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Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay

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Warm Up Your Winter

The Big Island of Hawaii Offers a Wide Range of Landscapes and Activities, A Perfect Winter Getaway.

Article by Candice Steele

Photography by Coltin & Candice Steele

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

The most geographically unique island in Hawaii, The Big Island is home to black sand beaches, stunning rainforests, hardened lava deserts and the Kilauea volcano which was active through late 2018. The west side of the island is sunny and dry while the east side near Hilo averages 236 days of rain each year.

The Big Island is, you guessed it, big! It is 4,028 square miles which is bigger than all of the other islands combined. Because of this, it is important to rent a car and leave yourself plenty of time to see the entire island. We stayed for about six days which gave us enough time to see the highlights around the island.

Start your week in Kailua Kona where you will find warm temperatures, sunshine and beautiful white sandy beaches. Our favorite beaches on the west side of the island include Magic Sands Beach, Maniniowali Beach and Hapuna Beach State Park. They are perfect for sunbathing and swimming.

There is crystal-clear water for snorkeling. Fair Wind Cruises takes snorkelers to the lovely waters of Kealakekua Bay. The cruises are family-friendly and have all the amenities your family will need for a fun snorkeling adventure. If you want to snorkel from the beach, visit Kahaluu Beach Park or Honauna Bay, also known as Two-Step. For those extra adventurous people in your party, try the Manta Ray night dive.   

The history buffs will enjoy a visit to the Pu’uhonau o Honaunau National Historic Park, once the home of royal grounds and a sanctuary for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. When you get there, pick up a map and use the audio tour for a more educational tour of the park.

Next, head over to the east side of the island through Waimea and the Hamakua Coast. The drive is gorgeous and there are some fun stops along the way. Stop in at the Tex Drive-In for world-famous malasadas and then head to the Waipio Valley Lookout. Hikers will enjoy visiting the Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach.   

Hilo is extremely lush and green due to the high rainfall in the area each year. On your way into town, take the scenic drive that is just north of Hilo. At the end of the road, there is a short hike that will take you down to the ocean.

Devote part of a day to visit the four spectacular waterfalls: Akaka Falls, UmaUma Falls, Rainbow Falls and PeePee Falls. They are all very unique and a beautiful part of the scenery near Hilo. None of the waterfalls require long hikes to get to and are easily accessible.

The culinary scene in Hilo makes it easy to find good local food. The Hilo Farmers Market is a great place to enjoy some fresh produce. Ocean Sushi has a variety of reasonably priced sushi as well as a variety of bento boxes. Visit Café 100 for the famous loco moco, a local dish made of steamed rice, hamburger, egg and gravy. For breakfast, head over to Ken’s Pancake House for the fresh banana pancakes, a local style pancake. Lastly, you cannot head home without chocolate! Head over to Big Island Candies for their chocolate dipped cookies and candies. 

The Hilo beaches do not compare to the beaches on the west side, but if you’re looking for a few more trips to the beach before heading home, visit Onekahakaha Beach Park. The park has kid-friendly wading pools, picnic areas and a playground. Outside the cove area, there are tide pools full of ocean life.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is about 45 minutes south of Hilo. Since the 2018 lava flows, some of the park has been closed. Stop in at the Kailauea Visitor Center for updates on what is open in the park. Our favorite part of the park is the Chain of Craters Drive. There are fun stops along the way with the road ending at the Holei Sea Arch. Popular hikes in the park include the Crater Rim Trail, the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail, the Devastation Trail and Kipukapuaulu. Due to the lava flow, Crater Rim Trail is only open between the Volcano House and the Kilauea Military Camp.

While visiting Volcanoes National Park, make sure to visit the Punalu’u Black Sands Beach. The beach is beautiful and you have a high chance of spotting some sea turtles sunbathing on the beach.    

For more travel advice and inspiration from CS Ginger, follow them on Instagram @csginger or at

  • Akaka Falls
  • Waipio Valley
  • Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay
  • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
  • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
  • Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
  • Peepee Falls
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Punalu’u Black Sands Beach
  • Taken at Akaka Falls State Park
  • Punalu’u Black Sands Beach
  • Hapuna Beach State Park
  • Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach