Go big or go home on the Big Island of Hawaii. The largest and southernmost island in Hawaii is home to active volcanoes, secluded beaches, rainforests and island-grown coffee. Shore excursions include a Kona coffee tour, a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or ziplining over waterfalls.
If you don’t want to take an organized tour, a rental car is the best way to get around, as the island’s most popular features lie outside the villages and there is little in the way of public transport.
How to get to the Big Island
Cruises dock in either Kailua-Kona, on the west side of the island, or Hilo, on the east side. If you pull into Kailua-Kona, ships anchor in Kailua Bay and you’ll be tendered to Kailua village. In Hilo, ships dock in the cargo port a couple of miles from downtown. Taxis, a bus and rental car shuttles pick up at the port for trips to downtown Hilo or the airport to pick up rental cars (reserve your rental car in advance – they book up fast).
One day in Hilo
Downtown Hilo is a walkable historic area, and there are several museums and cultural sites. Start at the Pacific Tsunami Museum, a memorial to the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that destroyed parts of the town and killed many residents. Located in an old bank, the museum includes a wave simulator that allows you to experience the feeling of moving water. Don’t be afraid to get chatty with volunteers – you may meet one who is a tsunami survivor.
Next, check out another Hilo museum, the Lyman House Museum, whose exhibits detail Hawaii’s missionary history. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Then enjoy a stroll around town, checking out historical Hawaiian landmarks like the King Kamehameha statue and the Naha Stone.
Make your way to Lili'uokalani Gardens, Japanese gardens built on the waterfront to honor Hawaii’s Japanese immigrants. Have a bite of sushi here or just soak up the serene environment.
The currency in Hawaii is the US dollar. English is the official language, as is Hawaiian, which many locals also speak.