks sites also have a wealth of history. The 175-mile Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail traverses through hundreds of ancient Hawaiian settlement sites and some 200 ahupuaa (traditional land divisions). You can walk segments of the trail, which can be accessed from the island's other National Parks sites, including Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park a place of refuge, and Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, home to the ruins of the last major ancient Hawaiian temple.